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Charming Mess

The Black Crowes

Rock - Released January 8, 2021 | American Recordings Catalog P&D

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I And Love And You

The Avett Brothers

Rock - Released September 29, 2009 | American Recordings Catalog P&D

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Fans held their breath when Rick Rubin took the Avett Brothers under his wing. What would the co-head of Columbia Records -- a man known for recording rap-rock albums and resurrecting Johnny Cash's late career -- do with a small-time folk trio? The answer is "relatively nothing," as the band's major-label debut continues charting the same musical course as Emotionalism and Mignonette. The Avett Brothers have expanded their reach since 2000, adding elements of pop and hillbilly country-rock to a bluegrass foundation, and they carry on that tradition with I and Love and You, whose songs introduce a new emphasis on piano and nuanced arrangements. Working with a major label's budget allows the group to add small flourishes -- a cello line here, a keyboard crescendo there -- but the resulting music is hardly grand, focusing on textures rather than volume. Scott and Seth Avett share vocals throughout the album, delivering their lyrics in a speak-sing cadence that, at its best, sounds both tuneful and conversational. Given the opportunities presented here -- the ability to add strings, organs, and harmonium to the mix -- the two devote more time to slower songs, which display those sonic details better. The result is an intimate, poignant album, laced with rich production that often takes as much spotlight as the songwriting itself. © Andrew Leahey /TiVo
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Niandra LaDes And Usually Just A T-Shirt

John Frusciante

Pop - Released January 1, 2013 | American Recordings Catalog P&D

Upon leaving the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 1992, guitarist John Frusciante delved into home recording, eventually completing a 12-track album titled Niandra Lades that bore the influence of '60s oddballs like Syd Barrett and Captain Beefheart. Niandra Lades languished on the shelf for a while until it was paired with another 12-track collection of Frusciante's home-taping efforts; this one, titled Usually Just a T-Shirt, concentrated on pleasant psychedelic instrumentals with plenty of backward-guitar effects. While some might find the jump from bizarre vocal numbers to atmospheric instrumentals (and the resultant shift in mood) a bit jarring, the two halves do share certain characteristics. Frusciante's singing voice has a fragile, wispy quality that sits well next to the often delicate second half, and the sparse arrangements of the first half help set the stage for the gossamer guitar work later on. Because the whole project has a definite stream-of-consciousness feel, it does fall prey to underdeveloped ideas at times, but overall, Niandra Lades and Usually Just a T-Shirt is an intriguing and unexpected departure from Frusciante's work with the Chili Peppers. © Steve Huey /TiVo
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The Russian Wilds

