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.
(Writer’s Note: Singer Tony Harnell will be teaming up with Stryper’s Michael Sweet for “Tour 1987” a run of dates in Fall 2020 that is the first time they’ve teamed since the Stryper/TNT tour of 1987. The tour will hit The Vault Music Hall & Pub in New Bedford, MA, on October 3, 2020. Purchase tickets HERE).
TNT – TELL NO TALES (1987)
My initial introduction to TNT came through the eye-catching artwork for the band’s album Intuition in a magazine ad that I saw. I like that kind of artwork that makes you stop on a dime to drink it all in. This was back in 1989 when I still had little in the way of regular bills to pay and could just run out and grab whatever music struck my fancy.
And that’s what I did. I bought Intuition, but I also grabbed up TNT’s two previous albums which is the one I’m going to be writing about in this article plus Knights of the New Thunder. But whatever I thought going into the albums, I found myself sorely disappointed upon those initial listens. I really never connected with the band’s music for some reason. And so, the band kind of faded from my radar only popping up whenever they made news for splitting with singer Tony Harnell or the ensuing welcoming him back to the fold over the years.
The albums exited my collection and I didn’t think much about them until it turned out I bought a couple of them as part of “The Big Box of Cassettes”. This is how it came to be that I pulled Tell No Tales out of the box this week and decided to give it a listen. (A side note here: The cassette was still in its original wrapping.) Could my reservations about the release have evolved over the ensuing three decades plus? Well, surprisingly enough they did.
Say what you want, but TNT certainly wastes no time noodling around to add length to the songs. The album is just a little over 30 minutes long including three admittedly unnecessary instrumentals amongst the eleven tracks. (There’s a 12th song listed on the album’s Wikipedia page, but “Destiny” is listed as a bonus track and I’m guessing that’s only on the CD version.)
The thing I found the most interesting upon my re-evaluation of the album is hearing just how much fiery rock and roll the band laid out. It is on the more uptempo tracks where they shine the most. For all the seemingly mercurial nature of guitars Ronni Le Tekro, the man can blaze on a guitar. Morty Black and Diesel Dahl made for a killer rhythm section as well.
I think part of the reason that I didn’t get into TNT as much as I might’ve wished for back in the day is that I wasn’t crazy about Harnell’s high pitched vocals at the time. Suffice to say, I’ve evolved on that as well. I’ve heard a bit of his work in other projects and enjoyed his performances.
That enjoyment has worked its way backwards through his catalog because I found myself rocking out as he sang the songs “Everyone’s A Star” and what is arguably the band’s best known song, “10,000 Lovers (In One)”. When you add in “As Far As The Eye Can See”, it turns out that Tell No Tales actually had a killer three track opening to the album.
I mentioned the album includes three instrumentals. Thankfully they are mercifully brief because they don’t really add a thing to the release. Two of them are on Side One and when you add in the annoyingly distracting balladry of “Child’s Play”, the last half of the first side of the album goes out like a lamb.
But things immediately take a turn for the more rocking side of the ledger on Side Two with the tracks “Listen To Your Heart” and “Desperate Night”. Both songs are fast paced in nature and really spotlight my newly formed belief that they are at their best when they put the pedal to the mettle.
“Northern Lights” started off a bit slow for me, but when the pacing picked up, I enjoyed the song a lot more. The title track closes out the album and it just blazes a fiery path. While there is a ton of melody to it, the song is so fast that you’d think they were going head to head with a thrash band to see who could play faster. Still, the song is pretty invigorating and it actually left me wanting more.
It is always strange when my notions about an album or band undergo this kind of evolution of opinion. It leaves me wondering just why I didn’t connect with an album the first time around. I don’t have an answer to that question but I do know that the story of Tell No Tales now has a different kind of ending for this music lover and I’m almost certainly going to have to go back and check out the other albums I had to see if they leave me with a changed opinion as well.
NOTES OF INTEREST: I write CD reviews for another website and in 2018, I got to review the TNT release XIII. It was the first album to feature new singer Baol Bardot Bulsara. The album was a bit strange because Tony Harnell had once again departed the band but was credited with co-writing six of the songs on the disc and sang backing vocals on one song.
Among the solo projects and band projects that Tony Harnell has done over the years are bands like Westworld, Starbreaker, Morning Wood and a brief stint in Skid Row, he’s also done a number of tracks for the Sonic The Hedgehog video game series. Two of the recordings were done with Danger Danger singer Ted Poley.