Category Archives: Cassette Chronicles

The Cassette Chronicles – Survivor’s ‘Too Hot To Sleep’

BY JAY ROBERTS (SPECIAL TO LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE)

The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s that I have acquired through Purchase Street Records in New Bedford, MA.

The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from the 1980’s 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.

Survivor – Too Hot To Sleep (1988)

This album was the final release from the band during their most successful period. It was also, unfortunately, a rather overlooked gem. The band changed up their sound a good bit for this album. While their keyboard heavy sound made for huge hit albums with Vital Signs and When Seconds Count, the presence of that keyboard sound is pushed into the background more than usual in favor of more of an aggressive guitar sound. While the album would still fall under the AOR banner, this is definitely a more guitar rock oriented direction for the material.

And it is a good, no check that, GREAT album. I remember hearing the first single “Didn’t Know It Was Love” on the radio station I was listening to at the job I had at the time. I was so psyched to know they had a new album coming out that I cranked the volume up. And right from the start, the band served musical notice of the tweak to their sound. The opening track on Too Hot To Sleep, “She’s A Star,” is a tour de force with a smoking hot guitar line throughout the song.

The band became a three piece for this album because they used session players for their rhythm section. Singer Jimi Jamison was huge with his vocals, even more powerful with a good dose of grit added to the mix. Frankie Sullivan (in what was probably the last instance of him seeming to give a damn) was able to do a lot more shredding on the guitar and while Jim Peterik’s keyboards weren’t as prominent as the past, he was still responsible for a lot of the actual songwriting.

In truth, there is not a single bad song on the album. I love it all. Hell, I actually had just ordered the reissued/remastered edition of the album on CD from Rock Candy Records a couple days before I bought this cassette.

Survivor may have seen this last gasp of greatness fall flat with the music buying public at large, but those of us who were and continue to be hardcore fans know the truth, this album is truly magnificent.

Notes of Interest: With longtime drummer Marc Droubay out of the band, Survivor hired drummer Mickey Curry to record the album. You’ll note that Curry was also a featured player on the first album featured in this series, Helix’s Wild In The Streets. Styx guitarist Tommy Shaw also appears on backing vocals for the album.

The Cassette Chronicles – Honeymoon Suite’s ‘Racing After Midnight’

BY JAY ROBERTS (SPECIAL TO LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE)

The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s that I have acquired through Purchase Street Records in New Bedford, MA.

The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from the 1980’s 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.

Honeymoon Suite – Racing After Midnight (1988)

In the song “Tears On The Page” there is the lyric line “We should’ve made it, we could’ve had it all.” That line could conceivably sum up the woulda, coulda, shoulda aspect of Honeymoon Suite’s career.

The band’s first three albums, including the self-titled debut and their to-this-day masterpiece The Big Prize and this Racing After Midnight release are superb examples of the best of what is now the melodic rock genre has to offer. They had it all, great guitar work, a dynamic singer, the overlayed keyboards that didn’t mute the guitar work and catchy as hell songwriting. Sadly, while there was a modicum of success in the US and far more in their native Canada, it seems the deserved fame and respect the band deserves kind of eluded them.

However, it isn’t because there was anything lacking in the material. Because on Racing After Midnight, the band is on fire throughout. The mixture of rockers and ballads keep the blood flowing and shine a spotlight on guitarist Derry Grehan and singer Johnnie Dee in particular.

The band wastes no time getting started, leading off the album with the adrenaline fueled “Lookin’ Out For Number One.” It’s one of two tracks that best highlight the fiery licks from Grehan. It’s aggressive without being over the top and full of enough melodic hooks to grab you and not let go. The other song that blazes with Grehan’s fretwork as the sole spotlighted instrument is “Other Side of Midnight,” the closing song on side one of the album.

Of course, this is the 1980’s we are talking about so the keyboard sound also plays a big part in the band’s overall sound. While the slower tempo ballad songs are quite obviously powered by Rob Preuss’s keys work, I thought where he stood out best is when the keys and guitar were combined to give songs like “Love Changes Everything” and the aforementioned “Tears On The Page” a more fleshed out and musically deeper fulfilling sound.

The album closes with a remixed version of the ballad “Lethal Weapon.” The original version of the song was played over the closing credits of the first Lethal Weapon movie. I remember hearing the song when I saw the movie and thought that it seemed a bit trite for the song to have to work in “Lethal Weapon” into the chorus. Nearly 30 years later, I still feel it just didn’t quite mesh the way I’m sure it was intended.

