The Cassette Chronicles – Cinderella’s ‘Long Cold Winter’

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.

CINDERELLA – LONG COLD WINTER (1988)

As I wrote in my write up on the first Cinderella album Night Songs, I really wasn’t all that into the first two albums from the band. However, much like the case with that first album, I’ve had to do a major rethink about Long Cold Winter after listening to it again thirty years after the fact. I suppose better late than never would apply here, but I really need to go back in time and have a long musical discussion with my 18 year old self about the music I ignored.

While Long Cold Winter did have four songs that were released as singles, I can’t remember really being blown away by the rest of the tracks on the album. I loved the hits, but given what at the time I perceived to be just a bunch of filler material to round out the album, the album was doomed to eventually find its way out of my music collection.

Jump forward from 1988 to 2018, and it looks like I owe a large mea culpa to the band…AGAIN! The band started moving even more away from most of the glam sound on this album, even moreso than album #1. This shift was immediately on display with the opening song “Bad Seamstress Blues / Fallin’ Apart At The Seams”. The first part of the song was this really cool dead on bluesy intro. Mostly guitar with a little one verse lyrical passage, it really resonated with me and left me with the sinking feeling that I was going to be giving myself a mental head slap when all was said and done. The second part of the song is a rocking stomp that had me writing a note saying “This is a GREAT song!”

I mentioned that there were four songs that got released as singles. The album was front loaded with three of those songs. You had “Gypsy Road,” which despite being the song that charted the lowest out of the four, might just be my favorite song on the entire album. Listening to the album while reading the lyric sheet really gave me that new appreciation for Tom Keifer’s writing ability all over again. Other than one co-writing credit for bassist Eric Brittingham, Keifer wrote all the songs on this album.

When the band initially released “Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone),” I kind of found myself annoyed by it. However, as I listened to it now, I got the chance to go deeper into the lyrics and found myself suddenly being really digging the song. It was like I was hearing it with new ears or something. Maybe because the lyrics resonated with me due to my pathetically sad social life at this current point in life, but whatever the reason. I actually enjoyed the song a lot. 

And you can’t leave out “The Last Mile”, another rocking run through for the band. I do have to say that I was kind of disappointed by the closing song on the first side of the album. It’s called “Second Wind” but it actually did more to take the wind out of the sails of the album for a bit. It’s got a cool guitar solo and a long musical outro, but otherwise there was something missing with this number and I found myself feeling adrift while listening to the song.

The title track of the album opens up side two and while it had some really ballsy guitar work, I thought it failed to establish what seemed to be a moody atmospheric feel to the song. It left me cold (no pun intended) and I instantly hoped things would not be headed in the wrong direction with the rest of Side Two.

Thankfully, my fears were unfounded as “If You Don’t Like It” roared out of the speakers, with its butt-kicking ferociousness giving an instant jolt of energy. I really liked how the lyrics were so defiant and in your face. 

“Coming Home” was a mid tempo power ballad and the album’s third single. I enjoyed the song then and now. “Fire and Ice” was a bit of a surprise for me because it definitely fell under the banner of filler for me when I first listened to this album back in the day. But whether it was the song or myself that matured over the last three decades, the track has grown on me.

Cinderella closed out Long Cold Winter with a bang on the track “Take Me Back”. It’s a lyrical nostalgia trip down memory lane set to a rocking soundtrack. It’s a flat out great song but what really got me excited was how Keifer’s vocals/lyrics really flowed throughout the track, particularly on the chorus. 

It seems that once again, I’ve unearthed evidence that I failed to appreciate what was right in front of me all these years. While the notion of filler material isn’t completely dispelled for me because of the two songs I still really could do without, Long Cold Winter is actually far better than I ever gave it credit for upon its original release.  

NOTES OF INTEREST: The album initially went double platinum and was eventually certified triple platinum.

While Fred Coury was the drummer for Cinderella, like the first album, he did not play a single note on Long Cold Winter. Instead, the drums were recorded by Denny Carmassi (Heart) and Cozy Powell (Rainbow, amongst a host of other notable bands).

Fifth Angel returns with ‘The Third Secret’

After nearly 30 years since releasing a studio album, melodic hard rockers Fifth Angel return with a new album, The Third Secret, on October 26th via Nuclear Blast Records. The new album consists of 10 tracks that members of the band promise will please both their die hard fans and new fans alike.

