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.
TUFF – WHAT COMES AROUND GOES AROUND (1991)
In the more than three decades since the release of the Tuff debut album What Comes Around Goes Around, I have somehow managed to avoid ever hearing anything from the album. For me, Tuff is another one of those 80’s glam heyday bands that just fell through the cracks for me (and it would appear, many others).
I’d heard of them before but never got around to checking out their music. It wasn’t until their parody song “American Hair Band” that I ever heard the band at all. Funny how I love the one song from the band that isn’t quite meant to be taken seriously.
But with thirty years plus gone by, I figure now is a pretty good time to check out the album to see what I thought of it.
My first impression was that the band started off Side One of the album sounding exactly like you would expect a band to sound like circa 1991. Singer Stevie Rachelle, guitarist Jorge DeSaint, bassist Todd Chase and drummer Michael Lean certainly had the chops to craft the music of the day. But while I loved the rocking uptempo style of the songs “Ruck A Pit Bridge” and “The All New Generation”, I found they were relatively uninteresting to me lyrically. And I really didn’t like the outro of “Ruck A Pit Bridge” where the band cut out the rock and went with a more funky riven sound that just didn’t work for me.
When an album starts off that way, you might find yourself in for a drag of a listen but surprisingly enough, the band really started firing on all cylinders with the power ballad “I Hate Kissing You Good-Bye”. While a lot of ballads from the era don’t age well, it seems Tuff did a better job of crafting a ballad that doesn’t turn your stomach years later.
There’s a thumping groove threaded throughout the rocker “Lonely Lucy” that gives the song a bit of an extra kick in the pants musically. And though the side closing “Ain’t Worth A Dime” starts off a bit slow, it grows into a solid rocker and you can really hear the scornful inflection in Rachelle’s vocal delivery.
The second side of What Comes Around Goes Around is strong from start to finish. The main lyrical passages of “So Many Seasons” tread a more mid-tempo ground in terms of pacing but the chorus and the song’s outro feature much more of a rocking edge to the sound.
The title “Forever Yours” definitely sounds like a ballad. And the lyrics would be the kind you find in a ballad, but the song’s musical soundtrack is actually more of a rocker throughout and had the right combination of melodic hooks that further endears the song to me. Surprisingly enough, I thought of this one as one of the album’s highlights.
But we do get a true power ballad on Side Two in the form of “Wake Me Up”. It’s a great sounding track that finds the band outdoing themselves in terms of performance. However, they can’t get the full credit for this song as the liner notes list Poison’s Bret Michaels as the sole writer of the track. Bret wrote a hell of song and Tuff did it up right as yet again, I have to say that I really enjoyed the song.
The album closes out in rousing fashion with the blazing rocker “Spit Like This” and the heavily anthemic sounding (at least for the song’s shout out chorus) “Good Guys Wear Black”.
Okay, so once again I have completely missed the boat on a great sounding album from the good ol’ days when metal ruled the world. It’s annoying to discover “new” music so long after it came out because it means I could’ve had a lot more time to appreciate it. But appreciate it I do now that I’ve finally heard the album. What Comes Around Goes Around has at long last come full circle for me, and it is just a really fun enjoyable slice of rock and roll that gets to the heart of the kind of music I loved from back in the day right through to this very day!
NOTES OF INTEREST: The “American Hair Band” song was released on 2001 Tuff compilation The History Of Tuff. Not counting live releases or compilations, Tuff had just three all new studio releases to their name.
Ex-Alice Cooper guitarist Kane Roberts and ex-Fifth Angel / House of Lords drummer Ken Mary are listed among the names who sang backing vocals on What Goes Comes Around Goes Around. The album was reissued in 2012 with four re-recorded tracks as well as some new songs. It got a slightly updated title in What Comes Around Goes Around…Again! A second remastered edition came out in 2021 according to the band’s Wikipedia page.
Before Stevie Rachelle joined Tuff, the band was fronted for a year by future Nitro singer Jim Gillette.