Howlin Rain

Rock - Released January 1, 2012 | American Recordings Catalog P&D

Howlin Rain frontman/guitarist and songwriter Ethan Miller emerges four years after 2008's Magnificent Fiend with a slew of new bandmates -- keyboardist Joel Robinow is the only holdover -- and working with Rick Rubin as executive producer. Howlin Rain are indeed a different animal than in their previous incarnation. The influences from the '60s and '70s remain even more abundant here, but are spread out in meticulously constructed songs -- even if they don't initially sound like it. With Earthless guitarist Isaiah Mitchell, drummer Raj Ojha, and bassist Cyrus Comiskey in the fold, the creative leap Howlin Rain have made is surprising. Miller is more disciplined as a writer, arranger, and vocalist. His voice, no longer an instrument that scorches the ears (though it can), borrows from Steve Marriott, Uriah Heep's David Byron, and Deep Purple's Ian Gillan. With Robinow and Mitchell on backing vocals and two female guests (Susan Appe and Mandy Green), the harmonies on these rough-and-rowdy tracks carry their melodies more easily and allow Miller to be more expressive rather than just ragged. The album, selected from more than three hours' worth of material, fits together seamlessly. Heavy guitars and drums, fuzz, effects, organs, Mellotrons, numerous textural elements, and wide-ranging dynamics suggest everything from psych, hard '60s and '70s rock, blues, and even R&B. While opener "Self Made Man" is a straight blues-rocker -- with Miller and Mitchell matching as fine foils on guitar -- "Phantom in the Valley" evokes Quicksilver Messenger Service's acid-drenched narratives that evolve until they transform into early Santana's Latin rock by the last section, complete with a horn section and hand drums. "Cherokee Werewolf," with its funky Rhodes piano and call-and-response female chorus, suggests not only the Humble Pie of Smokin' and Big Brother & the Holding Company, but Little Feat's 1969 debut album with dreamier guitars. "Dark Side" is pure rockist strut circa 1972, while "Beneath Wild Wings" is an intricately constructed nod toward the kind of rock & roll-R&B fusion that was typical in Great Britain in the early '70s. "Walking Through Stone" is overblown, bluesy riff rock with Mitchell pushing his guitar into the red. All of of this is strange and extremely attractive, especially since it shouldn't add up. When the most contemporary tune here is a gorgeous cover of the James Gang's spacy, lilting "Collage," you know you're time-traveling. For all of his obsession with classic rock, Miller is a hell of a songwriter. He combines elements that normally sprawl in tight constructions that sound loose and relaxed. In his new work, passion and feel meet dynamic and melody in equal balance (this is in no small part due to Tim Green's fabulous production). The Russian Wilds is Howlin Rain's most accessible recording, but enormous ambition and musical mastery of rock & roll's mighty past make it an essential one, too. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Live, Vol. 3

The Avett Brothers

Rock - Released September 11, 2012 | American Recordings Catalog P&D

Recorded one month before the release of their major-label debut, this album captures a concert in the Avett Brothers’ hometown of Charlotte, NC. Four songs are previewed from I and Love and You, with the rest of the set coming from the band’s back catalog, reaching as far back as 2002’s Live at the Double Door Inn. As with most of the group’s albums, the music is purposely unpolished, with missed notes and off-key harmonies amounting to a sort of slapdash, warts-and-all rusticity. The Avett Brothers may not be great musicians -- in a genre populated by nimble-fingered string players and pitch-perfect harmony groups, their talent is easily overshadowed -- but they play with confidence and informality, as though they’ve transported a lively front-porch jam session to the stage of the Bojangles Coliseum. Of course, it helps to actually see the band perform, especially when the emphasis is on atmosphere as much as the technical craft of the music, but the audience seems to be eating it up, and returning fans will likely do the same. © Andrew Leahey /TiVo
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Trans-Continental Hustle

Gogol Bordello

Rock - Released January 1, 2010 | American Recordings Catalog P&D

Trans-Continental Hustle, Gogol Bordello's fifth studio album, first on a major label, and first with producer/guru extraordinaire Rick Rubin, is one that you really want to love. It has everything about it that Gogol Bordello fans demand: rollicking punk and fiddle-fueled verses and rousing, easy to chant choruses. Most of all, it has plenty of Eugene Hütz, the impassioned, gravel- and vodka-voiced singer who has nearly single-handedly -- with his playful take on English grammar and intermittent bursts of other languages, penchant for chanting, and endlessly inspiring and exhausting live performances -- brought various Gypsy cultures from the fringe to something celebrated (and performed) by Madonna, without ever seeming like he was selling out or doing anything that wasn't really, really cool. Culturally, musicologically, socially, politically, and even literarily, there's much to say about it. Strictly musically, however, there's something missing here -- something that's hard to place, but something that separates Trans-Continental Hustle from Gypsy Punks and Super Taranta! Hütz is still an endlessly fascinating frontman who deserves all the attention he gets and more, and he knows how to turn any hook into a sweat-drenched, beer-soaked anthem, but inevitably, as it is with many bands, his songs begin to resemble one another. Lines are reused and reappropriated in the creation of an aesthetic, in the process risking a diminution of power through the repetition. Hütz, assuredly aware of this, attempts to combat it by adding new elements: Brazil's fervo is incorporated in "In the Meantime in Pernambuco," dub pops up again in "Immigraniada (We Comin' Rougher)," and even something that approaches an Eastern European pop love song is found in "Rebellious Love," one of the few bad songs Hütz has ever written. The core of Gogol Bordello, however, is the rambunctious Gypsy punk they're known for, and it's what doesn't quite measure up here. There's still plenty of energy and hooky lines and growling, driving verses (one can certainly credit Rubin for changing nothing), but sadly, there's nothing that grabs you and sticks with you the way that "Immigrant Punk," "American Wedding," "Sally," or "Start Wearing Purple" did, and still do. The songs on Trans-Continental Hustle, instead, sound more pieced together from previous efforts rather than from new thoughts, and suffer from a lack of distinct identity. There's plenty good here, that's undeniable, but the album lacks the spark to push it forward and place it at the top. © Marisa Brown /TiVo
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Live, Vol. 3