“We are very proud of the new album! We hope the fans will hear the classic threads of the Fifth Angel  they know and love, along with the growth and maturity the individuals of the band have gone through over the years,” said guitarist and vocalist Kendall Bechtel in a press release for the new album. “We hope they love the new songs as much as we do.”

In the 1980s, Fifth Angel was signed to a seven-album deal with Epic Records, but released only two albums – Fifth Angel in 1988 & Time Will Tell in 1989. (Click HERE to read a review/reflection of Time Will Tell). With a lack of label support in the early 1990s and the rise of grunge music, the band was released from their contract and went their separate ways.

Fast forward to 2018 and Fifth Angel is back with a lineup that consists of Bechtel, John Macko (bass), Ed Archer (guitars) and Ken Mary (drums). [Original vocalist Ted Pilot was asked to be part of the reunion but declined].

With their highly anticipated new album nearing its release, Limelight Magazine caught up with Macko who discussed recording the album, what it’s like to be back in the band and if we’ll see the band tour to support the release.

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: On October 26th, Fifth Angel will release its third studio album, The Third Secret, on Nuclear Blast Records. It’s been nearly 30 years since your last album, Time Will Tell. Why did the band decide to do another studio album after all these years?

JOHN MACKO: We had been contemplating making a new record since 2010 when we played the KIT festival, but for one reason or another, it never happened, then after our performance at the 2017 KIT festival, we had gotten an offer to make a record with Nuclear Blast Records and that really got the ball rolling.

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: How long did it take the band to record The Third Secret and how do the songs hold up against your classic late 80s material?

JOHN MACKO: It took about 6 months to record and most of the song ideas were all new within a year or two at the most. We believe these songs stand with the prior records, capturing the style and spirit of the old stuff, but with modern production.

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: Fifth Angel released a digital single and lyric video for “Can You Hear Me” (click HERE to watch and listen). on September 7. Why was this song chosen as the lead single?

JOHN MACKO: I can’t really answer this question as our label Nuclear Blast made this choice, but we trust in their judgment and we are sure they had a good reason!

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: The album cover for The Third Secret was designed by Zsofia Dankova. It looks absolutely incredible. It also keeps the border art of the past two albums, which fans seem very excited about. Did the band have any input on the cover art or did the artist have free reign on the design?

JOHN MACKO: Zsofia did an amazing job for certain! But she did not make the design, the band crafted the design and we relayed that vision to Zsofia. The boarder was also our idea to keep some consistency and familiarity for the fans.

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: Since Fifth Angel has been away from the scene for so long, did you expect to ink a deal with Nuclear Blast Records?

JOHN MACKO: Not at all! It was pretty amazing to us when the offer was made, it was just luck we think that an A&R rep was at our 2017 KIT show and loved our performance, had it not been for that show I don’t think this record would have been made.

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: You’re first two albums (Fifth Angel & Time Will Tell) were released on Epic Records. How is it different being signed to a label today compared to back then?

JOHN MACKO: Well, I can’t speak for other labels in today’s market, but I will tell you working with Nuclear Blast is an absolute joy! Night and day between them and Epic/CBS records! They are tremendous to work with and we would recommend them to any band out there. They get things done right away and give us all of the creative freedom we need.

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: I’ve read that Fifth Angel originally signed a seven album deal with Epic but was eventually released from its contract. What led to the band’s initial break up in the early 90s?

JOHN MACKO: Basically it was bad timing, the band was dropped from Epic after the rise of “Grunge” music which drastically changed the direction of the music scene. Labels turned their attention to those types of bands.

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: When the band decided to record a new album, did you reach out to original vocalist Ted Pilot to be part of the line up?

JOHN MACKO: Yes of course! We have always asked Ted to be a part of anything we have been doing, but he felt his voice was not up to par.

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: Was it a difficult transition for Kendall Bechtel to go from being a guitarist to handling both guitar and vocal duties?

JOHN MACKO: I don’t think so, Kendall has been lead singing for many years with his own side projects and also doing guest appearances on other artists records.

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: As I was drafting questions for this interview, I read a press release that original rhythm guitarist Ed Archer has returned to the band. Does this mean that Fifth Angel may actually tour the States to support the release? (On behalf of all of your fans, we’d love to see you play some New England dates!)

JOHN MACKO: There are no plans of yet, but it certainly is in the realm of possibility!

