Category Archives: Cassette Chronicles

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – Y&T’S ‘ENDANGERED SPECIES’

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.

Y&T – ENDANGERED SPECIES (1997)

Since I hadn’t heard Y&T’s Endangered Species album before now, I wasn’t all that surprised that it took me a couple of listens before I came around to appreciating the album in full. But don’t think that means I didn’t like some of the material on the album from the start, it is just that there were a couple of songs that took that extra time to grow on me.

Of course, that doesn’t apply to the opening track “Hello, Hello (I’m Back Again)”. That is a full-on powerful monster rock track. When the song is in full gear, the full band is ready to blow the metaphorical roof of the place, and Dave Meniketti’s vocals get right up in your face. It’s just a killer track and given Meniketti’s recent health issues, I would love to see this song as an opening number for a concert tour. A kind of serving notice to the rock world kind of thing.

The follow-up track “Black Gold” is another ballsy sounding rocker but rather than a full out blitz of a musical soundtrack, this one develops more of a burning groove sound that endears itself to the listener pretty quickly. The song’s extended musical outro was fantastically interesting to me. Of course, the more full-on rocking style returns on “Gimme The Beat” with Y&T as a whole simply on fire from start to finish.

“God Only Knows” is a power ballad type of song, but I thought it had more of an emphasis on the “power” side of things throughout most of the track. I liked the song but definitely found myself enjoying it more when the band was more forthright in their delivery.

I’m not sure if it is my ears playing tricks on me or not but when the band gets to rocking out on the song “Sumthin’ 4 Nuth’n”, I thought the sound had a little extra bit of grittiness to not only the music but to Meniketti’s vocals as well. Whatever it was, this was definitely one of my favorite tracks on the album. It’s just got a great feel overall and I liked the way everything just seemed to come together perfectly for this one.

As for the Side One closer “Still Falling”, the band did mess with expectations a bit. The song does start off as a ballad, but Y&T quickly turn away from the slower feel and turn the track into a crushing rocker.

Side 2 of Endangered Species wastes no time in getting down to the business of rocking your socks off! The song “Voices” explodes from your speakers and if you were expecting to experience any kind of doldrums, abandon those hopes. Because Y&T is just on fire throughout this song.

The song “I Wanna Cry” was one of the songs that took me a bit to appreciate. The song has a mid-tempo pace throughout. Almost as if Y&T were trying to play the song under the radar or something. But when the chorus for the song comes around, the intensity of the delivery increases and suddenly, even if for just a few seconds here and there, the track just bursts with a fireball of intensity.

The song “Sail On By” was the one song from Endangered Species that was played during the Y&T concert I saw back in 2019, the show that converted me into a fan.  I described it in a review of the show I did as being very cool. And as I listened to the studio version here, I was once again struck by just how cool the song sounded to me. It bounces along in a mid-to-uptempo style and that slightly nostalgic set of lyrics really grabs me each time I hear the song. I just can’t get enough of this song.

Y&T gets back into their more explosive rock and roll side with “Can’t Stop The Rain”. There’s a great guitar sound and there is just a killer feel to the song in its entirety. My notes for this article included the notation “Killer Track” and there’s just no better way to sum it up.

The song “Try To Believe” starts off a little slower in tempo but that changes as the song plays out. It has a great feel to it and I found myself enjoying quite a bit. But what really surprised me was the album closing “Rocco”. It’s listed as a bonus track online but there’s no indication of it on the cassette itself. However, the fact that this is an instrumental track that actually really “worked” for me was perhaps the biggest surprise of them all for me.

I am continually amazed on two fronts when it comes to Y&T. The first part is that I spent so much time pretty much ignoring the band’s music. And the second part is that each time I check out one of their studio albums, I come away just that much more impressed with what they accomplished. And that ends up being the case once again with Endangered Species. Yes, it did take me a couple listens to really sink my teeth into the album as a whole, but once I got there…DAMN this is such a fantastic album!

