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THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – LEATHER’S ‘SHOCK WAVES’

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.

LEATHER – SHOCK WAVES (1989)

It’s funny how things work out sometimes. In 1989, I considered myself a fan of the band Chastain. But while I liked the band’s best known songs, I had a little trouble getting into the full albums as a whole. I loved the playing and of course I’d love the vocals from Leather Leone.

But there was somewhat of a disconnect that held me back from fully enjoying the albums start to finish. It wasn’t until years later when the albums got reissued (and remastered) that I FINALLY came to fully love the Chastain albums of the 80’s.

But in 1989, when Leather Leone’s first solo album Shock Waves came out, I was hooked from the start. This might be a little surprising because while it was called a solo album, it featured a lot of the people involved with making the Chastain albums. Guitarist David T. Chastain wrote or co-wrote a bunch of the songs (as well as produced the album) and at least a couple of guys from Chastain played on the album. But for whatever reason, Shock Waves really struck a chord with me.

When the explosive notes from the album opening All Your Neon came out of the speakers, I was hooked and went on one heck of a wild ride. The music for the song is outstanding, both heavy and with a subtle hook that grabs you. And the balls out vocal from Leather is incredible.

On Side One of the album it was one blow the doors off track after another. The album’s title track is just relentless. Not just musically which saw bassist David Harbour and drummer John Luke Hebert shine quite nicely but the vocal track was immensely satisfying as well.

My favorite song on the Shock Waves without a doubt is “The Battlefield Of Life”. It starts off slow, setting itself up with a well produced intro. Leather’s vocal delivery of the first couple of lyrical lines are in line with that intro. But then it is like a bomb is set off and the music ramps up with a massive burst of energy. And once again, Leather’s vocals set the song apart somehow. When the song comes in for a landing, the pace slows back down and the vocal falls back into a more restrained dramatic presentation as the song comes to a close. I should point out that guitarist Michael Harris had some great playing on this song. Even as my ears keyed to Leather’s vocals, I kept finding myself drawn to each fast moving note of his playing too.

Like “The Battlefield Of Life”, the song “In A Dream” starts off with a bit more of a dramatic presentation before a more uptempo pace takes over. But I liked the way the song switched its pace to meet the demands of the song at any given point. And Leather lets loose a fantastic scream in this song that is a pointed observation of real world issues.

When I flipped the cassette over to Side Two, the album starts up with the song “Something In This Life” flipped the script a bit. Most of the song had a heavier and slower feel to it, but then punctuated that with faster moving bits that kept you on your toes.

I can’t quite put my finger on the why but I will say that for whatever reason, I love the “Diamonds Are For Real” track a lot too. Fast paced and gripping, it’s just a song that makes you stand up and take notice.

The album’s final three tracks are all mostly slower in tempo but none of them suffers any kind of letdown in intensity for it.

The sense of drama is first and foremost for the “It’s Still In Your Eyes”…”On and on the world goes…but I remember yesterday…” I LOVE that particular lyrical passage in the song. Leather’s vocals on this song are so particularly on point that even though the track is almost exclusively slower paced, I couldn’t get enough of this one.

“Catastrophic Heaven” has a pretty expressive guitar solo and I love the way the song turns itself up to 11 when Leather’s vocal heads into the song’s brief chorus. There’s a spoken word part to the song that was pretty intriguing as well. The album closes out with “No Place Like Home”, a track that has an epic stomp feel to it.

For the longest time, I only owned this album on cassette. And yet even as the years passed, I would play it all the time and it remains a treasured favorite album of mine. I know it might be seen as something less than a full and true solo album for Leather Leone because of the heavy involvement of David T. Chastain, but for me Shock Waves was the album that set me up for a lifetime musical fandom for Leather (aside from those Chastain songs I liked of course). I love the way she sings and with Shock Waves listeners will get to hear her in full bloom!

NOTES OF INTEREST – The Shock Waves album has been reissued at least twice that I remember including a special edition marking its 30th anniversary.

Former Cannibal Corpse guitarist Pat O’Brien co-wrote “All Your Neon” and “Something In This Life” with Leather Leone. Manilla Road’s Mark Shelton wrote the album’s title track.

In 2018, Leather released her 2nd solo album II and I not only got to review that album for another site, I did an interview with her as well. She is working on a new solo album at this time with the album’s title at least tentatively set as We Are The Chosen.

Original magazine advertisement for Leather’s Shock Waves.

