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.
RATT – REACH FOR THE SKY (1988)
As I’ve continued “discovering” the Ratt back catalog the last few weeks, I’ve mentioned in articles how their Reach For The Sky album was one of only two Ratt albums I had in my collection. And given that my copy of this album was a dubbed copy, I think I only get half credit for it.
Now that I have a real copy of the tape in my possession, it seems like the perfect time to give the album a new listen. While I had that dubbed copy all these years, I don’t think I’ve really listened to it much, if at all, since I first got my hands on it.
I was interested to see just what it was about this album that made me dub a copy of it from a friend of mine back in 1988. I knew that I loved the two songs (“Way Cool Jr.” and “I Want A Woman”) as I heard them on the radio and saw their videos on MTV. But was there more to it than those two songs?
As I listened to Side One of the album, I started to think that perhaps that it was the two singles that made up the entire reason I wanted the album. “Way Cool Jr.” is still a good song though I wasn’t quite as captivated by it as I was back then. But man, “I Want A Woman” holds up stunningly well. I loved the song then and that feeling remains the same after listening to it for this article. The chorus flows perfectly and I really dug the various turns of phrase for the rest of the lyrical content. I’d go so far as saying that if I was making a list of my all-time favorite Ratt songs, this one would definitely make the list.
But I was somewhat taken aback by the rest of the songs on Side One. While the opening song “City To City” and “Don’t Bite The Hand That Feeds” are decent enough songs, they didn’t really stir up fond recollections for me or anything. As for the album’s sole ballad track, “I Want To Love You Tonight”, did absolutely nothing for me. Even the fact that it featured far more of a power driven musical score than the softer ballad pacing, it just falls completely flat on my ears.
So after Side One finished, I have to say I was thinking that Side Two might continue the slight letdown I was feeling.
But Ratt struck like a bolt of lightning out of the blue with the opening “Chain Reaction”. The song is a blazing rocker that has a killer sound to it and I just loved how the song turned out. It sees the band shining more of a spotlight on the faster and more aggressive side of their music.
I should point out that as I listened to this side of the album, I found that I had very little memory of each of the five included tracks. So it was almost like a completely new listen for me. But as I moved through each song, it became pretty clear that I just flat out loved this side of the album a LOT!
The songs “No Surprise” and “What’s It Gonna Be” are solidly uptempo numbers that get you hooked quickly and the rocker “Bottom Line” has a great chorus with a nice melodic hook of its own. The album finishing track “What I’m After” is pretty damn fantastic all on its own too but I really liked the track’s guitar solo as well.
The fact that I had a completely different reaction to those three non-single tracks on the first side of Ratt’s Reach For The Sky is something I’m chalking up to the passage of time giving me a different perspective on those individual tracks. But what I do know is that the album has plenty of music that will give listeners a continued jolt of excitement. The two singles will always draw in the fans but what really got me was rediscovering the great music that is contained on Side Two of the album. Go ahead and take a new listen to Reach For The Sky and I think you’ll agree!
NOTES OF INTEREST: While the album did go platinum, the general reception for Reach For The Sky seemed to be less than what the band had been hoping for. Their supporting tour was a relatively short seven months. When Ratt’s next album (Detonator) was released, the B-side for the first single “Lovin’ You’s A Dirty Job” featured the Reach For The Sky song “What’s It Gonna Be”. According to the album’s Wikipedia entry, this was done in a bid to get fans to go back and check out Reach For The Sky.
The original plan was to have Mike Stone produce the entire album but due to recording issues, Beau Hill was brought in as a co-producer to “salvage” the material. It would be the last album Hill would be involved with for Ratt. He also co-wrote six of the album’s eleven tracks.