Category Archives: Cassette Chronicles

The Cassette Chronicles – Kiss’s ‘Lick It Up’

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.

KISS – LICK IT UP (1983)

I’ve been on a quest to get all of the Kiss albums added to my music collection. While I’d prefer to have them on CD of course, I’m doing this on the cheap so I’m not always able to find them in that format at a price I want to pay. So I’ve been picking some of the albums up on cassette which serves not only to get the album into my collection, but gives me another article in this series to write about.

Such is the case with Lick It Up. But before I talk about this album, I want to mention that I’ve been listening to the band’s album Destroyer a lot lately. That’s a CD edition and I’ve been really impressed with how much I like not only the classic hits on that album but the album tracks were pretty darn good as well. This plays a bit into my thoughts on Lick It Up so I thought I’d mention it now.

Since I’ve never owned the album before, I pretty much thought that the only song I’d know was the title track. The song is definitely worthy of its status as one of Kiss’s best known songs. What I didn’t realize until I listened to the album for this piece was that there are two other songs on the album that I didn’t realize I knew.

I’d hesitate to call them classic songs in the same vein as “Lick It Up”, but I would have to say that the reason I am so familiar with “Young And Wasted” and “All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose” is because they got played on the radio both back in 1983 and on classic rock stations to this day. As I said, I’ve never had the album before now so it wasn’t like I realized those particular songs made up part of the album’s track listing. But both of the songs immediately “rang a bell” for me and you just know that it had to be due to 94 HJY, the radio station I listen to all the time.

The funny thing is that the album started off kind of slow for me. While both “Exciter” and “Not For The Innocent” were full-on rockers, I have to say that neither song really fully captured my attention. The latter song had an edgier tone to the vocals but even that wasn’t enough. But then came “Lick It Up” and the album took off from there. I already mentioned “Young And Wasted” but the first side of the album closes with another ballsy rocker in “Gimme More”. I know that the title might conjure up the idea that it is simplistic and nothing you haven’t heard a million times before, but for some reason the song just struck a chord with me.

The second side of the album got off to a great start with the “All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose”. I’m mentally slapping myself over not realizing the song was on this album before now. “A Million To One” followed that up and the uptempo track was pretty darn good as well.

However, if I’m going to pick a song that is the underappreciated gem of the album it has to be the song “Fits Like A Glove”. It is a kick-ass song that features some fantastic guitar work and the song’s fast pacing made the experience of listening to this track for what I think is the first time a supremely enjoyable “discovery” for me.

The outstanding start of the second side hit snag with the song “Dance All Over Your Face”. For me, it kind of started with what I think is just a stupid title and the song is pretty generic and forgettable otherwise.

The album closing “And On The 8th Day” goes a long way toward finishing Lick It Up on a high note for me though. Of particular note was how the symbolism of the song’s chorus resonated with me. It’s a “rock and roll forever” kind of anthemic vibe but it just seemed to catch me at the perfect moment.

The Lick It Up album may feature only one hardcore classic track but if you haven’t heard the album in full before, I think you’ll find that there is a whole lot of stellar material that (like the Destroyer album) will leave you believing it is one of Kiss’s better start-to-finish releases.

NOTES OF INTEREST: Paul Stanley has been quoted saying that he thinks the reason the album sold so well was less to do with the music and more because it was the first album with the band taking the makeup off.

Though the album did achieve platinum status, the title track is apparently the only song that still gets played regularly in concert.

Rick Derringer played the solo on lead off track “Exciter”.

Despite co-writing 8 of the 10 songs on Lick It Up, guitarist Vinnie Vincent was out of the group before their next album due to disputes with Gene and Paul over money and his role with the group. However, in recent days there’s been talk of Vincent (among other ex-members of the group) taking part in the final Kiss show when their “End of the Road” tour comes to a close.

The Cassette Chronicles – Dokken’s ‘Back for the Attack’

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.

