Category Archives: Cassette Chronicles

The Cassette Chronicles – McAuley-Schenker’s ‘Save Yourself’

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.

McAULEY-SCHENKER GROUP – SAVE YOURSELF (1989)

Though this article is about the second McAuley-Schenker Group album, I first need to go back to the group’s 1987 debut album Perfect Timing album.

In ’87, I was 16 and had a job where I was making my own money. I had very little in the way of bills and could spend the money I made any way I wanted to. Since this was before the Internet and the idea of hearing songs before the album was even released, I would on occasion buy albums just from seeing an advertisement in a magazine. And yes, you could go to the record store knowing that they’d have the album in stock, imagine that!

So I saw the ad for Perfect Timing and was struck by how cool the guy with the guitar looked with his long flowing hair (This would be at the time when I still thought that I could grow my hair long to fit in more with the look of the day). I say “the guy” because I had no idea who Michael Schenker was at the time. As you recover from that bit of musical blasphemy, let’s just say once I did get the album, I was blown away. The album sounded like everything I loved at the time. Commercially accessible sound full of flying guitar work, killer rock tracks and believe it or not, really great ballad tracks. I was hooked!

So when I saw the news that the band was releasing a second album, it went to the top of my list. And with Save Yourself, they didn’t disappoint in the least.

The album kicked off with the title track. The song opens with a kind of mood setting lone bell ringing in the background before Schenker lets loose with a killer opening riff/solo. The song then bursts into flames as waves of pure energetic rock flow over you. Describing the song as fast paced fails to do justice to how relentless it is. Unsurprisingly, the band shreds throughout the song and McAuley’s vocals are not only on point with rapid fire they are in the delivery, but they are also really gritty in the vocal inflections. I’l say that by this point, he’d become a singer I greatly admired at the time. I thought he was just a fantastic vocalist!

While “Bad Boys” is slightly less frantic in the delivery, it is still a pretty uptempo anthem that kept me on the edge of my seat.

When talking about Perfect Timing earlier in the article, I mentioned how I loved the power ballad tracks on the album. You can say that about those type of tracks on Save Yourself as well. The song “Anytime” gave the band their most successful track of their three album run in terms of chart recognition. And while I’m really down on ballads these days, it is a highly enjoyable song.

The more rocking side of the band returns with “Get Down To Bizness”. The first side of the album comes to a killer conclusion with more of a mid-tempo rocker called “Shadow of the Night”. The track settles quickly into a groove quickly and locks it in for the length of the song.

Every song on the first side of the album is superb, and it sets the stage for more rocking good music on side two. I will say that while the instrumental “There Has To Be Another Way” wasn’t quite necessary to be included, it is a pretty decent run through by Schenker and company.

Otherwise, the second side of the album features five more songs that further cemented my opinion of just how great the band was at the time. “What We Need” kicks things off, rocking its way into your head. The title of “I Am Your Radio” might seem a bit silly, but when you listen to the song, it’s an undeniable rocker that captures the imagination and if you are like me, it kind of served as a personal anthem at the time you first heard it.

“This Is My Heart” definitely falls under the power ballad classification but it has far more of an uptempo feel to it at the same time. The lyrical sentiments are what gives it the ballad feel, but I really appreciated the lack of complete slowdown musically.

Two more adrenalized rockers close out Save Yourself with “Destiny” being a blazingly fast and intense track and “Take Me Back” sealing the deal for just how great the McAuley-Schenker Group was. The musical partnership between singer and guitarist was a fertile mix of great guitar and vocals and had both the songs and musical chops to pull off this vastly commercial sounding project that is flush with great music that doesn’t give you the feeling that they were “selling out” for more of a chance at monetary success.

At the beginning of the McAuley-Schenker Group’s run, I didn’t realize that this more mainstream hook laden sound was not what Schenker was best known for. I know that the majority of his fans comes from Schenker’s time with the Scorpions, UFO and the Michael Schenker Group. But for me, the three McAuley-Schenker albums will always be what I most remember him for. My love for Robin McAuley’s vocals remains unabated as well.

If you love great guitar work with the more accessible sound of the mid-to-late 80’s rock and metal, you’d be doing yourself a great service by picking up Save Yourself and diving headlong into some of the most entertaining rock of the day.