VANILLA FUDGE AND MICHAEL SCHENKER ANNIVERSARY TOURS COMING TO FALL RIVER, MA

JKB Entertainment Group, the publisher of Limelight Magazine, has booked two classic rock shows at the Narrows Center in Fall River, MA, this fall. On October 6, Vanilla Fudge returns to celebrate their 55th anniversary while Michael Schenker will celebrate his 50th anniversary as a touring artist on October 19. There is no opening acts for each show. Purchase tickets to Vanilla Fudge by clicking HERE. Purchase tickets to Michael Schenker Group by clicking HERE.

ABOUT VANILLA FUDGE

Since the summer of 1967, Vanilla Fudge were architects of a new musical style that included psychedelic, rock, soul music and gospel. They were, and are masters of reinterpreting other artist’s hit songs, and their effect on the soon to explode late 60’s “heavy metal” scene was undeniable.

To be an influence on the likes of Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Van Halen certainly secures a place in rock n roll history for the legendary Vanilla Fudge.

Now in their 55th year, the powerhouse vocals and keyboard flourishes of virtuoso organist Mark Stein, along with the fluid guitar explosions of Vinnie Martell, all anchored by one of the best rhythm sections in the history of rock music, with the legendary Carmine Appice on drums and Pete Bremy on bass, they create a sound so unique that it cannot be imitated. Your spirit will jettison right back to a “happening” in that magical summer of 1967, and this “happening” needs to be felt live to truly be appreciated!

ABOUT MICHAEL SCHENKER

Michael Schenker Group (MSG) is a legendary name. After two phenomenal records under the guise of Michael Schenker Fest, a true guitar hero is returning to his roots. By forming Michael Schenker Group (MSG) back in 1979, Michael Schenker laid the foundations for one of hard rock’s most glorious solo careers. And while nobody expected anything less from a former guitarist for Scorpions and UFO, it’s close to impossible mentioning everything Michael has built over the past 50 years, or the countless people he influenced or played with. This, truly, is the stuff that hard rocking myths are made of.

Very few guitarists can be cited as a primary influence for the likes of James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, Dave Mustaine, Dimebag Darrell, Slash or Kerry King. However, to understand Michael Schenker means to understand one primary thing: he’s not here to be worshipped or adored, he’s not here to get rich, he’s here to play. And he’s doing it with the same swagger, verve and dizzying artistry as always.

The Narrows Center is located at 16 Anawan Street in Fall River, Mass. Tickets to this show can by visiting the Narrows website or by calling the box office at 508-324-1926. For those wanting to purchase tickets in person, box office hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 12 noon to 5 p.m.

Copyright by Matthias Rethmann / Tour-Files / Fotograf Münster

FILMING LOCATION SPOTLIGHT – “THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY” (1981)

On the final Friday of every month in 2022, Limelight Magazine spotlights the filming location site(s) we visited for some of our favorite (and not so favorite) films and TV shows. Today we spotlight some of the filming locations for the movie The House By The Cemetery, which was directed by Lucio Fulci. The film was released in 1981. The top photo is a screen shot taken from the film while the photo underneath it is what the location looks like when I visited in June 2021. These photos were taken in Scituate, Lincoln, and Concord, MA.

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – KROKUS’ ‘CHANGE OF ADDRESS’

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.

KROKUS – CHANGE OF ADDRESS (1986)

As I planned to write about this ninth studio release from Krokus, I had to head off to research some stuff online. I have to say that I was pretty surprised to find out that just two albums after Headhunter, the band ended up releasing what is considered one of the worst albums of their career. I read that online and I found myself intrigued to discover if that was totally true, a little true or completely false.

As always, the truth does seem to fall somewhere in the middle. At least for me. Krokus has said that the record label put them and their music under incredible pressure during the recording of Change Of Address. I can see some of that in terms of how commercially oriented the material turned out. But that’s not always a sign that it was all bad.

On the first side of the album, “Now (All Through The Night)” and “Hot Shot City” got things going. The first track started off with a bit more of a mid-tempo pacing but once the song got to the first chorus, Krokus kicked things into a higher gear and I thought the track turned out okay. “Hot Shot City” was a much faster rocker track that wasn’t bad either.

Next up was Krokus covering the Alice Cooper classic “School’s Out”. While you could make the argument that a cover of a track that was just 14 years old at the time it was re-done by Krokus wasn’t really necessary, at least they did a pretty good job with it. Seriously, I think singer Marc Storace’s voice is uniquely qualified to pull off the vocal performance and the Krokus version got me just as pumped up as the original version.

