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.
FIREHOUSE – FIREHOUSE (1990)
I HATE FIREHOUSE!
That was a rallying cry for me for any number of years. That gawdawful “Love of a Lifetime” ballad really killed any chance for me to like the band back in the day.
But a funny thing happened about 18 months or so ago. I finally got off my duff and listened to a full Firehouse album. I wrote about the band’s Hold Your Fire release for The Cassette Chronicles in December 2018 and overall, I really enjoyed it.
So the blind hatred softened a lot. But it’s been a while since I’ve been tempted to try and listen to any of their other releases. First off, they aren’t exactly easy to find on cassette these days and then there was the slight fear that Hold Your Fire would be a one-off exception to the admittedly self-made rule.
But on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the band’s self-titled debut album’s release, I figured it was about time I checked out where it all started for the band.
The Firehouse album ended up featuring four songs that were released as singles. While three of them did make some noise on the charts, it was the one that didn’t chart that I ended up thinking the most of overall. “Shake & Tumble” may not have thrilled the singles chart people but there is a darn good edginess to the song that made it stand out to me.
As for the other three singles, you had what have become some of Firehouse’s best known (and loved) songs like “All She Wrote”, “Don’t Treat Me Bad” and of course, the ballad which I mentioned at the top of this piece.
While “Love of a Lifetime” may have found the most success (it hit #5), you will never convince me that it is anything other than a total crapfest. Now you may chalk that up to the fact that I’m never going to be confused as a great romantic, but my skin crawls and my teeth ache whenever I hear this damn song.
But I will say that the other two songs have kind of grown on me a bit over the years. I didn’t think much of “All She Wrote” originally but I’ve come to appreciate the song a lot more than I ever did before now. With “Don’t Treat Me Bad”, there’s an undeniable hook to the song that gets inside you for some reason. Again, the song has grown on me over the years.
The strange thing about the first side of the cassette is how fast moving each song is. There isn’t much rest for the weary as each song rocks out. I didn’t think a whole lot of the opening track “Rock On The Radio”, which I might put down to the song’s overlong and boring intro. But when I got to the last two songs on Side One, I started thinking to myself that the strength of this album seemed to lay with the album tracks over the singles.
On “Oughta Be A Law”, the way the band used the big backing vocal sound to enhance the chorus really gave the song a lift. Meanwhile, “Lover’s Lane” was a purely killer aggressive sounding rocker. It ended up as one of my preferred tracks on the album.
The second side of the album started off a bit slow with the intro on “Home Is Where The Heart Is” but the song’s tempo picked up soon afterwards and it became a solid rock track.
I liked the more slow burning groove oriented feel to “Don’t Walk Away”. The instrumental “Seasons Of Change” was adeptly written and performed but I can’t help feeling it was a little out of place on this album for some reason. Still, it was a decent track and guitarist Bill Leverty certainly earned any and all kudos that comes his way for this track and throughout the Firehouse album.
As with Side One, the standout songs on Side Two were album cuts. Singer C.J. Snare’s elastic vocal scream at the start of “Overnight Sensation” got that track off to a rousing start that continued right to the finish. The album’s closing track “Helpless” is another ballsy rocker that brings things to a frenzied finish and quickly became another track I just couldn’t help but love.
So remember when I said that I was a card-carrying member of the “I HATE FIREHOUSE” club? I may have been overstating things a bit due to an overabundance of pure musical ignorance. While I am not a fan of the band’s ballads in the least, when they cut loose, they really come up with some fiery rock and roll songs that are full of aggressive hooks and loads of melody.
It may have taken me waiting 30 years to get around to it, but I think I just might actually like the band a hell of a lot than I could ever have imagined. You just need to listen to this album for evidence as to my evolving opinion about the band.
NOTES OF INTEREST: The band got loads of recognition and critical acclaim for the Firehouse album. The release went to #21 on the album chart and was certified double platinum.
The song “Don’t Walk Away” was used in the Mickey Rourke film The Wrestler.
The band has released eight studio albums, though they haven’t put a new release since 2011. There was a 1999 live album and there’s been three greatest hits releases as well.