NOTES OF INTEREST: The Endangered Species album would be the last studio release for Y&T until 2010’s Facemelter.

The UK version of the album has the track listing in a different order than the US release. The Japanese edition has a thirteenth track, an acoustic rendition of “Hands Of Time”, listed as a bonus track.

Bassist Phil Kennemore, who passed away in 2011, wrote the track-by-track notes for each song on the Endangered Species liner notes.

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – KIK TRACEE ‘NO RULES’

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.


KIK TRACEE – NO RULES (1991)

You would think I’d stop being surprised by this, but after listening to the Kik Tracee album No Rules for the first time ever, I was struck by how good this turned out to be. Of course, since they were among the third generation of glam bands in the 1980s / early 1990s heyday of metal music, they pretty much disappeared without a trace once grunge took over the music scene.

But that doesn’t invalidate No Rules as a damn fine album. In fact, the album had enough going for it that had it been released earlier in the 80s, they just might have made a far greater impression on the scene.

The first side of the album opens with the song “Don’t Need Rules”, which a a humdinger of a rock and roll number with which to kick things off with. I found myself loving the vocals from Stephen Shareaux from the start. He had both grit and gravitas threaded throughout his performance. And the guitar work on a bunch of the songs was phenomenal. The song “You’re So Strange” starts off with more of a moderate pace but grows into more of a blown out rocker and the solo in the song really stands out. Guitarist Michael Marquis had some chops!

The song that really got me fully embedded with the band’s sound was the full bore rocker “Trash City”. There’s something about the way this song flows that really had me wanting to pump my fists in the air. “Hard Time” is another fantastic rocker that kept my energy level flying high throughout the song.

Sadly,  the first side of No Rules has a catastrophic mis-step on it that initially had me wondering what the hell the band was thinking…and then what the label people were thinking by letting the band record and release their cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson”. I’ll give the song some credit by having a compelling twist to the upgraded tempo of the music, but I hated the way the vocals came out and no matter how much I might have appreciated the music, it was just a total failure to my ears overall.

But that’s the only mistake I felt Kik Tracee had on the first side of the album. Hell, even their ballad is amazing. It’s called “Big Western Sky” and I thought it was just an instant ear grabbing track for me. It has a scope and death to the music that fits the images conjured in my mind by the song’s title. And since Kik Tracee had been referred to as a clone of Guns N’ Roses, I thought this song was where I first heard Shareaux’s vocals sound significantly like Axl Rose. But I didn’t consider it a bad thing necessarily because the song is just so damn good.

As for Side Two, I did tend to enjoy the music here as well. But the closing track, the 43 second “Fade Dunaway”, was kind of useless piffle for me.

But the album side did start out rather nicely. The song “Generation Express” has a brief slow intro that then launches into a fast moving and blazingly paced rocking soundtrack. And it is DAMN CATCHY too!

I have to admit, I got a little distracted the first time I listened to the album so I had to go back and listen to the next three songs on Side Two again. I was at work and my attention to detail had to be a little more focused on a task I was doing while listening to the album. But once I gave those songs my full attention, I found that “Soul Shaker” was a stunningly great track. It actually does showcase more of soulful vocal turn (combined with the requisite rock and roll fuel mixed in of course). It’s a song that has a lot going for it and it needs to be heard by a larger audience. I loved the rocker “Tangerine Man” a lot as well.

The song “Lost” goes for more of a midtempo feel, though I wouldn’t quite call it a ballad. The song starts out mostly with vocals and guitars and pretty much stays that way the whole way through. But the more in-your-face rock returns with “Velvet Crush”, a song that has a real hard driving stomp to it. And the song “Rattlesnake Eyes (Strawberry Jam)” was a blazing rocker that caught my ear right from the start. Definitely one of the best individual tracks on the album.