DOKKEN – BACK FOR THE ATTACK (1987)

If we are marking specific eras of time, the year 1987 is probably a good way to mark the high point of hard rock and heavy metal. At least in terms of their commercial peak anyway. You had landmark albums from Guns ‘N Roses, Whitesnake and Def Leppard. Those three albums alone would make any child of the 80’s metal years flash back to when all was right with the musical world.

But what surprised me was just how much I think Dokken’s Back For The Attack compares favorably with any of those releases. To be sure, the album was commercially successful but it was only certified platinum so it might be easy to write the album off as an also-ran in a side to side comparison of sales figures with those other bands.

I’ve listened to this album and loved it for a long time, but I’ve never really listened to it for any kind of critical piece. So doing so for this article was a semi-new treat for me.

What I found was that my long held belief that this is Dokken’s best album remains true to this day. There’s not a bad song amongst the 13 tracks included on the cassette. Strikingly, there’s not really much in the way of a power ballad either. I know that by 1987, that was almost a universal law but while some people might simply declare the song “Heaven Sent” to fall under that banner, it really isn’t. In fact, it has such an effervescent soundtrack that I caught myself thinking that the song was a prime example of rumbling sonic thunder. It really does leave listeners in its wake.

I think what is underestimated most about this album is that for all their interpersonal faults and feuds, Don Dokken, George Lynch, Jeff Pilson and Mick Brown pulled off a songwriting coup. Each of the tracks were written by some combination of the individual members and the passion that fueled the band drama was also poured into the songwriting as well.

The first side of the album opens with “Kiss Of Death”, a song that found Dokken getting a bit topical as the subject of the song dealt with AIDS at a time where you wouldn’t really expect a band of the metal genre to tackle that subject. It might be stating the obvious given his acknowledged guitar god status, but the guitar work on this song will have you renewing your appreciation of George Lynch. The man shreds with everything he does, but when you haven’t listened to any of his work in a while, I know that I find myself surprised all over again. And when you hear the “Mr. Scary” instrumental, you find yourself picking your jaw off the floor. More than 30 years after it was released, that song just continues to amaze.

The album had three singles released from it and “Prisoner” is the only one that is on Side One. As with the rest of the album, I loved the song but I didn’t remember it as a single. I could’ve sworn that “Heaven Sent” was a single but not according to the information I found online as I researched the article.

“Night By Night” is a pretty darn good song as well, but the real treat was rediscovering “Standing In The Shadows”. When I first bought the album, it was one of the songs I liked the most but I had kind of forgotten that. It’s a bit more understated than other tracks on the album but if you want a song that is an underappreciated gem, I’d go with this one.

When you flip the album over to Side Two, you are hit with the song “So Many Tears” and immediately the rocking nature of the material continues onward. One of the other singles from the album was the song “Burning Like A Flame”. I remember watching the video a lot on MTV but as I listened to the song here, a different memory surfaced. I remember reading an article in a music magazine that had the writer on hand for the filming of the video. I can’t remember which magazine it was, but the memory did resurface as the song played.

I don’t know how other fans feel about the song “Lost Behind The Wall”, but the tone of the song struck a chord with me. It made me want to see the song expanded upon somehow, like there was more to the story of the song or something. Funny how you get that kind of vibe so far down the road from when you first heard the track.

The album continued on with more top notch rockers like “Stop Fighting Love”, “Cry Of The Gypsy” and “Sleepless Nights”, but it was the closing number “Dream Warriors” that finished the album off on a high note for me.

The song was originally released a few months earlier as the title cut on the soundtrack for the horror movie Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. It was a pretty successful single for the band and seeing it added to the Back For The Attack album wasn’t a real surprise. The funny thing about this song was that it was pretty much the biggest reason I went to see the movie in the first place. I’ve never been a big fan of horror movies, but I did see the 2nd movie in the Nightmare on Elm Street series and so when I found out Dokken was doing a song on the soundtrack, I knew I would go see it. Oddly enough, I think Dream Warriors was pretty much the last horror movie I ever bothered to go see in the theaters.