NOTES OF INTEREST: I attended the May 10th, 2019, Michael Schenker Fest concert in Worcester, MA. The show featured Michael Schenker playing songs from throughout his career and included Robin McAuley singing three songs from Save Yourself (plus one from Perfect Timing) during the course of the show. In fact, given the band lineup for this tour, four-fifths of the lineup that recorded the Save Yourself album (including drummer Bodo Schopf and guitarist Steve Mann) were onstage during the performance! It was utterly awesome for me!

The album got a Japanese reissue in 2000 that included three bonus tracks. Two of them were the radio single edits of “Save Yourself” and “Anytime” but the third bonus cut was a previously unreleased song called “Vicious”.

The album was produced by Frank Fillepetti, who had produced Survivor’s Too Hot To Sleep album in 1988. Singer Robin McAuley would go on to front Survivor for five years between 2006-2011, though he never recorded any music with the band.

The Cassette Chronicles – BONNIE TYLER’S ‘SECRET DREAMS AND FORBIDDEN FIRE’

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.

BONNIE TYLER – SECRET DREAMS AND FORBIDDEN FIRE (1986)

The sixth solo album from Bonnie Tyler was the follow up release to her platinum selling Faster Than The Speed Of Night release that featured her mega-hit “Total Eclipse of the Heart”. Like many, this is pretty much the main connection I ever had with Tyler’s music. Yes, there’s one other song of hers that I remember, but essentially it was all about “Total Eclipse of the Heart”. As with the Faster album, this release was produced by Jim Steinman (best known for his work with Meatloaf). Unfortunately for both Tyler and Steinman, this album wasn’t the commercial hit they probably hoped for. Instead, it actually became the last Tyler album to make any kind of dent in the US and the reviews were apparently mixed at best.

After listening to the album, I can kind of see why it turned out this way. There’s an undeniable sense of time and place given the production of the music. At first, I was kind of annoyed by just how dated the music sounded. I liked some stuff, but it was like Steinman and company couldn’t resist the urge to toss in flourishes that failed to enhance the songs at all.

It’s kind of a sad thing too. I know that there was a certain way the pop/rock music of the 1980’s was “supposed” to sound but I think if at least some of the songs on this album hadn’t been buried underneath all the studio wizardry, opinions might’ve been different.

The makeup of the album depended on the format you chose to listen to. The vinyl release had just eight songs, the CD had one bonus track. But with the cassette version of the album, there were two bonus tracks to go along with the original eight tracks.

The album did have a big hit in “Holding Out For A Hero” but technically that came two years before the release of the album. The song was used for the soundtrack to the movie Footloose, which is where it became a hit. It’s the only other song I really ever remember hearing from Tyler. It closes out the second half of the album and remains a song that I find hard to resist the urge to hum along to it.

But what about the rest of the songs? Well, it is a bit hit and miss but I think there are a number of songs that might be better than people thought back then. The first side of the album opens with “Ravishing” which has a catchy musical sound but the decision to make Tyler’s endearingly husky vocals sound as if they were recorded inside of an echo chamber kind of killed the momentum.

I will say that the song “If You Were A Woman (And I Was A Man)” fared better than I thought it would. Decidedly uptempo, it had a nice pop sensibility to it. So did “No Way To Treat A Lady”.

As for “Loving You’s A Dirty Job But Somebody’s Gotta Do It”, it’s an intriguing mix. The track is a duet with Todd Rundgren and at first the song was overly sappy. You’d need to check your blood sugar levels for the beginning of the song. But I was kind of surprised that the song began to grow on me as it progressed. The performances left sappy behind and grew more intense. It developed somewhat of an edge to it and ended up being far more enjoyable than I would’ve ever given it credit for considering how it started off.

The first of the two bonus tracks on the cassette was the song “Before This Night Is Through”. It closes out the first side and is a ballad thought a bit faster in the performance than is standard. Unfortunately, that’s about all I can really say about it as it wasn’t much more than a trifle.