Kik Tracee may not have made too much of a mark on the latter part of heavy metal’s decade of dominance but looking back at the No Rules album with the benefit of three decades of hindsight, this album has almost everything you could possibly want in rock/metal release of the early 1990s. And the band does it with almost effortless aplomb. Yes, I’d like to wipe their cover of “Mrs. Robinson” from my brain but otherwise, there is no doubt here that No Rules is a flat out fantastic album that definitely should be given a new listen by many a music fan.

NOTES OF INTEREST – The album was produced by Slaughter bassist Dana Strum. While the No Rules album was the band’s only official studio release, they had been working on an album called Center of a Tension when they broke up in 1993. The album remains unfinished.

There was a 2-disc compilation called Big Western Sky (recycling a song title on No Rules for the album’s title) released in 1997 that had demos, rarities and B-sides. There was also an EP called Field Trip that had been released in 1992.

Kik Tracee bassist Rob Grad appeared (with his new band Superfine) on a 1997 episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – ALICE COOPER’S ‘CONSTRICTOR’

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.

ALICE COOPER – CONSTRICTOR (1986)

For an exceedingly long time now I’ve found that while I liked the various Alice Cooper songs that got airplay either on classic rock radio stations like 94 HJY in Providence, RI or had their big moment in the sun as videos on MTV during the 1980s, I had never found my way to actually owning any Alice Cooper albums. I had even seen him twice in concert without picking up any releases.

That changed when the album Paranormal was released back in 2017. I had reviewed that album for another website and had a blast listening to it. Then I had gotten a copy of The Last Temptation release on cassette for an as yet unwritten article in this series.

Recently, I bought some CDs from an online friend and the Trash and Hey Stoopid albums were included in that small lot.

So it was kind of funny when Limelight co-grand poobah Jay Kenney picked up the Constrictor album on a buying trip and sent it to me with the suggestion to write about it to coincide with Halloween. I mean, it is kind of perfect. The ultimate “shock rocker” fits the whole Halloween vibe. And this piece is going live four days before the big sugar rush day.

Since I had never heard the album before, I wasn’t sure if I’d ever heard anything from it. As it turned out I had heard a couple of tracks in the past but certainly not in a large number of years.

In fact, I think the most notable thing about this album for me back in the day would’ve been the addition of guitarist Kane Roberts. Constrictor was his first album with the band, and given how muscle bound he was, Roberts (no relation by the way) certainly would’ve made quite the visual impression. But what I didn’t know until I looked at the album’s track listing online is that he co-wrote all the songs on Constrictor with Alice Cooper. There were four songs that included one other co-writer as well but essentially the album was a Cooper/Roberts creation.

But how were the songs in terms of quality? The answer is: Pretty Damn Good!

The album opens with the song “Teenage Frankenstein”. It’s one of the two tracks I remembered and it kickstarts the album off quite nicely. The rocking track has a great hook and I really enjoyed the flow of the lyrical content as well. It’s one of two songs that were featured on the Friday The 13th Part VI: Jason Lives soundtrack but stands on its own superbly.

The entire album is a full-on rocking affair, no ballads need apply here. And that’s a good thing. I really liked how the band just kept the adrenaline flowing from track to track and kept me as a listener on a high flying level of enjoyment.

As for the other songs on Side One, I thought “Give It Up” was a pure blazing number with its racing tempo. Meanwhile, “Life And Death Of The Party” and “Simple Disobedience” both were fueled by an electric sense of attitude. 

I will say that I thought the title of “Thrill My Gorilla” was silly and/or stupid sounding but there’s something about the performance and how charged it is that found me rocking out each time I listened to the track.

Moving on to Side Two of Constrictor, the song “The World Needs Guts” has a seemingly very pointed lyrical take combined with a fantastic soundtrack behind Alice Cooper’s vocals. This killer track is further enhanced by an incredible sounding guitar solo that I really dug.

