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Rock - Released August 4, 2017 | Virgin Catalog (V81)

On The Idiot, Iggy Pop looked deep inside himself, trying to figure out how his life and his art had gone wrong in the past. But on Lust for Life, released less than a year later, Iggy decided it was time to kick up his heels, as he traded in the midtempo introspection of his first album and began rocking hard again. Musically, Lust for Life is a more aggressive set than The Idiot, largely thanks to drummer Hunt Sales and his bassist brother Tony Sales. The Sales proved they were a world-class rhythm section, laying out power and spirit on the rollicking title cut, the tough groove of "Tonight," and the lean neo-punk assault of "Neighborhood Threat," and with guitarists Ricky Gardiner and Carlos Alomar at their side, they made for a tough, wiry rock & roll band -- a far cry from the primal stomp of the Stooges, but capable of kicking Iggy back into high gear. (David Bowie played piano and produced, as he had on The Idiot, but his presence is less clearly felt on this album.) As a lyricist and vocalist, Iggy Pop rose to the challenge of the material; if he was still obsessed with drugs ("Tonight"), decadence ("The Passenger"), and bad decisions ("Some Weird Sin"), the title cut suggested he could avoid a few of the temptations that crossed his path, and songs like "Success" displayed a cocky joy that confirmed Iggy was back at full strength. On Lust for Life, Iggy Pop managed to channel the aggressive power of his work with the Stooges with the intelligence and perception of The Idiot, and the result was the best of both worlds; smart, funny, edgy, and hard-rocking, Lust for Life is the best album of Iggy Pop's solo career. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Pop - Released March 9, 1993 | Virgin Catalog (V81)

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The cover indicates that Are You Gonna Go My Way is Lenny Kravitz's bid for rock stardom. Designed in the style of an early-'70s record, it features Kravitz in hippie clothing, apparently exposing himself to a photographer -- in other words, he's a dangerously sexy counterculture rebel. That may have been true in 1970, but in 1993, he simply sounds like a weird sideshow exhibit, the man who never lived past 1973. Of course, it's easy to make such potshots, but Kravitz opens himself up to such attacks. No other artist, especially a successful one, has been quite so devoted to the past and ignorant of the present. Since he has considerable talent for songcraft and production, Kravitz isn't nearly as bad as he could be, and Are You Gonna Go My Way is just as enjoyable and more accomplished than its predecessors. This time around, Hendrix is his chief influence, as evidenced by the roaring title track, and he does expand that with his traditional Lennon, Curtis Mayfield, and Prince obsessions. Song for song, it's his most consistent album, although by the end of the record, his painstaking reproduction of classic rock sounds begins to appear a bit too studied, suggesting that Kravitz may have hit a creative wall. Nevertheless, that does nothing to diminish the enjoyment of this record. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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R&B - Released January 1, 2014 | Virgin Catalog (V81)

The Japan-only original version of Live at the Jazz Cafe, London was released in 1996 as a stopgap between D'Angelo's first and second albums. Eighteen years later, it was expanded and widely reissued as a stopgap between the artist's second and third albums, the latter of which had yet to materialize. The 1996 release consisted of roughly two-thirds of the September 14, 1995 performance, with the selections presented out of sequence. The 2014 release contains the whole set, from the introduction to the rapt applause at the close of an 11-minute "Brown Sugar." In the U.K., D'Angelo's first single was three weeks away from release, yet the audience knew it from the first notes. In the States, the debut album from the 21 year-old was only two months old, on its way to platinum status. In the liner notes, manager Alan Leeds recalls that D'Angelo had done only a few gigs. Indeed, the early portion of this set sounds tentative. It begins with two-minute versions of Mandrill's "Fencewalk" and Ohio Players' "Sweet Sticky Thing," in which D'Angelo's trio of female background vocalists -- including collaborator Angie Stone, between pioneering rap group Sequence and her solo career -- are more prominent. From there, D'Angelo and his band roll through over half of the debut's songs, including an uptempo version of "Jonz in My Bonz" (co-written by Stone) and a livelier "Lady," greatly enhanced by the extra voices. There are other covers, not just one of Smokey Robinson and Marv Tarplin's "Cruisin'." Al Green's "I'm Glad You're Mine" includes a showcase for guitarist Mike Campbell, an essential player in Voodoo, while a joyously reverent "Can't Hide Love" -- written by Skip Scarborough for Creative Source, made more popular by Earth, Wind & Fire, and practically a standard -- gets another instant crowd reaction. This is a fascinating and satisfying document of a path-clearing young artist who had just gone supernova. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Rock - Released June 3, 2013 | Virgin Catalog (V81)

