10cc – The Original Soundtrack (1975) [Japanese SHM-SACD 2010] {SACD-R + FLAC 24-88.2}

10cc – The Original Soundtrack (1975) [Japanese SHM-SACD 2010]
PS3 Rip | SACD ISO | DSD64 2.0 > 1-bit/2.8224 MHz | 41:40 minutes | Scans NOT included | 1,68 GB
or FLAC(converted with foobar2000 to tracks) 24bit/88,2 kHz | Scans NOT included | 824 MB
Genre: Rock

10cc’s third album, The Original Soundtrack, finally scored them a major hit in the United States, and rightly so; “I’m Not in Love” walked a fine line between self-pity and self-parody with its weepy tale of a boy who isn’t in love (really!), and the marvelously lush production and breathy vocals allowed the tune to work beautifully either as a sly joke or at face value. The album’s opener, “Une Nuit a Paris,” was nearly as marvelous; a sly and often hilarious extended parody of both cinematic stereotypes of life and love in France and overblown European pop. And side one’s closer, “Blackmail,” was a witty tale of sex and extortion gone wrong, with a superb guitar solo embroidering the ride-out. That’s all on side one; side two, however, is a bit spottier, with two undistinguished tunes, “Brand New Day” and “Flying Junk,” nearly dragging the proceedings to a halt before the band rallied the troops for a happy ending with the hilarious “The Film of Our Love.” The Original Soundtrack’s best moments rank with the finest work 10cc ever released; however, at the same time it also displayed what was to become their Achilles’ heel — the inability to make an entire album as strong and memorable as those moments.

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10cc – Deceptive Bends (1977) [Japanese SHM-SACD 2014] {SACD-R + FLAC 24-88.2}


10cc – Deceptive Bends (1977) [Japanese SHM-SACD 2014]
PS3 Rip | SACD ISO | DSD64 2.0 > 1-bit/2.8224 MHz | 51:22 minutes | Scans included | 2,1 GB
or FLAC(converted with foobar2000 to tracks) 24bit/88,2 kHz | Full Scans included | 1,02 GB
Genre: Rock

When Kevin Godley and Lol Creme left 10cc in 1976 to pursue a solo career, many thought it was the death knell for the group. However, Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman kept the group alive as a duo (with the assistance of percussionist Paul Burgess) and turned in a surprisingly solid album with 1977′s Deceptive Bends. It may lack the devil-may-care wackiness that popped up on previous 10cc albums, but it makes up for it by crafting a series of lush, catchy pop songs that are witty in their own right. Deceptive Bends also produced a pair of notable hits for the group: “Good Morning Judge” told the comical tale of a career criminal over a hook-laden, surprisingly funky pop backing while “The Things We Do for Love” was an irresistible Beatles pastiche that showcased 10cc’s mastery of pop vocal harmonies. “People in Love,” a surprisingly straightforward ballad built on a gorgeous string arrangement, also became a modest chart success. The remainder of the material doesn’t stand out as sharply as these hits, but each of the tracks offers up plenty of naggingly catchy pop hooks, oodles of catchy riffs, and surprising twists in their arrangements. Highlights among the non-hit tracks include “Marriage Bureau Rendezvous,” a satire of dating services set to a lilting soft rock melody, and “You’ve Got a Cold,” a portrait of illness-influenced misery set to a percolating pop melody. The only place where Deceptive Bends slips is on “Feel the Benefit,” the lengthy medley that closes the album. Its excessive length and hazy lyrics make it less satisfying than the album’s shorter tunes, but it is kept afloat by a catchy, mock-Spanish midsection and some lovely string arrangements. All in all, Deceptive Bends is the finest achievement of 10cc’s post-Godley and Creme lineup and well worth a spin for anyone who enjoyed Sheet Music or The Original Soundtrack.

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Tony Allen – Film Of Life (2014) [Qobuz 24-44,1]

Tony Allen – Film Of Life (2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/44,1 kHz | Time – 68:54 minutes | 805 MB | Genre: Jazz
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Artwork: Digital booklet | Source: Qobuz

For his tenth album, the human metronome of afrobeat has pulled out all the stops. At his side are The Jazzbastards, a trio of producers at the cutting edge of contemporary sound, and fellow world-class musicians, including Damon Albarn, who continues to build pioneering bridges between Africa and today’s music scene. Tony Allen has given us an album that has the ring of a true self-portrait, an overview of his rich and exemplary career that brings together bebop, afrobeat jazz and psychedelic pop. For the wizard of Lagos, who has always thought of his drums “as an orchestra” and who likes “to make them sing”, Film of Life marks the pinnacle of his achievement.