The band is still together, having gone through a series of lineup changes over the years, and they still tour. There have been five albums since this one. Their 2008 release Clifton Hill was an album that I got to review when I was writing for another website at that time.

So, if you haven’t ever checked the band out, you are missing out on some fine melodic hard rock. Racing After Midnight amply demonstrates how talented Honeymoon Suite was and the fact more people didn’t get that fact at the time is a little sad because they really could’ve and should’ve had it all.

Notes of Interest: The album was co-produced by Ted Templeman, best known for his work with Van Halen, The Doobie Brothers and solo work from ex-Doobie Brother Michael McDonald. McDonald helped out with the recording of Racing After Midnight when singer Johnnie Dee was seriously injured in a car accident. McDonald wrote lyrics and sang back up on the song “Long Way Back.”

 

The Cassette Chronicles – Hericane Alice’s ‘Tear The House Down’

BY JAY ROBERTS (SPECIAL TO LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE)

The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s that I have acquired through Purchase Street Records in New Bedford, MA.

The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from the 1980’s 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.

Hericane Alice – Tear The House Down (1990)

In preparing to write about this album, I found myself thinking back to 1990 when the album was released. I had seen an ad for the album in a magazine (possibly Metal Edge, but I’m not completely sure) and it looked intriguing to me.

So, I got myself to the store and picked the album up on cassette. Unfortunately, that was pretty much the last interesting thing I can recall about the album. It was the only release from the band and I remember not thinking much of the material. So, the album eventually got weeded out of my music collection.

Of course, when I made the big 100 cassette purchase from Purchase Street Records, this album was not only amongst the many and varied possible treasures, but it was still in the original cellophane wrapping from the Strawberries record store.

In 1990, as the era of metal music ruling the charts was starting to wind down, record companies were signing pretty much any type of “hair” band in the hopes of finding a gem that could lead to big record sales. It was throwing crap against the wall to see what, if anything, would stick.

Unfortunately, listening to this album now 27 years after its release hasn’t improved the quality much at all. Instead, this is a prime example of why metal died as a chart-topping force.

The music is really not that great, lacking what I would call a true feel for melody. At times, it sounds like it is just a bunch of discordant noise strung together in the hopes that nobody would notice the lack of a cohesive whole.

Side One leads off with the band’s single (and video clip) “Wild Young And Crazy”, which is mildly entertaining I suppose but it just lacks something in the hook department. It is a fast paced song designed to get your blood pressure up, but it really just kind of falls flat. As for the rest of the songs on the first side of the tape, only the title track serves to reward the listener with any sense of raising your energy level.

As for Side Two, well let’s just say that there are five songs and be done with it. Nothing on the second side of the cassette even compares to the first side.

Part of the goal of this series of articles is not just to potentially enlighten readers to some of the glorious metal of my favorite era of music, but also to remind myself of what I loved, what I missed, and maybe rekindle something from bands that just fell by the wayside.

But listening to Hericane Alice just reminds me of everything that went wrong by the end of “The Metal Years.” I can’t even say this was a noble attempt that fell shy of the mark. This album was just pretty much an abject failure. Tear The House Down makes it that much easier to understand why the band never really went further than the one release. This won’t be an album that gets more play time from me because.

Notes Of Interest: Bassist Ian Mayo and drummer Jackie Ramos went on to play with current Dead Daisies guitarist Doug Aldrich (ex-Dio, ex-Whitesnake) in both Bad Moon Rising and Burning Rain.
Singer Bruce Naumann reformed Hericane Alice in 2007 with an entirely new lineup around him. At last check on their Facebook page, they seem to still be active.

The Cassette Chronicles – Bryan Adams’ ‘Reckless’

BY JAY ROBERTS (SPECIAL TO LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE)

The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s that I have acquired through Purchase Street Records in New Bedford, MA.

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.

Bryan Adams Reckless (1983)

What can you say about an album that is almost universally hailed as an artist’s commercial and artistic masterpiece? Reckless certainly lives up to that statement seeing as how six of the album’s 10 tracks were bonafide smash hits on the pop chart.

The funny thing is that all these years later, a couple of the songs that did hit the charts seem to be almost forgotten. You had “Summer of ’69” and “Heaven” which I daresay are probably the two biggest songs on the album still getting played today. While the latter song got played to the point of annoyance, it did start off as a relatively decent and sentimental love song. As for “Summer of ’69,” Adams waxing nostalgic for the early days of starting out in music whether it be for his own beginnings or just in general still makes me sing along (badly) to this day. It also is one of three songs that I particularly enjoyed the lead guitar work from Keith Scott. Scott’s leads on “Kids Wanna Rock” and “Ain’t Gonna Cry” are pretty incendiary and give each of those lesser known tracks that much more of a burst of fiery passion. And I thought “She’s Only Happy When She’s Dancin'” had a great vibe and guitar through line.