Now, if you want to talk BAD music well you can start with “Let This Love Begin”. I know that longtime readers will know about my hindsight disdain for ballads, but in this case I think I’m on solid ground. This is simply putrid. It’s not just that it is a shameless attempt at power ballad glory and sales, it is also because it is so wretchedly banal that even the biggest supporter of power ballads would have a hard time saying they liked it with a straight face. I would love to know how they managed to record the track without vomiting.

Now for all the complaints about the album’s musical style from critics, fans and the band, I would have to say that the side closing “Burning Up The Night” is actually a fantastic song. Yes, it is pure pop-oriented metal with a great hook and a draw-you-in chorus. But again I ask why is that always considered a bad thing? I loved this song and quickly found myself humming along to the chorus.

Flipping the cassette over to Side Two, the opening song “Say Goodbye” has a pretty good sound to it. The track starts off with a heavier thump to it, even with a more mid-to-uptemp pace than a full-on rocking style. But the song lyrics are telling a story that seems to have a darker take on things. The chorus has a big backing vocal sound giving it a bigger canvas to draw you in. But I was definitely intrigued by the lyrical content so for me, the song worked rather nicely.

That sense of intrigue continued with “World On Fire”. The song is over six minutes long (which seems long by 1986 standards) and it feels like Krokus is world building something throughout the song. The song doesn’t fully break into a full on rocker except for a few flourishes but I was quite keyed into this track from start to finish.

“Hard Luck Hero” is a hard rocking track that sounds like it should’ve been a single. I could see how it might’ve been used over the end credits of a 1980’s action movie as well. It’s a straightforward kind of track but I enjoyed it a lot.

The album closing “Long Way From Home” was an uptempo track for the most part but again, this song felt like Krokus was doing a bit of world building with the lyrics that were reflective in nature.

As I listened to that last song, it struck me that the Change Of Address album feels like two different albums. The first side feels like the band’s complaints about pressure from the record label forced them to write pure pop-oriented material. Even though it turned out that I liked most of the songs on that first side, as I listened to Side Two which sounds mostly like the band wrote material that appealed more to their own tastes, there is a marked difference in the tone of the songs from side to side, even allowing for the more accessible sounding “Hard Luck Hero”.

But whether pure commercial metal or the possibly deeper sounding material, I found that I enjoyed Change Of Address for what it was. Hey, it may not make anyone but me happy but I would have no problems listening to this album over and over again, though I’ll skip that ballad track!

NOTES OF INTEREST – Guitar legend Allan Holdsworth provided the solo on the album closing track “Long Way From Home”.

The track listing provided on the outside and inside of the Change Of Address liner notes is out of sync with the running order that actually appears on the album itself. I found it more than a little annoying.

The band must’ve really hated this album because even though they were promoting the album on tour with Judas Priest, they reportedly barely ever played any of the songs in concert.

When I wrote about the band’s Headhunter album back in 2018, I noted that Krokus was heading off on a farewell tour in 2019. They had a planned November 2020 date in Massachusetts that a buddy of mine and I got tickets for but the show never happened due to the pandemic.

THE HAXANS BRING THEIR “HAUNTED HOUSE PARTY” TOUR TO ALCHEMY IN PROVIDENCE, RI, ON OCT. 22

JKB Entertainment Group/Limelight Magazine is excited to announce that its Halloween show will take place at Alchemy in Providence, RI, on Saturday, October 22, 2022. It will feature a headlining performance from The Haxans (featuring Ash Costello of New Years Day and Piggy D of Rob Zombie and Wednesday 13). In keeping with the Halloween festivities, guitar virtuoso Paul Bielatowicz, of Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy, will open the show by performing the first two acts of his soundtrack to the classic 1922 “Nosferatu” film. Everyone is encouraged to arrive in costume to this all ages show. Purchase tickets HERE.

ABOUT THE HAXANS

The Haxans are Ashley Costello, subcultural style icon and leader of Warped Tour screamo stars New Years Day, a seeming heir-apparent to the glory days of My Chemical Romance and AFI, and Matt Montgomery, better known by his alias Piggy D., bassist for over a decade with multiplatinum shock rocker Rob Zombie, guitarist with horror punks Wednesday 13, and sometime visual and musical collaborator with rock icon Alice Cooper.

A Goth-pop duo, decked out in creep kitsch high fashion, and named after a silent film from the twenties about a 15th century German guide to hunting witches, The Haxans sound exactly like everything those images conjure. It’s the psycho-saccharine music of a fiendish creep’s fever dream…Classic art-house cinema, b-movie horror, spooky decadence, vintage American myth, and black roses dripping with blood are all tossed in The Haxans cauldron, like so many ingredients from a well-worn book of spells.