Tony Allen, Fela Kuti’s drumming counterpart in the creation of Afrobeat, has been quite active in the 2000s, recording with Charlotte Gainsbourg, Zap Mama, and in supergroups the Good, the Bad & the Queen and Rocket Juice & the Moon. That said, the last releases under his own name were 2006′s Secret Agent and 2007′s collaboration with Jimi Tenor on the fourth volume of Strut’s Inspiration Information series. Film of Life was recorded in France with the Jazzbastards playing and producing, and a slew of guests contributing to its musical mix. It can be heard both as a portrait of Allen’s career as Afrobeat’s bannerman rhythmnatist or — perhaps more accurately — the soundtrack to his own musical innovation and evolution through it. Either way it’s a stone killer. The opener “Moving On” is funky Afrobeat, complete with slippery, percussive guitar vamps, fat brassy horns, a trance-like bassline, and Allen’s signature, hi-hat/tom-tom combination, sparked by his skittering circular snare. His vocal — backed by Audrey Gbaguidi in choral response style — tells his story through his album titles. This would be a gimmick from a lesser musician, but for Allen it’s a volley of truth, pure and simple. Damon Albarn (his bandmate in the aforementioned units) is lead vocalist on the set’s first single, the break-heavy “Go Back.” The tune stretches the musical and textural boundaries of modern pop and retro-Philly soul as they encounter African rhythms. Ludovic Bruni’s tightly wound bassline interacts with Allen’s cracking kit in lockstep grooves. The meld of Afro-funk and Far Eastern pop use B-movie tropes. Wah-wah guitars, fuzzed-out basslines, and a cheesy synth melody submit to Allen’s crisp drumming in the role of storyteller, altering their shape and nuance. “Koko Dance” moves in another direction. Blaxploitation’s extreme funkiness is filtered through spaghetti western guitars and the organ-driven vamps of Afrobeat. Taken together, these tunes subvert the trappings of their predecessors and make ’70s Hollywood a racist caricature of itself. American-born Nigerian singer Kuku makes one of two exceptional vocal appearances here (the second is on the brilliant closer “Tony Wood”). As the horns punctuate the choruses, the use of Auto-Tune and dubwise reverb twists everything into perverse, snaky directions. “Ire Omo,” with fierce vocals by female vocal ensemble Adunni & Nefertiti, refracts Afrobeat through the source of its original inspiration: James Brown. Its cutting horn lines, wonky clavinet, and Allen’s kinetic kitwork make this jammer irresistible. The ticking hi-hat on “African Mind” introduces the set’s most ferocious track. The spirited dialogues between horns, guitars, fractious bass, vibraphone, hard snap breaks, and circular rhythms goes completely over the top. Fans may not have realize it initially, but Film of Life provides us with what we’ve missed sorely: Allen as Allen. Here, the master drummer has used his entire musical history to create a sound that is vital, urgent, powerful, and sexy as hell.

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Theophilus London – Vibes (2014) [Qobuz 24-44,1]

Theophilus London – Vibes (2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/44,1 kHz | Time – 41:59 minutes | 483 MB | Genre: Hip-Hop
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Artwork: Front cover | Source: Qobuz

Trinidad born and Brooklyn raised New Yorker Theophilus London has been giving us great vibes over the years. His music, which encompasses everything from ghetto mythical fantasy to new wave landscapes along with his unique sense of style has landed him praise from fashion icons and brands alike. London, with the help of executive producer Kanye West, now releases his sophomore album Vibes on Warner Bros. Records. The album features appearances by Kanye West, Leon Ware, Devonte Hynes and more.

Theophilus London has to be doing something right to have Kanye West as his executive producer, soul legend Leon Ware as creative co-producer, and the Force M.D.’s, Devonte Hynes, and Jesse Boykins III as guest collaborators. Additionally, Karl Lagerfeld serves as art director and photographer for Vibes!, London’s second proper album. Timez Are Weird These Days, the artist’s debut housed in a Ware-emulating cover, lacked focus and was mostly surface with little depth. This offers measurable improvements across the board. Even when London muddles quasi-philosophical gibberish and pro-fellatio sentiments on “Water Me,” the hooks and basslines dig deeper. It’s more creative, too: “Neu Law” cleverly overhauls a decade-old droning synth-pop vignette by John Maus and is enhanced by Miri Ben-Ari’s gently cutting strings. London continues to craft frivolous tunes about playboy escapades. On “Do Girls,” where he performs his version of orientation conversion therapy on a woman, he cannonballs into a wading pool of inanity. Well above that, there’s the bopping “Need Somebody,” powered by help from Ware and the Force M.D.’s, and a chorus that oddly recalls that of Eric Burdon & War’s “Spill the Wine.” It casually lays waste to everything on Timez. The best bid for commercial radio play, however, is “Can’t Stop,” an adroit production from Club Cheval, Brodinski, and 88 Keys that features West in top lewd form. Best of all is the finale, “Figure It Out,” produced by Ware. Hynes and the Force M.D.’s also join in to make it one of the year’s finest slow jams, akin to an update of a top Ware ballad (like “Rockin’ You Eternally” or “Words of Love”) with sinewy low end.

