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.
(WRITER’S NOTE: Welcome to the 7th year of The Cassette Chronicles series! I hope you enjoy this year’s batch of articles as much as the previous years and thanks for continuing to come back and read with each new published piece.)
GREAT WHITE – SHOT IN THE DARK (1986)
It was nearly three years ago when I featured the Great White album Hooked for The Cassette Chronicles series. I had thought about doing another album from their discography but never quite got around to it.
But I finally got the urge to write about the band once again and I have a big purchase of CDs to thank for it. My local independent record shop has been making some huge CD collection purchases in recent months and I’ve been buying up a lot of what I could find that interested me. It’s a case of filling in holes in my collection. One of those buying trips saw me grabbing up a bunch of the Great White albums that I didn’t have beforehand. After I had wiped out what the shop had, I had a good portion of the band’s music. But I was missing their first two releases (as well as their last two). I really wanted to check out the early two so I wandered over to the cassette wall in the store and as luck would have it I found a copy of Shot in the Dark.
My memory may be playing tricks on me but I have a vague recollection of having once had a dubbed cassette copy of this album. But I don’t really remember thinking much of it at the time other than the song “Face The Day”. And it is long gone from the collection. So I now had the chance to give a much better listen to the album nearly 37 years after its original release.
What did I think? Well…it’s much, much better than I gave it credit for back in the 1980s.
The first side of the album opens with the song “She Shakes Me” and while I did think there was a bit too much of an echo chamber sound with the vocals from Jack Russell, it still comes out as a pretty hot rocking song. Fast paced and fuel injected, the song gets you fired up from the get-go.
As I was listening to “What Do You Do” I had a bit of trouble the first time around. I didn’t really get into the song. But on successive listens, I liked the way the song flowed rhythmically. It has a great uptempo drive to it and there’s a bit of a swinging swagger to the overall performance. This track ended up growing on me quickly.
Great White closed out the first side of Shot in the Dark with two cover tracks. The first is “Face The Day” which was originally done by The Angels. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the original version but I know that I love Great White’s version. It’s starts off a bit slow in the intro but the band quickly turns up the volume and pacing. Everything came together nicely and the song turned out to be an early classic track for them.
The second cover was of the Spencer Davis Group song “Gimme Some Lovin'”. I actually like the original version so I usually find that covers of songs I already like sometimes annoy me. That was not the case here though. While Great White’s version is seemingly a lot faster paced and way more “rocked” up, I think the band did a great job making their own version of the song.
For the second side of Shot in the Dark, the band kicks things off with the title track. And I thought it was kind of cool that the song’s intro is constructed so that it kind of reflects the album’s cover art. There’s a bit of a musical flourish after that before a slightly slower delivery is used for the vocals in the main lyrical sections. Of course, when the chorus comes in, so does a faster paced delivery of the vocals behind a musical score that gets more intense as well.
Though the song does feature more of an uptempo feel musically, the way the vocals are done for “Is Anybody There” give the song a darker and cinematic feel. It made for an interesting mix and therefore I was really digging the song a lot as I listened.
While “Run Away” starts off with more of a midtempo beat, the song grows into a much faster paced rocker over the course of the song.
The closing number is “Waiting For Love”. Now, I’m sure you will think this song is a ballad based on the song title. I know that I did. That might’ve given me some pause before the song started coming out of my speakers.
I’m a big fan of Great White’s “Save Your Love” and find it very hard for them to top that one with any other ballad track. (Though a couple of songs on the 1999 Can’t Get There From Here album comes pretty damn close.) The one time I saw Great White live, when they played “Save Your Love”, Jack Russell delivered such a performance that he held the crowd in his thrall and got a standing ovation for that rendition alone.
So you can understand my feelings of reluctance regarding “Waiting For Love”. And the song does start off in a ballad-like fashion. But after the first verse, instead of going towards the traditional and/or expected power ballad territory, the song abandons the balladry for a surprisingly effective mid-to-uptempo rocker. The lyrical content is still what you would find in a ballad but the more powerful soundtrack accompanying the vocals makes it a far better track than I was expecting at the start.
The liner notes for Shot in the Dark make note of the fact that the album was recorded in just 15 days. That probably accounts for the rawer feel to the sound of the release. But the quick recording process doesn’t diminish how good the songs turned out to be. I know that is speaking with a whole bunch of hindsight since I didn’t think much of the album when I first heard it back in the day. But time can help change an opinion when you have distance and a better grasp on things. And that’s definitely how I came to find that Great White’s Shot in the Dark is a fabulous listen, a look at the early days of the band just before they were about to explode in full on the music scene!
NOTES OF INTEREST: The version of the album I have is from Capitol Records. But Shot in the Dark was originally released by Telegraph Records. There are some differences between the two including slight title changes, different mixes and some slightly different music on certain songs. (Look up the album’s Wikipedia page for full details). The album got a remastered release on CD through Razor & Tie. The Japanese version of the CD has a cover of the Jimi Hendrix song “Red House” as a bonus track.
While Michael Lardie has been a longtime member of Great White, he’s only credited as an “additional musician” on Shot in the Dark with the band officially being a four piece at the time. This album was the debut of Audie Desbrow on drums.