Of course the “It’s Only Love” song featured Tina Turner during her resurgent period in the ’80s and there’s just no way to criticize anything she did on the song. She and it are just amazing.

I’ve always enjoyed “Run To You”. I’m pretty sure that it was the first song I remember hearing from the album when listening to 92 Pro FM out of Rhode Island, whether on their regular broadcasts or when they aired American Top 40 on Sunday mornings. The intro to the song had a very cinematic feel to it and that was driven home in the video for the song. It was the other song that I still find myself singing along to on the rare occasion I hear it on the radio.

I had mentioned that a couple of the album’s tracks that charted seemed relatively forgotten these days. And that’s a shame to me because I thought “One Night Love Affair” and “Somebody” were actually quite strong numbers. For me, I probably hold “Affair” in higher regard than I ever did “Heaven”.

I was 12 years old when this album came out and I was about two years away from my musical awakening as a heavy metal fan. I loved the songs from Reckless but never actually owned the album. I was reading an article a while back on the release of an anniversary reissue of the album with a boatload of extras and I was intrigued to want to buy it. But I couldn’t find it in any shop (big surprise) and it was pretty expensive online. So, when I saw the cassette in the box, I had to grab it. And wow did it bring back some Sunday mornings listening to Casey Kasem count down the hits.

This album had it all from rockers to the first of the big Bryan Adams ballads. It was just pure rock and roll fun. I’m still looking for an affordable copy of the reissue but until then, I’ve got this cassette and man I’m digging it.

Notes of Interest: Lou Gramm (at the time of the recording he was still in Foreigner) helps out on backing vocals on the song “She’s Only Happy When She’s Dancin’.” Journey’s drummer Steve Smith is behind the kit on “Heaven.”

The Cassette Chronicles – Black Sabbath’s ‘TYR’

BY JAY ROBERTS (SPECIAL TO LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE)

The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s that I have acquired through Purchase Street Records in New Bedford, MA.

The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from the 1980’s 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.

Black Sabbath’s TYR (1990)


Singer Tony Martin’s third album fronting Black Sabbath found the band putting out an album that only slightly sounds like their trademark sound. I know it might not be seen as the most successful version of the band, but I’ve always kind of liked Tony Martin’s vocal work with them.

I remain slightly bemused at myself over the fact that the original version of Sabbath (with Ozzy Osbourne on vocals for those not paying attention), always seems to come out as my least favorite version of the band. Or if not the least, certainly pretty much on an equal level with the stuff that Martin did with Sabbath.

The music remains heavy but the doom laden methodical stomp is lightened for the most part. Initially, the lyrics make the album seem like a concept release surrounding Norse mythology but a little research online shows that while some songs are connected by that wtheme, the album was not conceptual in nature.

There’s a very cinematic feel to most of the tracks and I think that kind of stylistic approach helps make the music feel heavier than it seems at first listen.

Tracks like “The Law Maker,” “Heaven In Black” and the killer “Valhalla” find Tony Iommi’s guitar work in fine form. He just shreds on “The Law Maker,” a song that I wish could’ve been somehow included in the band’s live set during the two times I saw them in recent years. It would’ve made for a spectacular addition.

Since I hadn’t ever listened to this album before picking up the cassette, the album played like a brand new release to me. This gave it an extra kick because it was like discovering a hidden treasure. The potential of this kind of musical revelation is what makes me keen to check out the rest of the Sabbath albums with Martin’s vocal work.

Note of Interest: The band’s rhythm section for this album is drummer Cozy Powell and bassist Neil Murray. They played together in the 1970’s as part of the group Cozy Powell’s Hammer and then again in the 1980’s in Whitesnake.

The Cassette Chronicles – Paul Rodgers’ ‘Now’

BY JAY ROBERTS (SPECIAL TO LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE)

The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s that I have acquired through Purchase Street Records in New Bedford, MA.

The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from the 1980’s 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.

Paul Rodger’s Now (1997)

It isn’t much of a secret that I am a huge fan of both Bad Company and singer Paul Rodgers. In fact, I could swear that I once owned this album on CD but it must’ve gotten lost somewhere along the way. Thankfully, the cassette copy of the album was a way to rediscover the gem that is the Now album. The entire first side of the album is chock full of one great song after another.

