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.
SCANDAL FEATURING PATTY SMYTH – WARRIOR (1984)
To file the band Scandal under the “one-hit wonder” category might be strictly accurate, but it also does the band a bit of disservice. Or at least so I have now discovered for myself.
In 1984, the Warrior album was released and based on the title track being used as the lead single, the album would go on to achieve the platinum sales mark. The song “The Warrior” was a huge hit both on the radio and on MTV. The radio airplay saw the song become a top-10 hit while the video was in heavy rotation on the video channel. The fact that there was such a striking visual component in the video makes it memorable even now. (Though I think I remember seeing on that VH-1 Pop-Up Video program that the band hated the way they were done up for the video shoot.)
While I was a huge fan of the song, I never really thought much more about the band. I would venture to say that a lot of people thought the same way because when the band released the songs “Hands Tied” and “Beat Of A Heart”, neither one made the Top-40 chart.
Scandal quickly disappeared from my radar after “The Warrior” song had faded from the pop charts. As it turned out, due to band and label issues, the band broke up after a tour that ended in 1985.
So I think it is understandable that it wasn’t until just recently that I even owned a copy of this album. I found it in a stack of cassettes at a record shop and couldn’t resist picking it up.
Not having heard the album or any of the songs besides the title track before, I don’t know what I was expecting as I popped the cassette in my player. What I found out was that Scandal’s only full album is one hell of an enjoyable melodic rock album.
After the title track opens up the album, the rest of side one is pretty intriguing. The music for “Beat Of A Heart” is pretty fast moving but there is a dramatic shading to the way Patty Smyth’s vocals are presented on the song that gives the song a much more intriguing feel to it than I would’ve expected. I loved the lyrical line “Sometimes the innocent pay for an old man’s sins”. I also liked the way “Hands Tied” sounded.
Those were the three singles from the album so every other song essentially became “album tracks”, but it doesn’t lessen their impact to me. I know that it is 36 years after the fact but the catchy uptempo drive of “Less Than Half” got my feet tapping. The vocal track for the song is really good.
Now, I had said just a bit earlier in this article that I hadn’t heard any of the other songs besides “The Warrior” before. However, that was kind of a half-truth. See, the last song on side one is “Only The Young”. If you recognize that title and wonder if it is a cover of the Journey song, you’d be kind of right. The song was written and recorded by Journey in 1983 but got pulled from their album Frontiers. The band apparently sold it to Scandal who recorded their own version and released it for the Warrior album. But Journey did an about face and released their version in 1985 on the Vision Quest movie soundtrack and saw the song become a Top-10 hit.
Scandal’s version of the song might be pretty much lost in the shuffle these days but there’s enough of a twist (particularly given the vocal differences between Smyth and Steve Perry) that I loved this version of the track as well.
Side Two of the album opens with “All I Want” and “Talk To Me”. Both songs feature the band putting forth a very rocking sound with each track and truth be told, they are two of my favorite songs on the release.
Surprisingly enough, the one pure ballad track on the album, “Say What You Will” was a decent performer. The song pulls on just the right emotive strings for the listener without making you cringe. The album closes with two more rocking numbers in “Tonight” and “Maybe We Went Too Far”. Each of those tracks helps provide a solid sense of satisfaction with the album as a whole.
There may not be a whole lot to write about Scandal giving how brief their actual recording career was. I mean, an EP and one studio album don’t generally make for a legendary career. But despite the small output and various conflicts for the band, once you listen to Warrior, you will realize (however belatedly) that it is an AOR classic!
NOTES OF INTEREST: Rock Candy Records reissued the album on CD in 2014 and included the original Scandal EP as bonus tracks.
Despite breaking up in 1985, the band got back together in 2004 (prompted by an appearance on the VH-1 series Bands Reunited) and have been performing together since then. However, they’ve released no new music save a cover of the Christmas song “Silent Night” in 2011.
Three of Scandal’s original members have died over the years. Bassist Ivan Elias (cancer in 1995), drummer Frankie LaRocka (after surgery in 2005) and keyboardist Benjy King (car accident 2012). The current lineup of Scandal features only Patty Smyth and guitarist Keith Mack from the original lineup. While guitarist Zack Smith started the band, he was only a part of the reunion period from 2004-2006.