Motorhead – Ace Of Spades (1980)

AllMusic Review: With the 1980 release of Ace of Spades, Motörhead had their anthem of anthems — that is, the title track — the one trademark song that would summarize everything that made this early incarnation of the band so legendary, a song that would be blasted by legions of metalheads for generations on end. It’s a legendary song, for sure, all two minutes and 49 bracing seconds of it. And the album of the same name is legendary as well, among Motörhead’s all-time best, often considered their single best, in fact, along with Overkill. Ace of Spades was Motörhead’s third great album in a row, following the 1979 releases of Overkill and Bomber, respectively. Those two albums have a lot in common with Ace of Spaces. The classic lineup — Lemmy (bass and vocals), “Fast” Eddie Clarke (guitar), and “Philthy Animal” Taylor (drums) — is still in place and sounding as alive and crazed as ever. The album is still rock-solid, boasting several superlative standouts. Actually, besides the especially high number of standouts on Ace of Spades — at least relative to Bomber, which wasn’t quite as strong overall as Overkill had been — the only key difference between this 1980 album and its two 1979 predecessors is the producer, in this case Vic Maile. The result of his work isn’t all that different from that of Jimmy Miller, the longtime Rolling Stones producer who had worked on Overkill and Bomber, but it’s enough to give Ace of Spades a feeling distinct from its two very similar-sounding predecessors. This singular sound (still loud and in your face, rest assured), along with the exceptionally strong songwriting and the legendary stature of the title track, makes Ace of Spades the ideal Motörhead album if one were to choose one and only one studio album. It’s highly debatable whether Ace of Spades is tops over the breakthrough Overkill, as the latter is more landmark because of its earlier release, and is somewhat rougher around the edges, too. Either way, Ace of Spades rightly deserves its legacy as a classic. There’s no debating that. — Jason Birchmeier

Track Listing:

Side A
No. Title Length
1. “Ace of Spades” 2:48
2. “Love Me Like a Reptile” 3:23
3. “Shoot You in the Back” 2:39
4. “Live to Win” 3:37
5. “Fast and Loose” 3:23
6. “(We Are) the Road Crew” 3:13
Side B
No. Title Length
7. “Fire, Fire” 2:44
8. “Jailbait” 3:33
9. “Dance” 2:38
10. “Bite the Bullet” 1:38
11. “The Chase Is Better Than the Catch” 4:18
12. “The Hammer” 2:48

 

 

Schill Score: 8/10

 

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Killing Joke – Killing Joke (1980)

AllMusic Review: Since 1980, there have been a hundred bands who sound like this; but before Steve Albini and Al Jourgensen made it hip, the cold metallic throb of Killing Joke was exciting and fresh. The harshly sung vocals riding over the pulsating synth lines of the opener “Requiem” have a vigor and passion that few imitators have managed to match. The precise riffs and tight rhythms found in songs like “Wardance” would influence a generation of hardcore musicians; yet “The Wait,” with its thrashing guitars and angry vocals, would find itself covered on a Metallica album only six years later. That such a bleak and furious album could have such a widespread influence is a testament to its importance. Certain parts of the album have not dated well; the vocals and drums are mixed in such a way that they lose some of their effectiveness, and the fact that so many other bands have used this same formula does take some of the visceral feeling away. But this is an underground classic and deserves better than its relative unknown status. Fans of most kinds of heavy music will probably find something they like about this band, and this is a good a place as any to start the collection. — Bradley Torreano

Track Listing:

All lyrics are written by Jaz Coleman; all music is composed by Killing Joke (Coleman, Geordie WalkerYouthPaul Ferguson), except as noted.

