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King’s X bring the ‘groove machine” to the Vault in New Bedford, Ma

The mighty rock trio King’s X return to the road this summer with a date at The Vault Music Hall at Greasy Luck in New Bedford, MA, on July 9, 2019. Purchase tickets HERE.

Few hard rock bands are as widely respected yet criminally overlooked as King’s X. The band, which combines progressive rock and soul with vocal arrangements influenced by gospel, blues and British Invasion groups, still features original members Doug Pinnick (vocals/bass), Ty Tabor (guitar) and Jerry Gaskill (drums). They were ranked #83 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock and released over a dozen albums featuring the radio hits “Over My Head,” “It’s Love,” “Black Flag” and “Dogman.”

King’s X released their first studio album, “Out of the Silent Planet,” in 1988. Despite being hailed by music critics, the album didn’t fare well commercially, peaking at #144 on the Billboard album charts. The band’s 1989 sophomore release, “Gretchen Goes to Nebraska,” fared slightly better from a commercial standpoint. Significantly, the song “Over My Head” received moderate airplay on MTV and radio. The increase in exposure would prove beneficial when the band released their third album, “Faith, Hope, Love,” in the fall of 1990.

“Faith, Hope, Love” was the group’s first album to crack the US Top 100, with the help of the successful single “It’s Love”. The band landed a gig opening for AC/DC in the U.S. and Europe for the first half of 1991. They also toured with Living Colour and were nearing the peak of their popularity.

King’s X signed with major label Atlantic Records for their next self-titled release. After parting ways with their longtime manager, the band enlisted veteran producer Brendan O’Brien, who had previously produced albums for Stone Temple Pilots and Pearl Jam. The ensuing release, “Dogman,” performed respectfully on the charts. This success resulted in the band opening shows for Pearl Jam and a show-stopping performance on the opening night of the mammoth Woodstock ’94 festival

King’s X completed their contract with Atlantic Records with “Ear Candy” in 1996, before moving to Metal Blade Records where they released four studio albums and one live release. The band’s latest studio albums, “Ogre Tones” (2005) and “XV” (2008), were released on the InsideOut label. “XV” was their first album since “Ear Candy” to chart on the Billboard Top 200. A book, called “King’s X: The Oral History,” was recently released and the band will enter the studio to record a new album this spring.

The Vault Music Hall at Greasy Luck is located at 791 Purchase Street in New Bedford. 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 Cassette Chronicles – BRUCE HORNSBY AND THE RANGE ‘THE WAY IT IS’

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.

BRUCE HORNSBY AND THE RANGE – THE WAY IT IS (1986)

It has always seemed strange to me that Bruce Hornsby and the Range had such a stellar out of the gates start to their career with their debut release and yet for all intents and purposes never came close to duplicating their success with any of their future releases. I know that sales are not the only determining factor for the quality of an album but I always wondered how this album could go triple platinum in the US and then nothing else that the group released seemed to strike the same chord with listeners.

I was even more surprised to learn that when doing a bit of research for this piece, the album pop music listeners heard was actually the second version of the album. The Way It Is was apparently originally marketed towards the New Age market and the album had different artwork along with a couple songs having different versions that didn’t make it to the remixed edition that most people who actually bought the album ended up hearing.

The strength of the album’s success is found in three songs that found success as singles. This would include the all-time classic title cut. The song “The Way It Is” (which hit #1) is one of the first pop music tracks I can recall hearing that had what is now referred to as “socially conscious” lyrics. Of course, there are probably many songs from earlier days that would fit this description but this is the first one that comes to mind for my own personal experience. And there is no doubt that it is a great song. Even now when it comes on the radio station I listen to at work, I still find myself humming along to the song.

There was also the song “Every Little Kiss”, a more uptempo track that broke the Top 20 at #14. And though it wasn’t quite as successful as the title track, the #3 charting “Mandolin Rain” is my favorite song from the band. Though I have to make sure others aren’t in range of my terrible singing voice, whenever I get the chance to listen to the song, I sing along…badly, but I sing along.

Now, those are the songs that I can honestly recall from listening to on the radio back in 1986. I never actually owned the album, so I was happy to note that there were a few other tracks I really got to enjoy as if I was hearing them for the first time. The album opener “On The Western Skyline” is a real fast paced song that is likely one of the group’s more rocking numbers and it kicked things off in a grand fashion. I vaguely recalled the chorus for “The Long Race” but couldn’t tell you why or where I’d ever heard it before.