It might seem strange that an album that sold over a million copies strikes me as being underappreciated by rock fans at large but I just don’t think Back For The Attack gets the kind of love or reverence that it should. This is where Dokken put it all together and produced from start to finish their absolute best album!

NOTES OF INTEREST – While the band is still touring to this day, the Dokken lineup now features just singer Don Dokken from the classic lineup on a regular basis. There has been some reunion dates the past few years with the original lineup but drummer Mick Brown is at least temporarily retired now, Jeff Pilson is in Foreigner and George Lynch has a host of projects including work with Michael Sweet of Stryper and the band KXM with Dug Pinnick of King’s X and Ray Luzier of Korn.

I never got to see Dokken live during their best years. After this album and the succeeding live release, they broke up amidst that recurring feuding I mentioned before. But when they got back together (the first time anyway), I saw them live thanks to a friend having a free pass for me. I think it was in 1997 but I can’t recall for sure.

Back For The Attack has been reissued twice on CD. The second reissue came via Rock Candy Records but both versions of the reissue added the “Back For The Attack” song as a bonus cut. The first three Dokken albums (Breaking The Chains, Tooth And Nail and Under Lock And Key as well as the live album Beast From The East have also been given the reissue/remaster treatment from Rock Candy as well.

The Cassette Chronicles – Damn Yankees’ 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.

DAMN YANKEES – DAMN YANKEES (1990)

 On paper, the team up of Jack Blades, Tommy Shaw and Ted Nugent (along with newcomer drummer Michael Cartellone) might seem a wee bit strange. I know that when I first heard of the project, it didn’t seem like the AOR sound Blades and Shaw are most associated with would blend all that well with the frenetic histrionics that Nugent is known for.

But that’s why you have to listen before judging, because the self-titled debut album from Damn Yankees was a darn sight better than I think anyone that had doubts could’ve expected. Yes, the more AOR sound prevails throughout the release but there’s plenty of guitar pyrotechnics that are surely the influence of the Motor City Madman as well. Given the fact that the album went double platinum, a lot of people found the album highly enjoyable as well.

The Damn Yankees album was propelled by three hits. You had the requisite power ballad in “High Enough”, which was the biggest charting song for the band. It hit #3. I know that this is where I would usually dump all over the song because it is a ballad, but that’s not happening this time because I actually like the song.

While “High Enough” is their most successful track, I think the album’s opening song “Coming of Age” is the one that really gets people amped up to this day when they hear it. There’s something about that opening riff that gets me excited nearly 30 years later when I hear it on the radio. When I played the cassette for this article, I had the same kind of charged feeling too.

The other song that got traction as a single was “Come Again” and again, I really like the song. It starts out like it is going to be a ballad but after that initial intro, the more driving rock sound kicks in and fuels the song to a greater height in my mind.

There were a couple of songs released as singles but “Runaway” and “Bad Reputation” didn’t get nearly as much individual success as the first three released songs. That’s not to say they were bad songs though. They both follow “Coming of Age” in the track listing and they are both electric rockers that keep your energy level on high.

The title track for the album closes out the first side of the album and it is a big anthemic rocker. The chorus is huge which isn’t a surprise since that particular sound is evident throughout the album. The album’s producer was Ron Nevison and he knew his way around the entire AOR sound playing field.

After “Come Again” opens Side Two, the album races to the finish line with a killer set of rockers. Now I said that the writing credits don’t get too specific about who wrote what beyond the trio. But I thought the songs “Mystified” and “Piledriver” screamed Ted Nugent. Obviously I could be completely wrong about that, but that’s just where my mind went as I listened to the album once again. There’s a similar kind of guitar noodling sound on both tracks that give it a bit of bluesy start. That start disappears on “Piledriver” once the song gets going in full because it soon bursts into an all-out rocker that brings the album to a frantic and crushing end.

