The Cassette Chronicles – AC/DC’s ‘Back In Black’

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.

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AC/DC – BACK IN BLACK (1980)

Record Store Day 2018 was rather a dull and stale event for me. While I look forward to it each year, I’ve found less and less material amongst the slew of special releases that I’m interested in buying with each year’s passing. This year’s batch of music was the worst yet for me. There was really only one item that I wanted and it was specifically because it would be used for this article you are now reading.

AC/DC’s Back In Black got a special 2018 re-release on cassette. So instead of listening to the album on a tape that is 38 years old, I wanted a new copy (I own it on CD as well).

Unfortunately, I got to my local shop later than I’d hoped and couldn’t seem to find a copy of it. So, it seemed I was outta luck. Then fate, in the personage of my friend Jeff, intervened. He was going out to his local shop the day after Record Store Day and he was getting a copy of the album for himself and offered to pick up one for me if they had a second copy. A week later, the album was in my hands all the way from the state of Georgia.

Now before I talk about the album’s track list I should go back a little further. Despite not being a full-fledged rock and metal fan until about 1983-1984, I was at least a little bit aware of AC/DC, much to the chagrin of a few nuns and laypeople who worked at the Catholic school I was attending while in the fourth grade.

It was about that time that the boys in the school discovered the band’s song “Big Balls” and for totally immature males, this was THE GREATEST SONG OF ALL TIME! And you haven’t lived until you see the horrified faces of the teachers in the school as they hear a bunch of pre-adolescent boys running down the hallway singing the lyrics to the song. I managed to get in trouble for that despite the fact I wasn’t involved, having the misfortune of bad timing as I came out of the bathroom at the same time one of the teachers caught the other boys in the hallway. Still, it was freaking hilarious at the time. Between that and “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap”, I had a small inkling of what the band was doing at that time.

Of course, I didn’t discover 1980’s Back In Black until it had been out a few years but by the time I was that full-fledged member of the metal music community, I was in love with the title track and “You Shook Me All Night Long”. I still am today as I get a real charge of electricity running through me whenever I hear the intro for either song.

So that’s a little background about my connection with the band. As for this particular listening session, I found it a bit odd that without any planning on the day I was going to listen to the album, I pulled out my AC/DC shirt and read the appreciation article in Classic Rock magazine on the passing of Malcolm Young.

So, how does this album that has sold so many albums since it came out that it ranks #2 all-time behind Michael Jackson’s Thriller in terms of total number of albums sold fair all these years later?

No surprise here, but it is still as fantastic a recording now as it was upon its initial release. I know so much has been written about the album and the individual songs that anything I say might seem like you’ve read it a million times before, but this album is simply a perfect encapsulation of the band. They really couldn’t have done better (and let’s be honest, never quite did) than what they did on Back In Black.

The first side of the album features stone cold classics like the eerily ominous “Hells Bells” with that echoing church bell intro and the relentless burner “Shoot To Thrill”. The latter song might just be one of my favorite songs from the band. What makes the album so remarkable to me is that even the songs that are an admitted step down from being “classic AC/DC”, they are still really great songs. While I’ve heard “What Do You Do For Money Honey” and “Given The Dog A Bone” countless times, I actually found myself with a refreshed sense of enthusiasm for both tracks. I know that “Let Me Put My Love Into You” is about as subtle as a sledgehammer through a plate glass window but still, the song has its single entendre charms.

As for Side Two, what can be newly said about the killer 1-2 punch of the title track and “You Shook Me All Night Long”? Easily the two best known songs from the Brian Johnson era and two of the best songs from the entire breadth of the band’s discography, you can’t ask for more out of these two songs. Hell, I saw Melissa Etheridge play “You Shook Me All Night Long” in concert with Aerosmith’s Joe Perry on guitar and it still was a song that just kicked my butt all over again. As for the title cut, it’s perfect. ‘Nuff Said.

Closing with a defiant to the establishment anthem like “Rock And Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution” brought AC/DC’s legacy altering album to a rousing finish but before that you had the boozy charm of “Have A Drink On Me” and fiery “Shake A Leg” to keep the blood pumping.

Ideally, I would love to desire to buy lots of new stuff on Record Store Day each year. But the offerings (and cost of them) kind of precludes that. That said, I certainly was able to get the one true treasure I coveted and getting to write about how much it means to me makes it all worthwhile.

