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.
COREY HART – FIRST OFFENSE (1984)
It’s funny how some songs stick with you even with the passage of decades without giving much thought to the artist who performed it.
For better or for worse, that’s how it works for me regarding singer Corey Hart. He had a monster hit from this debut album in the song “Sunglasses At Night”. The song went to #7 on the Billboard singles chart and I can distinctly remember loving the song as it climbed the charts each week on Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 radio program.
I won’t admit to wearing sunglasses whenever I heard the song during the night as I would either sing or lip-synch along to the song, but if you want to assume that I did, I probably couldn’t truthfully argue with you about it. The song was just a really cool track. The funny thing is that I can’t remember the video at all. I know it got some heavy rotation on MTV but even after reading the Wikipedia information about what goes on in the video, I can’t recall it. This seems strange to me since I usually have a good memory regarding videos from the 80’s.
This is another one of those albums that I never got around to buying back in the days when I barely had started working so I wasn’t exactly flush with cash to buy everything I might’ve wanted. So when I listened to First Offense for this article, I was surprised that the album isn’t merely a pop music album. It’s got some decent rock and roll sounds to it. While the only other song released as a single was the ballad “It’s Ain’t Enough” (#17 on the singles chart), there are actually a number of songs that struck my fancy.
On the first side of the album “Lamp At Midnite” and “She Got The Radio” are strong tracks while I found “Peruvian Lady” to be a bit of a drag despite the quick moving pace of the song.
The second side of the album opens up with an incredibly strong rock track “Does She Love You”. It’s not only got a great rock vibe but the guitar work on the song is fantastic. Setting aside the strength of the album’s two singles, this is probably my favorite track of the rest of the album.
The song “Cheatin’ At School” was a bit less interesting but there’s some more strong guitar work in the song, particularly the solo. I wish I could say even that much about “The World Is Fire” but I just didn’t like that one all that much.
I’m about as uncoordinated and lacking in the necessary rhythm to be anything but an embarrasment to myself and others on the dance floor but the jaunty pace and delivery of the song “At The Dance” does get your foot tapping and if you were inclined to dance, this would be a song you might’ve heard on the audio system back in the day. It’s a get up and go type of rhythmic track and despite my inability to dance, I enjoyed the song.
It’s funny how you sometimes make connections that make no sense between songs. When I first heard the opening of the album’s closing track “Jenny Fey”, I was reminded of the song “Jenny of Oldstones” that was featured in the “A Knight Of The Seven Kingdoms” episode of the TV series Game of Thrones. I don’t know why my brain tied the songs together because the tracks really don’t share much in common beside the name “Jenny”. But the connection was made nonetheless. Whatever the reason, I found the ballad to be quite intriguing and it made for quite the all-encompassing way to end the album for me.
It isn’t always a good thing to revisit the pop music of the early-mid 1980’s. There’s been an album here and there that made me question why I had ever liked that track or group back in the day. But I have to say getting the full album exposure to First Offense was a pretty good experience for me. Sure, it’s not perfect but it is rare that any album is and despite a couple tracks that I found wanting, this is a pretty darn good release.
NOTES OF INTEREST: The First Offense album has three versions. The first two were Canadian releases in 1983 before the US version (all three are slightly different) came out in 1984. The US release is the version of the album I have. The US release was certified Gold.
Corey Hart was nominated for four Juno Awards (the Canadian Grammys) in 1984 and won for “Best Video”. He was also nominated for the Best New Artist Grammy Award for the same year.
The song “Jenny Fey” features Eric Clapton making a guest appearance on the Dobro guitar.