Speaking of frantic fretwork and huge anthems, the song “Rock City” goes a long way towards trying to redefine the phrase “playing with wild abandon”. There’s not an ounce of subtlety on this track and that’s a good thing. The band just goes pedal to the floor musically and leaves you breathless as they rock and roll you with the song.

And that’s kind of what you needed I think. While the band members obviously had their 70’s and/or 80’s rock pedigrees, the metal years were starting their wind down by the time 1990 rolled around. And this was anything but just flat out boring glam retreads. No, there’s a seamless blend of both melodic rock with fiery guitar runs and vocals that get you to sing along. The Damn Yankees is just a sublimely fantastic album that no matter how many times you hear it, you find yourself somehow energized by the material. For me, it’s an album that will always feel timeless no matter how much time passes.

NOTES OF INTEREST: I saw the band on tour in 1991 in Mansfield, Massachusetts at was then called The Great Woods Center for the Performing Arts. They headlined over Bad Company and Tattoo Rodeo. Bad Company was excellent and I loved the Damn Yankees set as well. Ted Nugent was crazy good on the guitar in particular.

This factoid manages to amuse me for some reason. The band released just two studio albums (Don’t Tread was the band’s second album and went gold when released in 1992) but somehow have THREE greatest hits type compilations to their credit.

The band has reunited in various incarnations over the years to perform songs in concert. The one real attempt to put out a new album came in 1999 but no one from the band to the record company was happy with the music they came up with for the planned third release. That album was reportedly going to be called Bravo.

Drummer Michael Cartellone was pretty much unknown before Damn Yankees but he’s gone on to a pretty good career. He toured with Ted Nugent’s solo band as well as with John Fogerty. He’s been the drummer for Lynyrd Skynyrd since 1999. He’s also played on albums for Accept, Brad Gillis, John Wetton and Shaw/Blades among others.

 

The Cassette Chronicles – Whitesnake’s ‘Come an’ Get it’

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.

WHITESNAKE – COME AN’ GET IT (1981)

Before I get started in earnest with this week’s spotlight album, I want to take a minute to acknowledge a friend of the column. I’m friends with a fellow music fan named Jeff Hogland. We’re pretty active members on his Classic Rock Bottom message board and seeing as how he’s been responsible for getting me a lot of good music on his bargain shopping sprees, I consider him my state of Georgia music consigliere. But I was quite surprised when he messaged me to say that on one of his shopping sprees he’d picked up a bunch of cassettes that he was sending up to me to use in The Cassette Chronicles should I decide to write about them. A box arrived on my doorstep and suddenly I had a bunch more albums to add to “The Big Box of Cassettes”. So thanks go out to Jeff and this week’s album is from that batch of music he sent to me.

In 1981, Whitesnake had yet to become a big name on the American hard rock scene. The band was probably still kind of thought as Deep Purple-lite considering the lineup that recorded this fourth album included Jon Lord on keyboards and Ian Paice on drums. They had success in the UK but hadn’t really broken through in the States.

I hadn’t gotten into the band yet myself. That was still 6 years away with their self-titled album that made them into global superstars. But once I was hooked, I went back and discovered this more bluesy version of the band and I really liked it.

And if you want to know why I liked this Mark 1 version of the band as much as the more glam version, you would do well to check out Come an’ Get It because it is a great primer for music fans to discover the roots of Whitesnake itself.

There is barely a slow down on the album’s ten track running order and even the songs that start out a bit slower tend to end up rocking your socks off. You have to start off with the vocals from David Coverdale whenever you write about Whitesnake and this time is no different. The smoky sound to his voice is by now pretty recognizable but on this album in particular there is also an almost gleeful streak in his performance. This is particularly evident on the less than subtle lyrics for a song like “Would I Lie To You”. Coverdale just seems to be having a ball as he whips his way through the vocals.

The guitar work on each track is just outstanding. Bernie Marsden and Micky Moody formed a pretty potent duo during their time in Whitesnake and every time I listen to any of the material they played on I am reminded of that.

