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.
SARAYA – SARAYA (1989)
When I first started looking up information for the self-titled debut album from Saraya, I was surprised to see that some of the push on the band’s behalf included promoting them as a female-fronted version of Bon Jovi.
I don’t know if that is entirely true or not, but if so I don’t think it served to help the band in the least. They just didn’t seem to be even close to the level that Bon Jovi was on at that time. I’m talking song quality, etc.
Now, don’t take that for saying that I think the music is bad. Quite the contrary actually. But I know that I only barely remember the band myself so it isn’t like these songs have that “timeless” quality to them that makes you hum them decades later like “You Give Love a Bad Name” or “Living on a Prayer”.
Though I didn’t buy this album when it came out, I remember the song (and accompanying video) for the lead track “Love Has Taken Its Toll”. However, I thought that would be it for me in terms of recognizing any of the material on this album. So you can imagine how happy I was to realize that the songs “Gypsy Child” and “Back To The Bullet” were also songs I remembered. I can’t offer an explanation as to why I know the songs but as they played while I was listening to the album in order to write this article, I could sing the lyrics in my head right along with singer Sandy Saraya.
With “Love Has Taken Its Toll” kicking the album off, I’d hoped for a nice run of rocking songs but the very next song on Side One of the album was “Healing Touch” and I just could not get into it at all. I thought it kind of squandered whatever momentum the first song had built up in my mind.
All was not lost though. The last three songs on Side One are all pretty darn good. There’s the aforementioned “Gypsy Child” but the closing track, “One Night Away” rocks pretty hard too. As for “Get U Ready”, I thought the band was their most aggressive sounding on the number. The vocal take was more aggressively performed and I thought that Sandi Saraya going that way made the song that much better.
The majority of the songwriting featured Saraya, guitarist Tony “Bruno” Rey and keyboardist Greg Munier but Sandy Linzer received a co-write credit on 8 of the 11 songs on the album. He also executive produced the band. When I looked up information about him, he’s been a pretty active songwriter since the the 1960’s, even if it wasn’t in the more rock or metal driven arenas.
But whatever the collaboration between them all, the second side of the album continued to bring about some really strong songs for me to listen to. There was a soft opening with Munier’s “Alsace Lorraine” instrumental but that song fed directly into “Runnin’ Out of Time” which was another fast paced rocker that really catches your ear. After the “Back To The Bullet” song you had the song “Fire To Burn” and that was a damn fine listen as well.
You’ll note that I’ve yet to discuss any songs that would be classified as a ballad. This would be down to the fact that the band really hadn’t put one on the album’s running order to this point. That changed with the song “St. Christopher’s Medal” and I kind of wished it hadn’t. There’s nothing to see or hear with this track and I was rather glad when the song faded to black. The last track “Drop The Bomb” finished off the album in a more rocking style and for that I’m pretty glad.
I actually listened to this album at work and my co-worker that hates everything I play was somewhat complimentary towards this album. He said he’s heard far worse (I did say SOMEWHAT) and thought Sandi Saraya reminded him of Pat Benatar with Tony Rey’s guitar had him thinking Rick Derringer.
For me, my prior knowledge of the band’s music was very limited. I’ve found that my ignoring of the album 30 years ago was a mistake because they actually had some real quality music for rock and metal fans. Whether they are all that well remembered now is besides the point for me. Saraya put out a really good album and I wish I hadn’t been so clueless back then.
NOTES OF INTEREST: The band would go on to release one more album, 1991’s When The Blackbird Sings, before breaking up. They also had the song “Timeless Love” on the soundtrack to the Wes Craven movie Shocker. That track does not appear on either of their albums. There was an attempt to put on a reunion show at a British rock festival in 2010 but it didn’t end up happening.
Most of the band seems to be out of the music business these days, but Tony “Bruno” Rey has gone on to work with acts like Joan Jett, Enrique Iglesias and Rihanna. He was also a part of Danger Danger in 1988 – 1989 and appeared on a number of tracks on their first album.
Keyboardist Greg Munier appeared on the band’s second album but left the band over the direction the music was taken. Sadly, he passed away in 2006.