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.
CINDERELLA – HEARTBREAK STATION (1990)
Spoiler alert! The Cinderella Heartbreak Station album is by far my favorite album from the band.
Now originally, that statement of fact was because I didn’t much care for the band’s first two albums (other than the hit singles) when they were first released. The Night Songs and Long Cold Winter releases never really found a home in my music-loving heart back in the day.
Of course, that changed when I wrote about both of those albums for this series back in 2018. As I listened to both of them for the pieces I was writing, I finally made the connection with the material that I wish I’d had back in the 1980s. Suddenly, I loved both albums a LOT!
But Heartbreak Station was still at the top of my album rankings for the band. However, it has been a little while since I took the time to listen to the album. I still own the original cassette I bought back in 1990 (though I also recently bought the album on CD as well), so I decided it was time to pull it off the wall mounted cassette rack and immerse myself once again in the album that found the band’s reconfigured sound compared to both Aerosmith and The Rolling Stones.
Any thoughts that I might feel differently about Heartbreak Station than I had in the past were pretty much immediately laid to rest. The side one opening “The More Things Change” was everywhere when the album was first released and it is an explosive hard rocking number that gets you fired up and sets the stage for what’s to come on the rest of the album. The pure stomp of “Sick For The Cure” also gets your heart racing too!
Meanwhile, the song “Shelter Me” was the band’s hit single from the album. It hit #36 overall and I loved the way the song was propelled by a solid musical score and some great incisive lyrics. The song started off a bit low key but then hits you with much more of a whallop as the song played through.
I mentioned that the album’s sound got compared to Aerosmith before and I think the strongest evidence of that is on the song “Love’s Got Me Doin’ Time”. It’s got a lively step to the music but there’s a funky vibe at the same time. And Tom Keifer’s vocals really do give off that Steven Tyler flare for the dramatic delivery too.
The other two songs on Side One lean more into the soft pedal delivery. The album’s title track is a power ballad of sorts. But with a solid sense of style and lacking in the watered down muck that is power ballad lyricism, the song remains both beautiful and strong even now. About halfway through the song, the music gets more intense but carries through with the reflective sounding lyrics to the end.
That kind of lyrical looking back is also infused into the song “One For Rock And Roll”. It’s not remotely a ballad, featuring a slightly restrained yet uptempo pace. The song just gives off a great vibe and the lyrics are a clear case of looking back at what was.
All in all, a strong six songs before you flip the cassette over and head on in to Side Two.
If you were expecting Cinderella to kick off that second side of the album with another fists in the air hard rocking anthem, you would find yourself in for a bit of a twist. Instead, the band gives you “Dead Man’s Road”. And if you close your eyes after hitting the play button, you will almost certainly find yourself feeling like you were listening to that music with a side of twang that features in almost every western movie. You can feel the wind blowing and the tumbleweeds passing by throughout the song, even though the music does change to a more uptempo style after the first lyrical verse of the track.
But if it is that electric charge of rock and roll you want, you are going to get it in spades on the song “Make Your Own Way”. Fast moving from the start, I loved the guitar work that fueled the music as a whole and the chorus was outstanding here.
While I still like the song “Electric Love”, I found that as I listened to it for this article, the groove based rocker didn’t quite hit home with me as it has done in the past. I don’t know why I thought that way when I listened to the song but there it is.
Still, the album does close out high on the hog with two songs that really shine bright. You’ve got the blazing rocker “Love Gone Bad”. This one is made magic by the perfect combination of some smoking hot music and the biting and vicious sounding vocal delivery from Tom Keifer. Not that I didn’t love the song before now, but this one probably rose up in my favorite songs list because of how it came off to me now.
And then comes the song “Winds of Change”. It is similar in tone and style to the album’s title track. It’s got a restrained feel to it at first, kind of slow and deliberately paced. But the song draws you in. There’s a bit more musical drama set forth towards the end of the song but nothing that really calls to mind the word “rocking”. Instead, the album just fades out on a softer note but yet you feel satisfied nonetheless. It’s a great song and shows off (yet again) the balancing act Cinderella had down pat between their various song styles.
As I said at the start, the Heartbreak Station release is my favorite Cinderella album. While it may essentially cast off the glam rock stylings that were at least mostly prevalent from the first two albums, the blues rock sound that is threaded throughout this album is just plain badass in my eyes. Cinderella really hit their peak on this album and the album is still a great listen to this day. I agree with what Tom Keifer sings on “One For Rock and Roll”…”as long as I’ve got rock and roll, I’m forever young!”
NOTES OF INTEREST: The Heartbreak Station album ended up being certified platinum and hit #19 on the album chart. Singer Tom Keifer wrote all of the songs on his own except for the song “Love’s Got Me Doin’ Time”, which has a co-write credit for bassist Eric Brittingham.
Former Uriah Heep keyboardist Ken Hensley is credited for playing the organ on the songs “Sick For The Cure”, “Make Your Own Way” and “Love Gone Bad”.