The Haxans isn’t a side project. It’s the irrepressible, irresistible, and inevitable exorcism of the party-centric Halloween costume shop kicking around inside the brains and bodies of the group’s two coconspirators.

ABOUT PAUL BIELATOWICZ

Paul Bielatowicz is best known for his virtuoso guitar work with some of the biggest names in progressive rock.  He’s played, recorded and toured with Carl Palmer (ELP), Neal Morse (Spock’s Beard, Transatlantic), YES, Todd Rundgren, John Lodge and The Alan Parsons Project.

In 2014, he released his debut solo album Preludes & Etudes, featuring solo electric guitar arrangements of virtuoso classical showpieces. When COVID 19 halted all touring, Paul spent the best part of two years working in the studio, writing and recording music for three albums… one of those projects is this soundtrack to the classic 1922 Nosferatu film. 

The Nosferatu Live show brings together a variety of musical styles and instruments (guitars, keyboards, analog synths, vocals… even a Theremin) in an exciting theatrical production that breathes new life into the undead classic!

Alchemy is located at 171 Chestnut Street in Providence, RI.

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – BABYLON A.D.’S ‘NOTHING SACRED’

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.

BABYLON A.D. – NOTHING SACRED (1991)

It was more than five years ago when I wrote about the self-titled Babylon A.D. album. In that piece, I noted that while I liked the two big singles from the album, it wasn’t until I listened to the album while writing that article that I finally found a true appreciation for the rest of the album.

Now when it comes to the band’s follow up album Nothing Sacred, I couldn’t honestly say that I remember ever even hearing any of the songs on it before listening to it for this article. As I would go on to discover, that isn’t quite accurate…I think.

The cassette I have has been sitting in The Big Box of Cassettes for a good long while so when I pulled it out, I was surprised to discover that it was actually a promo copy of the album. Stamped with a “Promo Only” on the card insert and on the cassette itself, there’s no liner notes and the artwork that appears on the official release is nowhere to be found. You can check out of picture of what the promo copy looks like just below.

While the debut album had single success with “Hammer Swings Down” and “Bang Go The Bells”, I can’t recall if either of the songs released as singles for Nothing Sacred made any noise on the radio or the charts. But with both songs appearing on Side One of the album, the band did get things off to a damn good start. Singer Derek Davis (still billed as just “Derek” in the liner notes) helps propel the opening track “Take The Dog Off The Chain” off to a rollicking start. There’s an infectious energy to the music and I found myself buzzing as I listened to the track. I can definitely see why the song was picked as a single.

The second single is the song “So Savage The Heart”. The first thing to note about the song is that it has a killer title. It falls into a mid-to-uptempo groove musically and you can probably get away with calling it a “power ballad”, though that might be doing the song a bit of a disservice. In 1991, I’m guessing the formula of releasing a rocker and then a ballad as singles was still standard operating procedure. But in a nice twist in the narrative, I quite enjoyed the song.

As for the rest of the songs on the first side of the album, “Bad Blood” is a pretty darn good rocker and “Sacrifice Your Love” is pretty intense musically. As the song heads towards its end, the pace kicks into another gear and the guitar playing from Danny De La Rosa (who co-wrote this track as well as 8 others on the album) and Ron Freschi get amped up.

As I listened to “Redemption”, I wasn’t really into it the first time around. But the heavy drama that fills and fuels the lyrics ended up growing on me from the second listen onward. The vocals end up capturing the tone the lyrics set up and while it starts off a bit slower musically, it picks up that pacing when it needs to.

The side-ending song “Down The River Of No Return” is another one of those tracks with a great title. Unfortunately, I didn’t connect with the track much at all. A ballad that is pretty much a soft delivery from start to finish, it just didn’t do a thing for me.

Remember how I said I hadn’t heard any of the songs before and that I would discover that I wasn’t exactly accurate in that belief? Well, that’s where the opening song on Side Two comes into play. The song “Psychedelic Sex Reaction” is the only song on Nothing Sacred where there are any outside writers. Derek Davis did co-write the track but three other names appear as well. But I’m only sure about one of them and that was Jack Ponti. While I didn’t remember the song from it’s title, once it started playing I distinctly remember the song’s chorus. It’s a massively catchy track that kind of makes you wonder why it wasn’t released as a single. Until you listen to the lyrics that is. Not that there’s anything overtly bad about them but you can see where they might’ve given someone pause in 1991. Anyway, I really got into the song but I have no idea where I might’ve heard it. Maybe I did hear it on the radio back in the day or something. But I think a more likely explanation is that I must’ve heard it on Dee Snider’s radio show “The House Of Hair”. Regardless of how and where I heard it before, the song has a great hook and that chorus is draws you in from the get-go.