Side A
No. Title Music Length
1. “Requiem” 3:45
2. “Wardance” 3:49
3. “Tomorrow’s World” 5:31
4. “Bloodsport”
  • Walker
  • Glover
  • Ferguson
4:46
Side B
No. Title Length
5. “The Wait” 3:45
6. “Complications” 3:08
7. “S.O.36” 6:52
8. “Primitive” 3:37

 

Schill Score: 4/10

 

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Judas Priest – British Steel (1980)

AllMusic Review: Predating Metallica’s self-titled blockbuster by 11 years, Judas Priest’s British Steel was a similarly pitched landmark boasting many of the same accomplishments. It streamlined and simplified the progressive intricacies of a band fresh off of revolutionizing the entire heavy metal genre; it brought an aggressive, underground metal subgenre crashing into the mainstream (in Priest’s case, the NWOBHM; in Metallica’s, thrash); and it greatly expanded the possibilities for heavy metal’s commercial viability as a whole. Of course, British Steel was nowhere near the sales juggernaut that Metallica was, but in catapulting Judas Priest to the status of stadium headliners, it was the first salvo fired in heavy metal’s ultimate takeover of the hard rock landscape during the 1980s. Packed with strong melodic hooks, British Steel is a deliberate commercial move, forsaking the complexity of the band’s early work in favor of a robust, AC/DC-flavored groove. It’s a convincing transformation, as Priest prove equally adept at opening up their arrangements to let the rhythms breathe (something Iron Maiden, for all their virtues, never did master). The album is built around the classic singles “Breaking the Law” and “Living After Midnight,” both big hits in the U.K., which openly posit Priest as a party band for the first time. But British Steel is hardly a complete break from the band’s past. There are still uptempo slices of metallic mayhem bookending the album in “Rapid Fire” and “Steeler,” plus effective moodier pieces in “Metal Gods” (ostensibly about gods literally made of metal, though you know full well the band wanted a nickname) and the crawling menace of “The Rage,” which features arguably the best Rob Halford vocal on the album. Not everything on British Steel quite holds up today — the British hit “United” is a simplistic (not just simplified) football-chant anthem in the unfortunate tradition of “Take on the World,” while “You Don’t Have to Be OId to Be Wise” wallows in the sort of “eff your parents, man!” sentiments that are currently used to market kids’ breakfast cereals. These bits of blatant pandering can leave more than a whiff of unease about the band’s commercial calculations, and foreshadow the temporary creative slip on the follow-up, Point of Entry. Still, on the whole, British Steel is too important an album to have its historical stature diluted by minor inconsistencies. Rather, it sealed Judas Priest’s status as genre icons, and kick-started heavy metal’s glory days of the 1980s. It went Top Five in the U.K. and became their first Top 40 album in the U.S., going platinum in the process and paving the way for countless imitators and innovators alike. — Steve Huey

Track Listing:

Side one
No. Title Length
1. “Breaking the Law” 2:33
2. “Rapid Fire” 4:00
3. “Metal Gods” 4:04
4. “Grinder” 3:57
5. “United” 3:31
Side two
No. Title Length
6. “Living After Midnight” 3:30
7. “You Don’t Have to Be Old to Be Wise” 5:03
8. “The Rage” 4:44
9. “Steeler” 4:30

 

Schill Score: 9.25/10

 

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Joy Division – Closer (1980)

AllMusic Review: If Unknown Pleasures was Joy Division at their most obsessively, carefully focused, ten songs yet of a piece, Closer was the sprawl, the chaotic explosion that went every direction at once. Who knows what the next path would have been had Ian Curtis not chosen his end? But steer away from the rereading of his every lyric after that date; treat Closer as what everyone else thought it was at first — simply the next album — and Joy Division’s power just seems to have grown. Martin Hannett was still producing, but seems to have taken as many chances as the band itself throughout — differing mixes, differing atmospheres, new twists and turns define the entirety of Closer, songs suddenly returned in chopped-up, crumpled form, ending on hiss and random notes. Opener “Atrocity Exhibition” was arguably the most fractured thing the band had yet recorded, Bernard Sumner’s teeth-grinding guitar and Stephen Morris’ Can-on-speed drumming making for one heck of a strange start. Keyboards also took the fore more so than ever — the drowned pianos underpinning Curtis’ shadowy moan on “The Eternal,” the squirrelly lead synth on the energetic but scared-out-of-its-wits “Isolation,” and above all else “Decades,” the album ender of album enders. A long slow crawl down and out, Curtis’ portrait of lost youth inevitably applied to himself soon after, its sepulchral string-synths are practically a requiem. Songs like “Heart and Soul” and especially the jaw-dropping, wrenching “Twenty Four Hours,” as perfect a demonstration of the tension/release or soft/loud approach as will ever be heard, simply intensify the experience. Joy Division were at the height of their powers on Closer, equaling and arguably bettering the astonishing Unknown Pleasures, that’s how accomplished the four members were. Rock, however defined, rarely seems and sounds so important, so vital, and so impossible to resist or ignore as here. — Ned Raggett

