Category Archives: Cassette Chronicles

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – DIRTY LOOKS ‘TURN OF THE SCREW’

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.

DIRTY LOOKS – TURN OF THE SCREW (1989)

In 1989, rock and metal was still in the midst of its decade plus run of glory years. I was 18 and enjoying not only the soon to occur release from the shackles of high school life, but musically speaking it felt like I was in the prime years of my fandom as well.

But as always seems to occur writing this series, despite knowing so much about the music of my teen years, I always seem to learn that there was still so much that I both didn’t know and completely missed out on.

Such is the case with the band Dirty Looks. The band with a heavily AC/DC like sound (though as I listened to this album, I got a huge Kix vibe as well) had gotten some pretty big notices with their 1988 album Cool From The Wire and the single “Oh Ruby”. While I knew the band existed, I only have a vague recollection of that song and I can’t say that I ever really paid much attention to them.

So when I pulled this album out of The Big Box of Cassettes, I knew that I would be in for pretty much a brand new listening experience. And I have to say, I came away pretty impressed by what I heard.

The first side of the album is a raucously entertaining rock and roll show. The six songs on Side One are all hard rocking in nature. The album opens with the instantly affecting “Turn Of The Screw (Who’s Screwing You)”. The song has all the earmarks for a rocking single from the 1980’s. There’s a big vocal, massive guitars and just a hook laden chorus that will soon have you singing along. The same could be said for the next track “Nobody Rides For Free”, which has that same kind of melodic driving rock feel combined with a big backing vocal sound for the song’s chorus.

I’m a fan of the thrash metal band Overkill. One of the things I really enjoy about some of their songs is the way the pace is so unrelentingly fast that the only way to make the vocals keep up with the music is to deliver them with a machine gun rapid fire pace. While Overkill and Dirty Looks are far apart in musical styles, that machine gun delivery shows up on the song “C’Mon Frenchie”. It’s the most balls out aggressive track on the first side and that unrelenting (yet still full of melody) delivery of both the music and vocals made this track really hit home for me.

The main lyrical passages for “Take What Ya Get” are delivered in a slightly more restrained vocal tone with the soundtrack remaining fully uptempo. The intensity of the vocals picks up immensely during the chorus. The rhythmic feel of “Hot Flash Jelly Roll” helps offset what even the most ardent Dirty Looks fan has to admit is just a goofy song title.

The first side of the album closes out on the hard-charging “Always A Loser” which also manages to whet the appetite for what’s to come on Side Two.

But a funny thing happened on the way to flipping over the cassette to Side Two. I found it a little harder to fully get into the five songs on that side the first time I listened to the album. I don’t know what the problem was but my mind seemed to wander in and out and I know that I didn’t get to appreciate the material enough to write about it after just one listen.

Of course, once I focused and listened again, a clearer picture emerged and it turned out that Side Two was damn good too. It opens with the song “L.A. Anna” which is a lively paced rocker. The first time through I thought the main lyrical passages were great but that the chorus was a little muddied in the mix. As it turns out, my ears must’ve been playing tricks on me because that actually wasn’t the case. I will say that I thought the song’s fade out was a little weakness for the track as a whole but still, I did enjoy the song.

The song “Slammin’ To The Big Beat” was just a flat out great song with a huge hook to draw you in while “Love Screams” is fast rocking with a kicking musical pallet and a big vocal sound. The solo for the song was particularly noteworthy to me.

The band’s “power ballad” song “Go Away” breaks up the album’s full-on rocking nature but the song isn’t all that bad when it focuses more on the power part of the song style’s description.

And when the band closes out the album with a teeth-gnashingly aggressive “Have Some Balls”, it just confirms that Turn Of The Screw stands up as one immensely entertaining album of gritty, aggressive and melodic hard rock and amply demonstrates just how much I’ve missed the boat on Dirty Looks!

NOTES OF INTEREST: The album’s producer was Jon Janson. According to what I was able to find online, his name is actually John Jansen and he’s had a hell of a varied career as a producer (among other jobs) in both rock and pop music. Among his credits (as a producer or otherwise) are the artists Jimi Hendrix, Warrant, Cinderella, Britny Fox, Billy Squier, Meatloaf, Barry Manilow, Air Supply and Bonnie Tyler.

Beau Hill was the original choice to produce Turn Of The Screw but the band didn’t like the way he was making them sound so the two parties parted ways.