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: I came across an interview with drummer Ken Mary in the August 1988 issue of Hit Parader where he said, “I don’t want to say that our show will necessarily be Cooperesque [in reference to being Alice Cooper’s drummer at the time as well as Fifth Angel’s], but let’s just say that there will definitely be some surprises, and lots of things that people haven’t seen before.” Interestingly, the band never ended up performing any live dates back then. Out of curiosity, why didn’t the band ever tour?

JOHN MACKO: It was always part of our plan to tour, but it seemed that one situation after another would always prevent us from making that happen, again bad timing seemed to be the issue.

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: Lastly, how excited are you personally to see the band back together and doing interviews about a new album again?

JOHN MACKO: Yes of course! Who would have ever thought? I feel truly blessed and lucky to have this second chance; most musicians don’t even get that opportunity once in their life time!

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: Is there anything else you’d like to add to this interview?

JOHN MACKO: We just hope the fans love this record as much as we do and continue to keep the faith!

 

The Cassette Chronicles – Accept’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.

ACCEPT – ACCEPT  (1979)

While the stated time span of this series is the 80’s and ’90s, you’ll note that this article on the self-titled debut album from Accept dates to 1979. So it falls just outside of the parameters, but since the cassette edition I have appears to be a bargain basement reissue from 1986 (there’s even a “special bargain price” stamped onto the cover art), I’m fine with this slight exception. 

Now, it should be noted from the top that I’m a huge fan of the band. Three of their last four albums have ended up as my top album of the year they were released, and the fourth one came in at #2.

But in the interest of full disclosure, my Accept fandom didn’t start until the first time I heard the “Balls To The Wall” song. Given that came off the album of the same name, the band was on their fifth release before I was even aware of their existence.

Unlike a lot of bands that I “discover”, I have never really gone back to Accept’s earliest days to explore where they came from musically to where they are now. Until now that is.

The band’s first album has been less than charitably described by both singer Udo Dirkschneider and Wolf Hoffman. The common refrain seems to be that while it gave the band the ability to further their career, the songs weren’t really all that focused in one direction and the production was less than ideal.

I can see what they mean but at the same time, there are some rather interesting songs on the album. The first thing you notice at the start of the release is that the band has more of a straight up rock and roll sound as opposed to the more metallic nature fans have come to know in the last three plus decades. 

The first two songs, “Lady Lou” and “Tired Of Me”, are both quickly paced numbers. Both songs are good enough in their own right I suppose but truthfully they don’t really seem to have much staying power. It was actually track three, “Seawinds”, that struck me as the first strong track on the album. It’s a ballad but I found it rather a cool sounding track. It’s not like Accept has never done a ballad before and they do tend to have some good ones. For me, I’d add “Seawinds” to that list.

But never fear metal fans, because the rock and roll sound soon starts to give way to a heavier, more metal sound with “Take Him In My Heart”. The vocal performance on the song might strike you a bit odd at first because it seems totally out of character with what you might know of Udo’s vocal style but in the end this is just a very interesting song. And the scream from Udo at the end is a prime metal howl. As for the last song on the first side of the album, “Sounds Of War” really kicks in with a more metallic overtone as it races from start to finish.

Side two really has something going for it as the songwriting gets faster, heavier and far more aggressive. “Free Me Now” and “That’s Rock ‘N’ Roll” are straight up metal songs and if I could still headbang like a madman, that’s what I would’ve been doing.

I wasn’t crazy about the song “Glad To Be Alone”. It’s a plodding slog of a track at the start and while it does get faster as the song progresses, if I was to pick one song that best defines the band’s dissatisfaction with the album, it would be this one. It’s just a momentum killer for me.

Thankfully, the last two songs are once again fast paced and give an electrical charge to the ears and hearts of metal fans. “Helldriver” and “Street Fighter” are simple straight forward rockers with attitude to spare.

It’s funny to think that I liked this album better than the people who created it. But if beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then music must be in the ears of the listener. For me, Accept is where the nascent band first started showing signs of the future that was to come for them. The production may be raw and the songwriting may be less focused than what the band would’ve liked as they look back on it. However, for me this was one heck of an entertaining look at the very earliest days of one of my favorite bands.

NOTES OF INTEREST: Frank Friedrich played drums on Accept but according to Wikipedia, he decided against a career as a professional musician. Stefan Kaufmann was hired as his replacement before the album was released.

Bassist Peter Baltes sang lead on “Seawinds” and “Sounds Of War”.  

