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.
BATON ROUGE – SHAKE YOUR SOUL (1990)
The debut album from Baton Rouge came about after the band moved from Louisiana to Los Angeles and had gone through a number of name changes.
I’d like to say that I remember this album fondly but you can chalk this up to yet another latter day metal years album that I completely missed the boat on. I’d heard the band’s name back then but I wouldn’t lay odds on whether or not I ever heard their music.
The funny thing is, this is actually a better than average album for its time. The reason I say that it is funny is because while I liked the music after now having “discovered” the band, the reported reason the band ended up breaking up was due in large part to singer Kelly Keeling being unhappy with the music and the band.
Such a shame too, because Baton Rouge sure did seem to have a lot going for it on this first album. They had some really great rocking tracks featuring huge instantly memorable hook filled choruses, some great riffs from guitarist Lance Bulen and an overall sound that even now just grabs you by the ears and won’t let go.
The first side of the album did take me a bit longer to fully appreciate but the big chorus, driven by a gang backing vocal, really kicked off lead track “Doctor” nicely. That could also be said about “Bad Time Coming Down”, a rhythmic rocker that just oozes a cool vibe from start to finish.
The requisite power ballad was “It’s About Time” and while the tempo of the track tended to lean more towards the faster portions of the song, this one just didn’t do much for me at all. The brief instrumental “The Midge” was pretty inconsequential in my book too.
That said, the stand out cut on the first side of the album has to be “Walks Like A Woman”. I loved this song. Fast paced with a strong melodic hook to it, the song also has a killer chorus that darn near had me singing out loud where other people could hear me. I did manage to hold off on doing that so embarrassment at my bad singing was avoided. Still, it is a killer track!
Now when we get to the second side of the album things just get exponentially better. The second power ballad, “There Was A Time (The Storm)” follows the expected course for a song of its kind but happily enough, I found it to be halfway decent.
And that’s the only criticism I had with the second half of Shake Your Soul. The rest of the songs are all pure adrenaline fueled six string blitzes. “Baby’s So Cool” and “Young Hearts” are amazingly catchy. The choruses are memorable and Keeling’s vocals are striking. I was surprised to find that the song “Melenie” was also pretty darn memorable as well.
The album closes out with a double shot of premium rock and roll. “Spread Like Fire” was a white hot number and the song “Hot Blood Movin'” was my other favorite track (alongside “Walks Like A Woman”) on the album.
If you go strictly by sales, the album was a commercial failure. Still, the overall enjoyment of the music is not tied to how many people bought the album. Rather, the under-the-radar nature of the Shake Your Soul album will become a pleasant surprise to your ears.
NOTES OF INTEREST – The band disbanded after two albums but a subsequent third album, which was self-titled, was released in 1997. However, according to the band’s Wikipedia page, though vocalist Kelly Keeling appears on the album as a vocalist he doesn’t consider that an official reunion of the band. He was the only original member to appear on that release. The original lineup did reunite to play the Rocklahoma festival in 2009 but never did a full reunion.
Kelly Keeling would go on to work with Blue Murder, Dokken, George Lynch and Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
Among the guest musicians on Shake Your Soul are drummers Joey Franco from Twisted Sister and Frankie LaRocka from Company of Wolves (a recent Cassette Chronicles featured band).