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.
AUTOGRAPH – LOUD AND CLEAR (1987)
When I wrote about the debut Autograph album Sign In Please nearly five years ago to the month, little did I think that I would be writing about another one of the band’s albums. Especially since after the debut album they kind of fell off the map for me and never really had another signature hit. I say this despite the fact that Loud And Clear has been sitting in The Big Box of Cassettes all this time too.
Listening to that first album, I found that for the most part, I just enjoyed the big hit “Turn Up The Radio” and a couple of other tracks that weren’t completely glossed up with the requisite 80’s production sound.
Fast forward to 1987 (making it the 35th anniversary of Loud And Clear‘s release this year) and the band was still plugging away. This third album was a bit of surprise for me. Okay, technically since I’d never heard the album before now, the whole thing was a surprise but the more important part of that statement is that even with an abundance of the same 80’s production style that didn’t quite work for me all the time with Sign In Please turned out to be just fine with this album. Don’t ask me why, I can’t explain it.
The album’s title track opens up Side One and it is pretty much a full-on rocking out experience. I got into the song right from the start and it does a great job of setting you up for the rest of the album.
The first side of the album continues along in a more amped up way for the first four songs. Though the title “Dance All Night” might not seem like it, the way the song came out, this felt like it was intended as a kind of anthemic type of song. The songs “She Never Looked That Good For Me” (a title that would likely not go over well these days) and “Bad Boy” are both solidly uptempo tracks. When listening to “Bad Boy”, I thought that given the song’s title it would be more of an anthem song than “Dance All Night” which I guess goes to show you that pre-judging a song by the title is at least sometimes foolish.
Side One closes out with the song “Everytime I Dream”. Given that this album came out in 1987, I don’t think anyone will be surprised to learn that this was a power ballad. By this point in the decade, it was pretty much a law that a band had to have at least one ballad on an album. In the case of this particular track I don’t think it is all that bad a song overall. I think others might quite enjoy it but it didn’t quite hit home fully with me.
When you get to the second side of Loud And Clear though, there isn’t a slow song to be found. It’s all rockers in a high gear with songs like “Down ‘N Dirty”, “When The Sun Goes Down” and “More Than A Million Times”. I will say that “Just Got Back From Heaven” might cause you to think it was going to be a ballad based solely on the title but it does a darn good job of providing a crackling jolt of rock and roll energy.
However much I liked those four tracks, it was the side opening song “She’s A Tease” that really blew me away! Loud And Clear is just the second Autograph album I’ve ever listened to so it’s not like I have a great back catalog of songs to base this on, but “She’s A Tease” is one of the best songs I’ve heard from the band. I loved the vocals from Steve Plunkett and the band as a whole really rev up the rock on this song. The guitar playing from Steve Lynch is particularly appealing to me on this track.
It’s funny how the album with Autograph’s big hit song didn’t quite thrill me as a whole and then to turn around and discover that an album of theirs that is almost completely under the radar would turn out to be such a big winner with me. Loud And Clear is the kind of album where you get way more than you were probably expecting and I know that I’m going to be very interested in hearing the album more in the future.
NOTES OF INTEREST: The Loud And Clear album went nowhere sales-wise. It rose to only #108 on the album chart. It would be the last album to feature all five original members (Plunkett, Lynch, bassist Randy Rand, drummer Keni Richards and keyboardist Steven Isham). It would also serve as the last album from Autograph until 1997 when they released Missing Pieces.
The songs “Dance All Night” and “She Never Looked That Good For Me” are featured in the Dudley Moore-Kirk Cameron comedy film Like Father Like Son. The band appeared briefly in the film as well.
The video for the album’s title track featured both Ozzy Osbourne and Motley Crue singer Vince Neil.
Autograph is currently active as a four piece band. Bassist Randy Rand is the only original member left in the lineup. Jimi Bell (House of Lords) plays guitar for the band now, which features Simon Daniels on lead vocals and guitar and drummer Marc Wieland.