Some of the percussion on the album is credited to “Buddy Love” but on the minimal liner notes for the cassette it says he appears courtesy of Frankie La Rocka. I knew I recognized that name but it took me a minute to place it. He was the drummer for the band Scandal (I wrote about them in previous article in this series). It turns out La Rocka used the Buddy Love alias to appear on some recordings including Turn Of The Screw.

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – RATT’S ‘REACH FOR THE SKY’

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.

RATT – REACH FOR THE SKY (1988)

As I’ve continued “discovering” the Ratt back catalog the last few weeks, I’ve mentioned in articles how their Reach For The Sky album was one of only two Ratt albums I had in my collection. And given that my copy of this album was a dubbed copy, I think I only get half credit for it.

Now that I have a real copy of the tape in my possession, it seems like the perfect time to give the album a new listen. While I had that dubbed copy all these years, I don’t think I’ve really listened to it much, if at all, since I first got my hands on it.

I was interested to see just what it was about this album that made me dub a copy of it from a friend of mine back in 1988. I knew that I loved the two songs (“Way Cool Jr.” and “I Want A Woman”) as I heard them on the radio and saw their videos on MTV. But was there more to it than those two songs?

As I listened to Side One of the album, I started to think that perhaps that it was the two singles that made up the entire reason I wanted the album. “Way Cool Jr.” is still a good song though I wasn’t quite as captivated by it as I was back then. But man, “I Want A Woman” holds up stunningly well. I loved the song then and that feeling remains the same after listening to it for this article. The chorus flows perfectly and I really dug the various turns of phrase for the rest of the lyrical content. I’d go so far as saying that if I was making a list of my all-time favorite Ratt songs, this one would definitely make the list.

But I was somewhat taken aback by the rest of the songs on Side One. While the opening song “City To City” and “Don’t Bite The Hand That Feeds” are decent enough songs, they didn’t really stir up fond recollections for me or anything. As for the album’s sole ballad track, “I Want To Love You Tonight”, did absolutely nothing for me. Even the fact that it featured far more of a power driven musical score than the softer ballad pacing, it just falls completely flat on my ears.

So after Side One finished, I have to say I was thinking that Side Two might continue the slight letdown I was feeling.

But Ratt struck like a bolt of lightning out of the blue with the opening “Chain Reaction”. The song is a blazing rocker that has a killer sound to it and I just loved how the song turned out. It sees the band shining more of a spotlight on the faster and more aggressive side of their music.

I should point out that as I listened to this side of the album, I found that I had very little memory of each of the five included tracks. So it was almost like a completely new listen for me. But as I moved through each song, it became pretty clear that I just flat out loved this side of the album a LOT!

The songs “No Surprise” and “What’s It Gonna Be” are solidly uptempo numbers that get you hooked quickly and the rocker “Bottom Line” has a great chorus with a nice melodic hook of its own. The album finishing track “What I’m After” is pretty damn fantastic all on its own too but I really liked the track’s guitar solo as well.

The fact that I had a completely different reaction to those three non-single tracks on the first side of Ratt’s Reach For The Sky is something I’m chalking up to the passage of time giving me a different perspective on those individual tracks. But what I do know is that the album has plenty of music that will give listeners a continued jolt of excitement. The two singles will always draw in the fans but what really got me was rediscovering the great music that is contained on Side Two of the album. Go ahead and take a new listen to Reach For The Sky and I think you’ll agree!

NOTES OF INTEREST: While the album did go platinum, the general reception for Reach For The Sky seemed to be less than what the band had been hoping for. Their supporting tour was a relatively short seven months. When Ratt’s next album (Detonator) was released, the B-side for the first single “Lovin’ You’s A Dirty Job” featured the Reach For The Sky song “What’s It Gonna Be”. According to the album’s Wikipedia entry, this was done in a bid to get fans to go back and check out Reach For The Sky.

The original plan was to have Mike Stone produce the entire album but due to recording issues, Beau Hill was brought in as a co-producer to “salvage” the material. It would be the last album Hill would be involved with for Ratt. He also co-wrote six of the album’s eleven tracks.

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – GIANT’S ‘tIME TO BURN’

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.

GIANT – TIME TO BURN (1992)

In 1992, depending on what part of the year we are talking about, grunge was either taking over or had already taken over the rock music scene. Record labels lost interest in bands of the 1980’s “hair metal” scene and so a lot of music got lost in the shuffle.

You can count Giant’s Time To Burn as one of those albums that will likely never get the credit it deserves because it got so overlooked when it was released in March of 1992. And I say this as someone who is just as guilty as the rest of the rock community who’ve never heard the album before now.

