AW's CD Collection
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Ace of Base
The Sign - Ace Of Base
I know some people are ashamed to admit that they like this album (while others are over concerned with bashing people who do enjoy it) but when you're honest about it this release is a juggernaut. I can't deny the cheese since it is ingrained in the album's deepest fibers, but when you get down to it it's just so damn fun, and when you think about it isn't that one of the most important things music can be?
Beautiful Life (Promo) - Ace of Base
The less-acclaimed sophomore release by Ace of Base may be a bit more mature but can't quite stack up to the band's debut. While The Bridge starts off insanely strong, that strength quickly fades after the fifth track, which is why I can't justify keeping the album on hand. That said, it starts off with a bang with this addictive and corny centerpiece. If only the other deserving songs got released as singles.
Permanent Vacation - Aerosmith
In all honesty I'm not a very big fan of Aerosmith. As much as I try I can't shake the idea that they're a significantly overrated band and Permanent Vacation, the album that became their comeback album, wouldn't be as great as it is if the material was written solely by the band. However, the credits spread isn't as embarrassing as a country album so I'm willing to suspend my biased criticisms given such results.
Invitation - Altaria
Even though I enjoy Invitation for what it is I'm not quite at peace with how it was marketed. Yes, the fact that guitarists from Sonata Arctica and Nightwish make an appearance is what drew me to it, but beyond their performance they didn't have a hand in the song-witting which is the more pressing variable in this equation. I can't fault it for being an effective hook, but it is not an element that makes or breaks it.
Divinity - Altaria
My experiences listening to Divinity have spanned a surprising variety of opinions over the years. When I first heard the album only one track gabbed my attention. Then, when I revisited the album years later, I realized just about every track was good save for two, slightly misguided efforts. Afterwards it got a lot of play in my rotation but the mass exposure backfired when the songs started to wear thin.
State of Euphoria - Anthrax
State of Euphoria is one of those albums that is perhaps more important to me due to the memories of my late cousin who introduced this album to me than the music itself. I don't mean to slight Anthrax's ability by saying this, but after having listened to the band's other releases - that are immensity more popular - I can can see why fans flock towards those records more even though they aren't my cup of tea.
Love Shack - The B-52's
There's a lot to say about this single, the history I have with it, the band and not a lot of room to do it. The version of the single I grew up with was on cassette and the only other rendition that's close in what it offers is this rare Japanese MCD. It contains my two favorite songs ("Love Shack" and "Channel Z") and that's enough because I've never been overly impressed with the band's other songs & albums.
1962-1966 (The Red Album) - The Beatles
I'm sure some fans of the fab four are disappointed that when the Beatles showed up on this list it's a compilation instead of a straitlaced album. I totally understand that, but this pick is merely a consequence of my age and when and how I was first exposed to the band's music given I'm only 33. That said, every song on here is gold and unlike the complimentary blue album it's nowhere near as hit-and-miss for me.
Greatest Hits Volume I & Volume II - Billy Joel
While it ultimately has little to do with his actual music, I can help but view Billy Joel as a dirty, horny old man these days given his most recent marriages. Yeah, I know that's judgmental and inconsequential to anyone other than him, but musically I'm mainly concerned with the treasure trove of tunes he wrote in the past. If Billy had some newer tunes I could recognize I probably wouldn't focus on his personal life.
Breath of Fire
Breath of Fire II -The Destined Child- - Yuko Takehara
I've always found Yuko Takahara's work for the Super Nintendo role-playing game Breath of Fire II to be a fertile playground for discussion. I truly respect Takahara as a composer (and I love the game despite its flaws) but this isn't her best work even though it has its moments. Like a few other soundtracks I own, Breath of Fire II kind of stakes by on the nostalgia factor alone. Only the biggest of fans should apply.
Breath of Fire Original Soundtrack Special Box... - Yasuaki Fujita, Mari Yamaguchi, Minae Fujii, Tatsuya Nishimura, Yoko Shimomura, Yuko Takehara, Akari
As unpoetic as it sounds, the Breath of Fire Original Soundtrack Box is one of those items that is attractive as it is unattractive. I can't deny there is some great music in here, but there is just so much to sift through that once you've identified the tracks you enjoy you are left with a great deal of music that is more contextual and works better in its given game. Given that and its cost I can't recommend it to everybody.
Ashley Winchester's rating:
Sixteen Stone - Bush
Perhaps more than any other album on this list, the point in time in which Sixteen Stone was released, as well as how involved the listener was with previous grunge releases, tends to make or break its importance. If you followed the scene up to this point you probably didn't get wrapped up in this one. However, if the genre wasn't at the forefront of your listening it probably had more traction and pull.