The big task for Alice in Chains on their 2009 comeback Black Gives Way to Blue was to prove they could carry on battered and bruised, missing Layne Staley but still in touch with their core. They had to demonstrate the band had a reason to exist, and Black Gives Way to Blue achieved this goal, paving the way for another record just like it. Enter The Devil Put the Dinosaurs Here, a record that is pretty close to identical to Black Gives Way to Blue in its sound, attack, and feel. Where it differs is in the latter, as the overall album feels lighter and, at times, the individual songs do, too. "Scalpel" flirts with the acoustic bones of Jar of Flies and also has perhaps the richest melody here, working as a song, not a grind. That said, there is an appeal to that monochromatic churn, the kind AIC created on Dirt and haven't let go of since. The lightness comes not from the songs -- the tempos still drag their feet, the guitars mine a minor key, the harmonies are in fifths so they sound like power chords -- but rather from the precision of the band's attack and, especially, the production. This has a digital sheen that was missing even from Black Gives Way to Blue, and it gives the album an expansive feel, so the patented churn doesn't seem quite so claustrophobic as before. Then again, perhaps that expansiveness is just a sign of age: Alice in Chains are now firmly entrenched in their middle age and settling into what they do best: retaining their signature without pandering and, tellingly, without succumbing to the darkness that otherwise defines them. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released March 9, 1993 | Virgin Catalog (V81)

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The cover indicates that Are You Gonna Go My Way is Lenny Kravitz's bid for rock stardom. Designed in the style of an early-'70s record, it features Kravitz in hippie clothing, apparently exposing himself to a photographer -- in other words, he's a dangerously sexy counterculture rebel. That may have been true in 1970, but in 1993, he simply sounds like a weird sideshow exhibit, the man who never lived past 1973. Of course, it's easy to make such potshots, but Kravitz opens himself up to such attacks. No other artist, especially a successful one, has been quite so devoted to the past and ignorant of the present. Since he has considerable talent for songcraft and production, Kravitz isn't nearly as bad as he could be, and Are You Gonna Go My Way is just as enjoyable and more accomplished than its predecessors. This time around, Hendrix is his chief influence, as evidenced by the roaring title track, and he does expand that with his traditional Lennon, Curtis Mayfield, and Prince obsessions. Song for song, it's his most consistent album, although by the end of the record, his painstaking reproduction of classic rock sounds begins to appear a bit too studied, suggesting that Kravitz may have hit a creative wall. Nevertheless, that does nothing to diminish the enjoyment of this record. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2013 | Virgin Catalog (V81)

The cover indicates that Are You Gonna Go My Way is Lenny Kravitz's bid for rock stardom. Designed in the style of an early-'70s record, it features Kravitz in hippie clothing, apparently exposing himself to a photographer -- in other words, he's a dangerously sexy counterculture rebel. That may have been true in 1970, but in 1993, he simply sounds like a weird sideshow exhibit, the man who never lived past 1973. Of course, it's easy to make such potshots, but Kravitz opens himself up to such attacks. No other artist, especially a successful one, has been quite so devoted to the past and ignorant of the present. Since he has considerable talent for songcraft and production, Kravitz isn't nearly as bad as he could be, and Are You Gonna Go My Way is just as enjoyable and more accomplished than its predecessors. This time around, Hendrix is his chief influence, as evidenced by the roaring title track, and he does expand that with his traditional Lennon, Curtis Mayfield, and Prince obsessions. Song for song, it's his most consistent album, although by the end of the record, his painstaking reproduction of classic rock sounds begins to appear a bit too studied, suggesting that Kravitz may have hit a creative wall. Nevertheless, that does nothing to diminish the enjoyment of this record. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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R&B - Released January 1, 2008 | Virgin Catalog (V81)

