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Uptown Special
Uptown Special
Price: $11.88
54 used & new from $7.45

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't believe him? Just watch!, January 13, 2015
This review is from: Uptown Special (Audio CD)
"Uptown Special" is producer Mark Ronson's fourth album and is a throwback to eighties funk/soul/jazz, featuring lyrics by Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Michael Chabon on about half the songs. It could have ended up sounding pretentious but thankfully turns out rather well.

Opening the album is the brief intro "Uptown's First Finale" with Stevie Wonder on harmonica, followed by the dreamy jazzy ballad "Summer Breaking" featuring Tame Impala's Kevin Parker. The feverish horn-sprinkled "Feel Right" sounds like James Brown walked into the studio and features rapping by Mystikal. "Uptown Funk" is the current US and UK #1 single, a horn-peppered Prince-meets-MJ affair with Bruno Mars on vocals and Nile Rodgers-style scratchy guitar. The skittery funk "I Can't Lose" features a raspy Keyone Starr (the lone female lead vocalist) and recalls Kashif's work in the mid eighties.

The groovy "Daffodils" features the dreamy falsetto of Kevin Parker and a fuzzy guitar break, while the brief atmospheric ballad "Crack In The Pearl" features the vocals of Andrew Wyatt (from Swedish trio Miike Snow) and the opening lines "In the Backroom of the El Mago Casino, under a portrait of Doris day, you and I, and a pair of C-notes" - Chabon at work. "In Case Of Fire" is Prince-meets-Stevie Wonder with the vocals of Jeff Bhasker and a trippy coda.

"Leaving Los Feliz" is sleek pop/funk with Kevin Parker, "Heavy And Rolling" is a sublime groove featuring Andrew Wyatt and a jazzy coda, while closing cut "Crack In The Pearl Pt. II" starts off sounding like a Ray Parker Jr. jam with Stevie Wonder again on harmonica and Jeff Bhasker on vocals as the song meanders through different trippy movements.

My only complaint is the brevity of the album. After producing hits for Robbie Williams, Lily Allen and Amy Winehouse, it's great seeing Ronson's enjoy his moment in the sun. Don't believe him? Just watch

The Pinkprint [Deluxe Edition][Explicit]
The Pinkprint [Deluxe Edition][Explicit]
Price: $16.88
34 used & new from $10.97

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nicki rules, December 15, 2014
A few months ago, I heard a nice midtempo song with thundering beats and a soft chorus playing on the radio. I shazammed it and found out it was "Pills N Potions" by Nicki Minaj. This made me look forward to her new album, as I wasn't too enamoured with her last electro pop-filled album.

"The Pinkprint" delivers. It seems to be more personal lyrically and sonically, closer to her debut which I loved. She raps and sings, as well as features some big name stars on some songs. She strikes the perfect balance between hardcore rap and pop sensibilities.

"All Things Go" is a brooding midtempo number with the lines "I lost my little cousin to a senseless act of violence, his sister says he wanted to stay with me but I didn't invite him". Soft and personal, there's more where that came from; the lovely "I Lied" (on which she confesses that she lied as she didn't want her heart broken), the guitar-festooned "The Crying Game" (featuring the velvety croon of Jessie Ware), "Want Some More", the dreamy "Favourite" (featuring Jeremih), "Buy A Heart" (featuring Meek Mill), "Bed Of Lies" (featuring Skylar Grey), and the lovely piano/violin ballad "Grand Piano with heartfelt singing from Minaj.

Ariana Grande appears on "Get On Your Knees", Beyoncé appears on the more upbeat "Feeling Myself", "Only" features Drake and Chris Brown, the clap-driven "Trinidad Dem Girls" has an island lilt and features Lunch Money Lewis", and by now we all know the bouncy Sir Mix A Lot-sampling smash "Anaconda". Closing is "Win Again" with pulsing synths on which she declares herself to be a champion as well as referencing Monica Lewinski.

