The Cassette Chronicles – Vinnie Vincent Invasion’s self-titled debut

By JAY ROBERTS

The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.

VINNIE VINCENT INVASION – VINNIE VINCENT INVASION (1986)

After years of being out of the public eye, ex-Kiss guitarist Vinnie Vincent has emerged in recent months and given a number of interviews. One of the talking points in the interviews has been Vincent totally trashing the second and final album that was recorded by his Vinnie Vincent Invasion group. The All Systems Go album featured Mark Slaughter on vocals and Vincent has nothing good to say about the album or the singer.

While I once owned that album, I’ve never owned or even heard the self-titled debut release until I picked it out of the “Big Box of Cassettes” to write this article. But after hearing it, I can understand why Vincent goes out of his way to dump all over the second album.

On All Systems Go, there seemed to be much more of a focus on writing full and actual songs. Whereas on this album, it seemed the songs were given, if they were lucky, secondary importance to serving as a way for Vincent to musically masturbate with his guitar and get people to pay for it.

I know this likely means I won’t be receiving a Christmas card from Vincent anytime soon but the fact is that there really isn’t much in the way of a decent track on this entire album. There’s ten songs and none of them really stuck with me or even got much of a rise out of me at all.

While the attempt to give listeners a jolt to the heart by making pretty much every song a fast charging rock and roll romp might’ve been a good idea, I found that the uniform lack of quality songwriting trumped all. It was all about how fast and how long Vincent could play a guitar solo. 

The band lineup featured ex-Journey singer Robert Fleischman, bassist Dana Strum and drummer Bobby Rock. Sadly, they are all thoroughly overshadowed by the endless (and pointless) soloing from Vincent. At times, Fleischman’s vocals were so low in the mix as to be swallowed up by the music.

The only song that showed any signs of slowing down was “Back On The Streets” which had a somewhat darker tone to it. It also ended up being a vocal duet with Fleischman and Vincent taking turns on vocals. And yet somehow, this version of the song still managed to not work.

A long time ago, when music magazines were pretty much the only way you got news and reviews about artists, I remember reading one particular magazine’s reviews section. I don’t remember which album was being written about but the review for it was simply “This Album Sucks!” While that might seem more than a bit unprofessional, I have to confess that I had the same feeling about the Vinnie Vincent Invasion album.

I know that there are a lot of fans of Vincent out there and my opinion is likely going to be in the extremely small minority, but there’s nothing here that makes me ever want to listen to this album again. I’ve heard some mind-numbingly bad albums while writing this series, this just might be one of the worst ones yet.

NOTES OF INTEREST: The video for “Boyz Are Gonna Rock” features Mark Slaughter lip-synching over the vocal track from Robert Fleischman, who had left the group before the video shoot over a contract dispute.

The song “Animal” was on the soundtrack for the comedy film Summer School that starred Mark Harmon and Kirstie Alley. “Back On The Streets” was covered by John Norum on his Total Control solo album, which was featured in The Cassette Chronicles back in April of 2017.

Bobby Rock is currently the drummer for Lita Ford and I’ve seen him perform twice with her in the last few years.

The Cassette Chronicles – House of Lord’s ‘Sahara’

By JAY ROBERTS

The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.

HOUSE OF LORDS – SAHARA (1990)

The second album from House of Lords might’ve been slightly less successful than their first album when you look solely at sales and chart records. But after listening to this album for the first time in more than two decades, I was a bit stunned to hear how well Sahara holds up. The album is a sleek, fast and at times highly aggressive guitar oriented album. While keyboardist Greg Giuffria started the band, the pomp and grandeur associated with the band’s sound gives way to the more guitar heavy sound and it comes off better for doing so.