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The Tallis Scholars – Music written for the Sistine Chapel (2007, Gimell Rec # CDGIM 041) [24-96 6CH]

The Tallis Scholars – Music written for the Sistine Chapel
Allegri: Miserere & Palestrina: Missa Papae Marcelli
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz/6CH: 3,69 GB | Artwork | 3% Recovery Info
Label/Cat#: Gimell Records # CDGIM 041 | Country/Year: UK 2007
Genre: Classical | Style: Renaissance, Choral, Sacred

Allegri’s Miserere should, by all the laws of natural selection, have been consigned to the rubbish bin of musical history years ago. At root, it’s a simple plainchant setting of Psalm 51, the verses sung alternately by five­-part choir, a cantor (a role performed here with delicious grace by Andrew Carwood) and a quartet of soloists (on this recording placed at a distance to re-create the spatial effect of the choir gallery in the Sistine Chapel). That it has not just survived the passage of time but stands today as one of the most popular pieces of late-Renaissance Italian church music – there are well over 50 currently available recordings of it, while The Tallis Scholars alone claim to have performed it over 300 times – is due almost entirely to a single note, a top C, sung by the first soprano soloist in the five quartet verses.

It would be an exaggeration to claim that this top C makes or breaks reputations, but for a generation of record collectors Roy Goodman’s angelic realization of it in 1963 with King’s College Choir, Cambridge and David Willcocks (a recording which has never been out of the catalogues) has in no way been eclipsed by his subsequent career. For her part, Deborah Roberts reaches that top C and floats back down again with such utter sublimity and ease that we could be forgiven for thinking that she has made it her life’s work. Ironically, as Peter Phillips points out in his brilliantly illuminating booklet notes, that top C was never even part of Allegri’s original scheme; it came about only after generations of Sistine Chapel singers had added their own embellishments to what he had given them. Following on from that, Roberts has, over the course of those 300 performances by The Tallis Scholars, introduced her own embellishments, which, as a postscript to the disc, are incorporated into a second complete performance of the work. These are written out in full in the booklet; but don’t fall into the same trap as I did: I found myself continually pausing and rewinding to study the differences between what she has written and what she sings, which misses the point entirely. That second version is every bit as compelling and convincing, and in no way do these ‘extra embellishments’ (as the sticker on the front cover cheerfully proclaims) either obscure or alter the essence of this work.

Between the two versions of Miserere lies more music written specifically for the Sistine Chapel. Phillips directs stupendously vibrant performances of Palestrina’s Missa Papae Marcelli, Stabat mater and Tu es Petrus. The clarity and balance of the individual parts and the lovingly caressed polyphonic lines, not forgetting the sheer sumptuousness of the sound created by The Tallis Scholars add such piquancy to the music and such a sense of fervour and intensity that, despite the fact that this is music getting on for five centuries old, it still has the power to amaze with the freshness of its invention and the awe-inspiring brilliance of its conception.

They have a long and impressive track record, so it’s a risky claim to make, but I believe that, on disc, this is the best thing The Tallis Scholars have ever done. ~International Record Review

When it comes to rating CDs, a special category should be reserved for those that are truly outstanding. Such recordings are few and far between, as are works of art in general. This CD from the Tallis Scholars belongs to precisely that category, as I am sure anyone who has heard the album before reading this review would agree.

The CD is exceptional, partly due to the long experience of this British ensemble founded in 1973 by its present musical director, Peter Phillips. The repertoire, which includes the Miserere by Gregorio Allegri (1582-1652) and the Misaa Papae Marcelli, the motet Tu es Petrus and the imposing Stabat mater by Palestrina (c.1525-1594), is the one most often performed by the group (on more than three hundred occasions, in the case of the Miserere), and that is not only because of the extraordinary quality of the compositions, but because The Tallis Scholars have established themselves as the ideal exponents of these works. The difference between a good performance and an exceptional one lies in the aesthetic impact and emotion – of whatever complexion – that it generates, and I think it is safe to say that nobody who listens to this recording can fail to be moved by its disturbing beauty.