The Avett Brothers

Rock - Released September 11, 2012 | American Recordings Catalog P&D

Recorded one month before the release of their major-label debut, this album captures a concert in the Avett Brothers’ hometown of Charlotte, NC. Four songs are previewed from I and Love and You, with the rest of the set coming from the band’s back catalog, reaching as far back as 2002’s Live at the Double Door Inn. As with most of the group’s albums, the music is purposely unpolished, with missed notes and off-key harmonies amounting to a sort of slapdash, warts-and-all rusticity. The Avett Brothers may not be great musicians -- in a genre populated by nimble-fingered string players and pitch-perfect harmony groups, their talent is easily overshadowed -- but they play with confidence and informality, as though they’ve transported a lively front-porch jam session to the stage of the Bojangles Coliseum. Of course, it helps to actually see the band perform, especially when the emphasis is on atmosphere as much as the technical craft of the music, but the audience seems to be eating it up, and returning fans will likely do the same. © Andrew Leahey /TiVo
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World Painted Blood

Slayer

Metal - Released January 1, 2009 | American Recordings Catalog P&D

There will no doubt be a lot of hoopla concerning the name Slayer have chosen for World Painted Blood. In many ways, it could have been called Reign in Blood Revisited. But the word "revisited " is the key. Some compositions on this new recording have more of the band's early-style melody in them, with lightning flare-up riffs between verses; quick, unexpected guitar pyrotechnics; and blastbeat power drumming from Dave Lombardo (the band's original drummer who returned to the lineup for 2006's Christ Illusion) pushing it all into the red. But there are mannerisms and strategies from the band's later albums at work as well -- even if they are unconsciously employed. Christ Illusion reached deep into Slayer's old bag of tricks to reorient themselves to more speed-based playing after the midtempo records of the late '90s, and there was a fantastic concentration on riffs and call and response between the guitars and rhythm section. On World Painted Blood the focus is more on songs, and therefore the return of the "melodic" aspect of the band's past -- and let's face it, during the classic years Slayer were peerless in that department. The riffs make sense in the context of Tom Araya's sung verses, and so do the considerable beats. Check the opener with its intricate instrumental intro bracing the listener for the eruption of power that follows -- Araya's spoken word interludes notwithstanding. "Americon" combines wah-wah riff heaviness with thundercrack drumming and Araya's downtuned bassline. Check the speed and intense guitar exchanges in "Public Display of Dismemberment" and "Psychopathy Red" for the best evidence of Slayer at their most powerful on this set. Despite great songs and great playing, there are more midtempo tracks here than on Christ Illusion, and Greg Fidelman's production style takes a different tack altogether for this guitar-manic crew. Lombardo's drums are WAAAAAAAY up in the mix, as are Araya's vocals -- you can understand every word, even on the thrashers; the guitars are simply further down in the mix and sometimes it becomes difficult to discern Araya's bass. Therefore, the first listen or two to World Painted Blood might be a bit confusing for the seasoned Slayer fan, but that changes quickly, and the sound of those drums blasting in one's head will become a more than welcome presence in the mix. [There are two other editions of World Painted Blood: the Deluxe Edition comes with a bonus DVD containing a thematic narrative (and disturbing) animated video, and the other one is on vinyl with a copy of the CD enclosed in the sleeve.] © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Music From The North Country: Anthology