I saw the band on the tour for this album. It was March 15th, 1991, when I saw them at the Citi Club in Boston (for those that don’t remember the place, it was on Lansdowne Street behind Fenway Park). They were opening for Nelson if you can believe it! While I am now what you might call an obsessive set list keeper, I didn’t keep track of the songs they played on this night. Oddly, I do have the Nelson set list. I was there to see House of Lords, but I brought my sister with me that night because she was a huge fan of Nelson (as well as loving their dad Ricky Nelson). So we both got to see bands we were interested in. Even more fun was the fact that we got driven to the show by my brother’s godfather in his limo.

Anyway, the album came out via Gene Simmons own label, Simmons Records, with the accompanying distribution of RCA and BMG.  The band had lost original guitarist Lanny Cordola (even though he does get co-writing credits on two songs on Sahara) and replaced him with Michael Guy. However, I’m not quite sure how involved Guy actually was with the band. While he’s listed as a band member in the liner notes, the Wikipedia entry for the album says that Doug Aldrich was the band’s guitarist. Aldrich is credited in the album notes as providing “additional guitars”. So there’s a mystery for you.

Like I said, I haven’t really listened to this album since 1991. The band’s cover of the Blind Faith song “Can’t Find My Way Home” still gets airplay on classic rock stations, so I’ve heard that song many times, but none of the other nine songs really stuck in my memory. After listening to Sahara for this article, I’m kind of saddened that they didn’t. 

The album opens with the song “Shoot” and though the term “crushing” isn’t one you might expect to read in association with House of Lords, that is exactly what this fast paced track made me think. There’s a nice gritty vibe to the song as well. I think part of that is because of the way singer James Christian’s vocals manage to get both down and dirty and soar high at the same time.

With “Can’t Find My Home” and the song “Remember My Name”, you get the required for the times power ballad tracks. Otherwise, rocking out madly is the name of the game here. There is really no track here I didn’t like hearing for the first time all over again.

The song “Heart On The Line” was written by Cheap Trick’s Rick Neilsen. He played the lead on the song as well. Probably unsurprisingly, this really did sound like a Cheap Trick with both Neilsen and singer Robin Zander performing backing vocals on the song as well.

The album’s title track might be the best example of the band’s ability to go for the more grandiose thematic openings to some of their songs. The extended opening here is still pretty rocking though. You might think that with a title like “It Ain’t Love” that you are in for another ballad, but despite opening up that way, the song soon vaults past that particular designation and becomes this big huge rocker. 

The album’s closing track “Kiss Of Fire” is just a pure ballsy rocker that really lets drummer Ken Mary shine in the intro as he slams away on the kit to fuel the adrenaline charged song. 

Given that a lot of the albums I listen to for this series are ones that I’ve either overlooked or skipped entirely when they were first released, I do enjoy finding what to me is an undiscovered gem. And with all ten songs on the album really appealing to me, I have to say that Sahara is one of my favorite albums to have written about for The Cassette Chronicles. It’s got a heavy power chord driven guitar sound, James Christian’s super vocals and it just rocks your socks off!

NOTES OF INTEREST – Despite numerous lineup changes over the years, House of Lords is still active today. The band will be playing in The Vault at the Greasy Luck in New Bedford, MA, on Sunday October 14th, 2018. And I was lucky enough to have already met current drummer BJ Zampa at that very venue when he played there on August 31st, 2018, in a couple of tribute bands (Black Knight’s Castle and Without Warning).

The Rick Nielsen written song “Heart On The Line” did end up being recorded by Cheap Trick themselves for their 2016 album Bang, Zoom, Crazy…Hello!

There’s a who’s who list of guests on this album. Others credited for playing guitar on the album included House of Lords singer James Christian, Krokus guitarist Mandy Meyer (mis-spelled Myer in the liner notes) and Chris Impellitteri. The backing vocals list included 20 people including White Lion’s Mike Tramp, Giuffria’s David Glen Eisley, Ron Keel and Autograph’s Steve Plunkett.