The second side of the album opens with a cover of the hit song “Band of Gold”. That song was first recorded by Freda Payne but unlike the original version, Tyler’s version didn’t become a hit single. The song moves pretty quickly but other than having familiarity with the song, I didn’t really think much of this version. I could say the same about the song “Lovers Again”. The ballad is backed with a slight musical score but is just flat.

The song “Under Suspicion” is the second of the two bonus tracks and the slightly hushed performance gives the song an air of mystery to it musically. I really got into the song as a whole. As for the song “Rebel Without A Clue”, the most straight up rocker on the album, things started off great. I found myself immersed in the song. But the song is over eight minutes long and features a long instrumental outro that makes the track feel as if it is meandering along trying to find an end to itself. If they’d cut at least a couple of minutes from the song’s running time, I’d be talking more positively about it for sure.

I can’t say that critics back in the mid-80’s were completely wrong to dump all over Secret Dreams and Forbidden Fire for the inability to resist the more pompous aspects of the decade’s pop music indulgences. However, there are certain tracks that are way better than they were ever given credit for. For me, that makes the album an interesting one to take a look back on. I get to discover more about an artist that I never really paid much attention to and realize that there was more to her than just her one big hit.

NOTES OF INTEREST: Of the ten songs on the album, Bonnie Tyler had just a sole co-writing credit on the song “Under Suspicion”. Meanwhile, Jim Steinman wrote or co-wrote four songs. Noted 80’s pop writer Desmond Child wrote “Lovers Again” and “If You Were A Woman (And I Was A Man)”. Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance wrote “No Way To Treat A Lady”.

Roy Bittan and Max Weinberg from The E Street Band were some of the featured players who recorded the music for the album.

 

The Cassette Chronicles – SLEEZE BEEZ’S ‘SCREWED BLUED & TATTOOED’

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.

SLEEZE BEEZ – SCREWED BLUED & TATTOOED (1990)

Hailing from The Netherlands, Sleeze Beez released a debut album Look Like Hell in 1987 with a different singer. But for this 2nd album they recruited English singer Andrew Elt. It was a fortuitous decision on the band’s part because Screwed Blued & Tattooed is the band’s most recognizable release.

While it didn’t make them platinum superstars or anything, the relative success landed the band a slot opening for Skid Row on the touring cycle for this album and had a hit single with the song “Stranger Than Paradise”.

I had never listened to the band before now so I really had no familiarity with the material. I was kind of surprised to find it pretty enjoyable. Living up to the first half of their name, the band’s sound has a sleazy rock sound to it. A coworker that heard the album while I was listening to it said that the singer reminded him of Axl Rose. I don’t hear that myself but regardless, Elt’s vocals are usually pretty strong on the album.

The opening number, “Rock In The Western World” kicks things off in rousing rocking fashion. The lyrics are an ode to what would be considered the modern day lifestyle of rock stars back in 1990. Of course, the song resonates now because the lyrics can serve as a look back at time when they were actually true to the statement they make. It’s nice to have that kind of second life in a song written nearly 30 years ago I guess.

As for the rest of the first side of the album, it’s not bad at all. The previously mentioned “Strangers In Paradise” is a very strong track. While most of the songs are straight out rockers, on this particular track the band still rocks out but there’s more of a dark edgy feel to the song in the main lyrical verses. It made the song seem that much cooler.

At first, I was iffy on “Damned If We Do, Damned If We Don’t”, but the song ended up growing on me by the time it was over.

The first side was really good as it crackled with a rock and roll energy throughout. I wish that had carried over a bit more for side two of Screwed Blued & Tattooed though.

It opens with a weird little intro for “Heroes Die Young”. The song is a bit of anthemic rock done as an ode to those heroes from our collective past. This lyrical tact would normally be something I was completely into but this song just didn’t do it for me. And while I don’t typically have any kind of problem with a song like “Girls Girls, Nasty Nasty” the song was constructed in such a manner that there was just nothing worthy of listening to it again.

Missing from the first side of the album was any kind of ballad track. If that had continued on side two it might’ve been a good move. But as was the custom of the time, Sleeze Beez put “This Time” on the album. While the music establishes a moody atmosphere, the song is, at best, mediocre claptrap.

