BY JAY ROBERTS (SPECIAL TO LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE)
The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s that I have acquired through Purchase Street Records in New Bedford, MA.
The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from the 1980’s 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.
Helix’s Wild In The Streets (1987)
In 1987, heavy metal ruled the music world and there was a seeming endless supply of new bands each week. While Canadian rockers Helix had already been around since 1974, it was the band’s Wild In The Streets album that got my attention.
I’ve owned the album on cassette since it was released, but I haven’t heard it in a number of years because I kind of unsurprisingly wore it out by playing it so much. When the opportunity to grab up what turned out to be a brand new and unopened copy of the album for the inexpensive price of a cassette, I had to have it once again.
It is kind of amusing how I stumbled onto my love for this album. I was on a school trip for the cooking class I was taking at the time. We went to Johnson & Wales University in Providence, RI, for a tour. After the tour was over, we all ended up in the school bookstore where I stumbled upon the album and really got drawn in by the intriguing cover art. I had never heard of the band before but after listening to the album that first time, I was hooked.
The 10 song collection features a bluesy party rock vibe combined with a raspy vocal performance from singer Brian Vollmer (still the singer more than 40 years into the band’s run). Not only does he have the requisite power in his voice but it comes paired with a leering sort of grin in the vocal inflections depending on the subject matter of the lyrical content for a given track.
The opening guitar riff on the title track is an invitation to experience what the band has to offer. The phrasing and big backing vocals on “Never Gonna Stop The Rock” make for an immediately endearing chorus.
The album’s material features nine straight out rockers and one power ballad. This being an album released in 1987, the inclusion of said power ballad was to be expected, but this was before the power ballad movement became too overly crass. Thus, “Dream On” (NOT the Aerosmith song) was sentimental but not sickeningly sweet and sappy.
The underlying bluesy tones from the band helped give a nice extra something to the track “High Voltage Kicks”. The band’s lack of artifice about their party rock material is pretty much confirmed with the song “What Ya Bringin’ To The Party”. Also, since I was 16 at the time and hated everything the music labeling group the PMRC stood for, any song that had some sort of swearing in it was a big draw. So you can imagine how much my idiotic teenage brain loved the album closing “Kiss It Goodbye”.
Like I said, I hadn’t listened to it in years. However, as I listened to it for the purposes of this article, I was singing along with every lyric as if it was that first day I owned the album.
There’s really not a single bad track on the album. While the band never really had much in the way of huge commercial success, this album should’ve been one of the biggest of the 80’s. I’m most assuredly in the minority opinion on this, but for me Wild In The Streets is that good.
Notes of Interest: Don Airey and Mickey Curry make guest appearances on the album. Airey (who would go on to join Deep Purple in 2002), is one of three credited players on keyboards. Curry was one of three credited drummers for the album. He has played with a who’s who of artists in his career and was the drummer for the Bryan Adams smash hit album Reckless.