The album opens with “Soul of Love” which is just the first of a number of blues and R&B infused rockers. You get the classic vocal sound from Rodgers (who is in fine voice throughout the album) as well as getting to listen to guitarist Geoff Whitehorn.

While Rodgers wrote nine of the eleven songs on the album, it was quite invigorating to listen to how Whitehorn ran through the guitar lines on each song whether it called for him to cut loose with a shredding solo or restrain his playing to a soulful lick here and there. Other rockers to check out include “Saving Grace” and the closing track “Holding Back The Storm.”

There’s an effectively moving ballad in “All I Want Is You” and the low key style of “Love Is All I Need” is enhanced by the use of a vocal choir.

While at times the music might make you think that this could be a “lost” Bad Company album, the album really stands on its own as a solo recording for Rodgers.

The one knock on the album would be with the song “I Lost It All”. While the middle of the song grows into a big pounding stomp with some outstanding guitar riffs and an unrestrained vocal turn, it is book-ended by a slow mournful cadence to the music that makes you long for things to get going.

While the idea of Paul Rodgers being involved in yet another quality music project isn’t a groundbreaking assertion, getting to listen to Now like it was a new musical experience helped make me dig what I was hearing all the more.

Note of Interest: Journey guitarist Neal Schon co-wrote the song “Saving Grace” along with Rodgers and guitarist Geoff Whitehorn.

The Cassette Chronicles – Babylon A.D’s self-titled debut

BY JAY ROBERTS (SPECIAL TO LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE)

The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s that I have acquired through Purchase Street Records in New Bedford, MA.

The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from the 1980’s 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’s Babylon A.D. (1989)

The self-titled album from Babylon A.D. came out just a few months after I graduated high school and the two best known tracks from the album landed with an amped up fist upside the head.

For me, there’s no doubt that the two lead tracks from this album, “Bang Go The Bells” and “Hammer Swings Down,” represent some of the best adrenaline fueled anthemic rock that the genre had to offer at the time. Both songs capture everything that made the 80’s metal era so special.

Now I would like to say that I worship this album like a religious artifact or something but the truth of the matter is that beyond those two songs, I initially didn’t really get into the rest of it. I had the cassette, but I kind of bypassed the rest of the album with only a cursory interest. I have no reason why except to say that the band and album just simply fell through the cracks for me. The album disappeared from my collection and I have no idea what happened to it. So when I got the chance to pick it up again, I knew that I had to do so.

I’d heard other songs from Babylon A.D. over the years and had really grown to appreciate what I had so casually ignored in the past. But what really got me interested in the album was when my friend Roger [Chouinard], who owns Purchase Street Records, showed me a damn near pristine vinyl edition of the album when I visited the shop one day. He put it on and we listened to the whole album and I was kind of blown away, albeit 28 years after the fact.

The songs “Maryanne” and “Sweet Temptation” keep things on a fast paced track while the extended guitar opening on “Shot O’ Love” provides one of the few quieter moments on the album.

The late comedian Sam Kinison appears on the track “The Kid Goes Wild.” The song was featured in the movie Robocop 2. While the song is pretty good, it actually could’ve done without Kinison’s mid-song ranting. The band may have been “Angry and young, under the gun” but Kinison was merely a distraction.

While the band is categorized as glam metal, singer Derek Davis (billed solely as “Derek” in the liner notes) has a bluesy timbre to his voice that gives the band a little different edge than number of bands from that time period. This is most on display in the closing track “Sally Danced” which is starts off as a blues/blues rock song before gaining more of an in your face hard rock vibe as the song progresses.

The strength of “Caught Up In The Crossfire” comes mainly from its chorus, which is just killer. Also falling into the make or break chorus category is the band’s “power ballad,” the song “Desperate”. The other saving grace is how the intensity of the song grows (much like most power ballads from the 80’s) toward the end of the song.

It may have taken me a long time to really get into this album, but believe me I’m there now. This album is a hugely underrated gem from the mid-to-late period of when metal ruled the world. If you like pure, honest and unadulterated rock and roll, you’d do right by yourself to pick this album up and make your ears bleed in the good kind of way.

Notes of interest: While Babylon A.D. hasn’t released a studio album since 2000, they’ve had four different periods of activity including their latest reformation (with 4/5 of the original lineup) that began in 2013.

Jack Ponti, a prolific musician/songwriter/producer/label executive, co-wrote five of the album’s 10 songs. He produced two mid-90’s albums by Doro Pesch and went on to be the CEO of the Merovingian Music label.