The album opens with the title track and immediately you are transported back to that late 70’s hard rock sound. (Yes, the album was put out in 1981 but it was still steeped in that 70’s sound that made classic rock CLASSIC!) Despite the song’s uptempo pacing, I found that the next song “Hot Stuff” actually rocked a little bit more.

Of course, it isn’t just hit you in the face with one riff after another on this album. The band provides a real sweet groove rocker in “Lonely Days, Lonely Nights”. That same kind of sound is apparent once more on Side Two’s “Girl” as well.

The closing song on Come an’ Get It has that slightly slower start to it that I mentioned above, but the band switches gears midstream and then they just blaze their way to the end with some slick rocking guitars being anchored by Neil Murray’s bass and the rhythm behind the drum kit from Pace.

Surprisingly, this is just scratching the surface of just how much I enjoyed this album. Though as I write that, I can’t say that this is a surprise to me. I’ve been listening to this album a lot over the years. I know that I said Jeff had sent me this album, which is the one I listened to in order to write this piece. But I actually did have this one in my own collection already.

And while I love the flat out rocking “Don’t Break My Heart Again” a whole lot, even that song pales in my estimation to my favorite two songs on this album. The first is the side two opener “Child of Babylon”. If you listen to Whitesnake long enough, you realize that there is always at least one song on their releases that would qualify for the descriptor “epic”. And “Child Of Babylon” is definitely that song for Come an’ Get It.

I’m not even quite sure how to fully write about the song. It just captures your imagination from start to finish and makes you feel as if you are witnessing something that is bigger than you could’ve imagined. I’ve loved a lot of the Whitesnake epics in the past but “Child of Babylon” stands out as one their absolute best.

But without a shadow of a doubt, my favorite song is at the total opposite of the musical spectrum. That song is “Wine, Women An’ Song”. I suppose the more snobbish side of music fans would dismiss the song as trite but there is just something about this song that struck me as being the perfect encapsulation of good time rock and roll party songs. The keyboards from Jon Lord have a huge presence in the mix and both Marsden and Moody get to lay out a solo. But what made this song more than just another kind of “cock rock” track to me is the way Coverdale performs it. I know you are supposed to be more interested in the “tongue-in-cheek” aspect of the band’s lyrics, but there’s really none of that here. Everything is pretty overt and it’s Coverdale’s devil-may-care infectious attitude that made the song a winner from the first lyrical line. And he tells you straight up that “You can tell me it’s wrong, but I love wine, women an’ song”.

I get a cheeky little thrill every time I hear this song and much like the rest of the album, it provides ample evidence that if you only know Whitesnake from the 80’s metal days that brought them multi-platinum success you are only getting half of the story. For me at least, Come an’ Get It is a fantastic representation of the best of the early version of Whitesnake and I will continue to play this album for many more years to come.

 NOTES OF INTEREST: The 2007 remastered edition of Come an’ Get It had an additional 6 bonus tracks included. They were demos and alternate takes of songs from the original track listing.

“Would I Lie To You” was a Top 20 single in the UK in 1981.

The Cassette Chronicles – Overkill’s ‘The Years of Decay’

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.

OVERKILL – THE YEARS OF DECAY (1989)

 Even the most casual of heavy metal fans have heard the term “The Big Four”. The term is used to signify the four big bands of thrash metal, being Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer. You can put them in any order you want depending on your preference, but those are the names that are commonly associated with “The Big Four”. Of course, then there are those people who just have to come up with “The Next Four” and that is where Overkill is pretty well situated by most fans.

But for me this is an issue. You see I regularly commit metal heresy by not really caring all that much for Slayer or Megadeth. Each of the bands have some good songs but they’ve never truly done it for me as a whole.

Meanwhile, when it comes to Overkill they have been far more interesting if not quite as commercially succesful as any of those other bands. Admittedly, there has been times when my fandom for the band has waxed and waned. But it you really can handle the truth as I see it, Overkill produced one of the single best thrash records of all time, better than anything I’ve heard from “The Big Four” save perhaps a couple of Metallica albums.

