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.
BANG TANGO – DANCIN’ ON COALS (1991)
It’s a little crazy I know, but I’ve never really found myself drawn to the music of Bang Tango. Oh sure, when the band’s first album, Psycho Cafe, came out in 1989 I heard and saw the video for “Someone Like You” a number of times. It was a decent enough song but when the song would end, I would move on and put the band out of my mind.
When Dancin’ On Coals, the band’s second album, came out in 1991 the process pretty much repeated itself. I remember hearing the album’s title track but continued to move on without really checking out the rest of the band’s music. I don’t even remember hearing the song “Untied and True” which was one of the songs released as a single from this album and apparently even shot a video.
All this is to demonstrate that I pretty much know nothing about Bang Tango besides a couple of songs that got them played on the radio. But I really don’t have any kind of explanation for why I never delved further into their catalog.
This week, when I pulled Dancin’ On Coals out of The Big Box of Cassettes, I was tempted to put it back and pick another album. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to hear it. But following the rules I established for myself, I put the cassette in the player and it was off to the races.
So to speak anyway. See, if you look the band up on Wikipedia part of the descriptors for their sound is funk rock. I’m not opposed to that stylistic choice but like anything else, you can go overboard with it. And that’s pretty much what happened with the album’s first song “Soul To Soul”. I found it an entirely underwhelming track in large part because it mostly forgoes any real rock sound (there are little flourishes) and focuses more on a pop/funk vibe that worked against the song in terms of me being drawn into it.
As if to illustrate the notion that I can like a funk sounding song, the album’s closing song “Cactus Juice” feature a heavy funk and rock soundtrack in equal measure that makes for quite the interesting song. This is a song that I really enjoyed and there’s a nifty little solo as well.
But let’s head back to the first side of the album. After the disappointing to me opening track, the more rock driven tempo asserts itself on “Untied And True”. There’s a nice rhythmic feel to the music and it stands out amongst the material. Yes, I probably should’ve known this years ago but let’s move on from my well-documented musical ignorance, yes?
While I did quite enjoy the more energetic pacing of songs like “I’m In Love” and “Big Line”, I wasn’t at all into the song “Emotions In Gear”. The reason? I really did not like the soft peddled delivery when it came to singer Joe LeSte’s vocals.
The first side of the album closes with a ballad but before any regular readers skip over this mention because of my disdain for the song genre, this actually turned out to be a pretty good track. Okay, at first I didn’t start out liking the song but once it hit the chorus, I did enjoy that immensely and that helped the song grow on me as a whole.
While the first side of the album was somewhat hit or miss, the second side of Dancin’ On Coals really got my adrenaline flowing.
After the title track, which remains a damn fine song, you’ve got great rocking songs like “Dressed Up Vamp” and “Last Kiss” which show off the rest of the band nicely. Of particular note is the guitar work from six string duo Mark Knight and Kyle Stevens.
Bang Tango’s Dancin’ On Coals album features eleven tracks and I ended up liking nine of them. Proof positive that I needed to do a far better job of vetting the bands I decided to check out back in the day. If I had, maybe it wouldn’t take me nearly 30 years to discover that this album was pretty damn good!
NOTES OF INTEREST: While Psycho Cafe did nicely for Bang Tango, the bloom seemed to already be off the rose when Dancin’ On Coals was released. It only made it to #113 on the Billboard album charts.
Bang Tango had a few breakups over the years. They’ve also featured a revolving lineup during their inevitable reunions. However, since 2019 the original lineup of singer Joe LeSte, guitarists Mark Knight and Kyle Stevens, drummer Tigg Kettler and bassist Kyle Kyle have been back together in full.
Singer Joe LeSte formed the band Beautiful Creatures with guitarist DJ Ashba in 1999. They release a self-titled debut album in 2001 and Deuce in 2005.