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.
SASS JORDAN – RACINE (1992)
The second album from Canadian rocker Sass Jordan is where I “discovered” her. Thanks to the album’s lead track “Make You A Believer” getting a concerted radio station push, I heard the song on 94 WHJY out of Providence, RI. I distinctly remember hearing the song and then having the DJs (I’m a bit fuzzy on who they were but I’m pretty sure it was the morning team of Paul and Al) rave about the song afterwards.
Sadly, I don’t remember the album getting any more of a push after the hype about “Make You A Believer” died down but I was as jazzed up about that song as the DJs were and that led me to going out and buying the Racine album. It is that cassette copy I bought that I’m listening to for the purposes of writing this article. (I have the album on CD now as well.)
But what was it about the Racine album that struck such a chord with me that I love it anew each and every time I listen to the album? Well, it’s just got this incredible rocking vibe to it. The songs that rock do so with quite an authenticity to them and the songs that are more geared towards tickling those emotional cues do it without being maudlin or sappy.
As I said, the album opens with “Make You A Believer” and let me tell you when you hear that introductory riff, you still get amped up. Then Jordan’s vocals, which drip with a bluesy edge, cut in and man you just feel like you are sitting in the middle of the song and letting it wash over you. It’s a bar room rocker combined with a southern rock edginess that does indeed make it seem like this song is straight from the 1970s. That’s only further fueled by the backing vocals on the chorus as well.
That song is followed by “If You’re Gonna Love Me” is another hard rocking track that at the very least will leave you with a foot bouncing in time to the music. (Seriously, as I type this, my leg is going up and down as I get into the groove of the song.)
The song “You Don’t Have To Remind Me” was co-written by Jordan, Stevie Salas and Parthenon Huxley. Huxley was part of two off-shoot projects from ELO. The song starts off with a slower intro and first lyrical passage. The chorus is more of an intense delivery before it settles into that more midtempo delivery. I loved the opening two lines of the song a lot: “Wind blows through this room / Like blood from an open wound”. That creates one hell of a visual in my mind. There was a video made for this song and I’m glad that it got at least some kind of “single” release because Jordan’s vocal performance alone is phenomenal.
There’s a rocking boogie feel to “Who Do You Think You Are” that gets me quite pumped up. As for “Windin’ Me Up”, there’s a slower delivery to the start of the song that feels but when Jordan and the band kick the energy level up, you get a killer rocking track and the guitar solo is excellent.
I mentioned above that the slower songs on Racine manage to avoid being maudlin or sappy and the Side One closer “I Want To Believe” is the perfect example of this. As much as I’ve come to be annoyed by a lot of ballads of the era because they don’t age well (and I’m something far short of a romantic), this song which is delivered mainly as a vocal and acoustic guitar soundtrack (there’s more instrumentation later in the song). And it is beautiful. Jordan’s vocals deliver the somewhat philosophical lyrics in about a purely perfect manner as one could hope for. I’ve long thought that this is the kind of ballad that was written and recorded simply for music’s sake rather than as a calculated move to sell more records. And perhaps that is why it still makes its mark on me three decades after its original release.
When you flip the cassette over to Side Two, the album kicks off with “Goin’ Back Again”, a rollicking rock and roll romp. I don’t know how others react to this song but when I hear it, I can’t help but sing along for some reason, particularly the chorus. (Imagine if I could actually carry a tune properly…)
Jordan kicks on the afterburners with the song “Do What You Want” and the song takes off because of that. But the strange thing for me is I had cause to look up the song lyrics online and realized that besides the title, the lyrics are definitely an argument for being your own individualistic self rather than simply being like everyone else in the crowd. I’ve spent all these years listening to the song and it is only now that I took a deeper dive into this tracks’s full set of lyrics. Putting them inside such an explosive soundtrack may have obscured me from doing so before but it suddenly became an even more important track for me.
“Cry Baby” alternates between a slower, more methodical delivery in the main lyrical passages but then there’s a brief lead into the song’s chorus where the music becomes a full-on rocker that’s for more direct and in-your-face, pacing-wise.
There’s a kind of playful guitar lead playing in the intro to “Where There’s A Will”, and Sass Jordan’s vocals in that intro are pretty much that same kind of playful delivery. But then the song breaks out in full and with the full band playing, the song becomes much harder rocking. The keyboards help flesh out a lot of the music on Racine but I really like what they do for the overall sound on this one a lot.
The album closing “Time Flies” is a flat out great rock and roll song! The music starts off uptempo but with a zesty fire to it. The keyboards are once again a key component of the soundtrack and the overall performance lifts you up and brings you along on the song’s journey. You almost have a sad feeling when the track, and thus the album, ends.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the release of Sass Jordan’s Racine and in those three decades, the greatness of this album has not diminished. It’s got everything you could possibly want in a rock album. Powerful vocals from a fantastic singer, great music and material that is worth its weight in gold. As you’ve read this article, it’s hardly a secret that I am a massive fan of the release. Like I said at the start, each time I listen to Racine, it’s like I get to experience the album anew and each time I am just blown away by just how good it is. Sass Jordan really hit the bulls-eye with Racine and if you haven’t learned that by now, you are missing out on one truly special record. What greater summation can there be than that?
NOTES OF INTEREST: In 1994, Sass Jordan released the Rats album. I have that album and it’s great. Perhaps even more rocking than Racine but it didn’t build on the audience Sass Jordan established with Racine. Because of that, she was dropped by her label and I admittedly lost track of her solo releases. But in 2020, I finally got to pick up a new Sass Jordan release when she put out her first blues album called Rebel Moon Blues.
Stevie Salas played lead and rhythm guitar on the album. He co-wrote three of the songs as well. The Hooters’ Eric Bazilian plays mandolin on Racine.
In 2011, Sass Jordan was a part of the S.U.N. (Something Unto Nothing) project with drummer Brian Tichy (who played on the Rats album). That was one incredible album to say the least. When I met Brian Tichy after a Dead Daisies show, I asked him about the possibility of a 2nd S.U.N. album. Sass was also the guest singer on the best song (“Redeem Me”) on the 2014 self-titled debut album from Jake E. Lee’s Red Dragon Cartel.
In 2017, to mark the 25th anniversary of the Racine album, Sass Jordan released Racine Revisited which reimagined the songs as if they’d been recorded in the 1970s. Jordan has recorded nine albums under her name including the most recent released Bitches Blues which came out in June 2022.
Sass Jordan is involved in two alcohol ventures: Rebel Moon Whiskey and Kick Ass Sass Wine. She’s also done acting roles and been a judge on Canadian Idol.