And that’s the album I’m writing about this week. The Years Of Decay is the band’s fourth album and for my money, their unmatched masterpiece. In recent years, Overkill has released a succession of outstanding albums but even those fail to dent the love I have for this album. Put it this way, if thrash metal had made the Top 40 singles chart, Overkill would’ve had four monster hits from The Years of Decay at the very least!

My first exposure to Overkill was from their previous album Under The Influence. I don’t remember too much about the whole release but I loved the song “Hello From The Gutter”, which I was pretty well exposed to via the band’s video that got played on Headbanger’s Ball.

But when I heard the song “Elimination” on the radio (The Metal Zone on 94 HJY in Providence, RI) I was well and truly hooked. There’s a feel to the music that gets deep into your head, bones and ears. The band is usually going all guns blazing with a rapid fire series of shredding guitars and relentlessly pounding drums. With Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth’s machine gun of a voice spitting out lyrics over the top, what you get is seamlessly blended brutal heavy FN metal.

But what makes this album for me is that even with all that driving metallic brutality, there is still a sense of melody to the music. It’s not pounding rhythms and spitfire lyrics with no rhyme or reason. The band builds each song into a standout performance, each track building a complete picture of where the band was at this particular time.

While most of the songs are sincerely over the top with the furiously relentless pacing, when the band slows things down for a bit on songs like “Playing With Spiders / Skullcrusher”, the title track or “Who Tends The Fire”, their ability to still stay almost oppressively heavy is fine tuned to the point of perfection. Even then, there’s still spots in each of those songs where the tempo gets the pedal pushed to the metal. This gives the songs a little extra charge of adrenaline. At times, I felt that there was a cinematic feel to the musical score on these songs.

But let’s get back to the non-stop fury songs on this album. The album opens with “A Time To Kill” and right from the start, you can also see that the band is also pretty handy with a turn of lyrical phrase to the point where I think their lyrics get a bit overlooked.

The title “I Hate” might conjure up ideas of what the song is about, but you’d likely be wrong with your first impression. Instead, you’ve got another brilliantly executed rip your throat out track that is kind of incisive lyrically as well.

I’ve listened to this album a number of times over the years, the cassette I bought when the album was first released is still the one I own and listened to for this article. I was able to finally track down an affordable CD copy as well since I’ve been paranoid about the cassette breaking down and being without any copy of The Years of Decay. To coincide with having listened to the album so often, the album’s closing song is called “E.vil N.ever D.ies”. And as fast as all the other songs are, they are incapable of touching what the band does on this number. It’s pure metallic shred with nary a let up on the gas. And Ellsworth’s straight from the depths of hell vocal performance has continually left my pathetic attempts to sing along with the light speed delivery he employs for the lyrics. It’s been 30 years since its release and yet I still trip over my tongue trying to keep up with this song. I find it hard to specify my favorite track on the album but this is definitely one of them for sure.

If you’ve read this series for any length of time, you know that I prefer the more melodic driven side of metal. The endless shrieking caterwauling of the more extreme side of the genre doesn’t usually appeal that much to me. I’d say that Overkill would be the dividing line band for me. They are uniformly thrashing from one moment to the next but they are also driven by an underlying sense of rhythmic melody (at least to my ears). And that is on full display with The Years of Decay. I’ll say it again, this album is their masterpiece and I have no problem touting this as one of the best thrash albums of all time, PERIOD!

NOTES OF INTEREST: The album was produced by Terry Date who also worked with Metal Church, Fifth Angel, Chastain and Pantera amongst a host of other acts.

The Years of Decay was the last album featuring guitarist Bobby Gustafson.

The band is still active today having released the album The Wings of War in February 2019.

The Cassette Chronicles – SHY ENGLAND’S ‘MISSPENT YOUTH’

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.

SHY ENGLAND – MISSPENT YOUTH (1989)

There’s a lot to talk about with the Misspent Youth album but I think the first point to be addressed has to be the band name. Shy England seems to be the name that was used for this particular release when it hit the US. You see, the band is actually known as Shy.