The song “Trick Bag” was a fast moving number that has its moments but it was the song “Crawlin'” that really caught my ear. It resonated strongly with me for some reason. It’s an impassioned rocker that grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. It has a simple yet catchy chorus and I played this track a few extra times above and beyond playing through the album to write this article.

The song “The Great American Success Story” is relentlessly paced with Alice Cooper and company just bursting out of the speakers like a bomb and doing their own kind of shake, rattling and rolling through this track. 

And then comes the closing track which is the second of the two tracks I was previously familiar with beforehand. “He’s Back (The Man Behind The Mask)” served as the theme for the Friday The 13th Part VI: Jason Lives movie and I’m pretty sure that’s where I had actually heard it from. Either that or I saw the video for it. Either way, I remember liking the song back in the day. While I do still like it now, I noticed that while the other songs on Constrictor are strongly defined by an aggressive and all-out guitar driven attack, this track is completely different in construction and tone. It is almost out of place here because the song is driven more by keyboards than guitar. Again, it isn’t a bad song but after nine songs of guitar rock, the track just took me by surprise with the change in song style.

While I haven’t launched a full fledged campaign to purchase every album from Alice Cooper, I have now found that every time I pick up one of the band’s releases (at long last), I go for one hell of a damn good musical ride. Constrictor easily continues that streak with a solid combination of a great performance from both Alice Cooper himself as well as the hot new guitarist (back in 1986, I mean) Kane Roberts. In short, I loved this album!

NOTES OF INTEREST: This was the 9th studio album from Alice Cooper and besides the introduction of guitarist Kane Roberts, Constrictor was the first album to feature Kip Winger on bass. Also, drummer David Rosenberg made his first and only recording appearance with the band too.

“Teenage Frankenstein” and “He’s Back (The Man Behind The Mask)” were the two songs featured on that Friday The 13th movie but there was a third song written for the movie called “Hard Rock Summer”. However, it was never commercially released until the 1999 release The Life And Crimes Of Alice Cooper.

“The Great American Success Story” track was supposed to be for the Rodney Dangerfield movie Back To School, but the song ended up not being used for the soundtrack.

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – JOHN PARR’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.

JOHN PARR – JOHN PARR (1984)

A little over five years ago, I wrote about John Parr’s second album Running The Endless Mile. In that piece, I mentioned that my plan had been to write about Parr’s self-titled debut album instead but the player ate the tape before I could hear the whole album.

Wouldn’t you know it, I tracked down a new copy of the album on cassette (at long last) and can finally do the article I had planned on five years ago. The funny thing is as I was preparing to listen to the album, even with the deadline looming, I wasn’t sure if I was quite ready to do the piece. I had considered pushing the article back and just write about a different album. And then Parr’s monster hit “St. Elmo’s Fire (Man In Motion)” came on the radio station I have to listen to at work. I took it as a sign to cowboy up and get busy listening and writing.

There were three songs that were released as singles from the John Parr album and the sequencing was such that they are the first three songs on the album as well.

I think anyone that was listening to Top-40 radio in the 1980’s is likely quite familiar with the song “Naughty Naughty”, but before we get to that one I thought the other two singles would be interesting to talk about. Neither “Magical” or “Love Grammar” made much of a dent on the singles chart so it’s not surprising that I can’t recall ever hearing either song.

But they do both prove worthwhile some 38 years after they were originally released. “Magical” was co-written by Meatloaf (who Parr had worked with on the former’s Bad Attitude album. It’s a lively little number drenched in part with sexual imagery and a pretty strong vocal take from John Parr. It took me a couple of listens but I really got into the song’s rocking tempo.

As for “Love Grammar”, I found it to be an interesting yet weird song. It starts off as a ballad but as the song launches into the chorus, Parr almost seems like he’s yelling that part of the track. Keyboards play a big role throughout the album but their presence here is immense. It’s also the first song I can ever remember hearing that used actual rules of grammar as song lyrics (not counting “Weird” Al Yankovic’s song “Word Crimes”). While the song overall was decent, I thought it worked much better when the pacing was more uptempo.