About three and a half years ago, I wrote about the Giant’s first album Last Of The Runaways. I ended up liking it a lot more then than when I first heard it back in the day. So when I pulled Time To Burn, which had never been opened from its original wrapping, from The Big Box of Cassettes, I figured that after 29 years since it was put out, it might just be time to check out what I’d been missing out on all these years.

As it turned out, I was missing out on quite a lot.

The band’s lineup of Dann Huff on vocals and guitar, his brother David Huff on drums, keyboardist Alan Pasqua and bassist Mike Brignardello kicked off the album with the rambunctiously rousing rocker “Thunder And Lightning”, a song that comes complete with fantastic melodic hooks, a killer so and a big vibrant solo that instantly catches your ear.

After that, the band is really off to the races (for the most part). The rest of Side One features two more fiery rock and roll numbers in “Lay It On The Line” (which is NOT a cover of the better known song by Canadian rockers Triumph) and “Stay”. There is the expected “power ballad” to close out the first side in “Lost In Paradise”. It fits the mold of what to expect from that type of song, but it wasn’t half bad in the end.

The most intriguing song to me on Side One was “Chained”. While none of the tracks from this album made a real dent in the singles charts, “Chained” did make a little noise on Billboard’s Rock Tracks sub-chart. I can see why it did too. The song opens up dramatically slower than “Thunder And Lightning”, the track that preceded it. There’s a definite bluesy feel to the song’s intro, but that soon gives way to a far more in-your-face rocker that bursts out of the speakers. That slower, bluesy feel returns later in the song but the mix of the two tempos really caught my ear.

When you flip the cassette over, the music starts off with an extremely brief instrumental called “Smoulder”. It features that same kind of bluesy streak to the sound. It serves as a companion lead in to the album’s title track.

Speaking of that title track, can I just say “WOW!” I was totally blown away by the “Time To Burn” song. Brimming with a heaping helping of melody, the song still features an aggressively rocking pace. It’s like a shot of adrenaline right to the heart. Dann Huff’s rapid fire delivery of the song’s vocals gave an even sharper edge to the overall quality of the song. Along with “Thunder And Lightning”, it is probably my favorite track on the album.

While the title of “I’ll Be There (When It’s Over)” might strike you as a ballad song, it’s actually a really good hard rocking number. But if you are looking for more in the way of slower paced tracks, Side Two of Time To Burn has a double shot for you.

“Without You” is a power ballad that places a good deal more emphasis on the “power” aspect of the music. It starts off slow and steady in its pacing as you might expect. But as the song progresses, the more uptempo feel takes over and doesn’t waste time switching back and forth between the two levels of pace. I enjoyed that one a lot.

If however you are looking for something that is much more in the vein of a “traditional” rock and roll power ballad, check out “Now Until Forever” and you’ll get exactly what you want. For me, I didn’t quite enjoy this one as much.

The album ends on a full bore rocker in “Get Used To It”. It’s all about a six-string fueled attitude and sonic attack on this song and gives Time To Burn the smashing number to bring the album to a fitting conclusion.

Giant’s Time To Burn is an album that never got it’s due, whether from me or the rock audience at large. Hell, there hasn’t even been a reissue of the album like Rock Candy Records did for Last Of The Runaways. But now that I’ve heard the album, I realize just how much of an underappreciated gem the album really is. It’s about damn time for any music fan who hasn’t realized this to take a look back for themselves and discover just what is so special about Time To Burn for themselves!

NOTES OF INTEREST: Time To Burn is the second of Giant’s four studio albums. The band’s third album was released in 2001 and called III. The fourth album, Promise Land, came out in 2010. While vocalist/guitarist Dann Huff wasn’t a member of the band for that fourth album, he did co-write seven of the tracks and played guitar on two of them. Taking his place in the band was singer Terry Brock (Seventh Key) and guitarist John Roth (Winger).

Terry Thomas, who produced the band’s first album Last Of The Runaways, was the producer for Time To Burn as well. Jim Vallance, who is best known for his songwriting partnership with Bryan Adams, co-wrote the songs “I’ll Be There (When It’s Over)” and “Without You”.

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – RATT’S ‘INVASION OF YOUR PRIVACY”

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.

