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.
JULLIET – JULLIET (1990)
It is not often that I find myself at a complete loss when it comes to having knowledge of a band that came from the 80’s metal years. Usually even if I’ve never heard a band’s music, I’ve at least heard of the band at the very least. In the case of Florida-to-L.A. transplants Julliet, I can’t even say that I remember hearing the band’s name back in the day.
You can imagine how this would inevitably lead me down the Internet research rabbit hole after listening to the album in full. Despite having some of the expected trappings of the glam metal scene of late 1980’s/early ’90s Los Angeles, the band’s self-titled debut album is a chock full of one surprisingly good song after another.
Julliet featured Kenny McGee on vocals, Jimmi DeLisi on guitar, Ty Westerhoff on bass and drummer Greg Pecka. While their sound hit the expected benchmarks I mentioned in the previous paragraph, there was also a bluesy edge to a lot of the material, particularly in the gritty vocal style of McGee.
While there are two ballads on the album (one per album side), the band mostly rocked out in a really entertaining fashion. I will say that the mid-tempo ballad on side one, “No More Tears” suffered a bit from McGee’s vocals coming off with an entirely overdone arched tone to them. There’s a decent rhythmic feel to the music but the vocal style for this particular song seemed miscast. It is the only complaint I would say I had with any of the singing on this record. The other ballad was the song “Chip Away” and that was was a solid track from start to finish.
As for the rocking out aspect of the band’s sound, the album opens with three straight rockers and they are really something to hear. The extra bit of edginess in McGee’s vocals really helps make “Eight Lives Gone” into something special. The song’s chorus is outstanding. Meanwhile, “Stay The Night” sounds as if it should’ve been a big hit single for the band, there’s a great mix of lyrics and music on the song and if the track had been released even three years earlier, we could have an entirely different remembrance of the band.
The anthem “Little Bit Of Party” might not set lyricists aflame with the band’s wordplay but as party anthem rockers go, it does fan the flames of anyone who lived during “The Metal Years”.
As the second side opened, I did think “Revvin’ Me Up” featured a bit more repetition in the lyrics than I might normally enjoy but again, the rocking nature of the track just carried me along with it and I’d be inclined not to really nitpick all that much over the words.
The band’s cover of the 1972 Randy Newman song “You Can Leave Your Hat One” is a slightly off-kilter inclusion on the album given the nature of the rest of the material but they actually pull it off and make the song their own. Given that the song has been covered by a number of artists like Etta James and Joe Cocker, it’s nice that a rock band could do the track justice as well.
While not what I would generally consider a full on ballad given the more lively pacing, the closing track “Love Can Change You” is a solid number. But my favorite song on the album would likely be “Something You Should Know”. The song is a fast paced rocker and for me, it was just a sublimely cool cut.
When I pulled this album out of the “Big Box of Cassettes”, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. Would it be a good listen or would it be another example of the latter part of the decade featuring bands that sounded more and more like each other as to be relatively indistinguishable.
Thankfully, I was more than pleasantly surprised to find that the Julliet album struck me as a real undiscovered gem. It is a vastly entertaining release that is one of the better albums that I’ve had the chance to find my way to through the writing of this series.
NOTES OF INTEREST: The band, for all intents and purposes, broke up for more than a decade before two albums were released in the early 2000s. The first of those two releases was called Passion and it was actually recorded before Julliet but never released until 2002. The album was produced by Quiet Riot’s Kevin Dubrow and featured Frankie Banali on drums. The third Julliet album was released in 2004 and called Pyscho Boyfriend.
The band does have a Facebook page and while it isn’t overly active with posts or anything, it does seem to get some posts here and there. Singer Kenny McGee who is living back in Florida from what I’ve been able to find out, is still active as a singer to this day. He’s also spent time as a pro wrestler and according to his personal Facebook page is (or was) a personal trainer.
The Julliet album was produced by Survivor guitarist Frankie Sullivan who is also credited with providing “backing guitar” and he played the guitar solo on five of the album’s songs.
Scott Warren played keyboards on the album as well as arranging the horns on the song “You Can Leave Your Hat On”. Warren would go on to play keys for Dio and is currently a member of Dio Disciples. (Special thanks to DJ Will of KNAC.COM for confirming this last bit of information.)