The second side of the album had a couple of songs that hit like a thud for me but then you had “The River Runs Low” which featured a slightly spare musical arrangement to accompany Hornsby’s remarkably assured and smooth singing. Also, the band got a little fiery in their performance for the song “The Wild Frontier” another rocking cut.

The funny thing about this album is that I’d been looking to add it to my music collection on CD. I was finally able to get it when I was offered a copy of it from a fellow member of a group I belong to on Facebook for fans of the compact disc. But then I discovered I’d purchased a cassette version of the album and forgotten all about it. So I was pretty happy to pull it out of the big box I store the albums for this series in. Pure happenstance but when you get to listen to a remarkable sounding collection of tunes like those on The Way It Is, owning two copies doesn’t seem like such a bad thing.

NOTES OF INTEREST: The band won the Grammy for Best New Artist on the strength of this album.

Huey Lewis produced three of the songs on The Way It Is. They were “The River Runs Low”, “The Long Race” and “Down The Road Tonight”. The latter song also featured Lewis playing harmonica and making a vocal appearance as well.

The Cassette Chronicles – SCORPIONS ‘BLACKOUT’

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.

SCORPIONS – BLACKOUT (1982)

As I prepared to listen to this particular album from the Scorpions, I had to do some thinking. What I found after that little thought session was that despite the band’s 50 plus year career, there are really only two periods where I can truly say that I was a full-fledged member of the band’s fandom.

I know, it struck me funny as well! But I really didn’t get into the band until I heard “Rock You Like A Hurricane” from their Love At First Sting album. Add in the World Wide Live and Savage Amusement and you have the first era of my fandom. The second part comes from their most recent output, three out of their last four albums are releases that I’ve loved.

So it came as no small surprise when I realized that I’d never actually heard the full Blackout album before. Yes, of course I’ve heard the classic tracks that got airplay back in the day. But they all came after I’d gotten the Love At First Sting album in my blood.

The first time listening to this particular album did make for an interesting experience. I can see why the album eventually went platinum because two stone cold classics on the album with the title track cuts a blazing swath out of the speakers and is one of their more hard driving rockers.  As for the song “No One Like You”, it struck me as the start of the more commercially accessible foundation the band perfected with their next two studio albums. It is a song that has over the decades become one of my all-time favorite songs from the Scorpions.

Of course, then came songs like the kicking rocker “Dynamite”, which is another song that I distinctly recall hearing at some point, though I couldn’t pinpoint exactly when. The song opens up side two in fiery fashion and is probably the one true standout track on that particular side as, and I know this might be a bit blasphemous for long time fans of the band, I didn’t really care for the last three songs “Arizona”, “China White” and “The Smoke Is Going Down”. 

Well, I suppose that “The Smoke Is Going Down” isn’t all that bad, but by the time the seven minute exercise in boredom (to me anyway), a.k.a. “China White”,  finished inflicting itself on my ears, it was hard to really appreciate the song on its own merits.

Of course, that was how the album ended but before that point, I got to hear “Can’t Live Without You”, which is another rocking track that I know I’ve heard over the years but can’t really place when I first heard it. I also got to discover the song “Now!”, a song that is one of the fastest tracks I can ever remember the band playing. And I loved how the vocal turn from Klaus Meine on this particular song saw him spewing out the lyrics in a rat-a-tat-tat style. It closed out side one of the album in a really fire up the adrenaline kind of way.

Now I know that the album is considered one of the band’s best albums so I was a little disheartened that I can’t say I feel the same way because of those closing three tracks. But for the songs that I did like, or rather loved, Blackout is a Scorpions album that I’m glad I finally got off my rear end and gave a full on listen to!

NOTES OF INTEREST:  Klaus Meine lost his voice during the writing sessions for the album. According to the Internet Research Machine, the band reportedly used Don Dokken to sing the vocal tracks for the demos when it was unknown if Meine would regain his voice.

While Meine and Herman Rarebell are credited with writing or co-writing the lyrics for the album, guitarist Rudolf Schenker composed all the music. The guitar solo he plays on “China White” has two versions, one for the US release and one for the version of the album that was released in Europe.

When the band reissued a number of their albums in 2015 to coincide with their 50th anniversary as a group, the Blackout album contained four demos as bonus tracks.

 

Nita Strauss returns to the Vault in New Bedford, Mass.

After a jaw dropping performance last fall on the Guitar Collective tour, Nita Strauss is returning to the Vault at Greasy Luck in New Bedford, MA, for another blistering performance on June 4, 2019 with the Boston-based band Flight of Fire opening the show. Only this time she is the headliner!!! Like her cover of the Queen classic on her debut solo album, “The Show Must Go On” indeed. Purchase tickets HERE.