RATT – INVASION OF YOUR PRIVACY (1985)

As I wrote in my article a month or so ago about the self-titled EP from Ratt, other than their debut album Out of the Cellar, the band has been kind of “songs played on the radio” kind of thing for me. I also wrote that I’d heard a couple of their other albums in full, but it turns out I was off a little bit on that claim. Instead, I’ve only heard one other album from the band. That was the 1988 release Reach For The Sky, which had a couple of great songs on it. But truth be told, I never actually bought the album. I had a dubbed cassette copy that I got from a friend of mine.

With Reach For The Sky being Ratt’s fourth studio album, that means I missed out on hearing both Invasion Of Your Privacy and Dancing Undercover. Because I was so taken by that EP I wrote about, I said I wanted to check out those albums I missed. And now seems as good a time as any to get started on that path.

Invasion Of Your Privacy is likely best remembered for the two big hit songs that still make the playlist on specialty shows and any radio station that plays the music of the 1980’s metal era. Both “You’re In Love” and “Lay It Down” are on Side One of the cassette and they are both uptempo numbers with the expected hook to draw in the listener. I still rather enjoy each track whenever I heard them and that didn’t change as I listened to the album in order to write this article.

I was a little surprised to learn that there had been a third single released from the album though. The song “What You Give Is What You Get” is on Side Two of the album, but I had no previous memory of hearing the song on the radio. But as I heard it for possibly the first time ever, I was quite taken with it. Fast moving in tempo, the song had a really cool rhythmic feel to it as well.

But let’s get back to the rest of Side One, shall we.

Like I said, both of the hits from the album are on this side. But the songs “Never Use Love” and “Give It All” join those hits in the harder rocking style employed by the band. However, I didn’t really think they were overly noteworthy. Fine as album tracks but definitely a notch below the better songs here.

The only attempt at a ballad or more accurately put, power ballad is the side closing “Closer To My Heart”. While the title and the song’s lyrical content definitely fall into that softer side lovey-dovey type of song, I didn’t think it quite fit the ballad category. It certainly starts off that way but in my mind, the “power” part of things plays a larger role here than in just the song’s chorus. Because of that, this track sits a whole lot better with me. Yeah, I actually enjoyed it.

Moving on to the second side of the album, the opening track “Between The Eyes” rocked out musically but overall I thought this one was just marking time.

But the rest of the album is fantastic. After “What You Give Is What You Give”, the album burns bright with the track “Got Me On The Line”. Unless I’m misreading how the song plays out, it kind of sounds like the track was inspired by those phone sex lines so prevalent in the 80’s. Now if I’m wrong, don’t lose your mind. I’m just saying that is the impression I got, it’s not like I haven’t misread something before. Still, the song was fantastic and when I play this album again, it will be one of the songs I look forward to hearing the most.

The song “You Should Know By Now” is pretty darn good with the music a strong selling point to me. And the album closing “Dangerous But Worth The Risk” struck me as a song that could’ve been used as a single. Between the guitar work from Robbin Crosby and Warren De Martin and a vocal performance from Stephen Pearcy that was quite enjoyable, it does a great job of bringing the album to a fittingly rocking close.

It’s been over 35 years since the original release of Invasion Of Your Privacy and despite not getting around to listening to it in full in all that time, it was a pleasant little surprise to find out just how much good material there was to be had on the album. So good in fact, that it is keeping alive that spark of curiosity that will have me tracking down other albums from the band that I’ve missed out on until now. I can’t think of a better latter day testament than that.

NOTES OF INTEREST: Invasion Of Your Privacy went double platinum in the US. The songwriting credits for the album are shared (in varying combinations) by every member of the group except drummer Bobby Blotzer.

The album was produced by Beau Hill, who had done the production for Out Of The Cellar. He would go on to produce Ratt’s next two albums (Dancing Undercover and Reach For The Sky) as well. His list of credits as a producer, songwriter and even as a performer are extensive. Hill was one of the founders of Interscope Records.

The cover model for the album is Marianne Gravatte, who was the Playboy Playmate of the Year for 1983. She also appeared in the video for the song “Lay It Down”.

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – AC/DC’S ‘DIRTY DEEDS DONE DIRT CHEAP’

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.

AC/DC – DIRTY DEEDS DONE DIRT CHEAP (1976)

While this series generally covers albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s, on occasion I like to throw in an outlier album just to mix things up. This week, I’m doing that very thing by taking a look at the 1976 AC/DC album Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.

There’s two reasons for this. The first is that I was able to pick up a remarkably well preserved copy of the album on that same recent shopping trip that yielded that Ratt EP I wrote about in the previous article I did for The Cassette Chronicles. The other reason is that as luck would have it, this is the 45th anniversary of the album’s original release. Since I’ve never heard the album in full, it seems like the perfect time to mark the occasion.