Track Listing:

Side one
No. Title Length
1. “Atrocity Exhibition” 6:06
2. “Isolation” 2:53
3. “Passover” 4:46
4. “Colony” 3:55
5. “A Means to an End” 4:07
Side two
No. Title Length
1. “Heart and Soul” 5:51
2. “Twenty Four Hours” 4:26
3. “The Eternal” 6:07
4. “Decades” 6:10

 

Schill Score: 3.5/10

 

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Iron Maiden – Iron Maiden (1980)

AllMusic Review: There may be no better place to hear how both punk and prog rock informed the New Wave of British Heavy Metal than Iron Maiden’s self-titled debut. Often overlooked and overshadowed by the glorious Bruce Dickinson years, it’s easy to forget that Iron Maiden was itself a game-changer when it appeared on the scene in 1980. That year also saw important albums from Motörhead, Saxon, and Angel Witch, but Iron Maiden vaulted its creators to the head of the NWOBHM pack, reaching the U.K. Top Five and establishing them as an outfit with the talent to build on Judas Priest’s late-’70s innovations. On the one hand, Maiden was clearly drawing from elements of punk rock — the raw D.I.Y. production, the revved-up velocities, and the vocals of rough-and-ready growler Paul Di’Anno, who looked and sounded not like a metal god, but rather a short-haired street tough. On the other hand, Maiden had all the creative ambition of a prog rock band. Compositionally, even their shortest and most straightforward songs featured abrupt changes in tempo and feel. Their musicianship was already light years beyond punk, with complicated instrumental passages between guitarists Dave Murray and Dennis Stratton and bassist Steve Harris. When Murray and Stratton harmonize their leads, they outdo even Priest’s legendary tandem in terms of pure speed. The lyrics have similarly high-flying aspirations, spinning first-person stories and character sketches with a flair for the seedy and the grotesque. Add it all up, and Iron Maiden performs the neat trick of reconciling two genres seemingly antithetical to one another, using post-Priest heavy metal as the meeting ground. The seven-minute “Phantom of the Opera” is a landmark, the band’s earliest progressive epic and still among its best; with its ambitious fusion of musical styles, its multi-sectioned construction, and the literary retelling of the lyrics, it seemed to encapsulate all the promise of both the band and the NWOBHM. Two of the simpler, punkier rockers, “Running Free” and “Sanctuary” (the latter left off the U.K. version but added to subsequent reissues), made the lower reaches of the British singles charts. The flasher tale “Prowler,” one of the band’s more enduring numbers, is in the same vein, but ups the instrumental complexity, while the title track still remains a concert staple. Elsewhere, the band offers the first of many instrumentals with “Transylvania,” introduces the recurring title character of “Charlotte the Harlot,” and reimagines Judas Priest’s “Beyond the Realms of Death” with the “ballad” “Remember Tomorrow,” which starts out soft but closes with a speed-freak guitar section. Perhaps the only hint of a misstep comes on the more restrained ballad “Strange World,” the only song from this album that was never re-recorded in a live or alternate version by the Dickinson lineup. Nonetheless, the whole project explodes with energy and ideas, and while the band would certainly go on to refine much of what’s here (including the cover painting of mascot Eddie), Iron Maiden would still rank as a landmark even if the Dickinson years had never happened. — Steve Huey

Track Listing:

All tracks are written by Steve Harris, except where noted.

