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.
DANGEROUS TOYS – HELLACIOUS ACRES (1991)
More than four years ago, I wrote an article in The Cassette Chronicles series on the self-titled debut album from Dangerous Toys. And while I loved the three hit tracks and one other song a lot, I felt most of the rest of the tracks on the album fell a bit short.
I don’t recall that I ever owned the Hellacious Acres (which is just a great album title!) when it was first released. So it didn’t surprise me when I looked at the track listing on the back cover of the cassette liner notes and discovered I didn’t automatically remember any of the songs.
Of course, that proved to be somewhat inaccurate as I listened to the album. The second song on Side One of the album is “Gimme No Lip” and given that it was released as a single and had a video made for it, I know that I had to have seen and heard it back then. I guess I’ll have to chalk it up to just not hearing it much over the years and I’d forgotten that the song was on this album.
That was the only faulty memory problem with the album however. I didn’t recall hearing any of the other songs and that’s a pretty good thing because it let me discover that Hellacious Acres had plenty of great material to offer.
Side One opened with “Gunfighter” which might conjure up some kind of Old West image in your mind. And given the mood setting style of the song’s intro, you would at first be proven right. But after that intro, the song pretty much explodes into a hard hitting rocker that is about as far away from the days of dueling in the streets as you can get. Combine the relentless pace of the music with vocalist Jason McMaster’s rapid fire vocal delivery and you have just a fantastic song on your hands.
The rest of Side One seemed to channel an underlying sense of chaos as the band would continue on their hard driving pace with songs like “Sticks & Stones” and “On Top”. The latter song is fueled by sex-drenched lyrics but it is a pretty good track all around. While the band was on fire on the side closing “Sugar, Leather & The Nail”, I didn’t quite find myself drawn to the song that much.
When Dangerous Toys slowed down the pace a little for the song “Best Of Friends”, it still had a bit of an edge to the music. The song dealt with memories of a lost friend and while it did capture that nostalgic kind of feeling, it left out much of the sappiness and kept the song from being a full-on ballad.
The second side of the album opened with the song “Angel N U”. Tempo wise, the majority of the track moved from a mid-to-up tempo kind of groove. And it wasn’t bad. But when the song blows up into an almost out of control fiery pace over the last portion of the song, it didn’t work that much for me. It felt like having a bucket of cold water thrown on you. Up until that over-the-top ending, I was enjoying the song.
When a band covers a classic track, they seem to always feel a need to do something that puts their own stamp on it. Hearing Dangerous Toys cover Bad Company’s “Feel Like Making Love” had me wondering what they were thinking. What made that song such a classic was just how perfectly constructed the song was and how the finished track sounded. But this version of the song is just BAD! The band completely overplayed the music and took any kind of charm the original had. Feel like making love? No, this cover made me feel like fast forwarding the tape.
Thankfully, the last three songs of Side Two did a solid job of redeeming those two mistakes. A video was made for the album’s second single “Line ‘Em Up”, a fast paced rocker that catches your ear pretty quickly and you ride the wave of enthusiasm the band has in their performance. You can say the same thing for “Gypsy (Black-N-Blue Valentine) which just conjures up this cool vibe when I listened to it.
The album’s closing song “Bad Guy” is an amped up rocker that leaves you both exhilarated and exhausted with how the band attacks on all fronts.
While the self-titled Dangerous Toys album may have had the “hits”, I think Hellacious Acres might just have offered more when it comes to the top-to-bottom track listing. Yes, there were some tracks that didn’t really do it for me, but for the songs I did like…just WOW! It’s the 30th anniversary of the album’s release and you’ll find Hellacious Acres is just jam-packed with fiery aggressive rock and roll that will have you rocking out hard and fast!
NOTES OF INTEREST: After not playing on the first album but being pictured on the back cover, guitarist Danny Aaron did play on Hellacious Acres. However, it would be the only Dangerous Toys release he appeared on as he left the band during the tour for this album.
With the self-titled album having enjoyed some mainstream success (it would eventually be certified gold, the disappointing sales of Hellacious Acres found the band’s record label dropping them while they were out on the Operation Rock & Roll tour with Judas Priest, Alice Cooper, Motorhead and Metal Church.
While there had been previous statements from Jason McMaster that there wouldn’t be any new music from Dangerous Toys, according to Wikipedia guitarist Scott Dalhover said in 2018 that they were working on new music. Also, in 2019 the band performed their first new music, the song “Hold Your Horses”, in 24 years. Still, there’s been no new officially released music made available. The band is still playing the occasional live show, though I imagine that like most bands they didn’t do any shows in 2020.