The “Dream Train” track has a cool bluesy sound in the intro which goes on to recur throughout the song. But after that intro, the song does kick into more of a hard rocking number. I liked the song but will say that some of the vocals seem to get a bit lost in the mix at times.

The rocking “Blind Ambition” is another song with a catchy hook and chorus. That’s followed up with “Slave Your Body” which is an astoundingly killer song.

When I first saw “Of A Rose” on the album’s track listing, I thought that it had to be a ballad. But I was happy to see that while definitely on the softer side of things, it was instead a short but indelibly crafted instrumental. That song leads into the closing track “Pray For The Wicked” an amped-up rocker that leaves the listener on an adrenaline high as the final notes play.

It’s no secret that Babylon A.D. never quite broke through to superstar status in their initial heyday. But it wasn’t because they lacked the talent or the material. The Nothing Sacred album amply demonstrates that they had both in abundance. Much like with their debut album, it has taken me decades to come around to the album in full but I think anyone who listens to the album has to agree that Nothing Sacred album is yet another underappreciated gem of the hard rock genre.

NOTES OF INTEREST: When I wrote about the self-titled debut album, I noted that the band hadn’t released a new album since 2000. Well, five months after I wrote that article, Babylon A.D. released the album Revelation Highway. I got to review it for another website and summed it up by saying the album was indeed a hard rocking revelation. If you don’t have or hadn’t known about the album, I’d say go out and pick it up. You won’t regret it.

Eric Pacheco, the brother of drummer Jamey Pacheco who had joined the band on bass back in 2018, passed away in December 2020.

I have a CD edition of the album which oddly enough I bought a couple years back and still hadn’t gotten around to listening to that version either.

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – DEF LEPPARD’S ‘HIGH ‘N’ DRY’

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.

DEF LEPPARD – HIGH ‘n’ DRY (1981)

It’s funny the things you learn when you are least expecting it. About three weeks ago (at the time this article is posted), I reviewed the new Def Leppard album Diamond Star Halos for another web site. In that review I mentioned how the band’s fan base somehow manages to break down between those who like everything (generally speaking) Def Leppard has done from Pyromania onward and those who think the band “died” after their first two albums. Those latter fans have seemingly never gotten over the band’s sound changing and evolving over the ensuing decades and every time Def Leppard releases a new album, they come out of the woodwork to insist the first two albums are the only ones worth listening to.

Now, I tend to like most of the band’s releases, though there are some I have never particularly warmed to. But I do like the first two Def Leppard albums, even if I admittedly don’t listen to them quite as often as some other releases. So the fuse was lit to pull the High ‘n’ Dry album out of my personal collection and give it a listen for this series.

But the deciding factor in writing about the album this week was actually me stumbling over a CD edition of the album at my friend’s record shop. Yes, I own the cassette copy of the album and had never upgraded until just recently.

Now that I was surely going to write about it, I had to look some stuff up. And I was surprised to realize that my cassette edition is not the original 1981 release. Instead, I have the version that was re-released in 1984. What’s the difference? Well the newer version has two bonus tracks on it. Both tracks are remixes, the first being for the High ‘n’ Dry classic track “Bringin’ On The Heartbreak”. The other bonus track is for the 1981 B-side track “Me & My Wine”.

Unlike bonus track releases these days, where the extras are at the end of the album, these two tracks are mixed in the main part of the release. “Me & My Wine” closes out Side One while the remix of “Bringin’ On The Heartbreak” opens Side Two of the cassette.

But, here’s twist…remember I mentioned that CD edition I bought recently? Well, when the album got its original release in that format, the two bonus tracks were dropped from the album. In fact, they weren’t restored to the High ‘n’ Dry album until 2018. Oh, and according to the album’s Wikipedia page, the remixes were done to make the songs sound more like the material on the Pyromania album.

So by now, you might be wondering what I think of the songs themselves. Well, I have to say that listening to the High ‘n’ Dry album for this article, I got a chance to dig into the tracks almost like they were new. Of course they aren’t but it has been a while since I last checked out the album. The one thing I keyed in on first was that for all the complaining fans of the first two albums do about how Def Leppard changed their sound, they aren’t exactly wrong about that. Even with Mutt Lange as the producer for this album, they hadn’t quite streamlined the sound you would grow familiar with on both Pyromania and then Hysteria. Instead, the sound of the music feels a bit raw and definitely has more of an edgy vibe at times. Joe Elliott’s vocals are a bit rougher and less smooth in the delivery, though that’s not really a criticism, I like his vocals regardless of style.

