All posts by limelightmagazine

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – LAURA BRANIGAN’S self-titled release

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.

LAURA BRANIGAN – LAURA BRANIGAN (1990)

Laura Branigan is a guilty pleasure of mine that I don’t really feel all that guilty about liking. On this 1990 release, she finds herself once again mining a decidedly more adult contemporary musical bent, though she doesn’t completely abandon the pop/dance type sound that made her famous in the early 80’s either.

In fact, the album’s first two singles managed to give her a bit of a hit on both of those musical charts. The first single, “Moonlight On The Water”, kicked off the album and despite my opinion that it felt more like an adult pop song with a style that worked, it actually turned out to be a dance hit for Branigan. 

Meanwhile, “Never In A Million Years” did hit the Adult Contemporary charts. After listening to that song, I can understand why. The song is a ballad and given how picky I am about those songs these days, it is always a tricky needle to thread to get me to enjoy them. But this song was immensely enjoyable. Branigan’s vocal performance on this song is my favorite on the album. She put every possible ounce of emotion into the work and came out with one of the best songs of her catalog. 

I wish that I could say more nice things about the rest of the songs on Side One of the album but sadly, the increased level of maturity in how the album sounds didn’t necessarily lend itself to the material itself being all great all the time. The one remaining noteworthy thing about Side One was the pounding beat in “Let Me In” (which was originally recorded by Eddie Money). However, I can’t decide if it should be considered hypnotic or just sleep inducing. I have to admit, I felt myself nodding off during this one.

As for Side Two, Branigan gets things started with a cover of the Vicki Sue Robinson disco hit “Turn The Beat Around”. I don’t know how much of my metal cred I will lose for saying this but I really did quite enjoy Branigan’s rendition. The song “Unison” took a bit for me to get into it but it does grow on you. I was somewhat disappointed in the two ballads on Side Two. “No Promise, No Guarantee” was rather ineffective throughout the song’s running time. The more forceful approach at the end of the song did little to improve my thoughts on the track. As for Branigan’s cover of the Bryan Adams song “The Best Was Yet To Come”, it just didn’t really come together fully for me. The slow nature of the song did lend itself to Branigan’s vocals but despite the dramatic assist from a boys choir as backing vocalists, the song felt antiseptic to me.

Of course then you have a song like “Reverse Psychology” which is a fast paced number with a pure pop song delivery. I liked the track and despite its problematic title for what you’d expect for a song on the pop charts, this really could’ve been a breakout hit in my book.

This was the second to last full length album from Laura Branigan and it continues the trend of Branigan being more involved in the creation of the songs she’s singing. At times, she’s turning out some great work and then there are the songs that really didn’t work for me. It is a little disappointing that there wasn’t more to like but I do really enjoy those songs where she is at the top of her game.

NOTES OF INTEREST: This was the first album of Branigan’s that did not produce a top 40 single for the Billboard chart.  The singer co-produced three of the songs on the album. They were “Let Me In”, “Turn The Beat Around” and “The Best Was Yet To Come”. 

“Unison” was also covered by Celine Dion the same year that Branigan did it and it became a big hit off her first English language album.

Peter Wolf produced “Never In A Million Years” and “No Promise, No Guarantee”. He played all the instruments on both songs except for the guitars.

The Cassette Chronicles – Kix’s ‘Hot Wire’

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.

KIX – HOT WIRE (1991)

Following up on the platinum success of 1988’s Blow My Fuse, the Kix album Hot Wire ended up being a commercial failure when it sold only 1/5 of what the previous album had sold. So you must be thinking that the album was garbage right?

WRONG!

It’s funny, really didn’t pay that much attention to Kix until I saw that killer video for the song “Cold Blood” and fell in love with the song and the super fine model in said video. I did get out to see them open for Whitesnake in 1990 based on their reputation as a sterling live act. But like a lot of people, I also kind of abandoned the band after the Blow My Fuse album too. I have no explanation or defense for this, it is simply a statement of fact. 