It wasn’t all bad though, because I loved a couple of songs on the second side. “When The Brains Go To The Balls” might lack any sense of subtlety but it is actually a invigorating rocker. The chorus does get buried a bit in the mixing but doesn’t affect my overall enjoyment of the song that much

As for “Don’t Talk About Roses”, I first thought it was going to be another ballad when I saw the title on the album booklet. Therefore, I was pretty happy to find that it was a pure rocker that got me tapping my foot to the rhythm. I would say that it is my favorite song on the album and I can’t wait to listen to it over and over again.

While Screwed Blued & Tattooed might not have made the band into global rock stars, it remains their most successful release. There was some cutting room floor material that made it onto the album but for the stuff that really shined, Sleeze Beez sure found a nice solid groove to slide into at the tail end of “The Metal Years”.

NOTE OF INTEREST: The band released a total of four studio albums and a live album before splitting up in 1996. They got back together in 2010 for two reunion shows and released the live album Screwed Live! In 2017, the band were interviewed by Limelight Magazine to celebrate their 30th anniversary. (Click HERE to read this story.) Singer Andrew Elt is now fronting the band 7 Miles to Pittsburgh whose debut made Limelight Magazine’s top 10 albums of 2017. They recently released their second studio album earlier this month.

The Cassette Chronicles – Kiss’s ‘Hot In The Shade’

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.

Magazine advertisement for “Hot In The Shade”

 KISS – HOT IN THE SHADE (1989)

As I wrote in my Cassette Chronicles article about the Kiss album Animalize, I really have never owned that many albums from the band. I’ve started to gather up a few of them here and there but still haven’t fully committed to owning their studio album discography. Well, that is until a recent opportunity came up that will likely allow me to scoop a number of the albums up on CD at a relatively inexpensive cost.

But until that happens, I still have one more cassette album of the band that I can write about for this series and that is their 1989 album Hot In The Shade. The album came out the year I graduated from high school but other than the two best known songs on the album, I never paid any attention to this one.

Those two hit songs would be the rocker “Hide Your Heart” and the big power ballad “Forever”. I still find myself quite entertained on the rare occasion that I hear “Hide Your Heart” on the radio. I can’t lie and say I didn’t enjoy “Forever” when it was released as a single but hearing it now kind of makes my teeth grind against themselves. Still, it was a pretty successful single for the band, hitting #8 on the chart.

Of course, restraint has never been a huge part of the Kiss vocabulary. This comes into play when I realized that Hot In The Shade has a total of 15 songs on the album. And I don’t mean a couple of brief instrumentals padding the album either. These are all full-length songs. Of course, given how pedestrian to outright unappealing some of the songs turned out to be, perhaps a little restraint would’ve been a better choice for the band to make.

The first side of the album starts out with “Rise To It”. The song was the third of three singles released from Hot In The Shade. Though I don’t remember having ever heard the song before, I can see why it was chosen as a single. The intro to the song is a cool little piece of music in its own right, but as the song gets fully underway, you can feel your blood pumping to the rhythm of this rocking anthem.

For me, I loved the pacing of “Betrayed” but I also found that the song kind of grated on my ears after a while. Still, it is better than the three songs that followed in in the track listing. I found “Prisoner of Love”, “Read My Body” and “Love’s A Slap In The Face” to be completely inane and would’ve been better served being left in the band’s archive for all time. All three songs had a more uptempo style but that didn’t save them from making me want to fast forward through them.

I will say that the closing song on side one, “Silver Spoon”, was fantastic. It’s a real rocking number that made me want to play it over and over again a few times.

The second side of the album started off in superb fashion with another rocker in the form of “Cadillac Dreams”. The guitar work on “The Street Giveth and the Street Taketh Away” but found the song as a whole merely just “OK”. I’d probably describe my reaction of “King of Hearts” and “Little Caesar” the same way.

But I loved the song “Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell” a lot. The chorus was especially catchy. As for the closing track “Boomerang”, that was a killer rock track. When I was researching the album for this article, I saw that the song is described as flirting with speed metal. I’m not completely sold on that particular designation but the way it blazed with it’s race to the finish pace, I can’t discount it completely. If I was to pick a song from the album for the band to do on what is being billed as the final concert tour, I’d love to see this one performed just to see how hard it would come across in a live setting.

