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.
DAMN YANKEES – DON’T TREAD (1992)
Since I was such a big fan of the self-titled debut album from Damn Yankees (I wrote about that album for this series back in October 2019), it seems particularly odd that I never bought this follow up album when it was released in 1992. I’m not sure why I skipped over the album but nearly three decades later, I actually own the album on both cassette and CD.
When I realized that I never heard the full album, I found that I couldn’t even recall hearing any of the album’s eleven tracks. Well, until I actually played the album that is. As it turns out, there are two songs that made some in-roads with me over the ensuing years.
The first side of the cassette has both of those songs and they do provide an interesting contrast. The song “Where You Goin’ Now” is the purest power ballad song on Don’t Tread and as it played I found that I actually did remember it and not in a bad way either. I enjoyed this song a lot. It became a Top 20 single when it was released, which was the second and final time the band had a charting single.
The other song I remembered is the album opening “Don’t Tread On Me”. If you ever need a perfect example of how to craft a powerful rock track to kick off an album and really grab the listener from the get-go, this is the song. It’s a superb track that immediately gets your blood moving and never lets up until the last note.
Those are the songs that are still apparently getting some airplay on specialty radio shows these days but after listening to the full release, it is not the end of the quality material Damn Yankees included on Don’t Tread.
As a matter of fact, the first side of the album is a full on rock and roll monster. Besides those two songs I wrote about above you have a straight blast rocker in “Fifteen Minutes Of Fame”. There’s the song “Mister Please”, which starts out a bit more restrained but after the second lyrical verse, the music gets a more intensely rocking pace to it. As for the song “Dirty Dog”, when you listen to the chorus, you will recognize that if they tried to write the song now, the band would be catching a ration of crap. Of course, in 1992 there would’ve been far less hue and cry about the lyrics. Instead, the cool way the music has a swinging rock and roll feel to it will make people sit up and take notice regardless of how they might invariably think of the lyrical content of its chorus.
When you flip the cassette over, the quality doesn’t abate in the least. I will say that I had a bit of a problem connecting to the song “Silence Is Broken” but it is still a decent song. After that song opens up Side Two, the rest of the musical ride is flat out fantastic!
You get a couple more attitude driven rockers in “This Side Of Hell” and the album closing “Uprising”. That latter track is infused with a strong drum track from Michael Cartellone. In a band with Jack Blades, Tommy Shaw and Ted Nugent, Cartellone is easy to overlook but he really made this song something special. In between those songs the band weaves in cuts like “Someone To Believe”, which has an uptempo pacing to go along with some damn good lyrics. While the main musical thrust of “Double Coyote” is hard driving rock and roll, the band works in quite a few bluesy flourishes to give the song an extra musical dimension. It’s a track that caught my ear the first time I listened to Don’t Tread for this article and with each successive play of the album, it continued to be a song I looked forward to hearing.
My favorite song on the album is the song “Firefly”, which is an aggressively fever pitched rocker with a blitzing guitar solo that hooks you hard. As I listened to the song, I thought back to the band’s first album and the song “Piledriver”. The two tracks feel like companion tracks, but I think “Firefly” is even heavier, musically speaking. Still, no matter how you look at it, the band is on another level with this song’s performance and whenever I listen to the album from here on out, this is the showcase song for me.
While the Damn Yankees album went double platinum, I can’t find any information on how well Don’t Tread sold upon its release. However, all these years later, what I do know is that I really missed out on one hell of a gem by not listening to Don’t Tread back in 1992.
Damn Yankees may have released just two studio albums, but by any method of measurement you care to use, Don’t Tread, like its predecessor, is an incredible example of pure hard rocking melodic rock and roll that will light the fire of any music fan who cares to listen.
NOTES OF INTEREST: Don’t Tread, as with the band’s debut album, was produced by Ron Nevison. The 2020 Rock Candy Records reissue of the album contains two live bonus cuts.
According to the album’s Wikipedia entry, the original release of the Japanese version of the Don’t Tread had two bonus tracks. One is a live version of “Come Again” from the Damn Yankees album. The second song is a studio track called “Bonestripper”. However, that song is included on the first album’s 2014 Rock Candy Records reissue. By the way, the song is another fast paced ballsy rocker and it would’ve been a great song to include on the regular US release of Don’t Tread.
Robbie Buchanan played keyboards on Don’t Tread. Besides his musical career, he had a small role as a piano player in the 1978 Bette Midler film The Rose.