And now we can talk about “Naughty Naughty”. The odd thing is that while I’ve heard this song many times over the past four decades, I thought it was a bit more successful than it actually was. Sure, it was a Top-40 hit, but I never realized that it only hit #23 as a single. Given how much I liked the song then and still get a charge whenever I hear it now, I was surprised to say the least. The song has a great hook to it and a solidly rocking driving beat. Even as I was listening to it for this article, I got a charge when the opening part of the song started playing. It’s just a damn good song that brings me back to a particular time and place when I listen to the track.

The last two songs on the first side of the album proved to be another kind of challenge for me. That’s because the start of both “Treat Me Like An Animal” and “She’s Gonna Love You To Death” started out in kind of a mid-paced groove. And neither song was proving all that intriguing to me. But a funny thing happened along the way. Each track got more upbeat as it progressed and the soundtrack for each one started drawing me back in. It took a little work but I ended up liking each track.

And then you flip over the cassette for Side Two and come to a screeching halt right off the bat. While the song “Revenge” is pretty much a rocking style of song, this one simply never came together for me and it would definitely be a skip track for me on any future plays of the album.

As for the song “Heartbreaker”, I liked a good majority of the song. The main lyrical passages really grab your ear. But I was left utterly cold by the song’s chorus. It falls flat largely due to the way John Parr’s vocals are performed. They seem entirely too soft in comparison to the rest of the song. I should point out that I did love the guitar solo in “Heartbreaker” though.

Call me crazy but if I’d heard this album back in 1984, I would’ve been all over the song “Somebody Stole My Thunder”. The intro is a very driving rock sound. As the vocals kick in, the pace slows down a bit before getting a little more fiery for the chorus and packing another great rock punch. I’d call this one of my favorites for sure.

The album closes with the song “Don’t Leave Your Mark On Me”. This track really seemed to be going on a different path than the rest of the songs on the album. It’s got a slightly darker tone to both the music and the lyrical content and as the song plays, Parr’s vocals enliven the song that much more. I’m not quite sure I know what the intent of the song and the lyrics were, even after looking them up online. But what I do know is that the song definitely made its mark on me.

While I wasn’t crazy about the whole package that was the Running The Endless Mile album, John Parr’s self-titled debut album sure seemed to have a lot going for it. It may have run completely under the radar save for the hit single “Naughty Naughty” but there’s plenty of solid music throughout the album and I think fans of 80’s pop rock will find it time well spent if they give this album a spin.

NOTES OF INTEREST: The 1985 UK release of the John Parr album added the “St. Elmo’s Fire (Man In Motion)” track to the album. It doesn’t appear on the US release that I have given that the song wasn’t even recorded at the time, so far as I know.

Toto’s Simon Phillips plays drums on two songs while his bandmates Steve Lukather, David Paich and Steve Porcaro all make guest appearances as well.

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – SASS JORDAN’S ‘RACINE’

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.

SASS JORDAN – RACINE (1992)

The second album from Canadian rocker Sass Jordan is where I “discovered” her. Thanks to the album’s lead track “Make You A Believer” getting a concerted radio station push, I heard the song on 94 WHJY out of Providence, RI. I distinctly remember hearing the song and then having the DJs (I’m a bit fuzzy on who they were but I’m pretty sure it was the morning team of Paul and Al) rave about the song afterwards.

Sadly, I don’t remember the album getting any more of a push after the hype about “Make You A Believer” died down but I was as jazzed up about that song as the DJs were and that led me to going out and buying the Racine album. It is that cassette copy I bought that I’m listening to for the purposes of writing this article. (I have the album on CD now as well.)

But what was it about the Racine album that struck such a chord with me that I love it anew each and every time I listen to the album? Well, it’s just got this incredible rocking vibe to it. The songs that rock do so with quite an authenticity to them and the songs that are more geared towards tickling those emotional cues do it without being maudlin or sappy.