The album opens with the song “Let It Go” which was the first single released when the album came out. It didn’t have much success on the singles chart but I really got into it as I listened for this piece. It’s got a rough-and-tumble fast pacing to it and you get caught up in the song pretty quickly. In fact, you can say that about most of Side One’s material.

Def Leppard started High ‘n’ Dry with three straight on rockers that left no doubt just how on point they were at the time. “Another Hit And Run” hits you right between the eyes, and “High ‘N’ Dry (Saturday Night)” does a great job of aiming for and hitting that anthemic high a rock band needs to nail each time out.

As for the original version of “Bringin’ On The Heartbreak”, it was the 2nd single from the album. While it didn’t break the Top 40 on the singles chart, it’s still the classic track from the album. It’s pretty much the only song I ever hear still being played on the radio from the album. And even though it is 41 years old, it still makes me echo back in time to when I first heard the song. Plus, have you listened to it? It’s just a great song. It has some roots in that power ballad style but it isn’t hamstrung by the format as the power part of that equation shines through pretty nicely too. Just a slam bang kind of track that makes me glad to be a rock and roll fan. Oh, and the follow up instrumental “Switch 625” is phenomenal! It was written by the late Steve Clark and while the lack of lyrical content is something I would usually complain about, you won’t hear it about this song. It’s a rocket-fueled song that gets your blood pumping fast and furious.

As I said above, the remixed version of the blazing rocker “Me & My Wine” closes out Side One. While I couldn’t begin to tell you the last time I heard the song, it’s still rather enjoyable.

Now, regarding the remix of “Bringin’ On The Heartbreak” that opens Side Two of High ‘n’ Dry, I think putting it so relatively soon after the original version was a mistake of sequencing. This version would’ve been better served as the last track on the album’s 1984 re-release. It’s not that the remix is bad or anything but I just have a hard time picking out the differences between how the two versions sound when they are so close in the running order. While that’s likely simply a failure on my part, it does factor into things for me.

The song “You Got Me Runnin'” is a solid rocker, but I think I was more taken with “Lady Strange”. It rocks and has a nice backing vocal take on the song’s chorus that reminds you of what was to come on later album releases.

The oddity of the High ‘n’ Dry album is that it has a song on it called “On Through The Night”, which was the title of their first album. I don’t know if there is a story behind how the band came to do the song for this album and not have it serve as the title track for the first album or not. But what I do know is that this is a damn fine song. No seriously, endlessly rocking soundtrack that really got to me. I think this song just rose way up on my mythical list of favorite Def Leppard songs.

Oh, one other thing I noticed with High ‘n’ Dry is that a lot of the songs seem to bleed into the next one without the traditional fade out between each track. It’s not too distracting but I will admit that I did momentarily forget to realize that “Bringin’ On The Heartbreak” had turned into “Switch 625” on Side One.

The song “Mirror Mirror (Look Into My Eyes)” was a pretty cool number. It’s got a mid-tempo delivery in the main lyrical verses and the song gets more uptempo for the chorus. But the song seems to have a little extra heavy feeling to it that makes the whole track seem somehow deeper to me. Plus, the chorus sounds fantastic.

As for the album closing “No No No”, it is an all-out blitz musically full of that “piss and vinegar” attitude that I’m guessing everyone has in the twenties. It gets you amped up and then it just cuts right out on you out of nowhere and suddenly the album is over.

But as I look back at what I just heard, I can’t help but admit that I do indeed find myself really enjoying this early version of Def Leppard. Look, I’m never going to agree with those who think Def Leppard ceased to exist when they changed their sound after their first two albums but I can at least see what they are talking about. But for me, I like that the band evolved over the past four decades. If they hadn’t, who knows if they would’ve lasted. That said, you can’t take away from the fact that the High ‘n’ Dry is just one flat out killer rock album that does indeed stand the test of time!

NOTES OF INTEREST – The High ‘n’ Dry album has gone double platinum in the US. It managed to peak at #38 on the Billboard album chart upon its original release in 1981. It was also the last album that guitarist Pete Willis was a full-time member of Def Leppard.

The cover art design was done by Hipgnosis, the art design group headed by Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell. They are probably best known for their association with Pink Floyd.