I don’t know what might be next for the band. Cliff Williams has retired, Malcolm Young died and Brian Johnson had to leave the band (or was unceremoniously kicked out depending on who’s telling the story) over the potential loss of his hearing. It’s just Angus with longtime drummer Chris Slade left in the band. But whether this is the end of the band or not, to have a senses-shattering album like Back In Black is all that any band could ever ask for. And since we are forever about to rock, AC/DC should be saluted endlessly for their contribution to our eternal playlist.

The Cassette Chronicles – 38 Special’s ‘Special Forces’

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.

ADVERTISEMENT – Click on the above image to purchase tickets!

38 SPECIAL – SPECIAL FORCES (1982)

Sometime back in 2017, I was pawing through the CD racks at my local record shop when I thumbed my way to the 38 Special divider. Unsurprisingly, the only CD the store had available was a greatest hits compilation. I made the decision to purchase that CD because in the band’s commercial heyday, I loved a lot of the songs that I ended up hearing on the radio, particularly the ones that made the singles chart that I would hear played on American Top 40.

But in that time and place I never owned any of the group’s albums (I did pick up their Drivetrain album that was released in 2004 and remains their last studio release to this point). So the compilation was a good way to hear what is considered their best material. And I loved the album! I played it numerous times while rocking out with those “Wild-Eyed Southern Boys” and their great rock and roll style.

But I wanted to hear more of their material, the songs that didn’t make the cut as a “greatest hit”. On one of my small cassette shopping sprees, I was able to grab up a copy of Special Forces and now I’ve finally gotten around to listening to it.

Given that four of the songs were released as singles, it should be no particular kind of surprising that there’s a lot of good stuff on this release. In fact, pretty much most of the album is outstanding. 

The album opens with “Caught Up In You” which for anyone who knows anything about the band will recognize as one of the band’s best known songs. It went to #10 on the pop singles chart while “You Keep Runnin’ Away” landed at #38. The latter song is a decent enough song but I really wasn’t all that captivated by the song, which is probably a bit odd considering that it was a track on the compilation.

What really stands out for me besides the appeal of the songs themselves is how great the guitar work is on Special Forces. Jeff Carlisi shreds all over the place on songs like “Back Door Stranger”, “Back On Track” (another single release) and “Take ‘Em Out”, a song that is an uninhibited rocker that will always be one that blows the doors off a place.

There’s not much in the way of a true ballad type song on the album, the band really does keep their foot on the gas most of the way through. However, with the judicious use of sound effects to simulate a dark and stormy night, they gave “Chain Lightnin'” a wider cinematic scope. You can feel the barely contained energy the song has. The song was released as a single, but I don’t remember hearing it back then, so when I did hear it for what was likely the first time (again, on that compilation), it quickly became one of my personal favorite tracks from 38 Special. 

It should also be noted that with both Don Barnes and Donnie Van Zant providing vocals, the band sounds great there as well. The southern rock stylings with the AOR vocals make for a winning combination in my book.

That song “Back On Track” that I mentioned before was not only notable for the guitar work, it had a grandly intoxicating vibe to the entire song. “Rough-Housin'” stepped lively as well.

Between 1977 and 1988, 38 Special were a huge success. Between charting singles, hit albums and concert tours, the band had it all going for them. I remember being glued to the radio whenever one of their songs start playing. The Special Forces album is a stand out example of just what it was that made the band as great as they were at that time. It’s got the songwriting chops and the electrifying performances. 38 Special were on the top of their game here and this is an album you will find yourself playing over and over again.

NOTES OF INTEREST: Former Survivor keyboardist Jim Peterik is a longtime collaborator with 38 Special and he co-wrote three of the songs on Special Forces. All three (“Caught Up In You”, “Chain Lightnin'” and “You Keep Runnin’ Away”) were released as singles.

Singer Don Barnes recorded a solo album called Ride The Storm in 1989 that was never released due to the record label being sold. However, it finally saw the light of day in 2017 via MelodicRock Records. I can say that it was an outstanding album!