As I said, the album opens with “Make You A Believer” and let me tell you when you hear that introductory riff, you still get amped up. Then Jordan’s vocals, which drip with a bluesy edge, cut in and man you just feel like you are sitting in the middle of the song and letting it wash over you. It’s a bar room rocker combined with a southern rock edginess that does indeed make it seem like this song is straight from the 1970s. That’s only further fueled by the backing vocals on the chorus as well.

That song is followed by “If You’re Gonna Love Me” is another hard rocking track that at the very least will leave you with a foot bouncing in time to the music. (Seriously, as I type this, my leg is going up and down as I get into the groove of the song.)

The song “You Don’t Have To Remind Me” was co-written by Jordan, Stevie Salas and Parthenon Huxley. Huxley was part of two off-shoot projects from ELO. The song starts off with a slower intro and first lyrical passage. The chorus is more of an intense delivery before it settles into that more midtempo delivery. I loved the opening two lines of the song a lot: “Wind blows through this room / Like blood from an open wound”. That creates one hell of a visual in my mind. There was a video made for this song and I’m glad that it got at least some kind of “single” release because Jordan’s vocal performance alone is phenomenal.

There’s a rocking boogie feel to “Who Do You Think You Are” that gets me quite pumped up. As for “Windin’ Me Up”, there’s a slower delivery to the start of the song that feels but when Jordan and the band kick the energy level up, you get a killer rocking track and the guitar solo is excellent.

I mentioned above that the slower songs on Racine manage to avoid being maudlin or sappy and the Side One closer “I Want To Believe” is the perfect example of this. As much as I’ve come to be annoyed by a lot of ballads of the era because they don’t age well (and I’m something far short of a romantic), this song which is delivered mainly as a vocal and acoustic guitar soundtrack (there’s more instrumentation later in the song). And it is beautiful. Jordan’s vocals deliver the somewhat philosophical lyrics in about a purely perfect manner as one could hope for. I’ve long thought that this is the kind of ballad that was written and recorded simply for music’s sake rather than as a calculated move to sell more records. And perhaps that is why it still makes its mark on me three decades after its original release.

When you flip the cassette over to Side Two, the album kicks off with “Goin’ Back Again”, a rollicking rock and roll romp. I don’t know how others react to this song but when I hear it, I can’t help but sing along for some reason, particularly the chorus. (Imagine if I could actually carry a tune properly…)

Jordan kicks on the afterburners with the song “Do What You Want” and the song takes off because of that. But the strange thing for me is I had cause to look up the song lyrics online and realized that besides the title, the lyrics are definitely an argument for being your own individualistic self rather than simply being like everyone else in the crowd. I’ve spent all these years listening to the song and it is only now that I took a deeper dive into this tracks’s full set of lyrics. Putting them inside such an explosive soundtrack may have obscured me from doing so before but it suddenly became an even more important track for me.

“Cry Baby” alternates between a slower, more methodical delivery in the main lyrical passages but then there’s a brief lead into the song’s chorus where the music becomes a full-on rocker that’s for more direct and in-your-face, pacing-wise.

There’s a kind of playful guitar lead playing in the intro to “Where There’s A Will”, and Sass Jordan’s vocals in that intro are pretty much that same kind of playful delivery. But then the song breaks out in full and with the full band playing, the song becomes much harder rocking. The keyboards help flesh out a lot of the music on Racine but I really like what they do for the overall sound on this one a lot.

The album closing “Time Flies” is a flat out great rock and roll song! The music starts off uptempo but with a zesty fire to it. The keyboards are once again a key component of the soundtrack and the overall performance lifts you up and brings you along on the song’s journey. You almost have a sad feeling when the track, and thus the album, ends.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the release of Sass Jordan’s Racine and in those three decades, the greatness of this album has not diminished. It’s got everything you could possibly want in a rock album. Powerful vocals from a fantastic singer, great music and material that is worth its weight in gold. As you’ve read this article, it’s hardly a secret that I am a massive fan of the release. Like I said at the start, each time I listen to Racine, it’s like I get to experience the album anew and each time I am just blown away by just how good it is. Sass Jordan really hit the bulls-eye with Racine and if you haven’t learned that by now, you are missing out on one truly special record. What greater summation can there be than that?

