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 and 1990’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.
Honeymoon Suite – Racing After Midnight (1988)
In the song “Tears On The Page” there is the lyric line “We should’ve made it, we could’ve had it all.” That line could conceivably sum up the woulda, coulda, shoulda aspect of Honeymoon Suite’s career.
The band’s first three albums, including the self-titled debut and their to-this-day masterpiece The Big Prize and this Racing After Midnight release are superb examples of the best of what is now the melodic rock genre has to offer. They had it all, great guitar work, a dynamic singer, the overlayed keyboards that didn’t mute the guitar work and catchy as hell songwriting. Sadly, while there was a modicum of success in the US and far more in their native Canada, it seems the deserved fame and respect the band deserves kind of eluded them.
However, it isn’t because there was anything lacking in the material. Because on Racing After Midnight, the band is on fire throughout. The mixture of rockers and ballads keep the blood flowing and shine a spotlight on guitarist Derry Grehan and singer Johnnie Dee in particular.
The band wastes no time getting started, leading off the album with the adrenaline fueled “Lookin’ Out For Number One.” It’s one of two tracks that best highlight the fiery licks from Grehan. It’s aggressive without being over the top and full of enough melodic hooks to grab you and not let go. The other song that blazes with Grehan’s fretwork as the sole spotlighted instrument is “Other Side of Midnight,” the closing song on side one of the album.
Of course, this is the 1980’s we are talking about so the keyboard sound also plays a big part in the band’s overall sound. While the slower tempo ballad songs are quite obviously powered by Rob Preuss’s keys work, I thought where he stood out best is when the keys and guitar were combined to give songs like “Love Changes Everything” and the aforementioned “Tears On The Page” a more fleshed out and musically deeper fulfilling sound.
The album closes with a remixed version of the ballad “Lethal Weapon.” The original version of the song was played over the closing credits of the first Lethal Weapon movie. I remember hearing the song when I saw the movie and thought that it seemed a bit trite for the song to have to work in “Lethal Weapon” into the chorus. Nearly 30 years later, I still feel it just didn’t quite mesh the way I’m sure it was intended.
The band is still together, having gone through a series of lineup changes over the years, and they still tour. There have been five albums since this one. Their 2008 release Clifton Hill was an album that I got to review when I was writing for another website at that time.
So, if you haven’t ever checked the band out, you are missing out on some fine melodic hard rock. Racing After Midnight amply demonstrates how talented Honeymoon Suite was and the fact more people didn’t get that fact at the time is a little sad because they really could’ve and should’ve had it all.
Notes of Interest: The album was co-produced by Ted Templeman, best known for his work with Van Halen, The Doobie Brothers and solo work from ex-Doobie Brother Michael McDonald. McDonald helped out with the recording of Racing After Midnight when singer Johnnie Dee was seriously injured in a car accident. McDonald wrote lyrics and sang back up on the song “Long Way Back.”