Truthfully, other than the outstanding single “Girl Money”, I have never heard any of the songs on this album until I listened to it for this article. More’s the pity because it is chock full of fantastic rock and roll. The Maryland rockers mesh bluesy rock and roll with a bit of an AC/DC bent and turn out some great music.

The songs on the album were written or co-written by bassist Donnie Purnell with no other band members receiving writing credits. Instead, producer Taylor Rhodes co-wrote half the songs. Other outside collaborators were used as well.

But the lack of input from the majority of the band didn’t affect the overall performance from the band. The first side of the album opened with the title track which got the blood flowing and led into “Girl Money”, with an eminently catchy chorus. I was disappointed with the power ballad “Tear Down The Walls” which felt rote. I would’ve liked “Luv-A-Holic”, a bruising rocker, more if the vocals hadn’t been buried a bit too deep in the mix. But the band rallied to close out the side with an admittedly stupidly titled “Bump The La La”, which despite its title was a surprisingly peppy rocker with another catch chorus.

Side Two of the album is where the band really was firing on all cylinders. There’s not a bad song to be found. For the most part, it is straightforward rockers on tracks like “Rock & Roll Overdose”, “Cold Chills” and “Pants On Fire (Liar, Liar)”. There’s a real bluesy intro to “Hee Bee Jee Bee Crush” before that song also explodes into an uptempo rocker. Of course, the lyrics to that song sound a bit fetishistic to me, but I could be reading entirely too much into them. However, the best of the bunch is the song “The Same Jane”. It’s another blistering run through from Kix but the lyrics about a woman who has changed from a party girl to a seemingly “responsible” adult are killer and the chorus envelops the listener and makes you want to get up and rock out.

For the most part, Kix really had just one serving of commercial musical success with the Blow My Fuse album. But the lack of sustained record sales doesn’t tell the whole story because they really knew how to put together some great songs. The band is definitely underrated in rock history and for my non-girl money, I’d wager to say that Hot Wire was just as good a release as the one that made them famous.

NOTES OF INTEREST: John Palumbo of prog rockers Crack The Sky is credited with co-writing two tracks on Hot Wire, “Pants on Fire (Liar, Liar)” and “Hee Bee Jee Bee Crush”. 

Hot Wire producer Taylor Rhodes has worked with Aerosmith, Ozzy Osbourne, Cheap Trick, Journey, Tora Tora, Celine Dion and others throughout his career.

After the release of the 1995 album $how Bu$ine$$, the band essentially went their separate ways until they reunited in 2003 without Donnie Purnell. But it wasn’t until 2014 when they released a new studio album, the aptly titled Rock Your Face Off, which did exactly that.

The Cassette Chronicles – U.D.O.’s ‘Mean Machine’

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.

ADVERTISEMENT – Click on the above image to purchase tickets to see Julien-K in The Vault at Greasy Luck in New Bedford, MA, on July 29th.

U.D.O. – MEAN MACHINE (1989)

The second album from U.D.O. saw a host of lineup changes surrounding singer Udo Dirkschneider. These changes didn’t seem to slow the band down though as the opening track on Mean Machine, “Don’t Look Back”, blows out of the speakers and is relentlessly aggressive throughout the song’s running time.

“Break The Rules” starts off a little slow in the first lyrical verse. But it picks up into a more explosive song once the second verse starts. Speaking of lyrics, the song “We’re History” is a rather unrepentant vicious response to a breakup. While it is pretty obviously leaning towards it being a guy’s point of view, it can actually be used by either men or women who aren’t sorry to get rid of someone out of their life. “Painted Love” is another fast-paced rocker giving the first side of the album a pretty solid foundation to start. 

Sadly, the album’s title track closes the first side and, despite it being another rocker, there’s something about the song that felt off. It left me cold while listening to it. I can’t put my finger on why but this song just seemed to fit together completely for me.