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “Prowler” 3:56
2. “Remember Tomorrow”
  • Harris
  • Paul Di’Anno
5:30
3. “Running Free”
  • Harris
  • Di’Anno
3:22
4. “Phantom of the Opera” 7:02
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
5. “Transylvania” (instrumental) 4:09
6. “Strange World” 5:43
7. “Charlotte the Harlot” Dave Murray 4:14
8. “Iron Maiden” 3:43
Total length: 37:39

 

Schill Score: 9/10

 

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Echo & The Bunnymen – Crocodiles (1980)

AllMusic Review: Inspired by psychedelia, sure. Bit of Jim Morrison in the vocals? OK, it’s there. But for all the references and connections that can be drawn (and they can), one listen to Echo’s brilliant, often harrowing debut album and it’s clear when a unique, special band presents itself. Beginning with the dramatic, building climb of “Going Up,” Crocodiles at once showcases four individual players sure of their own gifts and their ability to bring it all together to make things more than the sum of their parts. Will Sergeant in particular is a revelation — arguably only Johnny Marr and Vini Reilly were better English guitarists from the ’80s, eschewing typical guitar-wank overload showboating in favor of delicacy, shades, and inventive, unexpected melodies. More than many before or since, he plays the electric guitar as just that, electric not acoustic, dedicated to finding out what can be done with it while never using it as an excuse to bend frets. His highlights are legion, whether it’s the hooky opening chime of “Rescue” or the exchanges of sound and silence in “Happy Death Men.” Meanwhile, the Pattinson/De Freitas rhythm section stakes its own claim for greatness, the former’s bass driving yet almost seductive, the latter’s percussion constantly shifting rhythms and styles while never leaving the central beat of the song to die. “Pride” is one standout moment of many, Pattinson’s high notes and De Freitas’ interjections on what sound like chimes or blocks are inspired touches. Then there’s McCulloch himself, and while the imagery can be cryptic, the delivery soars, even while his semi-wail conjures up, as on the nervy, edgy picture of addiction “Villiers Terrace,” “People rolling round on the carpet/Mixing up the medicine.” Brisk, wasting not a note, and burning with barely controlled energy, Crocodiles remains a deserved classic. — Ned Raggett

Track Listing:

All tracks written by Will Sergeant, Ian McCulloch, Les Pattinson and Pete de Freitas except where noted

Side one

  1. “Going Up” – 3:57
  2. “Do It Clean” – 2:44
  3. “Stars Are Stars” – 2:45
  4. “Pride” – 2:41
  5. “Monkeys” – 2:49
  6. “Crocodiles” – 2:38

Side two

  1. “Rescue” – 4:26
  2. “Villiers Terrace” – 2:44
  3. “Read It in Books” (McCulloch, Julian Cope) – 2:31
  4. “Pictures on My Wall” (Sergeant, McCulloch, Pattinson) – 2:52
  5. “All That Jazz” – 2:43
  6. “Happy Death Men” – 4:56

 

Schill Score: 7/10

 

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Dexys Midnight Runners – Searching For The Young Soul Rebels (1980)

AllMusic Review: The crackling stations being switched on the radio and the gang shout followed by the spoken injunction to “burn it down” sound like they should be starting off a Sham 69 record. Then “Burn It Down” actually starts, with its horn section, Hammond organ and Kevin Rowland’s utterly unconventional soul vocals. The cult of Dexy’s, and this album in particular, were worshipped as the return of “soul” to English rock music at the dawn of Thatcherism. Exploring the myth that this album holds, especially in Brit music terms, can be a strange prospect: 20 years on it doesn’t sound revolutionary, it just sounds good. And good it is, quite good, compared to where Paul Weller ended up, i.e., too reverential by half. This is vibrant, alive, and unconcerned with perfection. Rowland takes a role that Morrissey would have in 1985 and Jarvis Cocker in 1995 — the unexpected but perfect voice to capture a time and moment in the U.K. His slightly strangled wail and sly, wry lyrics and song titles (“Tell Me When My Light Turns Green,” “Thankfully Not Living in Yorkshire It Doesn’t Apply”) make this album in many ways. Musically, the group lays down R&B grooves and brassy hooks with aplomb, as on the brilliant “Seven Days Too Long” and the number one single “Geno,” but throw in film noir touches, John Barry-writing-for-James Bond fare and more just as ably. The liner notes have a fun description of the group’s origins and brief notes for most of the tunes — the best for the finale, “There, There, My Dear”: “P.S. Old clothes do not make a tortured artist.” The 2000 reissue contains a slew of extra tracks and B-sides, making it the version to find. — Ned Raggett