NOTES OF INTEREST: In 1994, Sass Jordan released the Rats album. I have that album and it’s great. Perhaps even more rocking than Racine but it didn’t build on the audience Sass Jordan established with Racine. Because of that, she was dropped by her label and I admittedly lost track of her solo releases. But in 2020, I finally got to pick up a new Sass Jordan release when she put out her first blues album called Rebel Moon Blues.

Stevie Salas played lead and rhythm guitar on the album. He co-wrote three of the songs as well. The Hooters’ Eric Bazilian plays mandolin on Racine.

In 2011, Sass Jordan was a part of the S.U.N. (Something Unto Nothing) project with drummer Brian Tichy (who played on the Rats album). That was one incredible album to say the least. When I met Brian Tichy after a Dead Daisies show, I asked him about the possibility of a 2nd S.U.N. album. Sass was also the guest singer on the best song (“Redeem Me”) on the 2014 self-titled debut album from Jake E. Lee’s Red Dragon Cartel.

In 2017, to mark the 25th anniversary of the Racine album, Sass Jordan released Racine Revisited which reimagined the songs as if they’d been recorded in the 1970s. Jordan has recorded nine albums under her name including the most recent released Bitches Blues which came out in June 2022.

Sass Jordan is involved in two alcohol ventures: Rebel Moon Whiskey and Kick Ass Sass Wine. She’s also done acting roles and been a judge on Canadian Idol.

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – BILLY IDOL’S ‘CHARMED LIFE’

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.

BILLY IDOL – CHARMED LIFE (1990)

Here’s the thing for me about Billy Idol. I love his big hit singles from the 1980’s and very early 90’s. But I’ve never been so in love with them that I went out and bought any of the albums those songs appeared on. Then last year, I bought his new EP The Roadside and was blown away by how good each of those four songs were.

In my head, I wanted to get around to investigating the Billy Idol back catalog but still never got around to it. Then a guy who is part of the same music message forum that I am started listing some of his collection that he’s putting up for sale. And there were three Idol albums of interest to me so I’m making plans to purchase them.

But I wasn’t content with just doing that. Just this past weekend, I was visiting my friend’s record shop and saw that he had the Charmed Life album on cassette. It seemed perfect timing for me to pick it up and take a listen to it (for the first time ever) so that I could write an article about it. And that’s how we got to where you are now reading these words.

In looking at the album’s track listing before playing the album, I realized that there is only one real hit single on the album. The song “Cradle Of Love” was just a monster hit for Idol when it came out as a single and you can definitely understand why. It is the opening song on the 2nd side of the album and it has an incredibly infectious feel to the music.

But while that was a great track, let’s go back and focus on the first side of the album for the moment.

The album opens with the song “The Loveless” and it is an intriguing song. At first, while the song’s delivery is still a bit uptempo, it feels like the first verse of the track is a bit restrained or even slightly hushed in tone. But as the song progresses, the song gets a bit more amped up so you get a more pronounced rock and roll vibe. And Idol’s vocals are what you might expect if you have any kind of passing familiarity with him. There’s always this kind of sneering attitude in his delivery that helps give a slightly more edgy feel to his overall performance.

With the song “Pumping On Steel”, there’s once more a kind of slower introductory delivery that gives way to a more full throated rock delivery for the song’s chorus. The slower pace returns when the chorus ends but towards the end of the song, it goes full bore rock and gets right up in your face. I’m not sure I’m all that crazy about the song as a whole, but I do like the music when it is more uptempo in nature.

