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.
LEATHERWOLF – STREET READY (1989)
I’m not quite sure what the cause was behind the dismal failure of this album when it was released back in 1989. Whether it was a lack of label support, a simple case of falling between the cracks or a metal music fan base that didn’t know what was good for itself, Leatherwolf’s Street Ready, the band’s third album disappeared with nary a trace and led almost directly to the band’s breakup in 1990.
What amazes me most is that this album really had everything that should’ve made it a monster hit back in 1989, when metal’s reign atop the musical mountain top was still at full peak. If you wanted monster riffs and crackling musical runs, you could check out songs like “Wicked Ways”, the title track or even the instrumental “Black Knight”. For me to single out the latter track back in the day was a big thing because I really didn’t have much in the way of appreciation for instrumental music then. But that cut was outstanding.
The band also had a grasp on the notion of combining outstanding melodic hooks with the charged balls out rocking music. The song “Hideaway” (which was the band’s first single and video for radio/MTV) was a sort of power ballad that did the song genre proud. Side two of the album led off with another strong melodic heavy rocker in “Thunder”. It also should’ve been a big hit for the band.
There was also then a novelty of having three guitar players in the band (singer Michael Olivieri, Gary Gayer and Carey Howe all had guitars in hand and on the album). It might not mean much nowadays but it was intriguing to the sound back then.
I had this album from the time of release. I remember buying it from my Columbia House music club. I played it a lot and over the years I would always remember to rotate the album into the mix of the stuff I brought to work. But when my cassette finally wore out, I was able to track down an affordable CD though it wasn’t easy. Ironically, it was just a couple weeks after getting the CD that the album came back to me as a cassette with the purchase of the 100 cassettes from Purchase Street Records. Thus, a new Cassette Chronicles entry was born.
It might be more interesting to find something…anything…to complain about this album but in truth there is absolutely nothing wrong with this album. Every one of the 10 tracks is outstanding, not a single not of filler is to be found here. Street Ready should’ve given the band a huge profile all over the world. It really does have it all. The songwriting is strong, the vocals grab you immediately and for me, there’s an authenticity to it all that might’ve been in short supply by bands that came after them before grunge took over the musical landscape.
This is one of the more underrated metal albums from the 80’s, which I think is still a bit of an understatement. Do yourself a favor and check this one out, I think you’ll find that you’ll agree.
Notes of Interest – Though the band broke up in 1990, they reunited in 1999 and have been a going concern since then (with a bevy of lineup changes over the years). However, they have not released a new studio album since 2007’s New World Asylum.
While original singer Michael Olivieri has been the longest serving vocalist, when he was out of the band, Racer X’s Jeff Martin and Wade Black (ex-Crimson Glory) stepped into the role. Black recorded the album World Asylum with the band in 2006 before it was reissued the following year with Olivieri’s vocals in place of Black’s.