Comic fans and pop culture icons will unite at Super Mega Fest

Fans of geek and comic culture will come together at this year’s mega event to celebrate party and meet their favorite pop culture and comic artist icons.  The hometown comic con will be a special event because of the spectacular mix of diverse personalities, cosplayers and the amazing reunions Super Megafest Comic Con will host this year.

Comic TV and movie fans will be thrilled with rare Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Lost in Space & Leave it to Beaver TV cast reunions!

Super Megafest Comic Con takes place October 13 & 14 – Saturday 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Special guests and highlights Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV cast reunion with James Marsters, Charisma Carpenter & Nicholas Brendon; Lost in Space TV cast reunion with Bill Mumy, Marta  Kristen, Angela Cartwright and Mark Goddard; and Leave it to Beaver TV cast reunion with Jerry Mathers and Tony Dow.

Horror and Halloween fans will be thrilled to meet Tony Moran, the original Michael Myers from the original Halloween franchise. Super Megafest will also host some of the comic world’s top artist and creators including the Iconic New England co creator of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Peter Laird.  Additional Marque artists include Mike Grell of Green Lantern and Green Arrow, Ron Wilson of The Hulk, Joe St. Pierre of Spider-man/ Venom and Arvell Jones of Iron Man.

For more info or to purchase tickets, click HERE.

[PUBLISHER NOTE: Limelight Magazine freelancer Jay Roberts will be covering the event. Check back for a follow up story after the event].

 

Obscure slasher films of the 1980s

During the month of October in 2017, Limelight Magazine counted down our favorite 31 horror movies since 2000. This year we decided to go back to the 1980’s which was the peak of the slasher film genre. While almost everyone knows the Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Child’s Play franchises, there were a number of slasher films that were released between 1980 and 1989 that have become neglected or overlooked. So, we decided to go through our extensive DVD and Blu-ray collection and feature a slasher film from this time period that we don’t hear a lot about anymore. While not all of these are great films, they are worth checking out if you are a fan of this horror sub genre.

It should be noted that we are referencing one obscure slasher movie per day alphabetically during October. We are only featuring those films we actually own. There are three letters of the alphabet  (Q, Y & Z) where we don’t own a film title to match that letter. Please check back daily for the next featured film.

A – ALONE IN THE DARK (1982)

B – BLOODY BIRTHDAY (1981)

C – CHEERLEADER CAMP (1988)

D – DON’T GO IN THE HOUSE (1980)

E – EDGE OF THE AXE (1988)

F – FINAL EXAM (1981)

G – GRADUATION DAY (1981)

H  – HIDE AND GO SHRIEK (1988)

I – INTRUDER (1989)

J – JUST BEFORE DAWN (1981)

K – KILLER PARTY (1986)

L – THE LAST HORROR FILM (1982)

M – MOUNTAINTOP MOTEL MASSACRE (1983)

 

 

Nita Strauss & Angel Vivaldi to rock Greasy Luck in New Bedford, MA

If you are a guitar enthusiast, get ready to have your mind blown! “Guitar Collective 2018” features three talented artists coming together to deliver a night of jaw dropping shredding in The Vault at Greasy Luck in New Bedford, MA. Co-headlining the tour are guitar virtuosos Angel Vivaldi and Nita Strauss (who many of you know from Alice Cooper’s touring band). Joining them on the bill is Jacky Vincent, former guitarist of the band Falling In Reverse. Tickets are only $21.50 and can be purchased HERE.

Vivaldi is supporting his new concept album, Synapse, which was released on October 6 of last year and features guest performances from Strauss, among others. Strauss is gearing up for the release of her first solo album, Controlled Chaos, this fall. Jacky Vincent is promoting his solo release, Life Imitating Art, that was released on August 31st.

NITA STRAUSS

Los Angeles born guitarist Nita Strauss has become a force to be reckoned with in the music world, dazzling audiences across the US, UK, Europe, South America, Asia and Africa, and sharing the stage with a diverse range of artists including legendary R&B star Jermaine Jackson, early MTV darlings Femme Fatale, video game supergroup Critical Hit and popular tribute band The Iron Maidens.