 

Roger Filgate Band featuring Michael Lombardi (of “Rescue Me”) to perform in The Vault on Sept. 8th

Guitar virtuoso Roger Filgate will perform with his band that features actor/singer Michael Lombardi (from the hit TV show Rescue Me) at The Vault at Greasy Luck in New Bedford, MA, on Saturday, Sept. 8th, 2018. The concert is a fundraiser for the New Bedford Fire Department. Purchase tickets HERE.

For those who are unfamiliar with Filgate, he is regarded as a guitar virtuoso. His songs showcase the versatility, tones, technique, and passionate playing style for which he is internationally known. He has toured with many legendary artists including Santana, Wishbone Ash and Chubby Checker. His songs take the listener on a sonic journey into classic rock, blues and progressive rock.

As a special treat, the Roger Filgate Band features actor Michael Lombardi who takes on lead vocals while they perform hard-driving cover remakes, including everything from classic rock icons Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and The Who to modern and popular artists.

Lombardi first achieved widespread attention as a series regular playing a young firefighter in the critically acclaimed hit TV show Rescue Me on the FX network. Some of his other television credits include Blue Bloods, Castle, and CSI Miami.

His recent film credits include the Lionsgate production Last Knights with Clive Owen and Morgan Freeman; and the upcoming 2018 release of the indie film Central Park. He is currently filming the feature film Calm Before.

Lombardi can next be seen in a recurring role on the new HBO series The Deuce opposite James Franco and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

Tickets are only $20 and can be purchased HERE. Tickets for reserved table seating are also available. 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 – CINDERELLA’S ‘NIGHT SONGS’

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.

CINDERELLA – NIGHT SONGS (1986)

It has been 32 years since the release of Cinderella’s debut album Night Songs and with the benefit of all that time having passed, hindsight is indeed 20/20. 

I owned the album back when it was released but I have to say that beyond the three best known songs on the album (“Shake Me”, “Nobody’s Fool” and “Somebody Save Me”), I remember being rather unimpressed by the material. The album just sat in my collection gathering dust until I got rid of it. For me, it was their third album, Heartbreak Station, that did the trick for me. That album remains my favorite release from the group.

But on a recent music buying excursion, I came across both Night Songs and Long Cold Winter on cassette and figured I had to pick them up and give a new listen to the album to see what I thought. What I found was that time has seemingly improved my taste because I have a newfound love of Night Songs.

Despite having a classic rock and straight up metal sound, the band was cast alongside the rest of the 80’s glam metal era. It might just have been a function of the prevailing tastes of the time, but it does strike me now as a big mistake.

The title track opens the album and while the uptempo pacing of the track gives an immediate jolt of energy to the listener, I wasn’t blown away by it. I thought it wasn’t the song to best represent the band.  But the next two songs were “Shake Me” and “Nobody’s Fool”, so suddenly the album was kicked into a higher gear. “Shake Me” was the first single released off the album and though it didn’t make the singles chart, it is simply a great in your face rocker. As for “Nobody’s Fool”, that was a monster hit on the charts and is pretty much the main reason why the album is now certified triple platinum. It’s the only song that can legitimately be thought of as a “power ballad”, but it is actually quite a bit more weighty than the more cloying aspects of the song genre.

I really dug the album track “Nothin’ For Nothin'”, which was another quickly paced song. The first side of the album closed out with “Once Around The Ride”. It’s another rocker and musically speaking, I really loved the track. It’s got a really good guitar solo. The only thing that holds back a full throated endorsement of the song from me is that I didn’t like the phrasing on the vocals during the chorus.

The second side of Night Songs opens with two hugely entertaining rockers. “Hell On Wheels” may not be a “greatest hit” track for the band, but I loved it. And “Somebody Save Me” might be one of the best known songs the band has but listening to it for this article gave me a newfound appreciation and love of the song.

All the songs on the album are written by frontman Tom Keifer and this new spin of the album has also opened my eyes more than I could’ve expected to his songwriting ability. This aspect of his talent may have gotten overshadowed in the 80’s metal era of excess, but the guy can write!

Side two of the album is actually all killer, no filler if you really want to know the truth. I loved the bouncy rhythm to “In From The Outside”, the straight up rocking nature of “Push, Push” and I think the closing “Back Home Again” is the best example of the direction the band would take for Heartbreak Station. The more focused bluesy sound shines through a lot on this track and left me wondering how I managed to not clearly see what the band was all about the first time around.