The Jayhawks

Rock - Released January 1, 2009 | American Recordings Catalog P&D

Of the musicians who rose to prominence in the 1990s during the alternative country scene's 15 minutes of media prominence, the Jayhawks were at once the band that best exemplified what was satisfying about the new country rock scene, and a group that avoided the twangy clichés that became so large a part of what their less gifted peers were doing. The high lonesome melodies and evocative wordplay of Gary Louris and Mark Olson's fine songs suggested a country influence without forcing the particulars into the arrangements (a mandolin here and a fiddle there was enough), and though Louris' guitar work made it clear he'd listened to a few Neil Young albums, the Jayhawks' musical vision made as much room for pure pop and '70s West Coast sounds as rocked-up country. The group's sound became even more eclectic after Olson departed the band in 1996, and over the course of their career, the Jayhawks created a distinctive and powerful body of work that showed clear evolution and fresh thinking on each successive album. In 2008, Louris dropped hints to fans and writers of a "Herculean project" of remastering and expanding the Jayhawks' albums, and Music from the North Country: The Jayhawks Anthology is presumably the first salvo in these efforts, a career-spanning compilation that offers highlights from their five albums for American Recordings as well as one track each from their first two independent efforts. This set sounds and feels like a "Jayhawks Greatest Hits" disc, pulling the best-known tunes and likely fan favorites from each album, but given how consistently strong their music was, this isn't a serious flaw, and the chronological sequence of the album plays to the growth and shifts in the group's approach while mimicking the creative arc of their career, encompassing songs as brilliant as "Martin's Song," "I'd Run Away," "The Man Who Loved Life," "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me," and "Save It for a Rainy Day." If you've never had the pleasure of listening to the Jayhawks, this collection is a marvelous place to start, and fans will be reminded of just how much good music this group made, and how well it has stood the test of time. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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I And Love And You

The Avett Brothers

Rock - Released September 29, 2009 | American Recordings Catalog P&D

Fans held their breath when Rick Rubin took the Avett Brothers under his wing. What would the co-head of Columbia Records -- a man known for recording rap-rock albums and resurrecting Johnny Cash's late career -- do with a small-time folk trio? The answer is "relatively nothing," as the band's major-label debut continues charting the same musical course as Emotionalism and Mignonette. The Avett Brothers have expanded their reach since 2000, adding elements of pop and hillbilly country-rock to a bluegrass foundation, and they carry on that tradition with I and Love and You, whose songs introduce a new emphasis on piano and nuanced arrangements. Working with a major label's budget allows the group to add small flourishes -- a cello line here, a keyboard crescendo there -- but the resulting music is hardly grand, focusing on textures rather than volume. Scott and Seth Avett share vocals throughout the album, delivering their lyrics in a speak-sing cadence that, at its best, sounds both tuneful and conversational. Given the opportunities presented here -- the ability to add strings, organs, and harmonium to the mix -- the two devote more time to slower songs, which display those sonic details better. The result is an intimate, poignant album, laced with rich production that often takes as much spotlight as the songwriting itself. © Andrew Leahey /TiVo
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Mercy... Dancing For The Death Of An Imaginary Enemy

