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.
BANSHEE – RACE AGAINST TIME (1989)
You’ll have to forgive me this week because I have to claim complete ignorance about the album I’m writing about. It doesn’t happen often but the debut full-length album Race Against Time from Banshee had me stumped.
I do not remember either the band or the album at all. This is a pretty rare experience for me because when the album was originally released in 1989, I would’ve been at the height of my personal musical investment in the decade of metal ruling the world. I might not have heard every album but usually I would’ve at least heard a song or two. Hell, I would probably have heard of the band at least. But sadly, that is not the case with Banshee.
The band’s sound at the time of Race Against Time’s release was what you might expect. It was a highly commercial melodically infused rock/metal blend. In other words, it was what is now called “hair metal”. And while that term is generally used as an insult, it isn’t that to me. It is a fitting way to describe a large portion of what made the 1980’s musically relevant for me.
The album features eleven tracks, but you can quickly discount two of them right off the bat. Unless you are an instrumental purist, the songs “Circular Flight Of The One Winged Sparrow” and the album’s closing piece “Desert Moon” amount to little more than musical doodling. I know that might seem a little harsh but neither piece really serves to enhance the overall listening experience for me.
But that isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy what else the album has to offer. The first side of the album opens up with the song “Shoot Down The Night”. If your goal is to offer up a track that perfectly encapsulates what your band is about, Banshee did a superb job with this song. The funny thing about this song is that when I was first listening to the album and making my notes for the article, I wrote “single worthy” about this song. Turns out that I called that right because if you do a YouTube search, there’s an official video for the song. Again, the fact that I didn’t know anything about Banshee before now leads to these “new” discoveries for me.
The song “All Alone” is also fast moving but there’s a little bit of a moody atmosphere to the overall sound of the song as well. Singer Tommy Lee Flood has a deeper sounding vocal presence than a lot of other singers of the era but his delivery is pretty spectacular and I really dug into his vocals on the majority of the album’s tracks. Also, while the album lists all the songs as being written by the band, all the lyrics are separately credited to Flood.
The guitar-driven speediness of songs like the album’s title track and Side Two’s “Drive Like Hell” are a testament to the talents of guitarist Terry Dunn. Each track lives up to the titles of the songs and you find yourself incredibly amped up as you listen to the songs.
I also quite enjoyed the closing song on Side One, “Call of the Wild”. It’s another hard driving and rocking song which fits in perfectly with the rest of the album.
The band’s music focuses mostly on hook-laden fast paced rockers. This gives it a slight edge with me since they don’t get overly bogged down with pursuing “balladry” immortality. The one power ballad that is included doesn’t show up until late in the second side of Race Against Time. It’s called “Missing You” and my reaction to the song was about as generic and uninspiring as the song itself. It is just not my cup of tea at all.
But that’s the essential low point of the album for me because tracks like “Precious Metal” which is lively rocking throughout helped fuel the growing appreciation I had for this album.
The standout track for me on the second side of the album was the song “Get It On The Run”. It’s a song that is just purely energetic and drives home the band’s signature sound.
It isn’t often that I find myself utterly flummoxed by a lack of any kind of knowledge about a band from the time when I was growing up as a music fan. But I will tell you that I really found myself enjoying Race Against Time. Whatever the circumstances that surrounded Banshee not becoming a bigger presence on the music scene at the time of this album’s original release, I have to acknowledge the fact that I really missed out on them back in 1989. If I had heard it then, I think that I would’ve been a big fan of the band.
NOTES OF INTEREST: While the band broke up around 1993, they did reunite for various concerts throughout the ’90s and 2000s. When the band played a reunion show at the 2008 Rocklahoma festival, Tyson Leslie played bass for them. You might know him best today as the keyboardist for Vixen.
Bill Westfall, who played bass on Race Against Time, was a part of the band during three separate occasions. However, he is listed as having passed away during 2020 on the band’s Wikipedia page.
The band released an EP and two studio albums before their original breakup. They are still active today though. Terry Dunn is the only founding member of the band still in the lineup. Banshee has released two further albums this decade. Mindslave (2012) and The Madness (2019) mark a dramatically different and much heavier sound for the band. This might turn some people off but I checked out a couple of tracks from the albums on YouTube and found them to my liking.