Los Angeles born guitarist Nita Strauss has become a force to be reckoned with in the music world, dazzling audiences across the US, UK, Europe, South America, Asia and Africa, and sharing the stage with a diverse range of artists including legendary R&B star Jermaine Jackson, early MTV darlings Femme Fatale, video game supergroup Critical Hit and popular tribute band The Iron Maidens.

Her skill, exuberant stage presence and love for all things about her instrument have earned her a stellar reputation and endorsements from many top companies. Nita has been featured in many worldwide print ads and on dozens of albums, trailers, and soundtracks, most recently Heroes Of The Storm (Blizzard) and Grammy-nominated Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (Konami/ Platinum Games), and is the author of the Premier Guitar column “Drop Dead Shred”. She was ranked first in the Guitar World article “10 Female Guitar Players You Should Know,” and has been featured in Revolver Magazine’s annual “Hottest Chicks in Hard Rock” issue and calendar for the last two years. In 2014 Nita became the official in-house guitarist for the LA KISS, the arena football team owned by Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons of KISS.

In June 2014, Nita replaced Orianthi in Alice Cooper’s touring band and has never looked back. She has become one of the most sought after clinicians in the industry and has done extensive clinic tours across multiple continents. Her consistent touring schedule has shown her to play in front of over a million audience members per year consistently for the past several years.

In 2017 Nita launched her original band, We Start Wars, and classic metal cover band The Starbreakers. Besides touring with Alice Cooper, she released her debut solo album, Controlled Chaos, on November 16, 2018, to rave reviews.

Opening the show is the Boston-based band Flight of Fire. Comprised of a wild, charismatic singer, identical twin sisters and a woman whose rhythmic talent intimidates, this multiple award-winning band known for over-the-top stage antics performs energetic hard rock delivered by four fierce females.

The Vault Music Hall at Greasy Luck is located at 791 Purchase Street in New Bedford. 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 Cassette Chronicles – EUROPE’s ‘WINGS OF TOMORROW’

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.

 EUROPE – WINGS OF TOMORROW (1984)

Like many, it was Europe’s 1986 smash hit album The Final Countdown where I first became aware of the band. But funnily enough, it wasn’t the first album from the band that I actually purchased. Instead, I had a dubbed copy of The Final Countdown.

No, the first Europe release that I bought was the Wings of Tomorrow album after the band had already hit it big. I’ve written about two other Europe albums in the past for this series and I’ve had a really good/great opinion about both of those.

However much I liked those two albums, they would’ve paled in comparison to how much I liked Wings of Tomorrow when I first listened to it.

I remember reveling in the opening song “Stormwind”, which was an energetic and invigorating way to start things off. That song and the title track which opened the second side of the album were rockers of the first order. And the presentation of both songs gave each of them a sense of the epic.

I really liked everything about the album including the two ballads. I know that I’ve become more than a bit cranky about ballads as I’ve gotten older, but these two are actually quite enjoyable. On side one, the ballad is “Open Your Heart”, which would end up being re-recorded and released as a single for the band’s Out of This World album (the latter version featured a slightly altered lyric). As for side two’s ballad, “Dreamer”, that started out as a real beauty of a slow moving song before growing into more of a power driven ballad song towards the end of the song.

Surrounding those two slower tracks were a lot more of straightforward rockers, with more of an edge to the band’s sound before it got a little smoothed out for The Final Countdown and Out Of This World.

“Scream Of Anger” had a burning intensity that served as a companion to the album’s closing track, “Dance The Night Away”. I know that the latter song sounds like it would’ve been put out by an 80’s pop act but it is a frantically paced rocker that features a really ripping vocal turn from singer Joey Tempest.

There’s a real thumping stomp to “Treated Bad Again” and I really loved the instrumental “Aphasia”. The band kept up the rock with side two winners “Wasted Time” and “Lyin’ Eyes” as well.

When Bon Jovi had Europe tour with them, I remember reading a review of the concert in the Boston Herald. The overall review was negative but the reporter covering the show slammed Europe saying that they were a second rate Bon Jovi which made them a fourth rate band.

For me, that couldn’t be further from the truth. While I know the band isn’t for everyone, I was really quite taken by the band through the Out of This World album (and later that would include the Prisoners In Paradise album). The band had that 80’s sound that sold so well at the time but even in their early days when the sound was a bit more raw, they really had something going for them and anyone who just writes them off without really giving their early albums a good listen is simply doing themselves a musical disservice.