Ours

Alternative & Indie - Released January 1, 2008 | American Recordings Catalog P&D

For their third full-length and American Records debut, MERCY…(DANCING FOR THE DEATH OF AN IMAGINARY ENEMY), New Jersey rock group Ours relocated to L.A. and tapped Rick Rubin as producer. With guitarist Static delivering Edge-like guitar work and Jimmy Gnecco switching between Bono-esque howls and ecstatic falsettos, Ours clearly boned up on U2's signature sounds and recast themselves as a heavier version of the Irish quartet. The transition works, though, as MERCY delivers knockout after knockout of barbed, tension-and-release alt-rock. From the dramatic opening title track to the expansive closer "Get Up," the production (by Rick Rubin, no less) is the unsung hero of this set, providing some of the biggest standouts in the lengthy Ours catalog, polishing Gnecco's impassioned songwriting with sonic depth and flourish. The galloping "The Worst Things Beautiful" is a guitar-driven rush that crashes down on the cacaphonous "Black," a desperate plea that would fit nicely on the tortured Distorted Lullabies. Meanwhile, the mariachi-meets-Radiohead "Murder" rides a skittering beat as wild handclaps and blaring horns amplify the tension to unbearable levels through a storm of Gnecco's howls. For quieter moments, the tender "Lost," wounded "God Only Wants You," and string-washed "Ran Away to Tell the World" provide vulnerable moments of beauty. Above all, the standout track "Willing" is the radio hit that never was, a catchy, melodic, and pressing anthem that serves as yet another reminder that Gnecco's decades of work are criminally underappreciated. MERCY is well worth a listen, the cap on Ours' initial 2000s run that soon gave way to a decade of underground obscurity that wouldn't be creatively matched until 2021's self-titled comeback. © Neil Z. Yeung & Pat Sullivan /TiVo

Live At Electric Fetus

Dan Wilson

Rock - Released January 1, 2008 | American Recordings Catalog P&D

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Be Free EP

Dan Wilson

Rock - Released January 1, 2008 | American Recordings Catalog P&D

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Free Life

Dan Wilson

Rock - Released January 1, 2007 | American Recordings Catalog P&D

Former guitarist for 1980s college rock favorites Trip Shakespeare and '90s one-hit wonders Semisonic, Dan Wilson embarks on his solo career with the rootsy twang of FREE LIFE. Blending the pop hooks of his former bands with a newfound appreciation for alt-country and Americana sounds, tunes such as "All Kinds" and "Come Home Angel" recall the likes of Mark Olson and the Jayhawks. A cover of the Dixie Chicks' "Easy Silence" closes the album. © TiVo
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Luna Halo

Luna Halo

Rock - Released January 1, 2007 | American Recordings Catalog P&D

Never mind the band's first incarnation at the turn of the millennium; in the seven years since their debut, this new Luna Halo has turned from post-Radiohead alternative to revivalist new wave in the vein of Interpol, Franz Ferdinand, and the Killers. Frontman Nathan Barlowe fits the bill well, dealing out fierce, catchy, post-punk songs without the bombast. For the most part, this new sound works, particularly when the band is at its most urgent on tracks like "Untouchable" and "I'm Alright." Barlowe writes from a faith-based perspective but hardly wears it on his sleeve, leaving the meaning open to interpretation. This is a catchy rock record with an authentic indie punch, guaranteed to please fans of the "newest" new wave. © Jared Johnson /TiVo
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American V: A Hundred Highways

