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.
BLACK ‘N BLUE – BLACK ‘N BLUE (1984)
Welcome to another year of The Cassette Chronicles. The third year of this series will now be coming to you on (Throwback) Thursday but you can bet that I’ll still be reflecting back on a variety of rock, pop and heavy metal albums throughout the year.
We’re starting the year off with an album that will be marking its 35th anniversary later this summer. Of course, given that 1984 was a pretty important year musically, I’m sure I’ll be mentioning that in more than just this particular article. So let’s get things going, shall we?
The self-titled debut album from Black ‘N Blue is a bit of an odd duck for me. I’m struck by the fact that while there’s a standard hard driving rock feel to the songs, there really didn’t seem to be an overabundance of melody to a lot of the music. By this I mean, it just hit you in the face with a rock and roll attitude but somehow also comes off a little bit tuneless to my ear. It seems strange to say that but that was my initial impression. Things did get a little better, but first impressions are generally on the mark in my experience.
The album starts off with two anthems in “The Strong Will Rock” and “School Of Hard Knocks”. As I said, the band quickly establishes itself in terms of rocking out but neither song really got me overly excited. The majority of the songs on the album were written by singer Jaime St. James and Tommy Thayer (guitarist Jeff Warner, bassist Patrick Young and drummer Pete Holmes received a single co-writing credit each) so any issues I have with the overall quality of the individual tracks would be laid at their feet.
It was the song “Autoblast” that first got my attention. It come out firing fast and furious and really caught my ear. The band followed that one up with “Hold On To 18”, which has the distinction of being the only song that enjoyed any success as a single. When I heard it, it was instantly memorable but I couldn’t tell you where I’ve heard it before because I never owned this album in the past. Still, it is a pretty good and it was the song that started to turn my opinion around regarding the album as a whole.
The song “Wicked Bitch” closed out the first side of the cassette and it was a very hard rocking number.
Side two of the album opened with a cover of the Sweet song “Action”. It was also the first of four songs in a row where the shouted choruses (featuring the song title, of course) really worked better for me than on side one.
The album really had nothing in the way of soft balladry with Black ‘N Blue instead focusing their energy crafting volume driven rockers. I wasn’t crazy about “I’m The King” or the closing song “Chains Around Heaven” but “Show Me The Night” and “One For The Money” were pretty good.
Look, Black ‘N Blue is always going to be best known for being the band from which both St. James and Thayer went on to bigger and better bands/things. That’s just immutable truth. But while this is definitely a look at the band in their musical infancy, it does have some pretty special moments threaded throughout the album. It won’t be remembered as a great album, but for those music fans who like the idea of listening to a band’s entire discography as a means of doing musical genealogy, it gives you a raw and somewhat unrefined look at where the band started out from.
NOTE OF INTEREST: The album was produced by Dieter Dierks who is probably best known for his longtime association with the Scorpions and for his work with Accept as well.