While I freely admit that my knowledge of the band’s earliest material is a lot more spotty than stuff that has come later in their career, I am slowly acquiring those early albums when I can find them cheap enough. What I discovered with this album is that it features not only some timeless hits for AC/DC but in its entirety, the album is quite remarkable.

Usually when I write about well known albums, I tend to skip over the “big hits” because everyone knows them and everyone has written endlessly about them. I don’t have much new to say about the songs.

But on Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, the three staple songs are ingrained with me on a personal level that I can’t simply say I like them and move on. All three songs are on Side One of the cassette and I’m going to start with the side closing “Problem Child” first. I’ve heard the song on the radio numerous times before and I’ve always liked hearing it. But as I sat listening to it for this article, I seemed to take to the song on a deeper level than when I’m hearing it on the radio. I came away newly impressed with just how killer the music sounds on the song. Given the expectations of an AC/DC song, the track is a hard-hitting rocker but there’s something just out and out cool about how the band just cuts loose throughout the track and then even ups the ante towards the song’s end. Oddly, this made me think that Bon Scott’s vocals for the song are actually the lesser light in a battle being the singer and the music. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying he did a bad job. I just mean, the music seemed to overwhelm me to point that I wasn’t paying quite the same attention to his singing as I normally would.

The album’s title track opens Side One and that instantly identifiable and ever so memorable guitar sound that kicks off the song resonates with me as strongly today as when I first heard the song (a few years after the album was released). I love the fantastic lyrical content contained in the song too. While listening, I realized that I still found myself banging my head and doing a really poor impression of Bon Scott’s vocals as I sang along. Seriously, I am terrible at singing but I did get the phrasing right at least.

As for “Big Balls”, what can I say? I just love the song. When I wrote about the Back In Black album for The Cassette Chronicles back in May of 2018, I felt I had to go back a bit further to explain how I came to know of AC/DC. In that article I wrote about “Big Balls” saying the following:

“Now before I talk about the album’s track list I should go back a little further. Despite not being a full-fledged rock and metal fan until about 1983-1984, I was at least a little bit aware of AC/DC, much to the chagrin of a few nuns and laypeople who worked at the Catholic school I was attending while in the fourth grade.

It was about that time that the boys in the school discovered the band’s song “Big Balls” and for totally immature males, this was THE GREATEST SONG OF ALL TIME! And you haven’t lived until you see the horrified faces of the teachers in the school as they hear a bunch of pre-adolescent boys running down the hallway singing the lyrics to the song. I managed to get in trouble for that despite the fact I wasn’t involved, having the misfortune of bad timing as I came out of the bathroom at the same time one of the teachers caught the other boys in the hallway. Still, it was freaking hilarious at the time.”

And that still rings true for me. In some ways, “Big Balls” might just be my favorite AC/DC song. I love the double entendre lyrics, though seriously, does anyone really believe they are more than single entendre? And the way Bon Scott delivers the vocal performance really gives the song such a memorable spin. He manages to make it seem like he’s delivering a serious set of lyrics while at the same time you can just feel that he’s got that “I aim to misbehave” mischievous grin on his face.

After those three songs, the other two tracks on Side One might be be in danger of being seen as a bit of a letdown, but they are actually incredibly impressive. “Love At First Feel” is another rocking stomp and Bon Scott delivers the last line in the song’s chorus in such a way that he’s practically cackling with glee.

Meanwhile, “Rocker” bursts out of the speakers with no break between it and the preceding “Big Balls” track. Angus and Malcolm Young are immense on this track which initially struck me as being very similar in tone to a 50’s or 60’s pop rock track. Obviously, the band injected a far harder rocking sheen over the material but that feeling of the bare bones of the song being inspired by old time rock and roll didn’t disappear for me. And the way Bon Scott tears into the vocal track with such vicious abandon really drove the song home for me.

And that’s just the first side of the album. For Side Two, things start off with “There’s Gonna Be Some Rockin'”. This song is pretty good all by itself but it made an even deeper impression on me when I found the swinging tempo of the music had me snapping my fingers to the rhythmic beat of the track. I like when I get moved to do something like that when you consider I probably wouldn’t do it if asked to do it by the band or fellow fans.

The lyrical content of “Ain’t No Fun (Waiting To Be A Millionaire)” could probably describe the life story of pretty much any musician ever. The pacing was just a slight downturn in tempo from the full on bluesy rock fireworks. It seemed like it would cut loose at any moment but it doesn’t really do that until the late going.