Johnny Cash

Country - Released July 4, 2006 | American Recordings Catalog P&D

American V: A Hundred Highways is the long-awaited album of Johnny Cash's final recordings, the basic tracks for which (i.e., Cash's vocals) were recorded in 2002-2003, with overdubs added by producer Rick Rubin after his death on September 12, 2003, at age 71. Between 1994 and 2002, Cash and Rubin had succeeded in fashioning a third act for the veteran country singer's career, following his acclaimed 1950s work for Sun Records and his popular recordings for Columbia in the 1960s and '70s. In the '80s, Cash's star had faded, but Rubin reinvented him as a hip country-folk-rock elder at 62 with American Recordings (1994), his first new studio album to reach the pop charts in 18 years. Unchained (1996) and American III: Solitary Man (2000) continued the comeback, at least as far as the critics were concerned, though none of the albums was actually a big seller. But American IV: The Man Comes Around (2002), propelled by Cash's cover of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt" and a powerful video, stayed in the pop charts longer than any Cash album since 1969's Johnny Cash at San Quentin. By 2002, however, Cash was in failing health, homebound and in a wheelchair, and he suffered a personal blow when his wife, June Carter Cash, died on May 15, 2003. The American series, which posited Cash as an aged sage and the repository for a bottomless American songbook, had already shown a predilection for gloom in the name of gravity; it's no surprise that the fifth and final volume would be even more concerned with, as three earlier Cash compilations had put it, God, Love, and Murder. The ailing septuagenarian certainly sounds like he's near the end of his life, but that said, he doesn't sound bad. Cash was never a great singer in a technical sense: he hadn't much range, his pitch often wobbled, and his lack of breath control sometimes found him grasping for sound at the end of lines. But he was a great singer in the sense of projecting a persona through his voice; his emotional range, which went from a Sinatra-like swagger to an almost embarrassingly intimate vulnerability, was as wide as the spread of notes he could hit confidently was narrow. Such a singer doesn't really lose that much with age; in fact, he gains even more interpretive depth. Listening to this album, one can't get around the knowledge that it is a posthumous collection made in Cash's last days, but even without that context, it would have much the same impact. The album begins with two religious songs, Larry Gatlin's "Help Me," a plea to God, and the traditional "God's Gonna Cut You Down," which, in a sense, answers that plea. The finality of death thus established, Cash launches into what is billed as the last song he ever wrote, "Like the 309," which is about a train taking his casket away. The same image is used later in the cover of Hank Williams' "On the Evening Train," in which a man and his child put the coffin of a wife and mother on another train. Cash sings these songs in a restrained manner, and even has a sense of humor in "Like the 309," in which he complains about his asthma: "It should be awhile/Before I see Doctor Death/So it would sure be nice/If I could get my breath." In between the two train songs come songs that may not have been about death when their authors wrote them, but sure sound like they are here. As written, Gordon Lightfoot's "If You Could Read My Mind" seems to concern a romantic breakup expressed in literary and cinematic terms, but in Cash's voice, lines like "You know that ghost is me" and "But stories always end" become inescapably elegiac. Bruce Springsteen's "Further On (Up the Road)" is even easier to interpret as a call to the hereafter, with lines like "Got on my dead man's suit and my smilin' skull ring/My lucky graveyard boots and song to sing." These two songs make a pair with the album's two closing songs. Ian Tyson's "Four Strong Winds" is, like the Lightfoot selection, a folk standard by a Canadian songwriter, also nominally about romantic dissolution, although here the singer who is "bound for moving on" doesn't seem likely to come back. And the closing song, "I'm Free from the Chain Gang Now," may have lyrics implying that the unjustly imprisoned narrator has been set free, but in Cash's voice it sounds like he's been executed instead and is singing from beyond the grave. The four songs in between "On the Evening Train" and "Four Strong Winds," dealing with faith and love (the former expressed in a previously recorded 1984 Cash copyright, "I Came to Believe"), are weaker than what surrounds them, but they serve to complete the picture. And it's worth noting that Cash at death's door still outsings croaking Rod McKuen on the songwriter's ever-cloying "Love's Been Good to Me." Cash may never have heard Rubin's overdubs, but they are restrained and tasteful, never doing anything more than to support the singer and the song. If the entire series of American recordings makes for a fitting finale to a great career, American V: A Hundred Highways is a more than respectable coda. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Christ Illusion