Other than the relatively brief guitar solo, the song “Prodigal Blues” maintained a steady midtempo pacing from start to finish. The song was the third and final single released from Charmed Life and while it didn’t get any real kind of traction as a single, I found that I actually really enjoyed the kind of sedate delivery of the song. I thought Billy Idol playing this one about as straightforward as you could gave the song a kind of depth that really hit home for me. I definitely really got into this a lot more than I expected to.

I’m not going to fool anyone into thinking I’m some kind of major fan of The Doors. I’m pretty much just the hits kind of fan when it comes to them. I do love that “Riders On The Storm” song but otherwise, I’m good with any of the hits that play on the radio station in my car. So while I do like the “L.A. Woman” song, I’m not all that invested in judging the original versus a cover version. That said, this is a far faster version of the song and I would say that given Idol’s delivery can at least momentarily let you imagine what Jim Morrison might’ve been like if he’d been an 80’s rocker. There’s a lot of energy running through the song so you surely get pumped up by it, even if you aren’t totally sold on the need for the cover to be done in the first place.

The closing track on Side One of Charmed Life, “Trouble With The Sweet Stuff”, didn’t do a whole lot for me. Instead, it just felt like the song droned on and on without really doing much to distinguish itself as all that memorable.

As I said above, “Cradle Of Love” opens up Side Two of the album. The song was also featured in the movie The Adventures Of Ford Fairlane. I actually own the soundtrack for the movie on cassette and it is a case of the soundtrack being far better than the trash movie it came from. I’d honestly forgotten that the song was on the soundtrack. I’d bought it because Queensryche had a song on it and then quickly forgot about the entire album anyway. But as I listened to the song here and now, “Cradle Of Love” still manages to hold up quite nicely. It’s got a quick moving pace, a nice melodic hook and a solid rock groove that is as infectious as I described it before.

As for the rest of Side Two, the song “Mark Of Caine” left me a little confused while “Endless Sleep” had a drawn out feeling to it. While the latter song (which is a cover of a 1957 song by Jody Reynolds) had slower paced delivery, I was left trying to get into it by any means necessary and I just couldn’t do it. So each of these two songs just left me a bit cold.

But you know what song was damn good? It’s the “Love Unchained” track that got the album back on track. It’s got a lively feel with a great rocking sound and I think Billy Idol really delivers the goods vocally on this one. I also loved “The Right Way”. Idol’s vocals are pushed a up a bit in the mix during the main lyrical verses. And when the song’s chorus kicks in, the music blows up into a much harder edge rock style that had me really sitting up and taking notice. It’s a killer track for me!

The album closes with “License To Thrill”, which was a bit hit and miss for me. In the early going, the song’s slower pace didn’t really lend itself well to me. But towards the end of the song, there is a section where the music gets all riled up and goes for the throat. It’s there where I really enjoyed what was going on. It might not be a complete winning number for me but that particular section of “License To Thrill” did at least make me willing to listen to it again.

It has been 32 years since the original release of Charmed Life and it took all those years before I got around to listening to the album for the first time. But while there are definitely tracks that didn’t quite make the grade for me, there are any number of songs that ended up surprising me with how much I did end up enjoying them. And anytime I can find a new appreciation for an album I’m only just now getting around to, that’s going to be considered a good thing.

NOTES OF INTEREST: The Charmed Life album peaked at #11 on the charts. Billy Idol is credited with designing the album’s cover. The album has been certified platinum.

The “Cradle Of Love” song was Idol’s last big hit in the US, peaking at #2 on the singles chart. The video for the song won a MTV Video Music Award. It was directed by David Fincher who would go on to direct a number of feature films including Seven, Alien 3, Fight Club, Panic Room and The Social Network.

Idol’s longtime collaborator, guitarist Steve Stevens, does not appear on Charmed Life. The album does feature guest appearances from bassist Phil Soussan (Ozzy Osbourne) and drummer Mike Baird (Hall & Oates, The Pointer Sisters, Richard Marx).

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.

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 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.