Demon Castle Dracula Best 2 - Masanori Adachi, Taro Kudo, Shigeru Fukutake, Hidehiro Funauchi, Norio Hanzawa
A two-disc compilation containing the music from Super Castlevania IV, Castlevania: The Adventure and Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge, Demon Castle Dracula Best 2 is one of the best examples of what old-school, Castlevania music has to offer. Each score comes with their own strengths and weaknesses, like the progressive stylings of Castlevania IV working better in-game in my opinion than outside of it.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night Original Game Soundtrack... - Michiru Yamane, akiropito, Rika Muranaka, Tony Haynes, Jeff Lorber, Sanoppi
While most will disagree, I can't help but feel that Michiru Yamane's work for the celebrated Castlevania: Symphony of the Night has become more of period piece. The reason I say this is while the underlying music is great, part of the reason why the album was so successful was the leap in sound quality the it presented in the early days of the PlayStation. I tend to enjoy this one more in-game these days.
Castlevania: Curse of Darkness Original Soundtrack... - Michiru Yamane, Yuka Watanabe, Teshigawara, Michiru
Much like the game it accompanies, Michiru Yamane's music for Castlevania: Curse of Darkness has a mixed reputation. While I've never seen anyone completely trash it, call it uninspired and dull the majority of what's here doesn't exactly jump out of one's speakers like the other, more prolific Castlevania scores. What's here is much more subdued and won't, for better or worse, catch everyone's ear the same way.
Madtropolis - Chinchilla
I'm pretty sure everyone reading is asking who the hell Chinchilla is/are and, in all honesty, I find that far from surprising. A lot of those same people would probably equate this pick as a "charity case" upon hearing the album itself as it really doesn't blaze any kind of new trail for a well-worn genre but I find the album enjoyable and many of the tracks continuously make their way onto the iPod Shuffle in my car.
Lap of Luxury - Cheap Trick
I hold an unapologetic amount of love towards Lap of Luxury. It's easily my favorite Cheap Trick album and the material on it is top notch, but there is a small, nagging problem that can be solved with some forethought. The recording volume on older pressings of the album is depressingly low, so I'd suggest nabbing one of the newer Japanese releases since they've been remastered and essentially counter this issue.
Killin' Time - Clint Black
As curious as it will sound to those reading I can't get over how young Clint Black looks on the cover of his debut album. It's not like this is a rare occurrence when it comes to cover art, but the simplistic nature of the scene helps sell the crispness of the experience within. The only issue with Killin' Time is the overwrought metaphor the troubled opening tune uses which is a minor infraction in the scheme of things.
Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We? - The Cranberries
While those reading will wonder how I avoided it, I never heard The Cranberries debut album the whole way through until late last year. This is especially curious given my sister had the album when I was growing up. I remember "Linger" and "Dreams" (which are completely played out at this point) but the rest of the album is great, if not better than the tracks used to promote it. A simply awesome record.
No Need to Argue - The Cranberries
While I feel Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We? is slightly stronger, No Need to Argue has some great tracks, and thankfully the singles used to promote the album (e.g. "Zombie") haven't become semi-irritating road-bumps on the album like the aforementioned debut. The only thing negative to say is beyond "Zombie" this is more of the same which is why the third album ended up the way it did.
Salvation (Promo) - The Cranberries
Free To Decide - The Cranberries
Animal Instinct (Promo) - The Cranberries
I'm sure some are wondering what's up with including this one track promo on this list, especially when I could just buy "Bury the Hatchet" or a compilation to obtain the song. Well, the answer isn't really that interesting, but "Animal Instinct" is my favorite song by the Cranberries and I only discovered it last year in 2015. I also love the hell out of the cover art and the music video, so it's three for three for me.
Creedence Clearwater Revival
The Concert - Creedence Clearwater Revival
While the inclusion of The Concert probably won't surprise most of those familiar with it, its inclusion here is pretty significant given that I feel most live albums are complete rubbish. I'm not sure why I have such an aversion to live material but I only tend to enjoy and purchase those that offer something special or ironically blow away the in-studio renditions. This album effortlessly accomplishes both.
Happy Thoughts - Daniel Tosh
Before I get too far into this one I should admit that if you dislike Daniel Tosh with the fire of a million burning suns I can understand. I don't dislike him myself, but I can certainly see how he can rub people the wrong way. That said, I have my own suspicions about the comedian as I have this nagging feeling that he doesn't write his own material. I can't prove that but something does feel inauthentic at times.
