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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released October 7, 2014 | Castle Communications

De La Soul were interrupted just before they could deliver the third volume in their AOI series -- projected to be a DJ album -- to Tommy Boy. (The label perhaps bailed out from a 15-year relationship precisely because the group was going to release such a commercially bankrupt title, one that was planned instead to appear on an independent label run by Maseo.) De La Soul quickly realized they couldn't go ahead with the plan after signing their AOI label to Sanctuary, so they wrote a new record, The Grind Date. Although it may see them settling into a holding pattern, at least the pattern of 2001's AOI: Bionix is one that any hip-hop fan won't mind hearing repeated. Better yet, it boasts productions from an excellent cast of figures -- partner in crime Supa Dave West, author of the best tracks on their AOI series, J-Dilla, who's stretching out his patented (read: overdone) sound to embrace classic hip-hop, an only slightly commercialized Madlib, and young phenom 9th Wonder. Madlib gets what must be the first lead single of his career, a bright, antimaterialist tale called "Shopping Bags (She Got From You)" that thumps like a club tune, but lurches as only the Beat Conductor could do it. "Verbal Clap" finds J-Dilla allowing some grit into his productions, and Supa Dave only continues floating the most fluidly catchy productions of any rap producer in action. Meanwhile, De La Soul voices Posdnuos and Dave balance their time breezing easy on bumping message tracks with a few old-school shots that show them a bit defensive about the passing of time. (Check out "Come On Down," a Madlib-produced shot with Flava Flav, or "Days of Our Lives" featuring Common.) Without a concept to tout, The Grind Date doesn't gel like AOI: Bionix, but it does show De La Soul keeping everything together more than 15 years after their debut. After all, you certainly wouldn't see MF Doom guesting on a Tone-Loc record. © John Bush /TiVo
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Rock - Released August 8, 2013 | Castle Communications

Status Quo's debut album featured none of the band's better-known boogie rock of the mid-'70s. Picturesque... is a psychedelic effort that tries to imitate the sound bands like the Bee Gees or the Beatles were doing at the moment. With this record, Status Quo surprisingly had its first (and last) hit in America, the single "Pictures of Matchstick Men," which peaked at number 12 (it reached number seven on the British charts). Other highlights from the album are the second single, "Ice in the Sun," and the Bee Gees cover "Spicks and Specks." Even if this is not the most representative album from Status Quo, it is a good psychedelic pop exercise that sometimes includes very imaginative guitar phrases ("Ice in the Sun"), and some brilliantly unusual sounds (the epic "Paradise Flat"). © Robert Aniento /TiVo
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Rock - Released August 8, 2013 | Castle Communications

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Rock - Released August 8, 2013 | Castle Communications

Punk may have been the initial spark for the Fall, but by 1983 they had made it clear that whatever trend was next was not for them. Brix Smith made her debut with the band on Perverted by Language, helping to introduce the slightly more pop-friendly era of the group with another fine album. She takes lead vocals at various points throughout, notably "Hotel Bloedel," while her husband plays violin and adds extra spoken word thoughts along the way. The hints of strange beauty that the Fall can sometimes let into its world appear here more than once -- whether it's Brix's influence or not isn't clear, and why not? "Garden" still hits hard while using a softer chime at its heart, while "Hexen Definitive" is almost a country (and western) stroll. Even for all the slightly more accessible touches for a wider audience, the Fall remain the Fall. "Smile" shows the band's abilities at tense audio drama excellently, a relentless, steady build with the Steve and Paul Hanley and Karl Burns rhythm section leading the way, winding up to a total explosion that never comes. Smith's increasingly frenetic vocals match the looming dread of the track to a T. "Neighbourhood of Infinity," notable for its appearance on Palace of Swords Reversed, crops up here in a studio take, again a sequel of sorts to "The Man Whose Head Expanded." Musically it hits its own stride, another of the many motorik-tinged tunes that helped give the Fall its own particular edge ("I Feel Voxish" also fills that bill, and quite well at that). "Eat Y'Self Fitter," touching on everything from meeting heroes (maybe) to returning late rental videos, makes for a great start to things, an endlessly cycling rockabilly chug with extra keyboard oddities and sudden music-less exchanges for the chorus. © Ned Raggett /TiVo
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Rock - Released August 8, 2013 | Castle Communications

