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Album wall of albums
These albums fascinated Fulcrum writers in the late '90s. Image: Dasser Kamran/Fulcrum.

From the Notorious B.I.G. to Oasis to Coldplay, the Fulcrum reviewed them all 

Over the last 30 years, the Fulcrum has reviewed a number of releases that eventually became career-defining and altering records for artists. These albums changed the music industry as a whole and helped define an entire era. 

This feature is the second part of a series compiling record reviews.

Eternal E by Eazy-E 

 Review by Aaron P. Wile. Originally published on Feb. 8, 1996 

Pioneer. Controversial. Businessman. Assassination attempt. No, I’m not talking about Donald Trump, but the rapper Eric Wright. 

Known to most as Eazy-E, Wright has had a profound influence on the world of rap music. Along with Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, DJ Yella and MC Ren, he was a member of the most controversial rap act of all time, N.W.A. 

N.W.A were infamous for their lyrical portrayal of inner-city life and heavy cursing on their tracks. This stirred up a great deal of controversy around the issue of censorship in such mediums as radio, television and live performances.

Besides N.W.A., Wright showed his business skills by starting his own record label called Comptown/Ruthless Records in 1987. In 1988, he released his first solo album entitled Eazy Duz It and through the years, he followed it with several other solo releases which he focused on after the 1991 break up of N.W.A. 

Besides his own career as a soloist, Wright’s label signed other up-and-coming acts like Above The Law and Bone Thugs ‘n’ Harmony thus displaying his ability to produce and support other talent. 

In 1994, Wright was given air time on a popular Los Angeles radio station, KKBT FM. Through the Ruthless Radio Show, he brought further attention to the acts on his label as well as fighting against issues like racism and censorship. Add to this his involvement with charity organizations such as Athletes and Entertainers for Kids, The City of Hope, United Colors and Make A Wish Foundation, and you begin to realize Wright was much more than a “gangsta” rapper; he was a fine entrepreneur and someone who was willing to fight for his beliefs. 

Amidst talk of an N.W.A. reunion and a corresponding album in 1995, Wright sadly reported to the press that he had AIDS and warned others of the dangers of multiple sex partners. Then on March 26, 1996, with his family beside him, Eric Wright died of AIDS-related complications. The world of rap music went into mourning — they had lost one of the greats. 

Fortunately, the legacy of Eric “Eazy-E” Wright lives on in the music and memories he left behind. In honour of his memory, Priority Records recently released a compilation of 14 of his best tracks, including songs from his days with N.W.A. to his most recent solo work. 

Entitled Eternal-E, it displays the many sides of Eazy-E. N.W.A. tracks such as their first release “Boys-N-The Hood” and subsequent release “8 Ball” as well as some of his braggadocious solo material like “Eazy-Duz-it” and “Eazy-Er Said Than Dunn”. Also included are his recent Naughty By Nature-produced release “Only If You Want It” and his cut “Easy Street” from the Return of the Superfly soundtrack.

The disc is a reflection on what made Wright great and his influence over the industry. It is definitely worth the price to go out and buy all of Wright’s work. But if this is not possible or even if you just want to have his hits collected on one album, Eternal E is the one. The disc jacket has a great bio of the artist as well as tributes to Wright made by rap greats like Ice Cube, Chuck D of Public Enemy and Dr. Dre. On any level, Eternal E delivers what the title suggests — Eric’s legacy that will never die. Rest easy, Eric.

Life After Death by The Notorious B.I.G.   

Review by Aaron P. Wile. Originally published on Aug. 14, 1997

In March, the world of hip-hop lost one more of its inhabitants and left many wondering if the industry is heading down the path toward self-destruction. 

Among the more recent on the list of premature deaths are such big names as Eric Wright (Eazy-E) to AIDS and Tupac Shakur to a drive-by assassin. To that list, the name Christopher Wallace can now be added.

Wallace, aka the Notorious B.I.G., aka Biggie Smalls, was gunned down March 9 after a Vibe Magazine sponsored party. His death, like Shakur’s, has created quite a stir and much speculation.

There is little doubt regarding some rivalry between Wallace and Shakur, and this has raised the question of whether the two deaths are related. Regarding the rivalry, Wallace stated, “I feel like I’m a bigger person for ignoring it … I’m stronger than that.”

This is, however, not the only question that is being asked. Wallace was affiliated with the East Coast’s Bad Boy Entertainment label, while Shakur was a major player in the self-proclaimed “New and Untouchable” Death Row Records of the West Coast. 

According to an article by Joe Domanick in the June issue of Spin magazine, a Compton police report has linked Bad Boy with the Crips, a force on the L.A. gang scene, and Death Row with the Bloods, long-time Crip rivals. While Sean “Puffy” Combs, CEO of Bad Boy, has denied any company connection to the Crips, the possibility remains that both deaths were gang-related. 

Police have also been investigating an angle in which a disgruntled bodyguard shot Wallace. With unanswered questions pending the outcome of the investigation and few answers, the fans, media and police can only speculate on Wallace’s death.

Death, however, has not stopped the Notorious B.I.G from being heard. Death Row Records recently released The Seven Day Theory, a posthumous album by Shakur under the alias Makaveli — an album which has created some speculations as to whether Shakur’s death was faked. Wallace’s ironically titled Life After Death also did not reach store shelves until after his murder.

