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Unleashed

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Album Review

It's been quite a ride for hip-hop legends L.A. Symphony. The group first stepped onto the stage nearly a dozen years ago with their seminal debut album Composition No.1 hitting the shops in 1999. Their follow-up, Call It What You Want, didn't receive an official release until 2005, in the interim, a series of classic singles and EPs emerged from the underground, alongside the excellent full-lengths The End Is Now and Less Than Zero. Continually growing in strength and stature, in 2007 the group released the acclaimed Disappear Now. That same year, the compilation Unleashed was set free, a gift for fans stuffed with unreleased recordings, rarities, remixes, and a few new number; it's a zig-zagging journey through Symphony's aural archives. Mixed by DJ Rift and mastered by Shane Newville, what is in actuality a careening ride that skips back and forth across the years and trips merrily across styles is smoothed into a sumptuous set that skillfully captures the group's many moods and sounds. The latter is quite breathtaking in diversity, jumping from the "Soul Bros."'s Curtis Mayfield's '70s styled funk to the Sunday morning service of "Church," bounding across the elastic "Ball Bounces" to the mesmerizing, head nodding "Passionate." The group mash-up their hit "You" with punk, then bash it up with the rocking beats and bass of "I Speak," celebrate "Friday Night Flavas Drop" with a sizzling electric guitar loop, and build "DL Drop" out of a steaming R&B guitar riff. "Drop" is an oldie but still a goodie, the "carpe diem" themed "Idle Times," with its airy keyboard melody, dates from the time of Call It What You Want, "Copywrite" predates that, and was slated for their first single. Back then the band's excitement was palpable, as was their sense of fun. "Tour Bus" is just silly, but entertaining, as the group drop their rap for chat, with its catastrophic ending leaving the band dead on the road. That's fiction, "Get Out the Van" is based on a real, almost fatal incident, whose seriousness is belied by the summery guitar loop that lopes overhead. But the Symphony's raps are all encompassing, with the members easily shifting from eloquent words of wisdom to hands in the air anthems, from deeply moving exposés on domestic violence to shout-outs to hip-hop heroes. The group really do have it all, dope beats, lethal hooks, and raps that keep listeners on their toes. Unbelievably, these are the numbers that didn't make the original cuts, even so, fans will treasure every one of them.

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