I’m not a fan of change. I like being in a rut and freely acknowledge that I’m a creature of habit. But on occasion, change is a good thing when it opens your eyes to something you should’ve seen the first time around. When it was originally released I didn’t think all that much of Night Songs. After three plus decades, I’ve found that I’ve come around and have to declare that I was apparently everybody’s fool all these years because this album is chock full of prime rock and roll. If you haven’t heard the album in years or never listened to it at all, you’d be doing yourself a favor by discovering for yourself exactly what I’m talking about here.

NOTES OF INTEREST: Drummer Fred Coury joined the band after the recording of the album. All drum tracks for the album were played by Jody Cortez. Cortez has played with the liked of Boz Scaggs, David Crosby, Christopher Cross and a host of other acts since his time in Cinderella.

The keyboards on the album were played by Jeff Paris. Among his credits, he co-wrote Vixen’s two biggest hits “Edge of a Broken Heart” and “Cryin'”.

Jon Bon Jovi provided backing vocals on “Nothin’ For Nothin'” and “In From The Outside”.

The Cassette Chronicles – Kiss’ ‘Animalize’

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.

KISS – ANIMALIZE (1984)

It may come as a bit of a surprise but I never really owned many Kiss albums growing up. As a kid, it wasn’t like I was allowed to listen to the band’s output in the 70’s. But even when I started making my own musical choices, I really only owned the Crazy Nights album.

This isn’t to say that I didn’t hear some the songs but the band really wasn’t a priority to start getting their albums. I’ve got a friend down in Texas that would probably consider that last sentence a rather large piece of blasphemy but there it is. 

Recently though, I’ve started picking up some of the cheap remastered editions of a few albums. I’ve liked a lot of what I’ve heard but the most recent CD I picked up was the Rock And Roll Over album. That one has the classic track “Calling Dr. Love”. Unfortunately, it is really the only song that stood out to me. I was quite disappointed in the album.

So when I picked up this cassette edition of Animalize, I had hopes that it would get the sour taste of Rock And Roll Over out of my mouth. I wouldn’t say this was a total success, but the album certainly had far more high points than the other album.

The first side opens strongly with “I’ve Had Enough (Into The Fire)”, a fast paced rocker that certainly does the job of capturing the attention of listeners. That leads into the big hit track from the album “Heaven’s On Fire”. This is a huge song for me. I love it. It remains one of my all-time favorite Kiss songs. It did pretty well on the charts as a single but that aside, it is just the best example of combining a standout rock soundtrack and a big commercial hook and chorus.

The rest of side one was a bit more of a slog for me though. Musically speaking, “Burn Bitch Burn” is pretty interesting but lyrically it was just a demonstration of the band’s inability to grasp the notion of subtlety. The last two songs were simply not what I would consider all that great.

Side two opens with a blazingly aggressive “Under The Gun”. I don’t recall having ever heard the  song before but now that I have, I really love it. Seriously, this one really got me all fired up. “Thrills In The Night” was another uptempo track and I liked this one as well. I thought the chorus was a bit better than the main lyrical passages but still, it was a fun listen. 

Of course, things went downhill for me on “While The City Sleeps” which is just flat in all respects. The album closed out with “Murder In High Heels” which was the second song on the album to fall under the banner of “musically interesting” but lacked the cohesive whole because of the lyrics.

At the time of this album’s recording, Gene Simmons was off chasing acting dreams. This left Paul Stanley in the lead position for the album’s direction. Whether this was for the good or the bad, you can decide for yourself. I know there are a lot of detractors for this particular time in the band’s career as they moved more towards the prevailing trend of glam metal that was growing in the mid 80’s but I’ve always liked the era so that might be a pretty good explanation for why I enjoyed the album’s better songs. Sure you can wish all the songs were uniformly great but you can’t have everything, right?

Still, Animalize was a decent album and considering it was certified platinum in the US, a lot of people seemed to enjoy what Kiss offered as heaven burned.

NOTES OF INTEREST: Mark St. John was the lead guitarist on Animalize. It is his only recorded music with the band as he left the band due to health issues in November 1984.

Bruce Kulick, who would replace St. John as the band’s lead guitarist, actually played lead on two of the songs on Animalize, “Lonely Is The Hunter” and “Murder In High Heels”.

Music and entertainment coverage since October 2006!