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.
JOHN CAFFERTY AND THE BEAVER BROWN BAND – ROADHOUSE (1988)
If the only thing you know about John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band is the big hit single “On The Dark Side” from the Eddie and the Cruisers movie, you can be forgiven. It remains the best known song the band has ever recorded.
Unsurprisingly, the band is really quite tied to that movie (and its sequel). But in between being featured band on the soundtracks for both movies, there were a couple of albums that were the band standing on their own. While ultimately unsuccessful spotlighting themselves outside of the spotlight of the movies and soundtracks, this third album is actually rather intriguing. This is another album that found its way to me without ever having been opened.
(As an aside, I should say that I found the soundtrack for Eddie and the Cruisers II: Eddie Lives! to be an outstanding album. I play it to this day and love it every single time.)
The band is from Rhode Island and that’s also where the album was recorded. Their sound is pure classic rock and roll (additionally fueled by keyboards and saxophone) which tends to be an immediate earworm for me. Cafferty wrote all the songs on Roadhouse and his voice only serves to further enhance the quality of each track.
On side one of the album, the opener “Bound For Glory” kicks off with an audio punch in your face as the song rocks straight from the first note. “Victory Dance” was a pretty cool number as the lyrics used every possible sports metaphor about winning that you can imagine. I wasn’t crazy about the song “Killing Time” but otherwise each of the remaining five tracks were actually quite good. “Song & Dance” was the single that was released from the album. It’s another fast paced track though while I enjoyed it, it didn’t chart when it was released originally. At first I thought I wasn’t going to like “Wheel of Fortune” but the song grew on me and I did like the featured guitar solo.
Overall, the second side of the album was good, but I do have to say that I wasn’t quite as enthused about a couple of songs. It opens with a slightly less in your face rocker in “Penetration” which the 12 year old inside me couldn’t help get a chuckling about. Perhaps not the reaction that the band would hope for but I just couldn’t help myself. But that admittedly immature reaction was quickly set aside for the song “Wishing Well” which I found myself getting into sync with quite nicely.
I liked the music for “Customary Thing” but was a little iffy about the vocal performance at least in spots. It felt like the vocals were stuff far down in the mix so as to make a couple of lines a bit hard to discern what was being said. “Higher Ground” slowed things down considerably. Featuring a big backing vocal sound, the song seemed to be aiming for being a bit more dramatic in scope. The song “Road I’m Running” closes out the album. It’s got a strong opening guitar lick and only improves from there.
Having started out as a bar band, John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band may have scaled the heights, but they never seemed to forget those roots. “On The Dark Side” may be the song that everyone knows and can sing along to. But whenever I listen to any of the albums they are responsible for, I can see myself watching them in a club or other venue and just being incredibly entertained. Rock solid rock and roll music, what more can you ask for from any band?
NOTE OF INTEREST: Though the band hasn’t released a new studio album since 1989, they are still actively touring throughout New England and across the country.