Wings of Tomorrow is an entirely overlooked album and I wish more people had checked it out at the time. I’d love to see the album get a reissue in order to bring a renewed spotlight to just how musically entertaining the album actually is.

NOTES OF INTEREST:

The album was originally credited to Joey Tempest (vocals), John Norum (guitar), John Leven (bass) and Tony Reno (drums). I have the US release of the album and those liner notes list Tempest, Norum, Leven and deletes Reno (who was fired from the band and allegedly had his drum work replaced by a drum machine) while adding drummer Ian Haugland and keyboardist Mic Michaeli. As near as I can tell, neither actually played on the Wings of Tomorrow album though.

Joey Tempest is credited with writing eight of the songs on his own. John Norum wrote the “Aphasia” instrumental. The song “Scream of Anger” started off titled “Black Journey Through My Soul” and bassist Marcel Jacob has a co-writing credit with Tempest for the song.

Jacob, who joined the band for a short time when they were still called Force, went on to play with Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force as well as the band Talisman with singer Jeff Scott Soto. He also played on John Norum’s 1987 solo album Total Control (another album I’ve written about for The Cassette Chronicles). Unfortunately, he died by suicide in 2009.

 

The Cassette Chronicles – Julliet’s self-titled debut

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.

 JULLIET – JULLIET (1990)

It is not often that I find myself at a complete loss when it comes to having knowledge of a band that came from the 80’s metal years. Usually even if I’ve never heard a band’s music, I’ve at least heard of the band at the very least. In the case of Florida-to-L.A. transplants Julliet, I can’t even say that I remember hearing the band’s name back in the day.

You can imagine how this would inevitably lead me down the Internet research rabbit hole after listening to the album in full. Despite having some of the expected trappings of the glam metal scene of late 1980’s/early ’90s Los Angeles, the band’s self-titled debut album is a chock full of one surprisingly good song after another.

Julliet featured Kenny McGee on vocals, Jimmi DeLisi on guitar, Ty Westerhoff on bass and drummer Greg Pecka. While their sound hit the expected benchmarks I mentioned in the previous paragraph, there was also a bluesy edge to a lot of the material, particularly in the gritty vocal style of McGee.

While there are two ballads on the album (one per album side), the band mostly rocked out in a really entertaining fashion. I will say that the mid-tempo ballad on side one, “No More Tears” suffered a bit from McGee’s vocals coming off with an entirely overdone arched tone to them. There’s a decent rhythmic feel to the music but the vocal style for this particular song seemed miscast. It is the only complaint I would say I had with any of the singing on this record. The other ballad was the song “Chip Away” and that was was a solid track from start to finish.

As for the rocking out aspect of the band’s sound, the album opens with three straight rockers and they are really something to hear. The extra bit of edginess in McGee’s vocals really helps make “Eight Lives Gone” into something special. The song’s chorus is outstanding. Meanwhile, “Stay The Night” sounds as if it should’ve been a big hit single for the band, there’s a great mix of lyrics and music on the song and if the track had been released even three years earlier, we could have an entirely different remembrance of the band.

The anthem “Little Bit Of Party” might not set lyricists aflame with the band’s wordplay but as party anthem rockers go, it does fan the flames of anyone who lived during “The Metal Years”.

As the second side opened, I did think “Revvin’ Me Up” featured a bit more repetition in the lyrics than I might normally enjoy but again, the rocking nature of the track just carried me along with it and I’d be inclined not to really nitpick all that much over the words.

The band’s cover of the 1972 Randy Newman song “You Can Leave Your Hat One” is a slightly off-kilter inclusion on the album given the nature of the rest of the material but they actually pull it off and make the song their own. Given that the song has been covered by a number of artists like Etta James and Joe Cocker, it’s nice that a rock band could do the track justice as well.

While not what I would generally consider a full on ballad given the more lively pacing, the closing track “Love Can Change You” is a solid number. But my favorite song on the album would likely be “Something You Should Know”. The song is a fast paced rocker and for me, it was just a sublimely cool cut.

When I pulled this album out of the “Big Box of Cassettes”, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. Would it be a good listen or would it be another example of the latter part of the decade featuring bands that sounded more and more like each other as to be relatively indistinguishable.

Thankfully, I was more than pleasantly surprised to find that the Julliet album struck me as a real undiscovered gem. It is a vastly entertaining release that is one of the better albums that I’ve had the chance to find my way to through the writing of this series.