Thinkin' Problem - David Ball_XXII
Mostly known for the hit single "Thinkin' Problem," I can't help but feel most have forgotten about David Ball's 1994 platinum-selling debut. In a certain sense I get it; country music is a very crowded subsection of music and the front runners of the genre change with each generation, but like most country records Thinkin' Problem has more to offer than the title track and the experience is solid beginning to end.
David Lee Roth
Skyscraper - David Lee Roth
Despite being rather popular back when it was released thanks in part to the hit "Just Like Paradise," time has not been kind to David Lee Roth's Skyscraper. It's not that the material or overall audio fidelity hasn't aged gracefully (although some feel the album sounded a little "too clean" for its time) listeners and fans seem to be drawn towards David's other solo works leaving this one as the odd man out.
On Through the Night - Def Leppard
Curious as it sounds, when it comes to discussing On Through the Night I can't help but get a little hot under the collar. No, it's not due to anything the album does, it is how Def Leppard retroactively views this album. The band has gone on record and has stated they barely acknowledge this as their debut album, more-or-less giving High 'n' Dry that credit. Personally I love this one and it deserves more attention.
Pyromania - Def Leppard
After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, there's a part of me that can't really look at the cover of Pyromania the way I did prior. This isn't a call to change the cover (perish the thought) but the relation in the back of my head is what it is. That said, I don't have a favorite Def Leppard album, but with Pyromania being more rock infused than its poppy successors it does more than carve out its own personal niche.
Hysteria - Def Leppard
Out of all the Def Leppard albums I enjoy, Hysteria seems doomed to be the cellar-dweller, mostly due to its massive popularity. I can't deny its charm and quality but when you sit down and dissect the albums proceeding it they ultimately feel more honest in the sense they where not created with the idea of mass-market appeal, which I know is a silly train of thought given what band we're talking about here.
Adrenalize - Def Leppard
Adrenalize is one of those rare occasions where I will come to the defense of Def Leppard. If people want to criticize I have no problem with that or embracing their opinion if it holds water. However, when people complain that this album sounds too much like Hysteria, I lose my patience because, in all honesty, what did they expect? If you want something different check out X or Slang at your own peril.
Retro Active - Def Leppard
Even all these years after its release I still love the optical illusion on the front cover of Retro Active. However, as clever as it is this spooky cover is it does a good job of making one curious about the content within. Considering that Adrenalize dropped about a year prior you'd be correct in assuming this isn't normal studio album. It's a b-side compilation and boy oh boy, it's definitely one of the better ones avaliable.
Euphoria - Def Leppard
Finishing off the trilogy that was started by Pyromania and Hysteria (and no one ever really knew was a trilogy until the band stated such) Euphoria is the last Def Leppard album that was really worth a damn. A statement like that will obviously stir the pot with some fans, but the main reason the album gets so much credit from me is it's sandwiched between two of the band's most forgettable albums.
Diablo II Soundtrack - Matt Uelmen
Despite having it in my possession and collection, I feel I'm the last person that should attempt to boost up or tear down the Diablo II Soundtrack. I do enjoy the music Matt Uelmen crafted for the game (my favorites are ironically all from the game's first act) but I don't have a strong affinity towards ambient music for the most part. If I hadn't played the game for a million hours it would be lost on me.
Doom Music - Bobby Prince
Doom Music is one of those rare releases where those looking to acquire it should seriously weigh its pros and cons before tracking it down. While it's the only official release containing the music Bobby Prince wrote for the PC classic, it's not a large leap over what can be derived from the game itself and the tracks that made the cut may constitute a crap-shoot depending on the person looking for it.
Ashley Winchester's rating:
The Doors - Greatest Hits [Elektra] - The Doors
Regrettably this pick comes with a small caveat. If you happen to own the original LP of this album then you have this compilation as I first heard it. That's the version I love; all the small tweaks and edits are prefect. However, if you have the album on CD, then you'll unfortunately be exposed to a handful of small changes that, while not railroading the experience into oblivion, make it a little less then perfect.
Images And Words - Dream Theater
This is a funny pick because I'm pretty sure all the Dream Theater fans out there are rolling their eyes. It's not that Images and Words is a bad album; their disgust tends to come from the fact that when a casual listener lists their favorite release from the band this is almost always the album that's shown off. As you'd expect this has become an unflattering cliche and I'm obviously not helping matters.