Her still, exuberant stage presence and love for all things about her instrument have earned her a stellar reputation and endorsements from many top companies. Nita has been featured in many worldwide print ads and on dozens of albums, trailers, and soundtracks, most recently Heroes Of The Storm (Blizzard) and Grammy-nominated Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (Konami/ Platinum Games), and is the author of the Premier Guitar column “Drop Dead Shred”. She was ranked first in the Guitar World article “10 Female Guitar Players You Should Know,” and has been featured in Revolver Magazine’s annual “Hottest Chicks in Hard Rock” issue and calendar for the last two years. In 2014 Nita became the official in-house guitarist for the LA KISS, the arena football team owned by Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons of KISS.

In June 2014, Nita replaced Orianthi in Alice Cooper’s touring band and has never looked back. She has become one of the most sought after clinicians in the industry and has done extensive clinic tours across multiple continents. Her consistent touring schedule has shown her to play in front of over a million audience members per year consistently for the past several years.

In 2017 Nita launched her original band, We Start Wars, and classic metal cover band The Starbreakers. Besides touring with Alice Cooper, she is currently putting the finishing touches on her debut solo album that she funded through a Kickstarter campaign earlier this year.

 ANGEL VIVADLI

Across his five solo albums, featuring various accomplished players and producers, Angel Vivaldi has produced transcendent songs that communicate dynamic and uncompromisingly intense emotions across the full spectrum. Combining youthful exuberance with deep reverence for the genre’s forbearers, Vivaldi has quickly ascended to breathe the same creative air as the biggest names in rock guitar through his artistically ambitious undertakings.

His latest full-length album, Synapse, is a conceptual opus. It’s a dense exploration of the complex actions and reactions of the mind which either inspire or mirror (depending on one’s belief) the multitude of emotions each individual experiences.

Vivaldi’s commitment to his art is total; during the recording process, he painted and repainted his studio to correspond with the mood of each song. Tracks like “Adrenaline,” “Oxytocin,” “Dopamine,” “Endorphin,” and “Serotonin” musically elicit the exact type of emotions implied by connotation.

Synapse sees Vivaldi joyously matching musical wits with a number of his talented contemporaries. “Serotonin” features Strauss who also appears in its corresponding music video; All That Remains guitarist (and former Guitar World columnist) Oli Herbert guests on “Dopamine”; and Gus G. (Firewind, Ozzy Osbourne, Dream Evil) joins “Oxytocin.”

JACKY VINCENT

Jacky Vincent is an English musician who was the lead guitarist and backing vocalist of the rock band Falling in Reverse from its formation until his departure in 2015 and is the current guitarist of the power metal band Cry Venom. Vincent has released two solo albums, Star X Speed Story (2013) and Life Imitating Art, which was released on August 31st.

 

Vixen’s Janet Gardner to perform at Greasy Luck on Sept. 29th

Janet Gardner, of Vixen, will perform in The Vault at Greasy Luck in New Bedford, MA, on Saturday, September 29, 2018. Moriah Formica will open the show.

Known for being the lead vocalist of the legendary female rock band Vixen, Gardner’s powerful vocals propelled Vixen to the top of the Billboard charts with crossover hits “Edge of a Broken Heart” and “Cryin’” and AOR rockers “How Much Love” and “Love is a Killer”. Vixen toured extensively, grinding out 200 shows per year, opening for the likes of Deep Purple, Ozzy Osbourne, The Scorpions, Kiss, and Bon Jovi.

In an era primarily dominated by male rock musicians, Vixen’s all female line up didn’t come without its struggles. But their undeniable musicianship matched with Gardner’s unique and powerful vocal style propelled the band quickly to Gold Album status and earned the band critically acclaimed success that is still celebrated to this day on the likes of Sirius XM, MTV/VH-1 Classic, and nationally syndicated specialty radio shows. Vixen, along with their predecessors, helped pave the way for the current wave and success of female fronted acts such as Halestorm, In This Moment, The Pretty Reckless, and many others.