The Fixx to perform ‘Reach the Beach’ album in entirety at Narrows Center on Sept. 4th

FALL RIVER – British rock band The FIXX are hitting the road for their summer-long “Beach Tour” which will celebrate the 35th anniversary of the release of their multi-platinum “Reach the Beach” album. The tour will make a stop at the Narrows Center in Fall River, MA, on September 4, 2018, where the band will play the entire album live from front to back in addition to other hits and fan favorites from their long, storied career. Purchase tickets HERE.

The band, which features the lineup of Cy Curnin, Adam Woods, Rupert Greenall, Jamie West-Oram and Dan K. Brown, remains identical to that which toured after the original album release. It is the first time The FIXX has endeavored to perform any of their albums in its entirely in a live seating, making this a must see concert of the summer!

Released in 1983, “Reach The Beach” spawned three Top 40 singles: “One Thing Leads To Another,” “Saved By Zero,” and “The Sign Of Fire” and reached the top ten on Billboard’s Album Chart, Top 100 Singles Chart, Mainstream Rock Chart and received heavy airplay on both MTV and radio throughout the world. Even today, songs from “Reach The Beach” continue to receive substantial radio airplay as well as streams and video views numbering in the millions.

Throughout the band’s career, The FIXX have released 10 studio albums and were a fixture on the pop charts with such songs as “Red Skies,” “Are We Ourselves?,” and “Secret Separation.” They have been heralded as one of the most innovative bands to come out of the 80s.
Live, in concert, the band delivers that same sonic authenticity fans have come to expect from their recorded performances because The FIXX are the real deal.

The Narrows Center for the Arts is located at 16 Anawan Street. Tickets to this show can be purchased by clicking HERE or by calling the box office at 508-324-1926. For those wanting to purchase tickets in person, box office hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 12 noon to 5 p.m.

Bulletboys & Enuff Z’Nuff to perform at Greasy Luck on May 19th

Bulletboys will perform in The Vault at Greasy Luckin New Bedford, MA, on Saturday, May 19, 2018. Enuff Z’Nuff, Pump5 and 20Spot will open the show. Purchase tickets HERE.

The BulletBoys formed in 1988 at the very peak of the Los Angeles glam metal movement. With record companies constantly searching for new talent, they possessed a pedigree that most bands would kill for. Unlike the other glam rockers of the day, the BulletBoys were more hard rock and blues fusion than pure hair metal. Thanks to comparisons to the likes of Aerosmith and especially Van Halen, talent scouts came running and the band quickly received their first major label contract. Over the years, they have dominated both MTV and radio airwaves, and remain relevant to this day in heavy rotation on VH1’s “Metal Mania” and Internet (SiriusXM’s Hair Nation, KNAC.COM, etc.) radio throughout the world!

Enuff Z’Nuff are the living, breathing example of what a rock group should be. Still a major force after 20+ albums, they still have a legion of loyal fans and have earned the respect and acclaim of their peers and contemporaries. With the addition of longtime guitarist Tory Stoffregen, ex-Ultravox singer/guitar player Tony Fennell, and Chicago native Daniel Benjamin Hill, the band continues to tour and record relentlessly.

Tickets are only $18 and can be purchased HERE. Tickets will also be available at the door which open at 6 PM. 20 Spot performs at 7:30 PM, Pump5 at 8:30 PM, Enuff Z’Nuff at 9:30 PM and BulletBoys at 10:30 PM.

For more details about the show,  including VIP information, click HERE.

The Vault at Greasy Luck Brew Pub 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 – DANGER DANGER’S ‘SCREW IT’

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.

Click on the above image to purchase tickets!

DANGER DANGER – SCREW IT! (1991)

It is a good thing that there isn’t a statute of limitations on discovering new-to-me music that was released so long ago. For one thing, this series would likely not exist. More importantly, it would rob me of the chance to discover this “new” music that I either missed the first time around or consciously ignored.

And that brings me to the second album from the band Danger Danger. Now, like most people that grew up during the 80’s and very early 90’s, I am well aware of the two big songs that came from their first album. “Bang Bang” and “Naughty Naughty” are their best known tracks to this day. That said, I never really got into the band beyond those two singles and by the time Screw It! came out in 1991, I had most definitely stopped paying attention. And while their name remained in my memory all this time, I’d never been moved to check out their music.