The album’s initial sales figures got it a gold certification in the US. And I think that overall it is a pretty good album. But if they’d eliminated four songs from the release and cut the track listing down to a more reasonable/manageable eleven songs, it would’ve been that much stronger collective whole. There’s plenty here to keep your fandom for the band burning bright and while I’m not an official member of the Kiss Army, the good outweighs the bad on Hot In The Shade and shows that the band still had some songwriting chops even in the days of their sound being more commercially accessible.

NOTES OF INTEREST: Current Kiss guitarist Tommy Thayer co-wrote the songs “Betrayed” and “The Street Giveth and the Street Taketh Away”.

As I’m sure most Kiss fans know, the song “Forever” was co-written by Paul Stanley and pop crooner Michael Bolton.

Eric Carr sang the lead vocal on the song “Little Caesar”. It was the first time he sang lead on an original track. He had song the lead vocal on a remake of “Beth” that appeared on the Smashes, Thrashes & Hits compilation.

The Cassette Chronicles – Baton Rouge’s ‘Shake Your Soul’

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.

BATON ROUGE – SHAKE YOUR SOUL (1990)

The debut album from Baton Rouge came about after the band moved from Louisiana to Los Angeles and had gone through a number of name changes.

I’d like to say that I remember this album fondly but you can chalk this up to yet another latter day metal years album that I completely missed the boat on. I’d heard the band’s name back then but I wouldn’t lay odds on whether or not I ever heard their music.

The funny thing is, this is actually a better than average album for its time. The reason I say that it is funny is because while I liked the music after now having “discovered” the band, the reported reason the band ended up breaking up was due in large part to singer Kelly Keeling being unhappy with the music and the band.

Such a shame too, because Baton Rouge sure did seem to have a lot going for it on this first album. They had some really great rocking tracks featuring huge instantly memorable hook filled choruses, some great riffs from guitarist Lance Bulen and an overall sound that even now just grabs you by the ears and won’t let go.

The first side of the album did take me a bit longer to fully appreciate but the big chorus, driven by a gang backing vocal, really kicked off lead track “Doctor” nicely. That could also be said about “Bad Time Coming Down”, a rhythmic rocker that just oozes a cool vibe from start to finish.

The requisite power ballad was “It’s About Time” and while the tempo of the track tended to lean more towards the faster portions of the song, this one just didn’t do much for me at all. The brief instrumental “The Midge” was pretty inconsequential in my book too.

That said, the stand out cut on the first side of the album has to be “Walks Like A Woman”. I loved this song. Fast paced with a strong melodic hook to it, the song also has a killer chorus that darn near had me singing out loud where other people could hear me. I did manage to hold off on doing that so embarrassment at my bad singing was avoided. Still, it is a killer track!

Now when we get to the second side of the album things just get exponentially better. The second power ballad, “There Was A Time (The Storm)” follows the expected course for a song of its kind but happily enough, I found it to be halfway decent.

And that’s the only criticism I had with the second half of Shake Your Soul. The rest of the songs are all pure adrenaline fueled six string blitzes. “Baby’s So Cool” and “Young Hearts” are amazingly catchy. The choruses are memorable and Keeling’s vocals are striking. I was surprised to find that the song “Melenie” was also pretty darn memorable as well.

The album closes out with a double shot of premium rock and roll. “Spread Like Fire” was a white hot number and the song “Hot Blood Movin'” was my other favorite track (alongside “Walks Like A Woman”) on the album.

If you go strictly by sales, the album was a commercial failure. Still, the overall enjoyment of the music is not tied to how many people bought the album. Rather, the under-the-radar nature of the Shake Your Soul album will become a pleasant surprise to your ears.

 NOTES OF INTEREST – The band disbanded after two albums but a subsequent third album, which was self-titled, was released in 1997. However, according to the band’s Wikipedia page, though vocalist Kelly Keeling appears on the album as a vocalist he doesn’t consider that an official reunion of the band. He was the only original member to appear on that release. The original lineup did reunite to play the Rocklahoma festival in 2009 but never did a full reunion.

Kelly Keeling would go on to work with Blue Murder, Dokken, George Lynch and Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Among the guest musicians on Shake Your Soul are drummers Joey Franco from Twisted Sister and Frankie LaRocka from Company of Wolves (a recent Cassette Chronicles featured band).