The band’s first album was Animal House (which I wrote about a few weeks ago) and according to the liner notes for that album, the members of Accept did the majority of the songwriting for it. On Mean Machine, the songwriting was left to Udo and cohorts. This might account for why there seemed to be a bit more in the way of weaker material on this particular release.

Side Two starting off strong with “Dirty Boys” and “Streets on Fire”, two more straight up rockers. But “Lost Passion” was purely filler material, better left in the archives than released. The sole ballad track on the album was actually interesting. That alone surprised me, but the use of the piano on “Sweet Little Child” gave a bit more of a dramatic feel to it. 

The album closed out with a track, “Still In Love With You”, is just 49 seconds long but it isn’t even really a song. It’s just a compilation of random sounds and a complete waste of time.

When the songs are on point and tightly constructed, Mean Machine rocks hard and fast. But the inclusion of what can only be seen as weaker material means that the album has just as many low points as high ones. It left me with a bit of harsher opinion on the album as a whole, considering how strong I consider the band’s later material. The album is fine to listen to, but I don’t think that I’ll be revisiting it too often since I have better albums from U.D.O. to spin instead.

NOTES OF INTEREST: The album got reissued on CD in 2013 with a bonus live track for the song “Break The Rules” as well as the official video for the same song.

The cover concept for the album is credited to Deaffy, who was credited for the lyrics on many of Accept’s early songs. It was later revealed that Deaffy was a pseudonym for Gaby Hoffman, the wife of Accept guitarist Wolf Hoffman. She’s credited with songwriting on U.D.O.’s 1991 album Timebomb as well.

Former members of Orgy to perform at Greasy Luck in New Bedford

Alternative electro rockers Julien-K will bring their “California Noir” summer tour to The Vault at Greasy Luck in New Bedford, MA, on Sunday, July 29, 2018. Purchase tickets HERE.

Amir Derakh and Ryan Shuck (two of the three original founding members of Orgy) have been musical partners for 15+ years. During their time together they have weaved in and out of mainstream music like a constantly evolving musical fashion house. In the late 90’s they were responsible for massive radio and sales hits such as “Blind” (Korn), “Blue Monday,” “Stitches,” and “Fiction” (Orgy), and recently “Crawl Back In” and “Let Down” (Dead By Sunrise with their pal the late Chester Bennington). After enjoying years of traditional music business success, they have spent the last 10 years methodically moving away from the mainstream approach that put them on the map, opting to carefully steer their fans in a new direction, towards their new independent alternative electro rock project Julien-K – which sounds more at home with the likes of modern acts such as M83, The Kills, LCD Soundsystem, The Naked and Famous, Empire of the Sun, and even the Black Keys (see Derakh’s sleazy electro-blues guitar playing on “We’re Here With You”).

Tickets are only $7and can be purchased HERE. Tickets for reserved table seating are also available. For more details about the show, click HERE.

The Vault at Greasy Luck is located at located at 791 Purchase Street in New Bedford, MA. The venue is set within a former bank building featuring original vault doors and a truly historic feel. Patrons have raved about the superior acoustics and intimate setting.

The Moody Blues’ John Lodge to perform at Regent Theatre in Arlington, Mass.

John Lodge, legendary bass player, songwriter and vocalist of The Moody Blues, and recent inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, is bringing his solo tour to the historic Regent Theatre in Arlington, Mass., on Oct. 23rdThis is a unique opportunity to see John perform his hits from the Moody Blues, together with some of his solo work, and a few special treats that are sure to delight both fans and music lovers alike. Purchase tickets HERE.

John will appear with his 10,000 Light Years Band, and together they capture the heart of classic Moody Blues songs he has penned and recorded such as “I’m Just a Singer (in a Rock and Roll Band),” “Gemini Dream,” “Ride My Seesaw,” “Isn’t Life Strange,” “Steppin’ in a Slide Zone,”  “Peak Hour,” “Evening Time’ (the latter two from Days of Future Passed), and the never before played live, “Candle of Life.”  John will also perform songs from his solo album 10,000 Light Years Ago. This album received critical acclaim, and his song, In My Mind, was nominated for “Anthem of the Year” in Prog Mag. John also has very special treats such as Saved by the Music from the Blue Jays album, and other new surprises that are being added to the set. This is a not-to-be-missed show full of beautifully crafted songs, great energy and sound, and a fantastic atmosphere.

