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.
PRINCESS PANG – PRINCESS PANG (1989)
Formed in Sweden but mostly identified as an American band, Princess Pang is one of the more obscure late 80’s rock bands I can think of. The reasons for this is that they released just this one album and it went absolutely nowhere. They got some recognition for the album’s lead track, “Trouble In Paradise”, but if you look online there’s not a whole lot of talk about the band and they aren’t even listed as having so much as a Wikipedia page.
And while I find that a gigantic shame now, I guess you could say that I was part of the problem back then. I absolutely loved the “Trouble In Paradise” song. The video was good and singer Jeni Foster had that whiskey soaked bluesy sound to her vocals. But when I originally bought this album, I really didn’t get into the rest of the songs and ended up letting the band just slip away from my conscious thought.
I had the cassette in my collection for years but it had disappeared through loss or destruction. That didn’t stop me from remembering the band though and when I got this new to me cassette version, I knew that I had to give it another shot. And I’m glad that I did, because upon reflection, this album actually rocks!
Though there are the expected trappings of the glam metal sound, the music is definitely slanted more towards that bluesy hard rock that I love so much. While Foster’s vocals are the primary selling point for me, the guitar work from Jay Lewis and Andy Tjernon is pretty exhilarating when the band kicks off the more electrically charged rockers in their repertoire.
As I said, “Trouble In Paradise” was the lead single and opening track on the album. The way Foster’s voice cuts through and captures your ear on this song is intriguing. She takes no prisoners. I remember just loving the way her vocal sounded on the opening two lines of lyrics, “Caught me downtown / on the southside of Holy Joe’s place”. I know that it is a simple little lyric but I was hooked on the song right then and there. It’s a no-holds-barred rock and roll stomp kind of a song.
The rest of the side one of the album is actually quite rocking with the exception of “Find My Heart A Home”. This song was written by Foster alone (she at least co-wrote every track on the album) and brings you down from the immediate musical high of the first song with a more mid-tempo track. It’s decent enough, but not a song I really got into as much as the rest.
I loved the solo on “South St. Kids” and “Sympathy” was another shot of adrenaline, but I think the other stand out song has to be “No Reason To Cry”. Leaning into that bluesy driven sound I mentioned, this song has a bar room boogie kind of feel that will leave you wondering if you are in the midst of some honkytonk bar. It really did a number on me when I heard it again.
Side two has six tracks and again shows the band in its more fiery rocking state. The only bump in the road for me was “Baby Blue”. The song is a ballad with the pace ticking upwards during the chorus, but it just didn’t do a thing for me.
Otherwise, the band unleashes one salvo after another. “Too Much Too Soon” plays out as a cautionary tale and has a big edgy vibe in the chorus. “China Doll” and “Scream & Shout” get your heart rate up and “I’m Not Playin” brings the house (and album) down with a crescendo of rocking pyrotechnics.
The album was released by Metal Blade Records, which in hindsight seems kind of odd given that the label is generally associated with heavier sounding music. But looking back, they got it right by getting the Princess Pang album on the shelves. It is more of an indictment on music fans (myself included from back then) that it ended up being criminally ignored.
The band may be long gone and sadly barely remembered but this album is a fine testimonial to their talent, even if it has gone unrecognized for so long.
NOTE OF INTEREST: The album is nearly impossible to find on CD. Or rather to find an affordable copy. Looking on eBay, the rare listing for a CD copy has always been expensive. I’ve actually messaged British reissue label Rock Candy Records a few times suggesting they look into giving this album a place in their release schedule. Naturally, I’m still waiting for a response.