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.
Babylon A.D’s Babylon A.D. (1989)
The self-titled album from Babylon A.D. came out just a few months after I graduated high school and the two best known tracks from the album landed with an amped up fist upside the head.
For me, there’s no doubt that the two lead tracks from this album, “Bang Go The Bells” and “Hammer Swings Down,” represent some of the best adrenaline fueled anthemic rock that the genre had to offer at the time. Both songs capture everything that made the 80’s metal era so special.
Now I would like to say that I worship this album like a religious artifact or something but the truth of the matter is that beyond those two songs, I initially didn’t really get into the rest of it. I had the cassette, but I kind of bypassed the rest of the album with only a cursory interest. I have no reason why except to say that the band and album just simply fell through the cracks for me. The album disappeared from my collection and I have no idea what happened to it. So when I got the chance to pick it up again, I knew that I had to do so.
I’d heard other songs from Babylon A.D. over the years and had really grown to appreciate what I had so casually ignored in the past. But what really got me interested in the album was when my friend Roger [Chouinard], who owns Purchase Street Records, showed me a damn near pristine vinyl edition of the album when I visited the shop one day. He put it on and we listened to the whole album and I was kind of blown away, albeit 28 years after the fact.
The songs “Maryanne” and “Sweet Temptation” keep things on a fast paced track while the extended guitar opening on “Shot O’ Love” provides one of the few quieter moments on the album.
The late comedian Sam Kinison appears on the track “The Kid Goes Wild.” The song was featured in the movie Robocop 2. While the song is pretty good, it actually could’ve done without Kinison’s mid-song ranting. The band may have been “Angry and young, under the gun” but Kinison was merely a distraction.
While the band is categorized as glam metal, singer Derek Davis (billed solely as “Derek” in the liner notes) has a bluesy timbre to his voice that gives the band a little different edge than number of bands from that time period. This is most on display in the closing track “Sally Danced” which is starts off as a blues/blues rock song before gaining more of an in your face hard rock vibe as the song progresses.
The strength of “Caught Up In The Crossfire” comes mainly from its chorus, which is just killer. Also falling into the make or break chorus category is the band’s “power ballad,” the song “Desperate”. The other saving grace is how the intensity of the song grows (much like most power ballads from the 80’s) toward the end of the song.
It may have taken me a long time to really get into this album, but believe me I’m there now. This album is a hugely underrated gem from the mid-to-late period of when metal ruled the world. If you like pure, honest and unadulterated rock and roll, you’d do right by yourself to pick this album up and make your ears bleed in the good kind of way.
Notes of interest: While Babylon A.D. hasn’t released a studio album since 2000, they’ve had four different periods of activity including their latest reformation (with 4/5 of the original lineup) that began in 2013.
Jack Ponti, a prolific musician/songwriter/producer/label executive, co-wrote five of the album’s 10 songs. He produced two mid-90’s albums by Doro Pesch and went on to be the CEO of the Merovingian Music label.