The title is deceiving, not to mention a little ridiculous, given the short discography from which the disc has to pull. The Best So Far... is more like a sampler of D'Angelo's two proper studio albums -- one that favors the a cappella version of "Devil's Pie" over the original mix, one that includes neither "Spanish Joint" nor "Shit, Damn, Motherfucker" -- accompanied by an incomplete array of soundtrack and compilation appearances and features. It's an obvious cash-in; plenty of fans are so hungry for something new from D'Angelo that they must be willing to partially satiate themselves with the next best thing. It is doubtful that many would have moaned about expanded reissues of Brown Sugar and Voodoo, two of the most excellent and singular R&B albums of the past 15 years, which would've been a less problematic way to put all the rarities back into circulation. And a complete set of non-album material would have been an ideal stopgap, a good way to treat those who have been waiting all this time for album number three (if a licensing headache for Virgin). Anyone with remote interest in D'Angelo needs the two primary albums. There's no way around it; this will not cut it. But if you've been apprehensive to shell out for all the discs containing stray appearances -- including Space Jam, Get on the Bus, Scream 2, Down in the Delta, Marvin Is 60, and Raphael Saadiq's Instant Vintage -- this will come in handy, despite the nagging flaws. There's also a DVD containing seven videos. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released February 10, 2004 | Virgin Catalog (V81)

The four years that separated Drag-On's solo debut and his second album were not spent stockpiling more-powerful ammunition. If there had been any doubt prior, Hell and Back proves that he isn't one of Ruff Ryders' greatest assets. 2000's Opposite of H2O was respectable, if shaky, but this set of tracks is even more prone to hand-me-down marginality. The guest MCs -- including forgettable turns from labelmates DMX, Eve, Styles P -- are nearly outnumbered by the rotating cast of producers; and neither Swizz Beatz nor Rockwilder turn in inspired work during their solitary beat-making appearances. Lead single "Put Your Drinks Down" is the biggest offender, sounding a great deal like Bow Wow's "Let's Get Down" with about half as much energy. "Tell Your Friends," however, would be a highlight on just about any album, but its excellence has more to do with up-and-comer Neo's production work and Jadakiss' appearance on the mic. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Ambient/New Age - Released December 1, 2003 | Virgin Catalog (V81)

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Rock - Released September 1, 2003 | Virgin Catalog (V81)

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club made an impressive debut in 2001, taking both America and England by surprise while alternative metal ruled the charts. Their psychedelic/space rock/glam-colored blend was hungry to give rock a new face. Three years later and garage rock still reviving the late-'90s pop-soaked scene, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club aims to save a bit of rock & roll with its sophomore effort Take Them On, On Your Own. More gutsy, more aggressive, and more dynamic than B.R.M.C., Take Them On, On Your Own blazes on with an intoxicating presentation from the Brit-American collective; vocalist/bassist Robert Turner and guitarist/vocalist Peter Hayes boasted cocksure appeal on the last album, however Take Them On, On Your Own showcases drummer Nick Jago's powerful presentation, ultimately bringing the trio together. They're fearless and this dozen-track release is all swagger, emotive, and cool. Swanky guitar riffs and Turner's faltering drawl on "Stop" and "Six Barrel Shotgun" is classic BRMC. There's not a lot of sauntering like "Red Eyes & Tears" and "Spread Your Love" or snarly punk-tinged bits like "Whatever Happened to My Rock & Roll." The band gives the impression that the last album was lifeless, therefore, the split in song and craft on Take Them On, On Your Own isn't exactly a messy thing. There's more character to songs themselves and BRMC appears a touch more confident. From the acoustic ballad "And I'm Aching" to the post-punk fire of "U.S. Government" and "Rise or Fall," BRMC offers substance over shtick. Reworking some of rock & roll's natural components for their own brash arrangement highlights the band's overall brilliance. For only a second album, they've got the maturity that most young bands lack on a creative level. Such tenacity will carry them a long way. © MacKenzie Wilson /TiVo
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Rock - Released March 11, 2003 | Virgin Catalog (V81)

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Ben Harper is a musical preacher of sorts, never one to be shy in speaking his mind about social conformity. If his first two albums -- Welcome to the Cruel World and Fight for Your Mind -- didn't clue you in, Diamonds on the Inside will definitely do so. Diamonds on the Inside marks Harper's fifth studio effort and this time he's emotionally in touch with what makes his heart burst. This is a passionate album, no doubt. His signature Weissenborn guitar joins him once more and Harper's classic groovy funk is heavy; however, Harper adds worldbeat to his musical plank. From the Marley-esque vibe of "With My Own Two Hands" to the African soundscapes of Ladysmith Black Mambazo on "Picture of Jesus," Harper's purist presentation is smooth. "When It's Good" gives a little country blues twang, while "Touch From You Lust" is a sexy haze of writhing riffs. "Temporary Remedy" follows the funk Lenny Kravitz-style, and Harper's a bit campy. It's a noticeable change from his typically serious stature and a nice shift in personality, too. Diamonds on the Inside is another stunning effort from one of rock's underground heroes. Harper has consistently worked with what appeals to him musically for nearly a decade, ignoring what fits the mainstream. Diamonds on the Inside is Harper's sixth chapter of truth and just one listen to the electric blaze of "Everything" will convince you. © MacKenzie Wilson /TiVo
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Rock - Released March 11, 2003 | Virgin Catalog (V81)