I spent a bit of time trying to research the official reason for why the name change occurred but I wasn’t able to find any confirmable sources. So I reached out to some other music fans on a Facebook group I belong to and I’m led to believe that the name change was due to there being an American band with the name Shy at the time of this album’s release. Again, I can’t seem to confirm this for certain but it does have a ring of truth to it since I’ve known other acts who’ve had to deal with that particular issue in the past.

As for the album itself, I find it a bit amusing that this album is considered a critical misfire in the British rocker’s overall discography. I’ve mentioned in a recent past article that I also write book reviews. In the early days of doing that I read a book that was winning rave reviews and went on to win some awards as well. Problem for me was that I hated the book. I couldn’t understand how others were raving about how good the book when it was just something so bad that I had to pass on doing an actual review because it would’ve just said, “This book sucks!”

How does that relate to Misspent Youth, you ask? Well, the situation is reversed for me here. It was not a well received album from everything I could find online, and yet I really thought it was a pretty darn good album overall.

I did see one source that said the band had a falling out with producer Roy Thomas Baker early in the recording process for the album but whatever the behind the scenes rigamarole was, I still found plenty of music to enjoy.

I think there were a couple of different versions of the album floating around. The version I have opens up with the song “Give It All You Got”. The song is a hook filled uptempo rocker, a prime example of the type of song you’d expect to find on a late 80’s rock album. That’s not a knock on the song though as I really enjoyed it. It got me fired up from the get-go and I couldn’t wait to hear what else the band had to offer. But in poking around online, it seems that “Give It All You Got” wasn’t the lead track in the original release of the album. The first side of the album had a slightly altered order because this song was actually last on Side One at one point.

The songs were written by guitarist Steve Harris alone (it should go without saying but just in case anyone is confused this NOT the Steve Harris from Iron Maiden) or with drummer Alan Kelly. And Harris sure could shred on the guitar! The songs “Burnin’ Up” and “Money” are prime examples of how fleet fingered he could be on the fretboard.

Regarding “Burnin’ Up”, I loved the song musically but I did think singer Tony Mills was a bit over the top vocally on the song. His voice occupies the upper register and that does give him a real soaring quality to his vocals but on this one song, it didn’t quite feel right to me.

The band’s ability for crafting adept power ballads is put on display with “After The Love Is Gone” on side one of the album. I’d like to complain about the sugary nature of the song but there was something about the song that hooked me just a little bit. I’m not saying I lost my marbles over it or anything but it was surprisingly entertaining to me.

The first side of the album closed out with “Never Trust A Stranger” which is not only a great idea in respect to the real world but this song was a flat out rocking track you could really get into and find yourself singing along to as well.

The second side of Misspent Youth kicked off with another musically rousing song in “Broken Heart”. The pacing gives you another dose of high energy rock and roll and the instantly grabbing chorus ensures that the song completely gels together as a whole.

“Shake The Nations” goes for the fist shaking anthem territory but I’m not sure it quite got there. I don’t know if it is the song itself that didn’t fully get my attention or if it was the slightly muddied feel to the production of the song but I couldn’t see myself pumping my fists to this one. I was also a bit disappointed in the balladry of “When You Need Someone”.

But the album’s closing song “Make My Day” both captured that anthemic feel and finished the release with an in your face rocker that left you a bit spent and rung out.

I admit that other than knowing the band existed and that Tony Mills had been the frontman for the band’s most successful period, I really hadn’t known much about or heard any of the band’s music. Others may think little of Misspent Youth, but I found it a darn good bit of entertainment and I kind of wish that I’d been able to experience the band back in the day. I think I would’ve gone on to become a much bigger fan of the band. I know that because I liked Misspent Youth so much, I’m hoping to go back and check out some of their other early material and see just what I’ve been missing out on for all these years.

NOTES OF INTEREST: The band Shy is listed as still active to this day but with a completely different lineup. The band put out a self-titled album in 2011 but there’s been no further releases since that time.