If you are new to the music of John Lodge, come and experience why this music is so legendary, and has influenced musicians and fans for generations, and of course if you love the Moodies you will love this show…

During his remarkable 52 years with the Moody Blues, Lodge has sold more than 70 million albums,including the groundbreaking Days of Future Passed, and has composed many of their biggest hitsThe album Seventh Sojurn was Billboard number 1 for five weeks, and Lodge wrote both the singles from this album, the high-energy “I’m Just a Singer (in a Rock and Roll Band)” and the beautiful and ethereal “Isn’t Life Strange”.  

John has received numerous awards including ASCAP (American Society Of Composers & Publishers) and an Ivor Novello for Outstanding Contribution to Musicand he has been voted one of the 10 most influential bass players on the planet. The Moody Blues are currently celebrating the 50th Anniversary of their iconic album Days of Future Passed with a hugely successful tour, including a sold out performance at the Hollywood Bowl, the current release of their live album Days of Future Passed, Live, which reached the top of US DVD charts, and an upcoming three week residency at the Wynn in September.  The Moodies can currently be seen performing at the Rock and Rolll Hall of Fame Induction on HBO and Amazon Prime, featuring two of John’s hits, “I’m Just a Singer (in a Rock and Roll Band)”, and ‘Ride My See-saw’.  

Whilst John will always be a Moody Blue, and loves performing with the Moodies, he never wants to stop.He also loves taking his band on the road to perform his Moodies songs in a new way, in wonderful theatres, and being able to bring some of his solo work to fans old and new. This is a fantastic opportunity to see this rock legend and also great guy perform in an intimate setting, up close and personal.

In John’s words, Music is my life and I can’t wait to get on the road with my 10,000 Light Years Band… the venues are smaller and more intimate, but I love live concerts “have bass will travel” that’s the gypsy in me. I’ll always be a ‘Moody Blue’, but I love getting the chance to perform songs that I have never performed before, and of course classic Moody Blue songs.  The fans and I have travelled this road a long time and I also hope new fans will discover and explore along with us.”

The Regent Theatre is located at 7 Medord Street in Arlington, Mass. Tickets to the show can be purchased online at www.regenttheatre.com or by calling the box office at 781-646-4849. Tickets can also be purchased in person at the box office.

Mass to release ‘When 2 World Collide’ on vinyl

Boston’s hard rock legends Mass have had numerous accomplishments over the years but most notably is the selling of over half a million albums worldwide!

Mass are legends in the USA and have a good strong following in Europe where they have released eight studio albums on labels such as A&M, RCA, Enigma and of course Escape Music. They have worked with such producers as Tom Allom (Judas Priest), Jon Mathias (Joe Cocker), Tony Platt (Cheap Trick / Led Zep) and Michael Sweet (Stryper) who has also contributed to this very release. They have toured with Scorpions, Cinderella, Molly Hatchet, Tesla, The Ramones, Kix, Vince Neil to name but a few….

The band’s most recent studio album, When 2 Worlds Collide, has received rave reviews from fans and music critics alike. Their music can only be described as melodic hard rock of the highest order; they certainly have a pedigree in this type of music and they hail from Boston too, home of the band of the very same name! In fact, vocalist Louis St. August from Mass has sung on the Boston album Love, Life and Hope.

Mass are an institution and if you are still unfamiliar with their music then this is a time to put things right. This new album is riddled with classic tunes that every melodic hard rock fan would want to hear if you love the hard edged US rock sound.