The two-album set, Wallace’s first solo effort since his award-winning debut Ready to Die, contains 22 tracks which conjure another glimpse into life on the mean streets. The album has also given him the chance to collaborate with some of the top artists of the time, including R. Kelly (“Fuck You Tonight”), Bone-Thugs-and-Harmony (“Notorious Thugs”), and DMC of Run DMC fame (“My Downfall”).

Gangster rap fans won’t be disappointed by Life After Death. There are some notable tracks including the pusher culture cut “Ten Crack Commandments”, the first single “Hypnotize”, “Somebody’s Gotta Die” and the danceable “Going Back to Cali,” Wallace’s answer to such Tupac (Shakur) songs as “California Love” and “To Live and Die in L.A.”

“I write about situations and problems that occur in my life,” Wallace had said regarding his lyrical talent.

Overall, Life After Death would be a great album to have pumpin’ in your jeep if you were going on a road trip from New York to L.A. It’s a little on the long side and therefore, some of the tracks seem to blend in together. If Bad Boy has taken all the good and made one single length album, it would have been great. Instead, it is just an average record with very few bad tracks and a few really good ones. I find myself forwarding to the same stand out tracks while rarely listening to the rest. 

If you got the time and like that mean-street rhyme, Life After Death might do just fine.

The Masterplan by Oasis                 

Review by Cédric Nahum. Originally published on Nov. 19, 1998

To anyone who has been buying Oasis’ singles lately, it will come as no surprise that all of the songs on their new album, The Masterplan, are as good or better than any song on their three previous releases — despite being a collection of B-sides.

The 14 songs on this album have been previously released as singles and many have been staples in Oasis’ live set, including their cover of “I Am The Walrus”, “Headshrinker” and “Acquiesce”. 

To those of you hoping this album would show a side of Oasis we have not seen before, you’re out of luck. The songs on this album explore the same themes of leaving home, friendship, love and youth as seen on all of Oasis’ previous albums. 

The one difference is that these songs are more raw and simple than the past two Oasis albums. “Talk Tonight,” featuring Noel Gallagher and Allan White, is also one of the purest and most touching songs on The Masterplan. “Fade Away“ and “Headshrinker” are two of Oasis’ closest attempts to punk, and “Acquiesce” is truly Oasis at their best.

The songs from The Masterplan were chosen in part through a poll on an Internet site where fans could choose their favourite B-sides. There were over thirty songs to choose from, but some songs were unfortunately left out. Three of the songs I would’ve most liked to have seen on The Masterplan are “Round Are Way” from the “Wonderwall” single, their cover of “Cum On Feel the Noise” by Slade and a cover of David Bowie’s “Heroes” that would make Wallflowers fans weep. But I didn’t vote, so I shouldn’t complain.

Oasis may not be great musical innovators, but they are really good at what they do. This album is truly one of the best of its genre and is well worth the seventeen dollars or so you’ll pay for it. If you can’t afford the album, get the Some Might Say single which combines three of the best tracks from this album, including the incredible title track. Another option would be to get Travis’ More Than Us EP featuring Noel Gallagher.

Kid A by Radiohead       

Review by Renée Hebert. Originally published on Oct. 19, 2000

Those familiar with Radiohead recognize this group for its characteristic innovation. That’s why, as I sat down to listen to the band’s latest album, Kid A, I had no idea what to expect. 

The group has come a long way from its alternative rock album Pablo Honey (1993) to The Bends (1995), where we started to notice the band’s melancholic tendencies. With the release of Ok Computer (1997), its musical genius became acclaimed. 

When first listening to Kid A, its sound can prove frightening: where are the guitars? The first tracks are very keyboard-oriented and this electronic sound persists throughout the album.

After listening to it a few times though, the album grows on you, and I found myself really getting into several songs. Notable ones are the title track, “The National Anthem,” which has a great bass line; and “Idiothecque,” a song with an electronic yet addictive sound of the type generally attributed to a band like Massive Attack.

Kid A, like Ok Computer, is cohesive and gives the impression of being a work of art rather than songs simply stuck together on an album. It is also full of great subtleties expected from Radiohead — there is no disappointment here. 

Associating this album with a certain style of music would be hard, as Radiohead has yet to be classified as anything but Radiohead, and this album is no exception. This musical experiment may not do it for you, but if you like abstract art, or if you respect and have faith in this amazing group, you’ll love it. 

Parachutes by Coldplay                                                                                    

Review by Chris O’Neil. Originally published on Nov. 30, 2000.

Being a fan of British music, I always take it upon myself to sample the latest or “next” big U.K. act. I had been hearing of this band called Coldplay and their single “Yellow”, then I saw the video on Musiqueplus and loved the song. 

Parachutes, upon first listen, is quite boring. Actually, it remains pretty boring with every subsequent listen but a few tracks stand out. The problem with Parachutes is that it’s not a very dynamic record — it moves along at a snail’s pace from one mellow track to the next, never seeming to go anywhere.

Parachutes just drags, and I felt like turning it off after half the record was over. 

Many songs, such as the other single, “Shiver” start off with promise but drive themselves into the ground. There are no good choruses or bridges to elevate the song to the next level to make it a great song.

The one exception is the single “Yellow.” It has been getting pretty heavy rotation lately, so you may have already heard it. It sounds like Dave Matthews singing something from Oasis’ Morning Glory period. So my recommendation is to burn the single and throw it on a compilation CD. 

But if you are in the record store, pick up the new U2 album or the Oasis live album. At least you’ll get your money’s worth for your Brit-fix.