The Cassette Chronicles – Company of Wolves 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.

COMPANY OF WOLVES – COMPANY OF WOLVES (1990)

In terms of the peak of the 80’s metal years, I’d venture to say that 1990 was the year the sadly inevitable slide downhill began in earnest. As we all know, by 1992 or so the music scene was all about the Seattle grunge sound. Still, even if the metal movement wasn’t quite as strong as it had been in the mid-to-late 1980s, there was plenty of good music being released.

Unfortunately, more than a fair share of it seems to have gone relatively undiscovered. If not by the public at large, certainly by me. Such is the likely case for why I can’t recall ever having heard anything from the band Company of Wolves. While the name seemed familiar to me, I couldn’t recall any of their music from this release, their debut album.

Now that I’ve done a little research I’ve found that they had at least two videos for songs on the album. You can find those pretty easily enough on YouTube. But the best part of finding these albums that I’ve never heard before is discovering that there’s a really great collection of tunes to be listened to for the very first time.

The album opens with what I’m guessing was the lead single. The song is “Call of the Wild” and it is one of the two videos the band has out there in cyberspace. Company of Wolves has a blues rock oriented sound and the song opens with a kind of tame/slow southern bluesy drawl from guitarist Steve Conte. After that intro, the more rocking nature of the tune is set into motion right quick and I found it to be just a really cool track. It’s got that instantly memorable chorus that you can sing along to (shhh…I eventually did just that…even with my rather spectacular inability to carry a tune). The solo is rather electric and it is just one of those very cool tracks that become an instant focal point for the listener.

Each of the two sides has six songs on it and on Side One, the band follows up that great opening track with two more rockers in “Hangin’ by a Thread” and “Jilted!” The two tracks are pretty darn good and help make for a eminently strong opening trio of songs.

The second song that the band made a video for is “The Distance”. The song has a mid-to-uptempo pace, alternating each as kind of a stop and start point. Musically speaking, I thought the song was golden but I could honestly take or leave the lyrical content.

Singer Kyf Brewer has a great voice here but sometimes what he was singing just didn’t resonate all that strongly with me. Of course, when he and the rest of the band are “on”, they turn out some great music like “Romance on the Rocks” and the Side Two opening track “Hell’s Kitchen”. Brewer’s vocal on the latter track is particularly noteworthy. On the song “I Don’t Wannna Be Loved”, the lyrics are of a more ballad like nature, but the delivery of them gives the song a more rocking intensity.

On most albums, I find myself having a preference for the last song to be a hard charging rocker in order to finish things off in an adrenaline charged climactic way. But on occasion, a band finishing with a slower kind of calming track works better and I think that song “Everybody’s Baby” accomplished that task in fine fashion.

For my money, aside from “Call of the Wild”, the best example of a rocker summing up the band perfectly is the song “My Ship”. Fast moving and crackling with energy to burn, the song is an out and out killer song.

I’d venture to say that I’m not the only one who missed out on this band and album when it was originally released given that it was their only release before they split up. But even now, nearly 30 years after the fact, the Company of Wolves album amply demonstrates that even in the twilight of the “Metal Years”, there was some prime hard rocking music to be found. It might be a missed opportunity for me from back in the day, but listening to this album now brings me back to that prime musical fandom time of my life and leaves me wanting a whole heck of a lot more.

NOTES OF INTEREST: Though the band split up in 1992, there has apparently been some kind of reunion shows done in the past and according to their Facebook page, there may be more shows and an album re-issue yet to come. You can check out their Facebook page by clicking HERE.

Though Company of Wolves only released their self-titled album before splitting up, they have had two other albums released after the band ended. The first one was a collection of demo recordings from before their first album called Shakers and Tambourines. The second (third overall) was put out in 2001 and is called Steryl Spycase. It features all new material. Both albums, as well as band shirts, appear to be available via http://www.ryfrecords.com

Singer Kyf Brewer has gone on to a solo career in music as well as playing in bands such as Barleyjuice. You can read more about him at his website http://www.kyf.com

Guitarist Steve Conte has played with a wide variety of artists before and after his time with Company of Wolves. The list includes Peter Wolf, Maceo Parker, Suzy Quatro, The New York Dolls and Michael Monroe. He’s also worked on music for anime TV series and with his own solo bands. You can learn more about him (and his brother John Conte who was the bassist for Company of Wolves) at http://www.thecontes.com, though it doesn’t appear to have been updated since 2013.