Track Listing:

Side One
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “Burn It Down” Kevin Rowland 4:21
2. “Tell Me When My Light Turns Green” Rowland 3:46
3. “The Teams That Meet in Caffs” Kevin Archer 4:08
4. “I’m Just Looking” Rowland, Geoffrey Blythe, Peter Saunders 4:41
5. “Geno” Rowland, Archer 3:31
Side Two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
6. “Seven Days Too Long” J.R. Bailey, Vernon Harrell 2:43
7. “I Couldn’t Help If I Tried” Rowland, Jim Paterson 4:14
8. “Thankfully Not Living in Yorkshire It Doesn’t Apply” Rowland, Saunders 2:59
9. “Keep It” Archer, Blythe 3:59
10. “Love Part One” Rowland 1:12
11. “There, There, My Dear” Rowland, Archer 3:31

 

Schill Score:  8/10

 

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Adam & The Ants – Kings Of The Wild Frontier (1980)

AllMusic Review: Hooking up with Malcolm McLaren was a pivotal moment for Adam Ant, since the manager not only introduced Ant to the thundering, infectious Burundi drum beat that became his signature, he stole his band, too. Adam and the rest of the Ants had just worked up how to exploit the Burundi style when McLaren pirated the boys off to support Annabella Lwin in Bow Wow Wow — using the very same sound they had developed with Adam Ant. It was now a race to get that sound into the stores first, and Adam lucked out when he joined forces with guitarist Marco Pirroni, who quickly proved to be invaluable. Ant and Pirroni knocked out a bunch of songs that retained some of the dark artiness of Dirk Wears White Sox, largely anchored by those enormous Burundi beats and given great, irresistible pop hooks — plus a flash sense of style, as the new Ants dressed up in something that looked like American Indians with a velveteen touch of a dandy fop. It was a brilliant, gonzo move — something that quickly overshadowed Bow Wow Wow — and the resulting record, Kings of the Wild Frontier, is one of the great defining albums of its time. There’s simply nothing else like it, nothing else that has the same bravado, the same swagger, the same gleeful self-aggrandizement and sense of camp. This walked a brilliant line between campiness and art-house chutzpah, and it arrived at precisely the right time — at the forefront of new wave, so Adam & the Ants exploded into the British popular consciousness. If image was all that they had, they would’ve remained a fad, but Kings of the Wild Frontier remains a terrific album because it not only has some tremendous songs — the title track and “Antmusic” are classic hits, while “Killer in the Home” and “Physical (You’re So)” are every bit their equal — but because it fearlessly, imperceptibly switches gears between giddy and ominous, providing nothing short of a thrill ride in its 13 songs. That’s why it still sounds like nothing else years after its release. — Stephen Thomas Erlewine


Track Listing

 

Side A
No. Title Length
1. “Dog Eat Dog” 3:11
2. “Antmusic” 3:37
3. “Feed Me to the Lions” 3:03
4. “Los Rancheros” 3:30
5. “Ants Invasion” 3:19
6. “Killer in the Home” 4:22
Side B
No. Title Length
1. “Kings of the Wild Frontier” 3:56
2. “The Magnificent Five” 3:07
3. “Don’t Be Square (Be There)” 3:32
4. “Jolly Roger” 2:11
5. “Making History” 2:59
6. “The Human Beings” 4:32

 

 

Schill Score:   6.75/10

 

 

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AC/DC – Back In Black (1980)