MICHAEL SCHENKER TO CELEBRATE 50TH ANNIVERSARY IN FALL RIVER, MA

Former Scorpions and UFO guitarist, Michael Schenker, is celebrating his 50th anniversary as a touring artist with a date at the Narrows Center in Fall River, MA, on October 19, 2022. It is one of the smallest venues he is playing on this tour and there is no opening act for this show. Purchase tickets HERE.

Michael Schenker Group (MSG) is a legendary name. After two phenomenal records under the guise of Michael Schenker Fest, a true guitar hero is returning to his roots. By forming Michael Schenker Group (MSG) back in 1979, Michael Schenker laid the foundations for one of hard rock’s most glorious solo careers. And while nobody expected anything less from a former guitarist for Scorpions and UFO, it’s close to impossible mentioning everything Michael has built over the past 50 years, or the countless people he influenced or played with. This, truly, is the stuff that hard rocking myths are made of.

Very few guitarists can be cited as a primary influence for the likes of James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, Dave Mustaine, Dimebag Darrell, Slash or Kerry King. However, to understand Michael Schenker means to understand one primary thing: he’s not here to be worshipped or adored, he’s not here to get rich, he’s here to play. And he’s doing it with the same swagger, verve and dizzying artistry as always.

The Narrows Center Center is located at 16 Anawan Street in Fall River, MA. Parking is available for free.

VANILLA FUDGE RETURNS TO THE NARROWS CENTER IN FALL RIVER, MA

Legendary rock band Vanilla Fudge will return to the Narrows Center in Fall River, Mass., on October 6, 2022. This concert is presented by JKB Management & Booking. Purchase tickets. HERE.

Since the summer of 1967, Vanilla Fudge were architects of a new musical style that included psychedelic, rock, soul music and gospel. They were, and are masters of reinterpreting other artist’s hit songs, and their effect on the soon to explode late 60’s “heavy metal” scene was undeniable.

To be an influence on the likes of Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Van Halen certainly secures a place in rock n roll history for the legendary Vanilla Fudge.

Now in their 55th year, the powerhouse vocals and keyboard flourishes of virtuoso organist Mark Stein, along with the fluid guitar explosions of Vinnie Martell, all anchored by one of the best rhythm sections in the history of rock music, with the legendary Carmine Appice on drums and Pete Bremy on bass, they create a sound so unique that it cannot be imitated. Your spirit will jettison right back to a “happening” in that magical summer of 1967, and this “happening” needs to be felt live to truly be appreciated!

The Narrows Center is located at 16 Anawan Street in Fall River, Mass. Tickets to this show can be purchased HERE or by calling the box office at 508-324-1926. For those wanting to purchase tickets in person, box office hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 12 noon to 5 p.m.

RICHIE KOTZEN TO PERFORM AT THE MET IN PAWTUCKET, RI, ON SATURDAY, SEPT. 10TH

Richie Kotzen (of The Winery Dogs, ex-Poison and Mr. Big) is embarking on a solo tour with his band that will make a stop at The Met in Pawtucket, RI, on Saturday, September 10th. Groundlift open the show. Tickets are on-sale now and can be purchased by clicking HERE. This show is presented by JKB Entertainment Group.

Richie Kotzen has always been on a clear, laser-focused mission as an artist. While he is rightfully acknowledged worldwide for being a stellar guitar player, an emotive singer, and, frankly, a balls-out dynamic live performer to boot, Kotzen is quite aware he must maintain an ever-vigilant eye on ensuring one particularly important creative arrow in his artistic quiver continues to be properly nurtured — and that is his songwriting.

 “My whole existence has been driven by songs,” Kotzen admits. “I realized when I was very, very young that if I didn’t have a song to sing that, was mine, I probably wouldn’t have much of a future as an artist. That’s where I come from. It’s like I get to live my dream scenario, because my job is doing what I love to do, which is making music. It’s how I live.”

Good songs are indeed Kotzen’s creative stock in trade, and the man has spent decades making sure he delivers the goods on a consistent basis. As a vocalist, Kotzen’s impassioned style exists at the crossroads where the likes of Paul Rodgers, Terence Trent D’Arby (better known these days as Sananda Maitreya), and Rod Stewart meet. All that primal vocal energy also feeds into his love of great songwriting. To that end, Kotzen cites Daryl Hall and Don Henley as two legendary songwriters he respects and looks up to, both of whom he takes cues from for inspiration. “I’m more of a conversational writer,” Kotzen explains. “I don’t write about aliens and spaceships. It’s more about what I’m thinking, and what I’m feeling. Here’s the thing — I wait. I wait until I have something to say — and usually, that’s when it all comes together. When something strikes me, I’ll sing it into my phone, and then it’ll either live there and wait until another day, or I’ll work on it and it’ll end up on an album. That’s my process.” 