Guitarist Steve Harris passed away in 2011 from a brain tumor.

With the recent passings of both Eddie Money and then Ric Ocasek, the speculation was who would be the third loss, since these things always happen in threes. Sadly, we found out the identity of that third person on September 18th, 2019. Singer Tony Mills (who had a prolific career fronting TNT and working as a solo artist aside from two stints with Shy) passed away after a six month fight with pancreatic cancer. His final solo album, Beyond The Law was released in June of 2019.

 

The Cassette Chronicles – Roughhouse’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.

HOUSE – ROUGHHOUSE (1988)

As has been the case with a few bands in past articles, the band Roughhouse is one that I’ve never heard anything from. I don’t recall every seeing an ad, hearing a song or even the band’s name from all my time listening to the 80’s metal years. So checking this band out serves as a rather intriguing history lesson if nothing else.

What surprised me is that they existed as Teeze before they switched their name. Under the Teeze moniker, they are credited on their Wikipedia page as having released a self-titled album (that was reissued again the following year).

The music on the album was mostly written by bassist Dave Weakley and guitarist Gregg Malack. Singer Luis Rivera co-wrote three of the tracks as well. The band’s sound is definitely that hard rocking kind of glaMmed up sound that was prevalent in 1988. I wasn’t sure how it would sit with me before I popped the cassette in the player but I was surprised to find a lot to enjoy.

The first two songs on the album are pretty rocking. “Don’t Go Away” and “Tonite” each have a real solid hook to grab your ear. I will say that Rivera’s vocals seemed to be a bit grating on me as I first listened but after that, they really tied into the overall mix of the songs and I ended up liking the way he sounded a lot more. The first impression was not the right one in this case.

This may sound strange but the somewhat slower but not quite a power ballad track “Love Is Pain” had me thinking it came off as a song that the band Vixen would’ve been perfect for. I know that is kind of a backhanded compliment but there you have it.

The first side of the album closes out with two more strong rockers. While I loved “Love or Lust”, I thought the way the vocal was performed on the chorus of “Can’t Find Love” left much to be desired.

As for the second side of the album, it was even more enjoyable than Side One if you can believe it. The song “Teeze Me Pleeze Me” was an electric kick in the pants to open Side Two while the fiery licks of “Midnight Madness” held you in its grasp. The last two songs on Roughhouse were truly outstanding in my book. “Racin'” definitely fired the imagination and lived up to its title with how the song moved from start to finish. The guitar work on this song as well as “Fantasy” were fantastic and kind of set me back on my heels a bit. The guitars blazed and I was surprised enough that a picture of my face as they played would probably have seen a real gleeful look in my eyes.

Despite having no idea what to expect going into this album, I was pretty happy to have added this to my musical memory banks. The band never made it big or anything but their one and only album as Roughhouse was, even decades after its release, a real bit of rocking entertainment!

NOTES OF INTEREST: The album is credited as having been partially recorded at Long View Farm Studios in Worcester, MA. I’m not sure that’s entirely accurate. I looked it up online and the studio was actually in North Brookfield, MA, which was in Worcester County. Probably a small detail but at least you know I’m doing the research, right? Either way, the studio played host to an incredible lineup of bands from Aerosmith, The J. Geils Band, Cat Stevens, Dan Fogelberg, Living Colour and many others over the years. And it was apparently used as a rehearsal studio by The Rolling Stones in 1981.

The band broke up in 1989 or 1991 depending on what source you are reading but has reunited over the years. They have an active Facebook page (Teeze Roughhouse) and fan website (http://www.roughhouse-teeze.com). The band has a show coming up on October 5th, 2019, in Sellersville, PA.

Roughhouse featured two guitarists in their lineup. They had Gregg Malack of course, but their 2nd guitarist was Rex Eisen. He went on to a more high profile musical career as Tripp Eisen playing for Static-X, Dope and Murderdolls before a couple of disturbing run-ins with the law left him in a load of legal troublE.