Eight years after the fact, the aptly titled Raw Power label epilogized the John Lawton lineup of Uriah Heep with this double album document of their final European tour. Live in Europe 1979 splits its set list between the band's "classic" tracks and material from the three albums this lineup produced (Firefly, Innocent Victim, Fallen Angel). Recalling that Uriah Heep were still stars in Europe, it was a logical venue for them. Yet even on compact disc (which subtracted "Who Needs Me" from its vinyl counterpart), the recording quality leaves something to be desired. Lee Kerslake's drums and Ken Hensley's keyboards often sound remote, placing the final product somewhere between a bootleg and a properly mixed release. Fans will only find it a minor distraction, though, acclimating themselves to the sonic limitations soon enough and focusing on the performance. And here the band doesn't disappoint, putting a little more energy (and some much needed bite) into their recent work while rendering the classics with the requisite amount of care. The burning question for many is how Lawton handles the Byron-era material, and the answer is "pretty well." Unable to reach the operatic heights of his predecessor, his "Gypsy" is something of a compromise, but he handles "The Wizard" and "Lady in Black" just fine. There aren't any real surprises on here (except that European audiences know all the words to "Free Me"), the band instead sticking closely to the originals. Sure, there are a couple of nice guitar solos from Mick Box, and a keyboard solo on "Sweet Lorraine" to fill in around the audience participation segment, but no missing links to the puzzle. In 2001, Sanctuary released a double-disc expanded version of Live in Europe 1979, adding six more songs (most of them different versions of tracks already represented on the original). © Dave Connolly /TiVo
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Rock - Released August 8, 2013 | Castle Communications

Like the dog that titled Status Quo's fourth album, The Singles Collection 1966-1973 is very much a beast of two heads, the first (representing the band's output between 1966 and 1969) shifting its gaze between Kinks-ish beat and British psych and the second (wrapping up the band's releases and re-releases at the end of that span) sinking its teeth into the unapologetic boogie blues that have remained the band's stock in trade ever since. It's a misleading mélange, at least in terms of chronology. The Quo cut four albums for the Pye label, before departing in 1972 for Vertigo and fame -- the last in that sequence, Dog of Two Heads, was released in December 1971. However, the moment "Paper Plane" gave the transplanted band a major hit in early 1973, Pye began digging into the vaults and the last six tracks on The Singles Collection represent the fruits of those labors. In terms of the band's own discography and development, they are meaningless. Nevertheless, the first complete roundup of all ten original Pye 45s (and B-sides) remains an essential compilation, both for Quo fans in general and for students of British psychedelia as it squirmed, post-1967, in search of new directions. The Quo eventually found theirs in the aforementioned boogie but, before that, the Bee Gees-esque ballad "Are You Growing Tired of My Life" and a rocking "Price of Love" both offered possible new avenues, and one cannot help but wonder where the band might have gone next, had "Down the Dustpipe" and "In My Chair" not struck gold during 1970-1971. While disc one is the A-Z of Quo's early work, disc two offers a more patchwork approach to the same period, first unearthing the four 45s the band cut under earlier identities the Spectres and Traffic Jam, then delving into 15 outtakes and alternate versions from across the board. Interestingly, the Bee Gees raise their head once again, via a Spectres-era cover of their own "Spicks and Specks," although previously unreleased renditions of other material is of little more than space-filling value. Nevertheless, The Singles Collection brings together a wealth of material that has long demanded such methodical treatment and, allied with the bonus track-stacked reissues of the four regular albums, rounds up Status Quo's Pye era output with becoming efficiency. © Dave Thompson /TiVo
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Rock - Released August 8, 2013 | Castle Communications

Following the wake of Picturesque Machstickable Messages From the Status Quo, Spare Parts tries to imitate the psychedelic sound that was so fashionable at the time. The disc is known for being one of the less-fortunate made by the British band, and they have even despised it on some occasions. In fact, 1969 was going to be the most dismal year in the story of Status Quo. Urged by Pye's request to reach the charts at any rate, the songs in the record reflect the band's frustrated attempts to please the company. The result is an irregular album that does not reach the imaginative sound of their earlier songs nor the brightness of their subsequent records. Beyond that, a friendly and deep listening reveals that Spare Parts is an underrated effort in some aspects. Some songs of their own -- like "Nothing at All," "So Ends Another Life," or even "Little Miss Nothing" -- and some borrowed compositions -- like "Are You Growing Tired of My Love?" (which scraped the Top 50 on the British charts) and "Mister Mind Detector" -- sound really inventive and they work as an excellent reflection of how pop music was trying to develop itself during those years. Although it could sound a little bit dated later on, Spare Parts deserved more attention than people were willing to afford it when it was released. This one was also their last record in which keyboardist Roy Lynes performed as an active member. A few months after Spare Parts was released, Status Quo initiated their metamorphosis toward the boogie rock that would make them rich and famous later on. © Robert Aniento /TiVo
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Folk/Americana - Released August 8, 2013 | Castle Communications