Look out for a few tracks available on other exclusive editions, like the trippy "Mona Lisa" (which I really love), "Put You In A Room", and the bouncy "Truffle Butter" featuring Drake and Lil Wayne.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 16, 2014 11:58 AM PST

Black Messiah
Black Messiah
Price: $9.99
71 used & new from $6.83

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The saviour, December 15, 2014
This review is from: Black Messiah (Audio CD)
D'Angelo is finally back and one listen to his new album "Black Messiah" makes it feel like 14 years haven't gone by since his last album "Voodoo". He's still doing his thing, largely eschewing the contemporary scene with a heavy throwback to the past. Complex, yet light and free, it's a perfect follow up to the magic that was "Voodoo".

"Ain't That Easy" is a funky groove with a playful Sly Stone feel, followed by a rocky pair, the militant industrial "1000 Deaths" and "The Charade" which recalls Prince, or even Shuggie Otis as he spits the line "All we wanted was a chance to talk, 'stead we only got outlined in chalk, feet have bled a million miles we've walked, revealing at the end of the day the charade".

The horn-peppered "Sugah Daddy" is retro funk with some wicked guitar, hand claps, and scatting/singing, impossibly funky. Lead-single "Really Love" starts off sounding like the soundtrack to some spaghetti western incorporating a theatrical string intro, flamenco guitar and whispered Spanish mutterings set to a light groove and soft falsetto croon. Absolutely beautiful! "Back To The Future (Part I)" is a choppy groove with a live jam session feel, while "Part II" is a reprise.

As to be expected from album in the works for over a decade, everything stands out, from the trippy "Till It's Done (Tutu)" (on which he asks "What have we become?... Do we even know what we're fighting for?"), the quirky slithery groove "Prayer", the skeletal jazzy groove "Betray My Heart" (with incredible vocal layering), the laid back whistle-driven country-tinged "The Door", and the closing Prince/Gaye-style piano-sprinkled ballad "Another Life" on which he says "I just wanna take you with me, to the secret rooms in the mansion of my mind".

What a spectacular way to close 2014.

The London Sessions
The London Sessions
Price: $9.99
77 used & new from $4.50

18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Clubbing in London, December 2, 2014
This review is from: The London Sessions (Audio CD)
Mary J. Blige's new album "The London Sessions" comes barely six months since her criminally overlooked "Think Like A Man Too" soundtrack. So titled as it was recorded in London with some of the finest UK singers/writers/producers.

Inspired by her working with UK Dance duo Disclosure on the remix of their hit "F For You", the album strikes a delicate balance between vintage Mary and a European club sound. The doo wop/Blues-tinged Sam Smith co-penned "Therapy" opens the album picking a gospel fervour in its closing minute. "Why should I spend the rest of my days unhappy, when I can go to therapy two times a day" she sings. The bluesy piano ballad "Not Loving You" is another Sam Smith co-write which wouldn't be out of place on an Adele album. Other outstanding ballads are the acoustic "When You're Gone", the Emeli Sandé co-penned, Naughty Boy-produced "Whole Damn Year" (minimal and piano sprinkled with raw emotional lyrics), and the closing spare piano ballad "Worth My Time".

The atmospheric club banger "Right Now" is one of two songs with Disclosure, the other being the fervent "Follow" which recalls "F For You". "My Loving" has a chilled late night feel kicking into a house tempo. I can imagine this playing on a late night drive through the streets of London. "Nobody But You" is a moody pulsing number I could imagine from Katy B, while the Naughty Boy co-penned "Pick Me Up" features clarinet sprinklings and stabs of piano perfectly accentuating the clipped dance beats. "Misery loves company they won't let us grow" she croons.

The arrangements, especially on the upbeat numbers never crowd out her vocals. They are spacious and allow her to express her emotions. My only complaint is that there aren't more club numbers. A winner!

Price: $5.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deck the halls and have some fun, December 1, 2014
This review is from: A JOHNNYSWIM Christmas (MP3 Music)
On their new EP "A Johnnyswim Christmas", Abner Ramirez and Amanda Sudano-Ramirez (daughter of Donna Summer) put us in the holiday mood on seven songs done in their acoustic folk/soul/blues style.

Opening is their self penned tender "Christmas Day" with both trading verses against the folky backdrop and chiming sleigh bells, followed by "The Christmas Waltz" with Amanda's earnest vocals on lead punctuated by a wall of "oohs" and a lovely guitar solo. Brilliant!