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Ben Harper is a musical preacher of sorts, never one to be shy in speaking his mind about social conformity. If his first two albums -- Welcome to the Cruel World and Fight for Your Mind -- didn't clue you in, Diamonds on the Inside will definitely do so. Diamonds on the Inside marks Harper's fifth studio effort and this time he's emotionally in touch with what makes his heart burst. This is a passionate album, no doubt. His signature Weissenborn guitar joins him once more and Harper's classic groovy funk is heavy; however, Harper adds worldbeat to his musical plank. From the Marley-esque vibe of "With My Own Two Hands" to the African soundscapes of Ladysmith Black Mambazo on "Picture of Jesus," Harper's purist presentation is smooth. "When It's Good" gives a little country blues twang, while "Touch From You Lust" is a sexy haze of writhing riffs. "Temporary Remedy" follows the funk Lenny Kravitz-style, and Harper's a bit campy. It's a noticeable change from his typically serious stature and a nice shift in personality, too. Diamonds on the Inside is another stunning effort from one of rock's underground heroes. Harper has consistently worked with what appeals to him musically for nearly a decade, ignoring what fits the mainstream. Diamonds on the Inside is Harper's sixth chapter of truth and just one listen to the electric blaze of "Everything" will convince you. © MacKenzie Wilson /TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released March 12, 2002 | Virgin Catalog (V81)

N.E.R.D. are nothing if they're not clever, and they brilliantly constructed a back-story to accompany their debut album, In Search Of... As every rock critic in the Western world has said in his review of the album, they originally released the record in Europe, then decided it was crap, withdrew it, re-recorded it with a live band, and then released it worldwide. Now this story is probably true -- as the first album by the band driven by the powerhouse production team the Neptunes (though these are not interchangeable terms, as they went to great lengths to make clear in the promo interviews), there was a lot riding on this record, so it had better be right -- but it certainly helped them get valuable press, elevating this record to a near-event level. So, is In Search Of... worth the hoopla? Well, pretty much. Musically, it's a lively affair, breaking free of the signature approximated-Prince beats, as they borrow heavily from classic soul, breakbeat aesthetics, and postmodern alt-culture, tying it together with live beats. It pretty much deliberately does everything that most modern rap does not do, and it's hard not to embrace it for that very fact. Alas, there are flaws, mainly in the raps, which are hardly as nimble as the music; actually, they're rather clumsy and embarrassing, especially since they attempt to cover "socially relevant" issues (i.e., politicians are equated with strippers). Choruses that croon that "She needs me/Because I'm the sh*t" are hard to stomach, no matter how supple the music is (or how ironic the delivery), but if you can ignore that, In Search Of... does provide genuine musical thrills. Although, be forewarned -- it's easy to overrate this record simply because it deviates from the norm at a time when nobody deviates from the norm or has deviated from the norm in years. With better lyrics and a little less smirking hipsterism, it could have been the record it was intended to be, but as it stands, it's still a pretty terrific listen and one of the most adventurous, intriguing hip-hop albums in a long, long time. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released July 16, 2001 | Virgin Catalog (V81)

