Styx – Paradise Theater (1981) [Audio Fidelity 2014] {SACD-R + FLAC 24-88.2}

Styx – Paradise Theater (1981) [Audio Fidelity 2014]
PS3 Rip | SACD ISO | DSD64 2.0 > 1-bit/2.8224 MHz | 40:43 minutes | Scans included | 1,64 GB
or FLAC(converted with foobar2000 to tracks) 24bit/88,2 kHz | Full Scans included | 796 MB
Mastered by Kevin Gray | Audio Fidelity # AFZ-174 | Genre: Rock

After successfully establishing themselves as one of America’s best commercial progressive rock bands of the late ’70s with albums like The Grand Illusion and Pieces of Eight, Chicago’s Styx had taken a dubious step towards pop overkill with singer Dennis DeYoung’s ballad “Babe.” The centerpiece of 1979’s uneven Cornerstone album, the number one single sowed the seeds of disaster for the group by pitching DeYoung’s increasingly mainstream ambitions against the group’s more conservative songwriters, Tommy Shaw and James “JY” Young. Hence, what had once been a healthy competitive spirit within the band quickly deteriorated into bitter co-existence during the sessions for 1980’s Paradise Theater — and all-out warfare by the time of 1983’s infamous Kilroy Was Here. For the time being, however, Paradise Theater seemed to represent the best of both worlds, since its loose concept about the roaring ’20s heyday and eventual decline of an imaginary theater (used as a metaphor for the American experience in general, etc., etc.) seemed to satisfy both of the band’s camps with its return to complex hard rock (purists Shaw and JY) while sparing no amount of pomp and grandeur (DeYoung). The stage is set by the first track, “A.D. 1928,” which features a lonely DeYoung on piano and vocals introducing the album’s recurring musical theme before launching into “Rockin’ the Paradise” — a total team effort of wonderfully stripped down hard rock. From this point forward, DeYoung’s compositions (“Nothing Ever Goes as Planned,” “The Best of Times”) continue to stick close to the overall storyline, while Shaw’s (“Too Much Time on My Hands,” “She Cares”) try to resist thematic restrictions as best they can. Among these, “The Best of Times” — with its deliberate, marching rhythm — remains one of the more improbable Top Ten hits of the decade (somehow it just works), while “Too Much Time on My Hands” figures among Shaw’s finest singles ever. As for JY, the band’s third songwriter (and resident peacekeeper) is only slightly more cooperative with the Paradise Theater concept. His edgier compositions include the desolate tale of drug addiction, “Snowblind,” and the rollicking opus “Half-Penny, Two-Penny,” which infuses a graphic depiction of inner city decadence with a final, small glimmer of hope and redemption. The song also leads straight into the album’s beautiful saxophone-led epilogue, “A.D. 1958,” which once again reveals MC DeYoung alone at his piano. A resounding success, Paradise Theater would become Styx’s greatest commercial triumph; and in retrospect, it remains one of the best examples of the convergence between progressive rock and AOR which typified the sound of the era’s top groups (Journey, Kansas, etc.). For Styx, its success would spell both their temporary saving grace and ultimate doom, as the creative forces which had already been tearing at the band’s core finally reached unbearable levels three years later. It is no wonder that when the band reunited after over a decade of bad blood, all the music released post-1980 was left on the cutting room floor — further proof that Paradise Theater was truly the best of times.

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Styx – Paradise Theater (1981) [Japanese SHM-SACD 2014] {SACD-R + FLAC 24-88.2}

Styx – Paradise Theater (1981) [Japanese SHM-SACD 2014]
PS3 Rip | SACD ISO | DSD64 2.0 > 1-bit/2.8224 MHz | 40:39 minutes | Scans included | 1,65 GB
or FLAC(converted with foobar2000 to tracks) 24bit/88,2 kHz | Full Scans included | 804 MB

One album before Styx cut loose with an honest-to-goodness concept album, Kilroy Was Here, they flirted with the idea on Paradise Theater. The concept here has something to do with the decline of America in the ’70s, based on the condemnation and destruction of the Paradise Theater, a famous showplace in the band’s hometown of Chicago. Truth be told, the concept hasn’t held together that well, though the individual songs have, led by the optimistic ballad “The Best of Times,” and the rockers “Too Much Time on My Hands” and “Snowblind.” Dennis DeYoung gives some of his most theatrical performances throughout, presaging his overly ambitious Kilroy concept, but also his successful run performing in the legitimate theater, as Pontius Pilate in Jesus Christ Superstar. Paradise, meanwhile, was about as good as it got for Styx. –Daniel Durchholz

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Styx – The Mission (2017) [Qobuz 24-88,2]

Styx – The Mission (2017)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/88,2 kHz | Time – 42:10 minutes | 889 MB | Genre: Rock
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz | Front Cover | © Universal Music

The Mission is a thrilling return to Styx’s progressive roots, complete with a courageous & visionary concept. A captivating adventure unfolds across 14 tracks, 249 million miles from home! With a sound as big as a galaxy & two years in the making, it embodies a throw-back progressive-rock feel. Recorded at Blackbird Studios in Nashville, The Mission comes complete in a true hi-fidelity analog recording & mixed with a larger than life sound. For the first time in 14 years, an all-new studio album is set to launch on June 16, 2017. The Mission is a go!