That said, the muse struck Kotzen in a much different kind of way when he got together with his longtime friend and confidant, Iron Maiden guitarist/backing vocalist and songwriter Adrian Smith, to lay down nine galvanizing tracks for March 2021’s collaborative triumph, SMITH/ KOTZEN, in addition to its follow-up four-song Record Store Day EP released later in the same year, November 2021’s aptly rousing BETTER DAYS. What both these hard-charging S/K releases reveal is a creative relationship previously only hinted at through their shared musical brotherhood. “I didn’t know what to expect,” Kotzen reveals. “Adrian would come in with either a lyrical concept or a riff, and then we would work on it together. That would usually lead me into writing another section for the song. If he came in with a chorus, I’d be writing a verse — or, if he came in with the verse, I’d come up with the chorus. We just ping-ponged our ideas back and forth like that.” 

One of the best give-and-take SMITH/KOTZEN song examples is “Scars,” a deeply cutting, yearning modern blues-burner of a track wherein Smith provided the verse riff and overall concept and lyric, and then Kotzen improvised the B section for it right there on the spot. “What you hear on the first pre-chorus is the original improv I did when I sat in front of the microphone and just freestyled,” he reports. “The song has a real honest sound to it because of that — and then the chorus just evolved from there.”  

The reason SMITH/KOTZEN works so well is quite simple. “The reality is, Adrian and I connected artistically. We just hit it off,” Kotzen confirms. “The shows we performed together earlier this year on the West Coast and in the U.K. were great, and hopefully, it all continues.” (We kinda suspect it will — or, to modify the title of one of the album’s most poignant songs, we do indeed know you now, and we want to see and hear more of what you’ve got to offer.)

  Kotzen’s undeniable push-pull skills are apparent not only all throughout SMITH/KOTZEN, but also by way of his continually resonant collaboration with Return to Forever legends bassist Stanley Clarke and drummer Lenny White, along with keyboardist Rachel Z and violinist Karen Briggs, in the jazz-fusion super collective known as Vertú — “a highlight of my career I’m still very, very proud of,” he clarifies. 

In addition to that creative benchmark and his ongoing role as the frontman of the quite formidable rocktastic three-piece band known as The Winery Dogs, Kotzen is an avowed, inveterate solo artist with 22 albums released to date under his own name. None of them are more personally affecting than his February 2020 three-disc retrospectacle 50 FOR 50, released via Kotzen’s own Headroom-Inc. label. Ostensibly intended to celebrate his 50th birthday at the front end of that fateful year, Kotzen found the genesis of 50 FOR 50 by combing through his personal archives to hone in on 50 tracks in various stages of almost-completion in order to come up with the right finishing touches to get them across the finish line. In the process, many of these songs took on a much bigger weight than the songwriter had perhaps initially envisioned.

“I still think it’s one of the best things I’ve done,” Kotzen declares. “And I’m still super-excited about it. A lot of times folks think everything you write about literally happened to you, but sometimes you may write a song about something you saw someone else go through. You may fabricate scenarios and characters from your own mind without even realizing you’re doing it, so the source of creativity becomes much broader than strictly writing about what happened to you specifically.”

Since Kotzen’s planned cross-country tour to support 50 FOR 50 around the album’s initial release timeframe was unfortunately derailed due to the pandemic, he’s now set to return to the live stage with a vengeance in the power-trio format he loves so well, starting in August 2022 to make up those earlier dates as well as play in a number of additional venues. After all, playing his music live is what brings everything together. “I like the flexibility in the level of improvisation I can do in that trio format. I go to that place in my head where I know what I’m feeling when I’m singing onstage, and I connect with it,” Kotzen observes.

Understanding the imprint of his own global artistic reach ultimately brings Richie Kotzen full circle with the feelings evoked by the music he cherished during his own youth, not to mention his regard for the musicians who made it. “Thankfully, I’ve been very lucky in that way,” he concludes. “People tend to gravitate toward others who are carved out of certain like-minded stones, and then you figure out how you fit into each other’s orbit. Me, I like to do that with my music.” Considering how the impact of Kotzen’s ever-expanding catalog stretches to the literal edge of the Earth, we expect the shared orbit of his songs and what they mean to his listenership and fanbase at large will only continue to widen.

The Met is located at 1005 Main Street in Pawtucket, RI.