As a proven leader in the female fronted hard rock world, Gardner will perform songs from Vixen and her recent solo album.

Tickets are only $15 and can be purchased HERE. Reserved table seating is also available at that link. Tickets will be available at the door. For more details about the show, click HERE.

The Vault at Greasy Luck is located at located at 791 Purchase Street in New Bedford, MA. The venue is set within a former bank building featuring original vault doors and a truly historic feel. Patrons have raved about the superior acoustics and intimate setting.

The Cassette Chronicles – Krokus’ ‘Headhunter’

By JAY ROBERTS

The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.

KROKUS – HEADHUNTER (1983)

You would think that a band that has released twenty albums over more than a forty year career would have made a pretty deep impression on me. But in the case of the Swiss rockers Krokus, that would be a false assumption.

If you’d asked me to name one of their albums, I likely wouldn’t have been able to do it. For whatever reason I never found my way into attaching my fandom to the band beyond the song “Screaming In The Night”. Beyond that, I have to own up to being essentially ignorant.

So when I dug Headhunter out of the “Big Box of Cassettes”, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew the band had kind of an AC/DC thing going for it with singer Marc Storace sounding an awful lot like he was auditioning for that particular band.

After listening to the album, I’m still not quite sure what to make of Krokus. The album opens up with two highly energetic and fast paced rock tracks. The title track has a particularly quick stepping feel to it. Both “Eat The Rich” and “Ready To Burn” are also charged rockers.

Headhunter features that classic “Screaming In The Night”, so it was pretty fun to hear that again. The song still gets airplay on classic rock radio stations and specialty programming shows, but it isn’t overplayed. Thus, when I have heard it on the radio, the power ballad still does have a specialness to it.

As for the second side of the album, things started out well with the opening “Night Wolf”. The song’s slow rolling intro gives way to a rocket fuel ride of a track. I thought Storace’s vocals were particularly enjoyable on this song. There was an added edgy snarl to his vocal delivery which made sense given the song’s lyrical content.

But then the band decided to include a cover of the Bachman-Turner Overdrive song “Stayed Awake All Night”. I’ve never really thought much of the original version of the song and Krokus didn’t accomplish anything that would be considered improving upon that original. It laid there flat and empty, a soulless attempt to curry favor with a song that admittedly many others have loved but I find a trying slog.

“Stand And Be Counted” was a decent enough rocker. I’d love to give you my first impressions on “White Din” and “Russian Winter”, but in all honesty, I fell asleep before the songs played. But when I woke up, I went back and listened to them both. I thought “White Din” was a bit of a futile waste of time. However, “Russian Winter” is actually a killer track. Even though the song is just over three and a half minutes, Krokus manages to give the song an epic feel to it. It feels like a longer song and I mean that in a good way. Fast paced and heavy, with a soundtrack that runs through your brain and a really great vocal turn from Storace, this is a great song!

Now, I know I said I don’t know what to make of the band. The album has some great highlights and not that many lows. But, while as a singular experienc I enjoyed the album, I can’t rightly decide if it makes me want to seek out more material from Krokus or not. Headhunter is good, but is it good enough to convert me into a long delayed fandom for the band? I just don’t know. I do have another Krokus album that will be featured in this series down the line, perhaps that will go a long ways towards answering my question.

Until that time, Headhunter does have a pretty solid pedigree and it was nice to finally get to experience a full album’s worth of material from Krokus.

NOTES OF INTEREST – The album was produced by Tom Allom, who is best known for producing a number of albums by Judas Priest. The song “Ready To Burn” features backing vocals from Judas Priest singer Rob Halford.

Jimi Jamison, who would go on to find his biggest fame with Survivor, also provided backing vocals for the album.

The band will embark on a career-ending farewell tour in 2019.

Music and entertainment coverage since October 2006!