Friday, April 29, 2011

Island - Pictures (1977)

Some rather evil sounding progressive rock magnificence from Switzerland, stylistically fitting in somewhere between Van Der Graaf Generator and Black Widow. The cover art, amazing in it's own right, was done by H.R. Giger (the guy who designed the Alien from Alien for anyone who inexplicably doesn't know this guy by reputation).

Much like coffee, I guess some things are best served black as night.
Listen Here - "Zero"

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

131ind Guard1an - A Night At The Opera (2002)

A wise stoner with filthy goggles, a cardboard box and long blonde hair once told me that power metal needs three attributes to be remembered as legendary: a huge ass sound, a huge ass sound...and a huge ass fucking sound.

Considering that the choruses and instruments have been layered some 1.5 million times (!!!!) according to A Night At The Opera's linear notes, I am inclined to believe that everyone's favorite German power metal ensemble have cut their finest record here. Hell, it may be one of the five best albums of its kind on the goddamn planet.

You already know whether or not you want this if you've read this far. LET THE WRAGGGGGE BEGIN!

Listen Here - "Sadly Sings Destiny"

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Monday, April 25, 2011

Joe Smooth - Rejoice (1989)

One of Chicago's earliest bestsellers in the genre that would later be known as "Deep House", Joe Smooth is mostly known for his 1988 single 'Promised Land' which helped House break out from the underground into mainstream dancefloor nirvana. What most people don't realize however, is that his one and only full length release the following year is also one of the earliest and most fully realized records in a genre that was moving faster than the speed of light.

That being said, there's some great stuff here that is fascinating to hear considering the place and time which it was created in - the beats are more post-disco that full blown House or the distant specter of Drum & Bass. Still, a few boneified classsics can be found throughout - the glitzy groove of 'For The Love Of Money', the sample guitar rippin' 'Children Weep' and the proto-jungle punchline known as 'One Moment In Love' are all quite noteworthy in their own particular manners.

But let's be honest here: most people don't give a damn about dance music that didn't come out in the here and now: the stuff doesn't have much of a shelf life to picky ears. To those of you who'd like to take a trip into the past, where things were in the midst of change and revolution from day to day instead of year to year, you might be quite pleased with what you find in Rejoice.

Listen Here - "Children Weep"

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

5amantha Jam3s - 5ubconcious (2010)

This weekend's dose of awesomeness is some gorgeous electro-House-pop-soul stuff that works like magic no matters where you are or what your doing, though movement of some kind certainly makes the sonic flow even more savory. Miss James's voice, to be more specific, sits somewhere between that inner city croon of Tracey Thorn and that one chick from OceanLab...and fuck if it isn't a treat in the wee hours of the morn or dusk.

Stay thirsty my friends.

Listen Here - "Illusions"

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Tatsuro Yamashita - Melodies (1983)

Even if you don't speak Japanese, this here is quite the gem: Tatsuro Yamashita is a singer-songwriter-guitarist (one of the top selling in the country's history overall in fact) who specializes in an intriguing blend of traditional 80's J-Pop, funk, Beach Boys-esque power pop and mouthwatering jazzy westcoast. This particular release, 1983's Melodies, is basically the Land Of The Rising Sun's equivalent to Michael Jackson's Thriller in terms of the impact it had on popular music in Japan at the time and subsequent album sales. It's sunny, funky and wonderfully reminiscent of ages and suns gone by.

Feeling down? Need some rays? Turn this on and burn some rubber. Tatsuro-san's voice may take some getting used to, but like the best things in life, its an acquired taste.

Listen Here - "Merry-Go-Round"

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Monday, April 18, 2011

Pet3r Gabri31 - 5ecur1ty (1982/2010)

Something special for you lot: the 2010 remaster of this oh-so-obscure British singer-songwriter's longstanding masterpiece, and the status of it is such that I don't really feel like explaining WHY you need this. Rather, I'm more inclined to order every single person who looks at this post to just fuckin' download it, no questions asked.