The Cassette Chronicles – FASTER PUSSYCAT’S ‘WAKE ME WHEN IT’S OVER’

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.

FASTER PUSSYCAT – WAKE ME WHEN IT’S OVER (1989)

I swear if you had asked me to name any Faster Pussycat songs other than “Bathroom Wall” from their first album and “House of Pain” from this album, I wouldn’t have been able to come up with an answer.

For me, Faster Pussycat was just a band that I was never all that interested in. Other than those two songs, I never felt the urge to delve further into their back catalog. And this is with having a friend who thinks singer Taime Downe is like the second coming or something.

So when I pulled Wake Me When It’s Over out of the Big Box of Cassettes, I couldn’t help but think that this could end up being a slog of an album for me to get through and then turn around and write about.

You could’ve knocked me over with a feather after I finished listening to the album however because I was really quite taken with the majority of what I heard. And I realized that I actually did know a couple of other songs without even realizing it.

The band’s second album found their sound seemingly becoming more blues rock based as opposed to the more straight up glam sound of their debut record. And though I never paid much attention to it in the past, I found that this new kind of sound was a killer road for them to take.

The album features twelve songs on it and nine of them are straight out foot to the floor rockers. Of course, as I said before, the album is best remembered for the hit ballad “House Of Pain”. And as I thought about it, I think the ballad is kind of why I never really got into the band. Or at least in part. I just didn’t like the vocal on the track. It struck me then and it still kind of strikes me now as being entirely too “whiny” in the execution of the vocal performance. I know that power ballads were a requirement and all, but this one just doesn’t sit well with me at all. The album also closes with another ballad, “Please Dear”, which is only marginally better.

But I found that when the band is just sending out one six string riff and pounding rhythm to the heart after another, this is a powerfully cool sounding collection of tunes.

The song “Where There’s A Whip, There’s A Way” is probably a theme song for any number of BDSM themed parties these days but listening to it straight out got the album off to a great start. The song “Little Dove” was also quite the cool little rocker too.

Those two songs I mentioned that it turned out I did know despite my failure to remember them were “Poison Ivy” and “Tattoo”. As each of the two tracks played, I almost immediately remembered them and could even hear myself humming the music in my head along with the tape. And I could actually remember the chorus to each song, which really surprised me.

Other than drummer Mark Michals, the band members each had at least one co-writing credit for the songs on the album. In varying combinations it was Downe and guitarists Brent Muscat and Greg Steele who did the heaviest lifting in the writing though.

The best part of the album was discovering new-to-me tracks like “Slip of the Tongue”, which I found to be one of the best tracks and probably a song that those of us who have to this day missed out on the band would point to as an “undiscovered gem”.

I’m not sure that I was totally sold on the song “Arizona Indian Doll” but it was rather intriguing nonetheless. Instead of a blues rock foundation, this one is more of a swampy bluesy song that delivers a much slower pace and lighter tone than all the other rock tracks. It takes a little bit of work to really get into the song so I’m not quite sure how to take it even as I write this article. But it does make an impression, so it can’t be that bad!

Okay, I admit it! I seem to have really missed the boat on this particular Faster Pussycat album. Taken on its own merits, this is a stunningly entertaining release. It might not fuel my desire to take in the entire discography of the band, but Wake Me When It’s Over has officially woken me up to the possibility that I may need to do more to familiarize myself with the band’s music to have a better formed opinion about them.

NOTES OF INTEREST: Drummer Mark Michals was fired from the band during the supporting tour for Wake Me When It’s Over. Quiet Riot drummer Frankie Banali filled in to play the rest of the dates.

The band broke up in 1993 but got back together in 2001. The reunion tour saw guitarist Greg Steele leave the band halfway through the concert trek and his place was temporarily filled by L.A. Guns guitarist Tracii Guns.

The video for “House of Pain” was directed by the now quite famous movie director Michael Bay.