Even though Perry Farrell didn't disappear in the latter half of the '90s, it sure felt like he had. Lollapalooza dried up not long after he left, his follow-up festival was stillborn, Porno for Pyros never achieved the high profile or respect of Jane's Addiction -- and when Jane's did reunite in 1997, its companion album and tour were a distant memory a year later. So, he seized the opportunity of silence by laying low, developing a new sound for a new project -- namely, a solo career. During his self-imposed exile he, like many members of the alt-rock generation, became convinced that electronica was the next bold step forward, so he absorbed the sounds and learned how to make it himself, crossing it with worldbeat and new age spirituality for his ambitious comeback record, Song Yet to Be Sung. Part of the problem of working in isolation for a prolonged period of time -- which he essentially was, even if he worked with a number of different collaborators -- is that the end product feels somewhat hermetic whenever it's released. This can be a good thing, since it can help protect an individual vision, which is somewhat true of Song. Farrell certainly has his own brand of mysticism, globe-spanning electronica, and he keeps his focus throughout the record, letting the moods change slowly with the flow of the rhythms. It's easily the most consistent record he's cut since Ritual de lo Habitual, and it has a generous spirit that's brand new to Farrell's music. This all makes for an interesting listen and, if you're coming from a similar vantage, it could be quite compelling. Yet despite the idiosyncratic, individual vision Farrell displays throughout the record, it isn't exactly visionary, especially compared to records released during his prolonged absence from music-making. No matter its accomplishments, it sounds strangely dated, sharing more with Andrew Weatherall productions from the early '90s than such late-'90s rock-electronica hallmarks as Homogenic. This doesn't discount what Farrell's accomplished here, since this holds its own against Jane's Addiction far more than any Porno for Pyros record, but it feels more like a product of the '90s than a new millennium. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released September 20, 1999 | Virgin Catalog (V81)

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Blues - Released April 20, 1999 | Virgin Catalog (V81)

For over 30 years, Charlie Musselwhite has released consistent, if not classic, blues albums in the great Chicago tradition. An acknowledged master of the harmonica, Musselwhite's rough voice is also a recognizable aural trait, and on Continental Drifter he uses both to evoke a world weariness. In the same way a bluesman might rootlessly travel from town to town, the swinging melodies of songs like "Edge of Mystery" and "No" seem to drift and amble musically. Though it's not one of his best efforts, the album -- which also has Musselwhite dabbling with Tex-Mex on two tracks -- is a solid offering. © Steve Kurutz /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released September 20, 1999 | Virgin Catalog (V81)

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Rock - Released February 11, 1997 | Virgin Catalog (V81)

Royal Trux always subverted classic rock by neglecting to learn how to play their instruments and taking the junkie myths of Keith Richards and Johnny Thunders as fact. When they moved to a major label with 1995's Thank You, they cleaned up their sound and wrote actual songs, so it makes sense that its followup, Sweet Sixteen, is where they learn how to stretch out on their instruments. Opening up with a riff lifted from the Allman Brothers, Sweet Sixteen is a sloppy mess, filled with grime, sleaze and filth -- just like the broken toilet that graces the album's cover. While Royal Trux is now able to play these blues riffs, they don't have the desire to make them palatable. At heart, they still want to tap into what originally scared people about rock & roll, and to a certain extent they do -- they are a viciously anti-social band, snarling vocals and throwing riffs out carelessly. However, they are falling into a netherworld with music that is too slick for indie and too weird for the mainstream, which means Sweet Sixteen is unlikely to appeal outside of their cult. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released June 17, 1997 | Virgin Catalog (V81)

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On his third album, Will to Live, Ben Harper strengthens his populist folk with a grittier groove, which even borders on funk, that makes his music more immediate. Harper still has a tendency to preach, yet his melodies are catchier than before, and he has a better sense of rhythm, helping his bluesy songs catch hold. © Leo Stanley /TiVo
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R&B - Released January 1, 1997 | Virgin Catalog (V81)

Brigette McWilliams unexpectedly shifted gears with her sophomore effort, Too Much Woman. While her previous album, Take Advantage of Me, had combined R&B with hip-hop and acid jazz, Too Much Woman is pure retro-soul and often sounds like it could have been recorded in 1977 instead of 1997. Earthy, down-home offerings like "Morning," "Better Off Without You" and "Writing A Letter" show little or no awareness of the hip-hop-flavored R&B of the 1990s, and producer Steve Harvey rejects the high-tech urban contemporary approach in favor of real bass, real drums and real guitar. In fact, the credits read like a "who's who" of 1970s soul sessions thanks to the presence of Billy Preston (Hammond B-3 organ), former Rufus bassist Bobby Watson, percussionist Paulinho Da Costa and Earth, Wind & Fire alumni Al McKay (guitar) and Larry Dunn (keyboards). Those who asserted that Too Much Woman, unlike Take Advantage of Me, was neither innovative nor cutting-edge were right, but then, an album needn't be groundbreaking in order to be excellent. If Adriana Evans and Erykah Badu were the most exciting young female R&B singers of 1997, a definite runner up would have to be McWilliams, whose second album is retro in the best sense of the word. © Alex Henderson /TiVo