"Christmas Time Is Here" is an all to brief instrumental piece, followed by both trading verses on the gently shuffling "I'll Be Home For Christmas". "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" is given a bouncy swing with both sharing lead vocals. Amanda leads again on the acoustic "O Come All Ye Faithful" which has a trippy coda.

Closing is "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve" finds both playfully flirting against a spare acoustic blues
backdrop. Deck the halls and have some fun.

Idris Elba Presents mi Mandela
Idris Elba Presents mi Mandela
Price: $9.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Labour of love, December 1, 2014
Isris Elba's "Mi Mandela" is a tribute to Nelson Mandela whom he portrayed in 2013's "Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom". Featuring South African rhythms blended with Western sounds, it also features a plethora of guest vocalists.

The catchy bouncy "Aero Mathata" opens the album featuring the vocals of Mahotella Queens, followed by the spectacular "So Many People", an almost Afrobeat groove with rhythmic guitars, polyrhythmic beats, horns, chants, and the incredibly soulful vocals of Shaun Escoffery, an almost spiritual experience. "We're singing freedom songs, we are a billion strong" goes the fervent chant in the coda. This song alone is worth getting the album for.

"You Give Me Love" is bluesy soul with the pained vocals of Maverick Sabre and trippy sounding harmonies. The midtempo horn-peppered melodic groove "Thank You For Freedom" features Phuzekhemisi. "One" features UK spoken word artist George The Poet ( he recently made the BBC Sound Of 2015 longlist) and a spare musical backdrop allowing his rhymes to shine. "What I have dared to achieve, I am prepared to receive".

The title track "mi Mandela" is a largely spoken piece by Elba himself, a humorous look at his experience working on the Mandela movie. "Tree" features Audra Mae and Cody ChestnuTT, a song of affirmation by a family after their patriarch is gone. "Although his chair empty, his love will always be at home". The Mumford and Sons cover "Home" features Maverick Sabre and Thandiswa Mazwai and could fit on Paul Simon's "Graceland". "Nothembi Jam is a mournful joint, the acoustic "Hold On" features Thabo and George The Poet's inspirational lines. Closing is "Soldiers Don't Back Down" with a percolating lilting melody.

This could so easily have been a vanity project. Thankfully is is a very good collection of South African sounds respectfully presented, a labour of love.

Price: $10.00
36 used & new from $5.95

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Still forging ahead, November 18, 2014
This review is from: Seeds (Audio CD)
"Seeds" is the first album from TV On The Radio since the death of bassist Gerard Smith from lung cancer, and according to Tunde Adebimpe, their best yet. What they unfurl here are unfussy song structures largely giving up their charm early on, unlike the more complex and meandering path taken on previous albums, and it's not necessarily a bad thing.

The band carries on rather optimistically with lead singer Tunde Adebimpe singing "Rain comes down like it always does, this time I've got seeds on ground" on the moody title track "Seeds", and "Everything's going to be okay I keep telling myself, don't worry be happy" on the slowly shuffling "Trouble" with atmospheric strings and soothing harmonies. With that, they declare their intention to forge ahead.

How much do I love you?" he sings urgently against a wall of cascading "aaahs", gently buzzing synths and trilling guitars on opening track "Quartz" conjuring a rather reverential feel. Lead single "Happy Idiot" finds Adebimpe declaring ignorance to be bliss in a relationship over galloping beats and angular riffs, catchy and anthemic. Slowing things down is the blissful soul of "Test Pilot" with Adebimpe shifting from his regular tenor to falsetto in the blink of an eye, while "Love Stained" finds him singing in a creamy croon against a gentle tempo-shifting backdrop.

"Ride" has a solemn two minute-long piano overture before morphing into a widescreen rocker Springsteen would kill for. "Right Now" is a twitchy dance rocker and is also incredibly catchy. Following are a pair of punk rock-inflected numbers; "Winter" which is fuzzy and skeletal and reminds me of R.E.M, while the raucous "Lazerray" occupies the more frenzied end of the spectrum.