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Sundara Karma – Youth Is Only Ever Fun In Retrospect (2017) [Qobuz 24-48]

Sundara Karma – Youth Is Only Ever Fun In Retrospect (2017) 
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/48 kHz | Time – 47:37 minutes | 589 MB | Genre: Alternative
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz | Front Cover | © RCA Records Label

2017 debut album from the British band. Indie-Springsteens with arena ambitions give four-square guitar rock a refreshing, euphoric makeover. Sundara Karma aspire to the driving, rousing anthemia of Bruce Springsteen and Arcade Fire, with big ideas about death and sacrifice and music up to the task of reflecting same.

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Strings & Bass – Strings & Bass (2017) [HDTracks 24-44,1]

Strings and Bass – Strings and Bass (2017)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/44,1 kHz | Time – 1:16:35 minutes | 751 MB | Genre: Jazz
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download – Source: HDTracks | Digital Booklet | © Gramola Records

Strings & Brass combines classic virtuosity with merciless groove, challenging compositions with colorful improvisations and absolute perfection with the innate musicality of folk music. The four musicians Florian Willeitner, Johannes Dickbauer, Matthias Bartolomey und Georg Breinschmid are tied beyond their classical training by the urge to discover new worlds. The string quartet with double bass without viola develops a totally distinct musical language ranging from jazz to pop and folk to blues. Strings & Bass – four exceptional musicians, everyone of them successful composers and artist who are spurring each other in this exciting formation. Florian Willeitner is a violinist, composer and arranger who has received numerous awards. Johannes Dickbauer is known for the breadth of his artistic range. Matthias Bartolomey plays in the Orchestra of the Vienna State Opera as well as teh Vienna Philharmonic. Georg Breinschmid is one of the leading Austrian jazz musicians on the international stage.

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Stone Sour – Hydrograd (2017) [7Digital 24-48]

Stone Sour – Hydrograd (2017)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/48 kHz | Time – 1:05:21 minutes | 857 MB | Genre: Alternative Metal
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download – Source: 7Digital | Front Cover | © Roadrunner Records

With five studio albums under their belt, the members of Stone Sour are excited to take the world by storm with their new release Hydrograd. The full-length album was recorded at Sphere Studios in Los Angeles, and frontman Corey Taylor confidently claims that it’s “probably one of the best records we have done since the first Slipknot album”.

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Steven Tyler – We’re All Somebody From Somewhere (2016) [HDTracks 24-96]

Steven Tyler – We’re All Somebody From Somewhere (2016)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 54:35 minutes |  1,19 GB | Genre: Country
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download – Source: HDTracks  |  Digital Booklet  | © Dot Records

Steven Tyler, the iconic songwriter and prolific voice of rock band, Aerosmith, is one of music’s most recognizable and dynamic frontmen. Aerosmith has sold over 150 million records, achieving 25 GOLD, 18 PLATINUM & 12 MULTI-PLATINUM album certifications. The highly anticipated first solo country album by Tyler will be releasing with Big Machine Label Group. His first single, “Love Is Your Name,” hit #1 on the Billboard Country Streaming Songs chart, with the video gaining over 12 million views.

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Steve Davis – Think Ahead (2017) [Qobuz 24-96]

Steve Davis – Think Ahead (2017)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/96 kHz | Time – 01:15:33 minutes | 1,43 GB | Genre: Jazz
Studio Master, Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz | Front Cover | © Smoke Sessions

Trombonist/composer Steve Davis offers a master class on his new release, “Think Ahead”, in art of reacting to the unpredictable with an elite group of jazz all-stars whose ability to create spontaneously borders on the clairvoyant. To render these new compositions, Davis assembled a stellar group of masters: the trombonist is joined by saxophonists Steve Wilson and Jimmy Greene, pianist Larry Willis, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Lewis Nash, each deserving the title of B“jazz giant” in their own right.

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Stefano Minder – Love Through My Eyes (2017) [Qobuz 24-96]

Stefano Minder – Love Through My Eyes (2017)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 47:56 minutes | 517 MB | Genre: Jazz
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz | Front Cover | © Stefano Minder

Stefano Minder, a Jazz singer and pianist who grew up between Switzerland and Italy, have released his first solo work of unreleased songs “Love Through My Eyes”. He has always been involved in song writing between Jazz and Soul, in the last year dedicated to the production of the new album containing nine original compositions ranging from Jazz to Soul.

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Star Tropics – Lost World (2017) [Bandcamp 24-48]

Star Tropics – Lost World (2017)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/48 kHz | Time – 31:55 | 406 MB | Genre: Indie
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download – Source: Bandcamp  | Front Cover | © Fastcut Records

Following the two fantastic singles that the band has put out in the past, Shelflife and Fastcut Records are incredibly excited to be releasing the debut full-length by Chicago’s Star Tropics. “Lost World” cements the band’s pop songwriting prowess, and its nine tracks all have equal likelihood of ending up ingrained in your brain.

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