Particularly fine is the performance of Allegri’s Miserere, of which two versions are offered. The first follows the original score, while the second is ornamented in the tradition of the singers of the Papal Chapel who, for more than a century, were the sole performers of the work. ~Goldberg Magazine

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Talk Talk – Spirit Of Eden (1988/2014) [HDTracks 24-96]

Talk Talk – Spirit Of Eden (1988/2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/96 kHz | Time – 45:38 minutes | 854 MB | Genre: Pop
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Artwork: Front cover | Source: HDTracks

Spirit of Eden was originally released in 1988 and was Talk Talk’s fourth album. Much more experimental than their previous albms, it was not a commercial success but garnered praise from critics and musicians. Since it was first released, the album has come to be regarded as influential to post-rock and alternative rock.

Compare Spirit of Eden with any other previous release in the Talk Talk catalog, and it’s almost impossible to believe it’s the work of the same band — exchanging electronics for live, organic sounds and rejecting structure in favor of mood and atmosphere, the album is an unprecedented breakthrough, a musical and emotional catharsis of immense power. Mark Hollis’ songs exist far outside of the pop idiom, drawing instead on ambient textures, jazz-like arrangements, and avant-garde accents; for all of their intricacy and delicate beauty, compositions like “Inheritance” and “I Believe in You” also possess an elemental strength — Hollis’ oblique lyrics speak to themes of loss and redemption with understated grace, and his hauntingly poignant vocals evoke wrenching spiritual turmoil tempered with unflagging hope. A singular musical experience.

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Suzanne Vega – Tales From The Realm Of The Queen Of Pentacles (2014) [HDTracks 24-44,1]

Suzanne Vega – Tales From The Realm Of The Queen Of Pentacles (2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/44,1 kHz | Time – 36:43 minutes | 424 MB | Genre: Pop, Folk, Rock
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Artwork: Front cover | Source: HDTracks

Tales from the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles is singer/songwriter Suzanne Vega’s eighth studio album, and her first new release in seven years. It features contributions from Larry Campbell, Peter Gabriel, and Tony Levin (bass, King Crimson).

The four volumes in Suzanne Vega’s Close-Up series revisited her catalog thematically with stripped-down charts. It appealed to her base of fans who patiently waited seven years for new material. The ten songs on Tales from the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles fits that bill. The set was produced by longtime associate and co-writer Gerry Leonard, and played by a weighty studio cast. The album isn’t so much a change of musical direction as it is a classy revisioning of Vega’s trademark sound. These tracks address many of humanity’s big themes through Vega’s canny, detailed gaze, sometimes with the added weight of the metaphorical wisdom from the tarot. “Crack in the Wall” is a Buddhist reflection on awareness with the songwriter’s signature tight lines and vivid physical descriptions. Its martial snare and painterly electric guitars are countered by Larry Campbell’s mandolin and banjo. “I Never Wear White” is a punchy rocker with Leonard’s big fuzzy guitars up front, a whomping bassline by Tony Levin, and the loud drums of Jay Bellerose. Its lyric reveals Vega has lost none of her wry sense of humor. “Don’t Uncork What You Can’t Contain” samples 50 Cent’s “Candy Shop” in an allegorical tale about caution, with Pandora as one of its muses. “Song of the Stoic” updates “Luka,” in a sense. Written from a drifting, hardworking male’s point of view, it uncovers the emotional cost that physical abuse can take on an adult life. Its musical vehicle is angular rockist Americana, with the Smichov Chamber Orchestra Prague providing windswept accompaniment, making the lyric’s emotional impression indelible. “Laying on of Hands/Stoic 2″ discusses the cost of repression — physical and psychological — with Mother Teresa and Epictetus its referent examples. The rumbling bassline and slippery backbeat feeds Vega’s sung cadences as a psych-tinged six-string fills lines and codas; both feature the powerful backing vocals of Catherine Russell. Not everything here works, though. “Portrait of the Knight of Wands,” despite its attractive melody, is marred by a very clunky refrain, and “Jacob and the Angel” feels more like a demo than a finished track. Closer “Horizon (There Is a Road)” is dedicated to Václav Havel’s memory. It’s a gentle acoustic rocker with an elegant trumpet solo in the bridge. It’s the one place here where Vega’s trademark detachment doesn’t reign. Tales from the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles is a welcome return by an artist who has remained stubbornly true to herself and only records when she has something new to say.