The album has a well rounded sound, and despite the immediacy of the songs still manages to give up more with each listen. A welcome and inventive return from a place of pain and loss.

The Inevitable End (Explicit)
The Inevitable End (Explicit)
Price: $14.88
27 used & new from $8.75

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Going out with a Big Bang!!, November 10, 2014
"The Inevitable End" is Norwegian duo Röyksopp's fifth and supposedly final album, which is such a shame. Fittingly perhaps, the sound is brooding and melancholic with ambient washes, despite the odd raised tempo here and there on songs such as a reworking of "Monument" (which featured in a different version on their "Do It Again" EP with Robyn, who appears again on the moody ballad "Rong"), opening cut the vocoder-driven Daft Punk-esque "Skulls", the jittery "Save Me" featuring Susanne Sundfør, or "I Had This Thing" featuring Jamie Irrepressible.

Their 2001 debut "Melody AM" was incredible, and this is just as great. Everything stands out really; the dreamy gently-pulsing "Sordid Affair" featuring Man Without Country (what an interesting name), the 7 minute-long dirge-like ballad "You Know I Have To Go" featuring a mournful Jamie Irrepressible, the dark yet serenely beautiful "Here She Comes Again" featuring the elegiac croon of Jamie Irrepressible over clipped beats (he appears again on the hypnotic "Compulsion" which winds down and changes tempo near its end), the pulsing "Running To The Sea" featuring an echoey Susanne Sundfør and a lovely piano intro, the ethereal and incredibly beautiful instrumental "Coup De Grace" (which sounds like the soundtrack to some movie), and closing cut "Thank You" which finds the pair singing in unison using a vocoder giving way to a lovely lengthy instrumental.

An incredible swan song from a supremely talented pair. To borrow a line from one of the songs, "You know I have to go, there's nothing more to say".
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 15, 2014 5:24 AM PST

Price: $13.00
38 used & new from $9.99

5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Music lives forever, November 10, 2014
This review is from: Forever (Audio CD)
"Queen Forever" is a compilation of Queen ballads available as a 20 track single disc album or 36 track double disc. It contains songs that Brian May says are "representative of our growth, rather than the big hits".

It also features three previously unreleased songs with Freddie Mercury's vocals, "Let Me In Your Heart Again" from "The Works" recording sessions, a ballad version of Mercury's solo Giorgio Moroder-produced debut "Love Kills" (which shorn of hi-energy synths sounds like vintage Queen), and "There Must Be More To Life", produced by William Orbit and featuring the vocals of Michael Jackson. It's one of those change the world-type song and while not world changing (pardon the pun) fits in with the sound on the rest of the album.

The lovely instrumental "Forever" closes the collection, an epilogue with a few career highlights.

My Favourite Faded Fantasy
My Favourite Faded Fantasy
Price: $10.00
43 used & new from $6.99

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The maestro returns, November 10, 2014
Irish troubadour Damien Rice is back with his third album and first in eight years "My Favourite Faded Fantasy". Produced by Rick Rubin, it comprises just eight tracks but each is expansive leaving you feeling you listened to more. Missing is his usual sparring partner Lisa Hannigan but he does a fab job alone.

The title track opens the album in a gentle mien before building to a waltzing/jazzy/guitar climax. It also contains the line "You could be my favourite taste to touch my tongue" which should be a contender for lyric of the year.

The nine minute-long "It Takes A Lot To Know A Man" starts off with dramatic strings before a breakdown with layered vocals, haunted piano riffs and an ornate orchestral coda. Its fluid progression takes you through different movements and ends before you realise it. Incredible!

The acoustic "The Greatest Bastard" is folky, reminiscent of Passenger or David Gray. Similar are the majestic "Colour Me In", and "Trusty And True". "I Don't Want To Change You" juxtaposes sweeping strings with a gentle groove and heartbreaking vocals from Rice, another masterpiece.

The vocal highlight has got to be on the simple "The Box" with Rice ranging from tender to impassioned while the music builds from spare to a melodramatic climax, something he does so well. The guitar work and strings here are stupendously beautiful. Closing the album is the lullaby-like "Long Long Way" with Rice singing in hushed tones while the song progressively builds.

Morose yet incredible.

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