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Rock - Released August 8, 2013 | Castle Communications

Arguably the essential period of the Fall was the tenure the legendary Manchester group spent signed to Rough Trade, during which time they produced their most arresting and original work in what is undoubtedly one of the greatest recorded anthologies in the history of British post-punk rock. Essential Records had the genius to compile this low-priced, two-disc set surveying the seminal 1980-1983 period; it serves as an excellent starting point for newcomers to the group and an essential upgrade for the owners of the group's thrashed LPs and singles. While the Fall continued through two more decades, producing an enormous amount of material, they never topped the vital era that produced these recordings. Every track still sounds as uncompromising as the day it was released, and close to 30 years later, this collection is a startling reminder that alongside the recorded works of Sonic Youth, it's hard to imagine a world without the Fall. In that, it's safe to say that this is the holy grail collection of one of the most vital and influential groups of the '80s. © Skip Jansen /TiVo
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Pop - Released August 8, 2013 | Castle Communications

British folk icons Tim Hart and Maddy Prior recorded two albums of traditional music together before joining the seminal folk-rock band Steeleye Span. In 1967 the duo released Folk Songs of Olde England, Vol. 1 on the small but influential Tepee Records label. Recorded in mono, the album featured minimal arrangements of obscure songs from the yet to be plundered Cecil Sharp and English Folk Dance & Song Society libraries -- the source of many of the burgeoning scene's most famous recordings -- and showcased the pair's impeccable vocal skills. Folk Songs of Olde England, Vol.2 followed in 1969 -- this time in stereo -- and introduced the first rendering of John Connolly's "Fiddler's Green" as well as "Copshawholme Fair," which appeared on Steeleye Span's debut, Hark! The Village Wait. During the recording of the group's second record, Please to See the King, Prior and Hart finished their third and finest LP, Summer Solstice. Featuring 13 songs and boasting arrangements by Robert Kirby, the record is considered by many to be one of the most important folk releases of the decade. Castle's Heydays anthology collects all three of these landmark albums -- the first two have been long out of print -- on a two-disc set with extensive liner notes and interviews with the artists. This is a must for any fan of British folk music. © James Christopher Monger /TiVo
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Rock - Released August 8, 2013 | Castle Communications

Longtime fans of venerated progressive rock ensemble Uriah Heep will be rattling cages for this two-disc, 43-track collection of singles from Sanctuary. Hard rocking Heep standards like "Look at Yourself," "Gypsy," "Stealin'," and "The Wizard" (most of which are presented in their 45 rpm versions) are paired with copious amounts of B-sides, resulting in the next step in collector evolution from 1998's Mercury released Classic Heep: An Anthology. © James Christopher Monger /TiVo
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Rock - Released August 8, 2013 | Castle Communications

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Rock - Released August 8, 2013 | Castle Communications

A reissue of their mid-'60s album, with eight bonus tracks, including the fine non-LP singles by the original lineup and foreign-language versions of some tunes. One of the best obscure British Invasion records. © Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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Rock - Released August 8, 2013 | Castle Communications

4 stars out of 5 -- "1974's LIVING IN FEAR finds the departed Holdsworth and Williams replaced by the glorious maverick Ollie Halsall." © TiVo
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Rock - Released August 8, 2013 | Castle Communications

4 stars out of 5 -- "Paul Williams attacks the songs like a ravenous troll, eviscerating 'Gorgon' and the superheated shuffle of 'Strangeher' with red-eyed relish." © TiVo
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Rock - Released August 8, 2013 | Castle Communications

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Rock - Released August 8, 2013 | Castle Communications

The expansive playlist of The Lansdowne Tapes gathers early recordings from British prog metal mavens Uriah Heep in various forms from their beginnings in the late '60s and early '70s. Included in the collection's massive 33 tracks are tunes from an early iteration of the band (going under the name Spice) that never quite made it to album release as well as alternate versions of tunes that became Uriah Heep staples, such as "Look at Yourself" and "Real Turned On." © Fred Thomas /TiVo
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Rock - Released August 8, 2013 | Castle Communications

Sanctuary's On the Rebound features 36 tracks culled from Uriah Heep's five decades together, and includes the album rock hits "Easy Livin," "Sweet Lorraine," "Stealin," and "The Wizard." Casual listeners should pick up Classic Heep: An Anthology, also on Sanctuary, before delving into these recordings. © Al Campbell /TiVo
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Rock - Released August 8, 2013 | Castle Communications

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Rock - Released August 8, 2013 | Castle Communications