NOTES OF INTEREST: The band, for all intents and purposes, broke up for more than a decade before two albums were released in the early 2000s. The first of those two releases was called Passion and it was actually recorded before Julliet but never released until 2002. The album was produced by Quiet Riot’s Kevin Dubrow and featured Frankie Banali on drums. The third Julliet album was released in 2004 and called Pyscho Boyfriend.

The band does have a Facebook page and while it isn’t overly active with posts or anything, it does seem to get some posts here and there. Singer Kenny McGee who is living back in Florida from what I’ve been able to find out, is still active as a singer to this day. He’s also spent time as a pro wrestler and according to his personal Facebook page is (or was) a personal trainer.

The Julliet album was produced by Survivor guitarist Frankie Sullivan who is also credited with providing “backing guitar” and he played the guitar solo on five of the album’s songs.

Scott Warren played keyboards on the album as well as arranging the horns on the song “You Can Leave Your Hat On”. Warren would go on to play keys for Dio and is currently a member of Dio Disciples. (Special thanks to DJ Will of KNAC.COM for confirming this last bit of information.)

The Cassette Chronicles – Tyketto’s ‘Don’t Come Easy’

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.

TYKETTO – DON’T COME EASY  (1991)

In 1991, the fall of hard rock and heavy metal from the throne of the music world was well underway. Originality was not in as abundance as it had been and there were dozens of copycat sound alike bands out there.

Joining the fray for a piece of that ever-shrinking piece of the pie was Tyketto, led by ex-Waysted vocalist Danny Vaughn. I distinctly remember seeing advertisements in the music magazines I read at the time for this debut album. However, my memory is a bit more vague about the “hit” single the band had. The song was “Forever Young” and because I never really got into the band at the outset, I’m not sure I ever heard the track. If I did, it failed to make much of an impression. So for me, the band kind of just came and went and I didn’t exactly mourn their passing as it were.

Fast forward to 2016 and a different version of the band, with Vaughn on vocals after being out of the band a few times and I had the chance to review the Tyketto album Reach. While the album did have some tracks I didn’t care for, there were also quite a few that I did enjoy including a magnificent song called “The Run”. So I was pleased to discover that I could enjoy Tyketto’s music after all.

So a little more than two years later, at long last, I dug out the cassette of Don’t Come Easy from the Big Box of Cassettes and popped it in to see what I thought of the band’s earliest recorded output.

I have to say that I was a little more than impressed. But it didn’t start out that way. In fact, it was “Forever Young”, again the band’s best known track, that led off the album. And while it was more of a rocking type of song, I didn’t really think it was more than a bit bland. I had visions that the rest of the album would turn into an audio slog. After all, this was their big song and I didn’t think it was anything special.

But in a nice twist, it is the rest of the album that had my appreciation of Tyketto growing by leaps and bounds. Truth be told, I loved all of the remaining nine songs on the album. It started with “Wings” which showed off an even more rocking sound to the band. This is true of all of the other songs with the exception of the requisite power ballad “Standing Alone”. However, in the case of that song, the band chose to forgo telling another lame tale of love that may or may not have gone wrong. The lyrical direction was more of along the lines of an affirmation over choices made over the course of time. While I can’t quite put my finger on why, the lyrics seemed to resonate with me quite strongly.

“Seasons” started off a bit light, but then added in more of an edge to the music. “Sail Away” and “Strip Me Down” were pretty hard charging numbers too. The latter song featured the inclusion of a harmonica which gave a bit for heft to the sound of the song. 

Meanwhile, the use of those big dramatic chorus of backing vocals on “Lay Your Body Down” heightened the sense of urgency in the song. It was a kinetically charged track with a strong sense of melody.

My favorite song on the album didn’t quite start out that way. There’s a brief but uninteresting intro on “Walk On Fire”. It left me kind of cold, but after that quick little mis-step, the band blew out of the speakers like a bat out of hell and that increased epic sounding rocker became a huge piece of music for me.

My newfound appreciation of Don’t Come Easy certainly took its own sweet time getting here (more than 27 years after the initial release) but I have to say that the wait paid off because the album is, with that one notable personal exception, a great collection of songs from a band that definitely got passed over as metal lost its commercial sway. But Tyketto certainly had the chops to have been a great band representing the more melodic side of hard rock and metal.

NOTE OF INTEREST – With Danny Vaughn out of the band, Tyketto released their third album in 1995. The featured vocalist of the band at that point was Steve Augeri, who would later go on to front Journey.