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Stanley Turrentine – That’s Where It’s At (1962/2014) [HDTracks 24-192]

Stanley Turrentine – That’s Where It’s At (1962/2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/192 kHz | Time – 41:12 minutes | 1,67 GB | Genre: Jazz
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Artwork: Front cover | Source: HDTracks

A Blue Note release with Les McCann on piano, Herbie Lewis on bass, and Otis Finch on drums. Small group format. Excellent (and exciting) soul-jazz session with Turrentine blowing hot.

Recorded at the first Blue Note session of 1962, That’s Where It’s At is Stanley Turrentine’s sixth album for the label. It features a rare collaboration between Turrentine and pianist Les McCann.

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Stan Getz, Laurindo Almeida – Stan Getz with Guest Artist Laurindo Almeida (1963/2014) [ProStudioMasters 24-192]

Stan Getz with Guest Artist Laurindo Almeida (1963/2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/192 kHz | Time – 32:13 minutes | 1,29 GB | Genre: Jazz
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Artwork: Front cover | Source: ProStudioMasters

Stan Getz With Guest Artist Laurindo Almeida is an album by American saxophonist Stan Getz and guitarist Laurindo Almeida, recorded in 1963 and originally issued on Verve as V/V6-8665.

Three weeks after completing his meeting with Luiz Bonfá and only two days after the epochal Getz/Gilberto sessions, Stan Getz was back in the studio recording more bossa nova. Producer Creed Taylor was obviously striking while the iron was hot, getting in as many Brazilian sessions as he could, yet the quality of the music-making remained consistently marvelous. Continuing his practice of running through one star guitarist after another, this time Getz has Laurindo Almeida as the designated rhythm man, featured composer, and solo foil. The rhythm section is an authentically swinging mixture of American sidemen (including Steve Kuhn on piano and George Duvivier on bass) and Brazilian percussionists. Almeida didn’t like to improvise, so his solos stay close to the tunes, inflected with a perfectly matched feeling for the groove along with classical poise. Jobim’s “Outra Vez” is a particularly lovely example of Getz’s freedom and effortless lyricism contrasted against Almeida’s anchored embroidering. Sessions like these might have been seen as cashing in on the boom at the time, yet in the long view, one should be thankful that these musicians were recording so much cherishable material.

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Slipknot – .5: The Gray Chapter {Special Edition} (2014) [HDTracks 24-96]

Slipknot – .5: The Gray Chapter (2014) [Special Edition]
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 74:58 minutes | 1,66 GB | Genre: Heavy Metal
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Artwork: Front cover | Source: HDTracks

After 6 turbulent years, Slipknot returns with one of their heaviest and most intense body of work – .5:The Gray Chapter. Stretching from grief to anger and beyond, the album touches on the most difficult period of the bands career and serves as a tribute to a lost friend and bandmate. Led by the ferocious “The Negative One” and the first single “The Devil In I” the album ranges from the raw moments from the bands self-titled debut and follow-up Iowa to the dynamics of Vol 3: The Subliminal Verses and All Hope Is Gone. .5: The Gray Chapter is classic Slipknot while remaining fresh and innovative and proves Slipknot continues to be the premiere heavy band of this generation.

While even a cursory listen to Slipknot’s back catalog makes it clear the band are no strangers to working out their inner turmoil and pain through their music, never has that idea been so abundantly clear as it is on their fifth outing, .5: The Gray Chapter. Their first studio album since 2008′s All Hope Is Gone, the album finds the band still recovering from the loss of founding bassist Paul Gray, whose death in 2010 hit them pretty hard. Rather than allowing their pain and anger destroy them, they were able to harness that energy and focus it, allowing them to create one of their most visceral and dynamic albums to date. Combining the punishing, pummeling metal of the band’s early work with the more melodic focus of their later years, The Gray Chapter shows off just how unexpectedly wide the band’s range is, going from a plaintive, atmospheric ballad like album-opener “XIX” to a thrash-inspired pummeling like “Sarcastrophe” without missing a beat. Along with being Slipknot’s first album without Gray, it’s also notable for being their first album not to feature longtime drummer Joey Jordison, who parted ways with the band in 2013. While Jordison will certainly be missed, the band’s mysterious new drummer, whose identity the band have done their damndest not to reveal, slots in marvelously, seamlessly acclimating to the band’s suddenly shifting tempos and styles. Listening to the album, it’s clear that even though Slipknot aren’t over the loss of a dear friend and colleague, they’re able to channel their grief into a productive album, allowing them to continue moving forward while paying tribute to a fallen comrade with one of the strongest albums of their career.

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