AllMusic Review: The first sound on Back in Black is the deep, ominous drone of church bells — or “Hell’s Bells,” as it were, opening the album and AC/DC’s next era with a fanfare while ringing a fond farewell to Bon Scott, their late lead singer who partied himself straight to hell. But this implies that Back in Black is some kind of tribute to Scott, which may be true on a superficial level — black is a funeral cover, hell’s bells certainly signify death — but this isn’t filled with mournful songs about the departed. It’s a more fitting tribute, actually, since AC/DC not only carried on without him, but they delivered a record that to the casual ear sounds like the seamless successor to Highway to Hell, right down to how Brian Johnson’s screech is a dead ringer for Scott’s growl. Most listeners could be forgiven for thinking that Johnson was Scott, but Johnson is different than Bon. He’s driven by the same obsessions — sex and drink and rock & roll, basically — but there isn’t nearly as much malevolence in his words or attitude as there was with Scott. Bon sounded like a criminal, Brian sounds like a rowdy scamp throughout Back in Black, which helps give it a real party atmosphere. Of course, Johnson shouldn’t be given all the credit for Back in Black, since Angus and Malcolm carry on with the song-oriented riffing that made Highway to Hell close to divine. Song for song, they deliver not just mammoth riffs but songs that are anthems, from the greasy “Shoot to Thrill” to the pummeling “Back in Black,” which pales only next to “You Shook Me All Night Long,” the greatest one-night-stand anthem in rock history. That tawdry celebration of sex is what made AC/DC different from all other metal bands — there was no sword & sorcery, no darkness, just a rowdy party, and they never held a bigger, better party than they did on Back in Black. — Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Track Listing

 

Side one
No. Title Length
1. “Hells Bells” 5:10
2. “Shoot to Thrill” 5:17
3. “What Do You Do for Money Honey” 3:33
4. “Given the Dog a Bone” 3:30
5. “Let Me Put My Love into You” 4:16
Side two
No. Title Length
1. “Back in Black” 4:15
2. “You Shook Me All Night Long” 3:30
3. “Have a Drink on Me” 3:57
4. “Shake a Leg” 4:06
5. “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution” 4:15

 

 

Schill Score: 8.5/10

 

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The Undertones – The Undertones (1979)

AllMusic Review: What is a perfect album? One could make an argument that a perfect album is one that sets out a specific set of artistic criteria and then fulfills them flawlessly. In that respect, and many others, the Undertones’ 1979 debut is a perfect album. The Northern Ireland quintet’s brief story is no different than that of literally dozens of other bands to form in the wake of the Clash and, more importantly, the Buzzcocks, but the group infuses so much unabashed joy in their two-minute three-chord pop songs, and there’s so little pretension in their unapologetically teenage worldview, that even the darker hints of life in songs like the suicide-themed “Jimmy Jimmy” are delivered with a sense of optimism at odds with so many of their contemporaries. There’s no fewer than three all-time punk-pop classics here; besides that song, the singles “Teenage Kicks” and “Get Over You” are simple declarations of teenage hormonal lust that somehow manage to be cute instead of Neanderthal; perhaps it’s Feargal Sharkey’s endearingly adenoidal whine, or the chipper way the O’Neill brothers pitch in on schoolboy harmonies, like a teenage Irish Kinks. All of the other 13 songs, even the 47-second blip “Casbah Rock,” are nearly to that level of brilliance, with the frenetic “Girls Don’t Like It” a particular standout. The Rykodisc CD adds seven demos and single sides, and also includes an entirely different, punkier version of “True Confessions” than the nervous, new wave-influenced throb of the version on the original U.K. vinyl. — Stewart Mason

Track Listing

Side one
No. Title Written by Length
1. “Family Entertainment” Damian O’Neill 2:37
2. “Girls Don’t Like It” J. J. O’Neill 2:19
3. “Male Model” J. J. O’Neill, Michael Bradley, Damian O’Neill 1:54
4. “I Gotta Getta” J. J. O’Neill 1:53
5. “Wrong Way” Billy Doherty 1:23
6. “Jump Boys” J. J. O’Neill 2:40
7. “Here Comes The Summer” J. J. O’Neill 1:42
Side two
No. Title Written by Length
1. “Billy’s Third” Billy Doherty 1:57
2. “Jimmy Jimmy” J. J. O’Neill 2:41
3. “True Confessions” J. J. O’Neill, Michael Bradley, Damian O’Neill 1:52
4. “(She’s A) Runaround” J. J. O’Neill 1:49
5. “I Know a Girl” J. J. O’Neill, Michael Bradley, Damian O’Neill 2:35
6. “Listening In” J . J. O’Neill, Michael Bradley, Damian O’Neill 2:24
7. “Casbah Rock” J. J. O’Neill 0:47

 

 

Schill Score: 9/10

 

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