Slayer

Metal - Released January 1, 2006 | American Recordings Catalog P&D

The reunion of the original Slayer lineup appears for the first time in the studio since 1990's Seasons in the Abyss (a record that topped off one of the great four-album stands in metal history: Hell Awaits, Reign in Blood, and South of Heaven preceded it). Drummer Dave Lombardo's retaking of the drum chair places the band back on the edge, pushing themselves and the genre to look back at where they've been and where they go from here. For a band that has been together as long as Slayer has, they have never made concessions and have stubbornly refused to sound like anyone but themselves. Christ Illusion is a raging, forward-thinking heavy metal melding with hardcore thrash; this is what made them such a breath of fresh air in the first place. And while they no longer sound terrifying, that was never their point anyway. Slayer rips through these ten songs, complete with lightning changes, off-kilter rhythms, and riff invention, together with plodding crescendos, sick-as-hell guitar breaks, and dark, unrelentingly twisted-as-f*ck lyrics that reflect a singular intensity. The big themes on Christ Illusion center on the perverse myth of religion and its responsibility for, and cause of, war. One can talk about the power big-money has at stake in the Middle Eastern havoc, but the root, according to some of these songs, is the culture war between two competing myths, Christianity and Islam, that this time out could result in the apocalypse. On the opener, "Flesh Storm," Tom Araya roars the refrain above the guitars and frantic drumming: "It's all just psychotic devotion/Manipulated with no discretion/Relentless/Warfare knows no compassion/Thrives with no evolution/Unstable minds exacerbate/Unrest in peace...only the fallen have won/Because the fallen can't run/My vision's not obscure/For war there is no cure/So here the only law/Is men killing men/For someone else's cause." Elsewhere, such as "Eyes of the Insane," the story comes in the first person from the point of view of a soldier who is suffering the effects of PTSD, yet he may or may not still be on the battlefield. Lombardo's drums open it slowly, then the Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King guitar gods create an intensely harrowing and angular riff that changes from verse to verse, through the refrain and bridge, and comes back again. Yeah, Slayer actually crafts and writes songs. Check the little skittering vamp that leads into "Jihad," where Lombardo just shimmers his hi-hat before the band begins to enter and twist and turn looking for a place to create a new rhythmic thrash that's the most insane deconstruction of four/four time on tape. The indictment of "holy war" is possible only through the telling of the narrative from a Jihadist's point of view. The blazing, low-tuned heaviness of "Consfearacy" turns the entire principle of patriotism's blind ideals into an evil joke. Araya's voice is mixed way up this time, every utterance is understandable, thanks to producer and mixer Josh Abraham and label boss Rick Rubin. This scathing rejection of religion as the cause for world conflict is best characterized in "Cult." The low-tuned, two-string vamp that slithers into the foreground creates a tension as Lombardo's cymbals call the band into the riff that opens the tune. It's slow, meaty, unrelenting in its tautness. When Araya's voice comes in, the whole track is off the rails and stays there: "Oppression is the holy war/In God I distrust...Is war and greed the Master's plan? The Bible's where it all began/Its propaganda sells despair/And spreads the virus everywhere/Religion Is hate/Religion Is fear/Religion is war...." Whether you agree with Slayer's anti-religion militancy is one thing, but their view that it underscores this war and so many preceding it has to be taken with some seriousness. And musically, they are in a league of their own. Christ Illusion creates an interesting dilemma for people of faith who like heavy metal: the stance against war here is unreproachable, but can one hang with the conflicting point of view that faith in a god is responsible for it? Given the defined presence of the vocals, one cannot simply listen to the voice as another instrument, as in much of heavy metal. One has to deal with the music and the words this time out, and yes, they're printed in the lyric booklet. Christ Illusion is an antiwar record that asks people to think for themselves. At one point Araya makes his choice, "six six six," but even that's in reaction, an irony. Christ Illusion is brilliant, stomping, scorched-earth thrash metal at its best. Lyrically, it may offend people, but getting the listener to think and make choices is what this music is all about. An anti-Christian/anti-Islam/anti-theocratic, antiwar album, Christ Illusion is essential for anyone interested in the genre. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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The Vacation

The Vacation

Rock - Released January 1, 2006 | American Recordings Catalog P&D

Known as BAND FROM WORLD WAR ZERO in Europe, the 2005 debut album from Hollywood rock & rollers the Vacation was remade and remodeled for the U.S. market by Rick Rubin in 2006. The hell-for-leather approach remains, though--on "White Noise," the band's raucous, infectious, retro sound ignites memories of their East Coast counterparts the Strokes, as well as conjuring a futuristic hybrid of 1970s glitter and punk rock. "Destitute Prostitutes" is as swaggering and camp as the New York Dolls at their best, while "Make up Your Mind" is an outlandish combination of glammed-out David Bowie and the Damned's "Neat Neat Neat." © TiVo
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My Mother's Hymn Book