But singer Ted Poley’s involvement in the surprisingly outstanding self-titled Tokyo Motor Fist album in 2017 piqued my interest. What finally made my decision to check out the music of Danger Danger however, was the recent (April 14th, 2018) solo show that Poley played near me. I decided to take in the show and was rewarded with an outstanding performance the truly did convert me into a fan of the singer.

So, I dug into the big box of cassettes and came up with the band’s second release and decided to write about it.

The album’s release came towards the end of “The Metal Years,” but was rather chock full of some great tunes. The singles for the album were the rocker “Monkey Business” and the ballad track “I Still Think About You”. Both songs are really good, particularly “Monkey Business” (with its cinematic intro piece “Ginger Snaps”), but what I found was that they weren’t my favorite tracks. The deeper cuts had a lot going for it and in some cases, in hindsight of course, might just have made for better choices for singles.

Another thing I noticed that while a lot of the song lyrics deal with a somewhat over the top obsession with all things sex (not that that is a bad thing in my book), at times the band was almost charmingly reflective. This is reflected in songs like “Comin’ Home” and “Find Your Way Back Home”.

Now I will say that the uptempo “Slipped Her The Big One” somehow failed to come together for me. I know that I’m likely going to be in the minority in that opinion but I thought the song just lacked something that would’ve put the track over the top.

Also, you know how when labels reissue albums and add bonus tracks? In the case of the song “Yeah, You Want It!”, if Screw It! ever gets the reissue treatment I’d guarantee to buy it if they’d delete the song from the track list. Not to be overly dramatic but this is one of the worst songs I’ve ever heard.

That being said, when the band rocks out with their metaphorical….nahh, not going there. But seriously, the band is really on fire the more they fire up their material.

While tracks “Every Body Wants Some” and “Don’t Blame It On Love” get the blood pumping, other tracks are positively heart-stopping. I just loved “Get Your Shit Together” which had a steal of an Andy Timmons guitar solo in it. The guitarist’s six string performance was top notch on a lot of the songs. Meanwhile, “Crazy Nites” blazes bright from start to finish and I loved how the Janis Joplin lyric “take another little piece of my heart” was semi-covertly thrown into the mix at the end of the song.

And while there’s absolutely not subtlety in the song title “Horny S.O.B.”, the song is almost nightmarishly awesome. Sure, it’s a topic that you’ve listened to about 1,000 songs in your lifetime but the performance from the band and particularly Ted Poley’s unapologetic embodying of the lyrics made this song a complete winner to me. It was the opening song at the solo show I went to and you just can’t help being drawn in by the song. Plus, while it may not completely sum me up here in the present, I’m quite sure this one could’ve been my personal motto back in 1991. I would’ve loved to have heard this on the radio back in the day along with “Don’t Blame It On Love” and “Crazy Nites”.

So, while it may have taken a concert from 27 years after the release of the Screw It! album to finally get off my musical duff and give Danger Danger a true and thorough listen, I’ve now done so and once again find myself completely in the wrong to have stubbornly or perhaps stupidly overlooked the band all these years. My 20-year-old self has a lot to answer for regarding saying “Screw It!” to Screw It!

NOTES OF INTEREST: Three-fourths of the band Extreme (Gary Cherone, Nuno Bettencourt and Pat Badger) are credited with backing vocal appearances on “Slipped Her The Big One” and being part of the rap on “Yeah, You Want It!”.

Adult film star Ginger Lynn is credited on the album for “Moans, Groans & Assorted Boners”.

Outlaws bring southern rock to the Narrows Center on August 2

Southern rockers The Outlaws are heading out on the road this summer and will make a stop at the Narrows Center in Fall River, MA on August 2. It will be the first time the band played this venue. Purchase tickets HERE.

Formed in Tampa in 1972, The Outlaws – known for their triple-guitar rock attack and three-part country harmonies – became one of the first acts signed by Clive Davis (at the urging of Ronnie Van Zant) to his then-fledgling Arista Records. The band’s first three albums The Outlaws, Lady In Waiting and Hurry Sundown – featuring such rock radio favorites as “There Goes Another Love Song”, “Green Grass & High Tides”, “Knoxville Girl” and “Freeborn Man” – would become worldwide gold and platinum landmarks of the Southern Rock era.