This Time - Dwight Yoakam
Given the selections on this list so far, it's probably no surprise that country music doesn't make up a very significant portion of my collection. I don't necessarily care how pop music more-or-less infected the genre to create something disingenuous. However, I do enjoy what constituted country music in the mid nineteen-nineties so releases like Dwight Yoakam's This Time are always more than welcome diversions.
The Very Best of Dwight Yoakam - Dwight Yoakam
With Dwight Yoakam being one of my favorite country music performers, some may be caught off guard that my feelings about this compilation are a little mixed. It's true I find most greatest hits discs to be misses, but the issue with The Very Best of Dwight Yoakam is that most of the good tracks are covers, not originals. A good track is a good track yet I just find this compilation's strengths to be unsettling.
Their Greatest Hits - The Eagles
Speaking of greatest hit compilations, we go from a somewhat troubled one to one of the most successful ever released. The Eagles' Their Greatest Hits is a customary staple in many collections, but such clout ultimately breeds questions that lead one to play devil's advocate. I can't be the only one that's believes the sales thresholds this album's crossed is just insane. If I didn't read it myself I'd swear it wasn't true.
Savage Poetry - Edguy
I'm sure many Edguy fans will be puzzled by the admission that I not only feel that the The Savage Poetry is severely underrated, but I feel it's superior to many of the albums they tout as the cream of the crop. This re-recording of the band's original demo disc is often criticized for its lack of complexity yet is superior to Kingdom of Madness, the band's major label debut, in nearly every conceivable category.
King of Fools - Edguy
While a lot of Edguy fans are probably going to call me a heretic for the following, I honestly feel that the King of Fools EP is more essential than the entirety of Hellfire Club. The crux of my argument centers around the non-album track "Holy Water," which, despite my love of, would've been out of place on the album this extended play was intended to promote. Even better is this isn't even the band's best EP.
Superheroes - Edguy
King of Fools was an enticing appetizer that brilliantly lead into Hellfire Club, but the Superheroes EP was an even better introduction to the band's follow-up. That said, this extended play probably gets more credit than its predecessor in my case since Rocket Ride eclipsed the band's previous album in many ways. Regardless of which album you enjoy more, this non-album material is worth signing up for.
Rocket Ride - Edguy
While not infatuated with it to the level I was back when it was released, I feel that Rocket Ride is one the most enjoyable albums Edguy has ever released. Immensely fun at its core, I've always felt the album has been in an unofficial competition with its precessor, Hellfire Club, when it comes to winning the hearts and minds of fans, and the reasons for such a view are easy to acknowledge with little forethought.
Age of the Joker - Edguy
When you look at what it offers in a vacuum, Age of the Joker appears to be a solid album that seems comfortable with what it has to offer. It is only by looking at the album that proceeded it, Tinnitus Sanctus, that you'll begin to understand why it is so important. A sizable portion of the fans (myself included) were left cold with the band's shift in direction; this album helped mend the bridge and close the divide.
The Slim Shady LP - Eminem
Much like the country music albums included on this list I find it difficult to put into words why I like given rap / hip hop albums. However, when it comes to this genre it's even harder because most of the albums I enjoyed when I was younger (when I was probably too young to listen to them) have failed to live up to my memories of them. Thankfully, the Slim Shady LP is one of those exceptions that remains viable.
The Marshall Mathers LP - Eminem
Like the Slim Shady LP above I don't really have much to say about The Marshall Mathers LP that's insightful. I feel that it's the last "must own" Eminem release in general but even in saying that I still feel The Eminem Show is a great album and will gladly give it due respect even though I don't find most of its tracks essential. Afterwards I lost interest and haven't enjoyed his newer stuff to the same level.
Final Fantasy Tactics Original Soundtrack - Hitoshi Sakimoto, Masaharu Iwata
Even though strategy role-playing games aren't exactly my cup of tea, I did manage to play and complete Final Fantasy Tactics during its heyday. However, as enjoyable as the game was I don't game as much these days and it's doubtful I'll ever revisit it. While that's unfortunate, with its excellent soundtrack on hand I don't really feel an overwhelming since of guilt about that situation or feel I'm missing out on anything.
The Flaming Lips
She Don't Use Jelly / Translucent Egg / Turn It on... - The Flaming Lips
Da' Dip (EU) - Freak Nasty
I'm sure some people are thrown off by the cover of this one. This is actually the European pressing of this single which is uncensored and has an advisory on it... but in all honesty the two songs I wanted this for weren't censored to begin with. Regardless, I have great memories of this track when I used it to serenade a girl in high school, but that would probably be considered sexual harassment these days.
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