Johnny Cash

Pop - Released January 1, 2003 | American Recordings Catalog P&D

Originally included as part of the exhaustive Unearthed box set of Johnny Cash's American Records recordings, My Mother's Hymn Book is exactly what it claims to be -- songs directly out of Cash's mother's old hymnal. Featuring Cash alone playing an acoustic guitar, this is a stark, beautiful, and simple album. In the liner notes, Cash calls this his favorite record he's ever made and it's clear that learning these songs as a child is what inspired his love of music. In that sense, despite no original material, these are some of the most personal songs Cash ever recorded; he even includes song-by-song commentaries that help illuminate what each track meant to him. For Merle Travis' "I Am a Pilgrim" Cash writes, "It's one of those old country gospel classics that my mother sang, that I knew I would record it someday." Of course, Cash recorded gospel songs before this album, as in 1959 with Hymns by Johnny Cash and again in 1962 with Hymns From the Heart and he usually included one gospel track per album. Never before though had he focused so purely on his Christian roots, and given what is known about his problems with drug abuse and the break-up of his first marriage, these songs seem to ring with the conflicts of joy and sorrow, guilt and redemption. Although technically not Cash's last recording, My Mother's Hymn Book represents where his musical career began and ultimately where it ended. © Matt Collar /TiVo
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Soundtrack To The Apocalypse

Slayer

Rock - Released January 1, 2003 | American Recordings Catalog P&D

If ever a metal band deserved the box set treatment, it's Slayer. Love them or hate them, their accomplishments in the thrash metal subgenre is pretty much unequaled. For over 20 years, Slayer have remained doggedly and stubbornly persistent in their approach to playing the heaviest, loudest, and darkest metal in America. Compare them to the higher profile Metallica and Megadeth, and laugh: Slayer have grown musically without giving an inch to the populace, while the aforementioned bands have become artistically lost in increasingly MOR recordings, and hopelessly entrenched in their popular culture image -- Metallica -- or have imploded altogether -- Megadeth. Many of the Nordic black metal bands owe them their allegiance for influence and sustenance; Slayer broke open the door in America for underground music to be heard outside the small ghetto it began in, without sacrificing its street cred or audience Soundtrack to the Apocalypse's Deluxe Edition is a whopping four CDs and one DVD. Discs one and two feature tracks from Reign in Blood, and all the albums that proceed from it, and includes bonus cuts previously only released in Japan, and cuts from soundtracks -- "In-a-Gadda Da Vida" from Less Than Zero, "Disorder" with Ice-T from the film Judgment Night, "Human Disease" from Bride of Chucky, and more. Disc three is, appropriately, titled Sh*t You Never Heard because that's what it is -- 16 tracks that have been unissued anywhere -- from rehearsals, to in-concert recordings, demos, and one "No Remorse," a collaboration with Atari Teenage Riot, from the Spawn soundtrack. The fourth disc is a DVD of concert recordings, an electronic press kit video for Diabolus in Musica, and an appearance at the Kerrang magazine awards. The first three cuts on the DVD are live in California from 1983, and document Slayer's earliest live appearances. The set comes packaged in standard CD-size format, in a plastic sleeve that folds out into a single rectangle. The enclosed booklet, though smaller in size from the deluxe version's, nonetheless contains dozens of rare photographs, and quotes from the band and media, with fantastic and exhaustive liner notes -- including a full biography and fans' appreciation of the band by Marc Pasche and Eric Braverman. Don't expect either to win a Grammy for liner notes, or for the set to, either. Herein lies a document and a testament to the grand rebel tradition in American underground rock; it will gain no acceptance outside its niche, but that niche is growing, and it is here to stay. This is the very item Slayer fans have been waiting for, and it is worth your hard-earned cash. © Thom Jurek /TiVo

Label

American Recordings Catalog P&D in the magazine
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