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.
BLACKEYED SUSAN – ELECTRIC RATTLEBONE (1991)
Due in large part to the fact that I wasn’t much of a fan of Britny Fox beyond the song and video for “Girlschool”, I don’t see it as unreasonable that I never bothered checking out singer “Dizzy” Dean Davidson’s new band Blackeyed Susan after he left Britny Fox.
However, seeing as this year marks the 30th anniversary of the release of the Blackeyed Susan’s debut album Electric Rattlebone, I thought it would be the perfect time to at least give the music a chance.
And I have to say, I really am quite surprised to find just how much I loved the album! While Britny Fox was squarely in the glam rock side of the 80’s rock era, Davidson took Blackeyed Susan into a more blues rock driven sound and style. This choice, even three decades after the fact, turned out to be the right one in terms of getting me to enjoy what I was hearing.
If you didn’t know that the music was going to be bluesy hard rock before listening to the album, the brief title track that opens up side one of the album clues you in pretty quickly. That song bleeds into “Satisfaction” which is a fast moving rocker with a real catchy vibe to it. It didn’t take that long for me to find myself humming along to the song’s chorus.
The song “Sympathy” brings that bluesier sound even more to the forefront and gives you one of the album’s best tracks. The “Old Lady Snow” song has a great sound to it as well, with a rocking tempo and a perfectly cast female backing vocalists that helps enhance the vocals for the track. You can chalk this up as another of the album’s highlights.
And given that this was 1991 and the power ballad was still a necessary evil for any rock band to include, you have a song like “Ride With Me”. But with this particular song, I thought the songwriting bypassed being overly emotionally manipulative. Sure it is sentimental, but not in a sappy kind of way. This actually worked to give the song a bit more gravitas in my mind.
The side-closing “Don’t Bring Me Down” is a power rocking track. It’s not quite as fast moving as a couple of the other songs on Side One (at the start anyway) but it definitely doesn’t lack in the rock right in your face department.
The second side of the album opens with “Indica”, a brief instrumental with a Middle Eastern sound from the use of a sitar. I can’t say it did much for me, but it certainly does serve as a table setter for the rest of Side Two.
While I didn’t think much of the instrumental, I loved “She’s So Fine”, another great rocking anthem for the band. The song “How Long” is slower in pace but is no less effective as it goes for a heavily blues flavored down and dirty vibe.
The album closes out on a very high note with the songs “Holiday” and “Heart Of The City”. Both tracks have a rocking intensity that leaves you wanting more. The latter song is an ode to the city of Philadelphia but the lyrical sentiments could work for anyone that has an attachment to their own hometown.
My relative disinterest in Britny Fox left me on the outside looking in when it came to Blackeyed Susan. It is safe to say that I just assumed the music would be the same thing as Britny Fox. For that, I definitely made an ass of myself. Thirty years later, I found myself rocking out to music that freely admit that I should have discovered long before now. However, now that I’m finally on board I can honestly say that I’m glad to find out that Electric Rattlebone is an excitingly energetic slice of driving blues rock that I hope to keep playing many times over!
NOTES OF INTEREST: While I really like the album now, Electric Rattlebone did not catch on with the music world at the time it was released. It was branded a commercial failure and the band’s record label pulled support for the band while it was on tour for the album.
The ballad “Best Of Friends” is dedicated to original Britny Fox drummer Tony “Stix” Destra, who was killed in a car accident in 1987.
The only other release that I saw listed for the band came in 1992. According to Wikipedia, it was a self-released demo called Just A Taste.
Guitarist Rick Criniti had been Cinderella’s keyboardist before joining Blackeyed Susan. But he left Blackeyed Susan midway through the tour. I’m not sure of the timing, but I’m guessing his departure came BEFORE the label pulled the band’s support.