Still, I'll elaborate a bit for those who don't know anything about Security: it nearly single-handedly, along with albums like Duran Duran's Rio, launched New Wave and World music into popular consciousness, yet unlike the imminent mobs of imitators that would come later, this material is really, really strong (even in retrospect from 2011). I mean yeah, this record has 'Shock The Monkey', but what keeps people coming back are more primal compositions such as the haunted 'San Jacinto' and a spirited polyrhythmic jamboree called 'The Rhythm of The Heat'.Yet these are just a few highlights of many, and there's not a hint of bad songwriting anywhere to be found even as you get drawn in deeper...

When all is said and done, I suppose what really clicks for me here is that there is a real darkness to these proceedings which lends the whole picture bite and relevance beyond the era of its making, and thus I can't even begin to recommend it highly enough. Don't waste my offer ladies and gents!

Listen Here - "The Rhythm Of The Heat"

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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Ephraim Lewis - Skin (1992)

Although more people today might know (or remember) British soul singer Ephraim Lewis for the freakish circumstances surrounding his death (even now nobody knows whether or not if it was a suicide or if the L.A.PD instigated his murder), I think more people should be interested in the one and only album he had released mere months before his demise: an excellent, underrated set of songs on a little record called Skin.

Often compared (somewhat unfairly in my opinion) to Seal and Terrence Trent D'Arby's output in the neo-soul spectrum, I can safely say this music here possesses an eclectic identity all its own. For one thing, the jazz influences throughout are very strong: you'll hear sax and horns almost as often as you'll hear guitar and hip-hop beats. Lewis's voice is also a bit harder to categorize - he's got just as much Sam Cooke in there as he has Michael Jackson and Al Green, and thus he handles everything from club material to gospel to blues to electric funk with unbelievable ease.

That said, my favorite cuts here are the atmosphere-laden title track, Quiet Storm staple 'Drowning In Your Eyes' (the album's only big radio hit) and Stevie Wonder-esque 'World Between Us', but considerng how good all ten songs are its more likely that not that my favorites could change over time.

Fans of 90's neo-soul, rare gems and just damn fine music in general have quite the feast with baby on their queue. R.I.P. Ephraim!

Listen Here - "Captured"

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Subsignal - Beautiful & Monstrous (2009)

Formed out of the explosive ashes of German progressive metal maestros Sieges Even (specifically vocal powerhouse Arno Menses and the ever indomitable Markus Steffen on guitar), it seems as though Subsignal was destined to be an awesome bunch simply due to those two involved.

The result of this formation is something like the reapplication of a great stylistic component under a new pretense. Instead of blending near pop-melodicism with Watchtower-esque technicality, the sound present on debut release Beautiful & Monstrous is more akin to the harder-edged neo-prog of the late 90's than anything their power metal-tinged contemporaries such as Vanden Plas have brought about.

All in all, it's quite fantastic stuff: the listener is treated to some slick sounding axe-lines, keyboards float around like clouds in the sky, and the ever wonderful treat of hearing Arno Menses at the top of his game: the man's voice soars through this sonic firmament like an eagle with tranquil, melancholic ease, and even the weaker material sounds like a million bucks.

Still, that wonderful Sieges Even sound occasionally does rear its head when you least expect it, such as the spacey 'Rain Is The Most Beautiful Color' and infectious 'Paradigm'.It's nice, however, to hear an album where these prog. metal diehards try to strip away the technical instrumental fireworks and let things develop in completely non-metallesque ways. The album is just that much more listenable and balanced because of it.

A toast then to these kickass Krauts: if you guys enjoy this one, keep an eye out for their upcoming summer 2011 sophomore album!