As a special treat for their fans this summer, Escape Music plans to release When 2 World Collide on colored vinyl transparent purple, 180 grams,  limited edition of 500 copies only! All numbered! The album is available for pre-order through the band’s website by clicking HERE. You can also purchase other cool merch items from the band at that link.

The Cassette Chronicles – Hardline’s “Double Eclipse”

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.

ADVERTISEMENT – Click on the above ad to purchase tickets to the Outlaws at the Narrows Center in Fall River, MA, on August 2, 2018!

HARDLINE – DOUBLE ECLIPSE (1992)

In modern day parlance, the debut album from Hardline would now be considered part of the melodic rock genre. But back in 1992 it was simply, despite coming out at the worst possible time considering grunge was about to explode, a hard rock and roll album.

The funny thing for me is that it reversed what I imagine was a generations long tradition. In music, it seems that the tradition is for an older sibling to pass down the music they love to a younger sibling. I know that in some cases, that it is how it worked for my brother and I.

But I have to admit until it came time to write this article, I had never bothered listening to Hardline. Rather, it was my brother who actually liked the band. He had their first couple of albums and really liked them. I can confirm that because ahead of listening to Double Eclipse, I checked with him to be sure my memory was correct. He said that this particular album was “cool”.

So I had some real interest in seeing if my brother was belatedly passing music UP to me.

Hardline featured singer Johnny Gioeli, brother Joey Gioeli on guitar along with Journey’s Neal Schon, Todd Jensen on bass and Deen Castronovo on drums. It was a solid lineup of talented players who could write a decent rock song with one great melodic hook after another.

But it did take a few minutes for me to really start getting into the album. The opening track is called “Life’s A Bitch” and it starts out as a great sounding fast paced rocker. The problem is that for the second half of the song, it just kind of flops around like a fish out of water, ruining the great start.

But thankfully for me, things pick up with the very next song. “Dr. Love” might not be the most original song title but the track as a whole sounds fantastic as it starts out a bit slowly and then gets moving right along quickly. “Rhythm From A Red Car” is a rocking thumper with a smoking guitar solo.

While the power ballad “Change of Heart” is incredibly weak, the first side of the album closed out with two fantastic rockers. I’m not sure exactly why it took seven people (including singer Eddie Money) to write the song “Everything” but it was excellent, perhaps disproving that saying about “too many cooks”. The majority of the songwriting is credited to Neal Schon and the Gioeli brothers. They wrote or co-wrote eight of the album’s twelve songs.

I wish that I could say I loved the second side of the album as much as side one, but after a couple of great tracks to start off the side, the material kind of felt more like filler than great songs to rock out to.

“Hot Cherie” is a hard driving rocker with a great melodic sense to the song. Johnny Gioeli’s vocal work gives the song an added level and the way the lyrics flow really helps to further capture the band in fine form. “Bad Taste” is just an aggressively blazing number that got me fired up.

But “Can’t Find My Way” was merely a shoulder shrug for me. I did think “I’ll Be There” was decent but the Neal Schon instrumental “31-91” and the somewhat grandiose but still missing the mark balladry of “In The Hands of Time” brought Double Eclipse to a less than resounding finish.

When the band was on fire, which is basically whenever they are rocking out, my brother was indeed right…Hardline is “cool”. I just wish there’d been more of that and less in the way pedestrian balladry and other assorted valleys amongst those melodious peaks.

NOTES OF INTEREST: The band is still active today and has released a total of five studio albums along with a live album. Singer Johnny Gioeli is the only remaining original member.

Bassist Todd Jensen recorded with Alice Cooper and Paul Rodgers and briefly played with Ozzy Osbourne. He also spent time as tour manager for David Lee Roth.

Drummer Deen Castronovo has been in three other groups that featured guitarist Neal Schon. The first was Bad English which came before Hardline. After Hardline, there was a 17-year stint in Journey as well as Schon’s Soul SirkUS project. In mid-July 2018, his reunion album with Johnny Gioeli will be released under the Gioeli-Castronovo banner. The album is set to be called Set The World On Fire.