Known as ‘The Florida Guitar Army’ by their fans, The Outlaws earned a formidable reputation as an incendiary live act touring with friends The Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Marshall Tucker Band and The Charlie Daniels Band as well as The Doobie Brothers, The Who, Eagles and The Rolling Stones. Henry Paul left after the group’s third album to form The Henry Paul Band for Atlantic Records, and later the multi-platinum country trio Blackhawk.

Over the next 20-plus years, The Outlaws celebrated triumphs, endured tragedies and survived legal nightmares to remain one of the most influential and best-loved bands of the genre. Now The Outlaws return with new music, new focus and an uncompromising new mission. The Outlaws are a group that respect their own legacy while refusing to be defined by their past. But most of all, it’s about satisfying their fans with one stellar live show after another.

The Narrows Center is located at 16 Anawan Street. Tickets are $49 advance and $54 day of show. They can be purchase online at narrowscenter.org or by calling the box office at 508-324-1926. For those wanting to purchase tickets in person, box office hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 12 noon to 5 p.m.

The Cassette Chronicles – Lita Ford’s ‘Out For Blood’

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.

Click on the above image to purchase tickets!

LITA FORD – OUT FOR BLOOD (1983)

I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t always “discover” an artist on their first album. I can usually count on finding an interesting new musician two or three albums into their career. This is much like how I discover new authors to read as well. But I like to go back and get the earlier works so that I have a fuller appreciation of where they came from and what they were like before they made the music that caught my attention.

Such is the case with Lita Ford. As you might imagine, I never really knew of her before she hit MTV paydirt with “Kiss Me Deadly”. I quickly bought the Lita album but then found out that she had two solo albums before it and of her connection to The Runaways.

Back then I was able to track down cassette copies of both Out For Blood and Dancin’ On The Edge, but those copies have long since worn out. I’ve been looking for replacements for a while and finally got my hands on them just recently. One surprising thing I learned is that there are two versions of the album artwork. You can see both versions below. My copy of the album features the reissued version of the artwork.

The first thing you’ll notice when listening to this album is that the production work is far more raw than anything she’s done from Lita forward. If you are only familiar with her later work, this might throw you off for a bit.

Now, I’ve seen Lita Ford live in concert and when she played the album’s title track, it was fantastic. It is the album opener here and does get things off to a rousing start. But I found both “Stay With Me Baby” and “Just A Feeling” a bit more problematic for me. While both songs are flat out rockers, they just kind of sit there waiting for something to make the songs come together. Unfortunately, it never seems to happen.

This particular development had me worried for the rest of the album but thankfully the last two songs on Side 1 allayed some of my fears. The musical vibe created for “Ready, Willing And Able” gave that track an extra dose of adrenaline and “Die For Me Only (Black Widow)” was just a balls out great rocker.

Side 2 kicked off with the Pete Heimlich written “Rock ‘n’ Roll Made Me What I Am Today”, and it is a flat out great track that is a simple anthemic declaration of rock and roll intent. The song “Anyway That You Want Me” has that ballad vibe but there’s a bit of guitar hanging around in the background waiting to cut loose. This happens during the song’s chorus and makes for an interesting kind of schizophrenic change to the track. Things closed out with another straight forward rocker called “I Can’t Stand It”. The song was particularly good with the solo on the track’s outro.

I’m not going to claim this is a great album. It has some definite peaks and valleys in terms of song quality. You know where Lita Ford was going, but it is definitely a fun listen to see where she started things off. If you are a fan of Lita’s, you’d be remiss if you haven’t check this album out before now.

NOTES OF INTEREST: Ford wrote four of the songs on the album on her own and co-wrote four others with Neil Merryweather, who produced and played bass on the album. However, according to his Wikipedia page, he was never paid for both his production work or management of Lita from this time. It led him to quitting the music business for a few years.

The drummer on Out For Blood was Dusty Watson, who would go on to play with both Rhino Bucket and Supersuckers.

The song “Any Way That You Want Me” was written by Chip Taylor, who is probably best known for writing the songs “Angel of The Morning” (a version by singer Juice Newton was a big hit) and “Wild Thing”, the hit song for The Troggs and recorded by numerous other performers. He’s also the uncle of actress Angelina Jolie.

Music and entertainment coverage since October 2006!