Listen Here - "Paradigm"

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Monday, April 11, 2011

The 1sl3y Br0th3rs - Betw33n Th3 5h33ts (1983)

Although the original classic lineup had fractured somewhat by the time this hot tamale rolled on down the assembly, Between The Sheets is still arguably the last classic album to emerge from under the Isley Bros. umbrella. It arrived at a pretty good time too - MJ and the commercial monster known as Thriller had opened up the door through the 80's for all sorts of slick sounding contemporary soul/funk to bust through the underground and make radio somewhat bearable. Some artists from the 70's even managed to snag new audiences in the process.

That aside, what does this particular record have to offer besides "dated" synths and lyrics that don't invoke any kind of stimulation beyond what lies below the belt? How about mouthwatering guitar work, some great grooves and that distinctive Isley vocal interplay that renders all complaint for naught? Sure some of the funkier numbers are definitely tied to the time period ['Way Out Love', 'Rock You Good'], but there's nothing wrong with that. However, it's the liquid smooth first half the of the record that makes the whole shebang work: 'Choosey Lover' is a classic in its own right, but mid-tempo headboppers like 'Let's Make Love Tonight' and 'I Need Your Body' are most certainly soul-pop done right...and exceptionally so at that.

This album, like many albums from its particular corner of the musical spectrum, is never going to be popular with anyone in 2011. It's too smooth and fluffy for the thrill obsessed and too 80's for people who weren't that open minded to begin with. However, for the minority of people out there who think a good groove is worth their time regardless of the time period of its origin....I think you'll find much to revel in throughout.

Listen Here - "I Need Your Body"

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Saturday, April 9, 2011

Robert Johnson - King Of The Delta Blues Singers (1998)

Yeah, Satan lent this guy a hand somewhere down the line. It's too good to be otherwise.

Listen Here - "Hell Hound On My Trail"

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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Yutaka - Another Sun (1993)

Don't let the creepy and badly designed cover art turn you off this little gem fellas and fellettes: this Japanese jazz-pop/Bossa Nova crossover comes with my highest recommendations for those wanting to dive into paradise island mode without having to go anywhere.

Yutaka Yokokura is a singer, keyboardist and occasional producer who hasn't had a whole lot of exposure over the years: vocal smooth jazz stuff had a pretty short shelf life for many people even when the stuff got major radio play. His voice is very interesting: melodic, hazy, and compelling in an indefinable manner.

Musically things are quite dreamy too - floating keyboards, funky slap-bass, and all in all a summer's treat from that fleeting late 80's/early 90's period where smooth jazz influenced stuff actually had a bit of edge to it. That laidback Bossa Nova utterly drenches the whole of the proceedings too, though its less jazz oriented and more about creating exotic pop appeal.

Personally, the strongest tracks here are the ones which somehow distinguish themselves inventively: a good example of this is the opening title cut, which may be something of a pop masterpiece: vaguely sinister lyrics set against a monstrous groove that, in conjunction, transport your mind to another place and time. But I suppose the whole album is like that too: the luminous production is bold and attractive, making it a struggle NOT to fall under the spell of these songs.

On a closing note, this particular release is quite strike while the iron is hot my friends. :)

Listen Here - "Another Sun"

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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Awful Truth - S/T (1989)

Think King's X meets Voivod meets Fates Warning meets Nirvana and you'll have a good grasp of just how fantastic this slice of late 80's progressive metal is. Gorgeous guitar laden backdrops, top notch harmonies, and yet there's still plenty of experimentation and off-kilter time signatures to fulfill even the most cynical of metal fan's expectations.

Seriously though, how the hell was a band this good only able to cut one record? I know that the people involved here went on to form Galactic Cowboys and kick major ass, but yeah....

Listen Here - "Ghost Of Heaven"

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Saturday, April 2, 2011

DJ Kawasaki - You Can Make It (2008)

Being that it's Saturday night, I'll treat you guys to some great Japanese smooth House with lots of soul/jazz influences (and a variety of English guest vocalists to boot). Kinda like Kyoto Jazz Massive-lite with some techno beats thrown in. It's been a highway burner favorite of mine for a quite a while now, so lets see how it fares with you lucky ducks.

Listen Here - "Because Of You"

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