As I said, my familiarity with the earlier material from the AC/DC discography is mostly, if not totally, from the “hits”. So you’ll have to forgive me that I really had no way of realizing just how amazing the song “Ride On” was until now. First, I’d never heard it before and then the way the song was structured blew me away. It’s a very slow moving song, almost sedate in its pacing. But what really got to me was the thoroughly amazing way the understated vocal take from Bon Scott came across. There’s no gleeful ribald slant to the vocals, not ballsy rocking delivery. Instead, it is an emotional wallop that plays it straight from start to finish and it just killed me with its sincerity. And when you add in a rather impressive guitar solo from Angus Young, you can throw “Ride On” onto my list of favorite AC/DC songs right now.

The album closing “Squealer” starts off in much the same fashion as “Ride On”. The slow and steady delivery and the far more restrained vocals. But as the song progresses, the pace picks up and then a killer musical soundtrack kicks in. The guitar work from the Youngs as well as the rhythm section of Mark Evans and Phil Rudd from the solo through the final fadeout pushes the song towards greatness and brings the album to a fittingly superb conclusion.

While I knew of three songs on Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, I got to have a new appreciation for them as I listened to the album in its entirety for the first time ever. But more importantly, I got to discover that the full nine track album is a marvelous collection that spotlights the early part of the band’s career and provides the listener with a fantastic musical experience, bar none.

NOTES OF INTEREST: The original Australian release of the album contained the song “Jailbreak” but this was dropped from the international release. According to Wikipedia, the song didn’t get released worldwide until 1984.

The international versions of the title track, “Problem Child” and “Ain’t No Fun (Waiting Round To Be A Millionaire)” are shorter than how they appear on the Australian version of the album. Over the years both versions of these songs have made their way on to various reissues.

George Young, the brother of Angus and Malcolm Young, produced the album and is credit with playing bass on “Big Balls”.

The Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap album has sold over 6 million copies in the US making it the band’s best selling album behind Back In Black and Highway To Hell.

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – RATT’S SELF-TITLED EP

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.

RATT – RATT (1983)

If ignorance is not an excuse, then I have no real way to explain how it is that I either never knew or somehow blocked from my memory that the band Ratt released a self-titled EP before they put out their full-length debut album Out of the Cellar.

I say this because on a recent shopping excursion to my favorite local independent record shop, I learned the store had purchased a sizeable cassette collection. While I dug my way through the tapes that seemed to be in rather amazing condition, I came across the Ratt EP and couldn’t for the life of me remember ever hearing about it. Obviously I had to buy the cassette.

What I learned about the album is that it was surprisingly good. For me, I’ve always loved Out of the Cellar as the band’s best release and after that, Ratt was more of a “songs that got played on the radio and MTV” kind of band. I heard a couple of their other albums in full but the singles always seemed to outshine the album tracks for me.

The EP showcases the band in their most rocking style, forgoing any attempt at a ballad track. Each of the six songs is a pretty fast moving rocker and given that this is the earliest recorded output for Ratt, their sound seems a bit more raw than the polished production sound of their other albums.

The opening song “Sweet Cheater” is probably my favorite track on this EP. It’s a really hard-driving and hard-hitting number that struck me as being one of the heavier sounding tracks Ratt has in their song catalog. And that previously mentioned rawer feel to the music is fully evidenced here.

The song “You Think You’re Tough” is pretty fast moving as well but it is just a bit slower in tempo than “Sweet Cheater”. When I first heard it, I wasn’t sure what I thought but when I went back and listened to it again, I really thought it hit home with me a lot more the second time around.

I will say that I thought the chorus for “U Got It” came off a bit more simplistic than I think I would’ve liked. I mean, it fit the song fine but it just felt like it was missing a little something extra to make it more memorable. But that said, I did like the song as a whole. I liked “Tell The World” as well.

There’s an earlier version of the song “Back For More” on the EP as well. The song got the re-recorded treatment for the Out of the Cellar album but it made for interesting listening to hear this previous version. There’s some noticeable differences in the song but the basic framework of the song is pretty much the same with both renditions of the track.

The EP closes out with a cover of the Memphis blues and soul singer Rufus Thomas song “Walkin’ The Dog”. Aerosmith did their own version of the song back in 1973 but it was Thomas who originally wrote and performed the song. This rendition is likely more comparable to the Aerosmith version but I enjoyed listening to it.

One of the things I found out while looking up information on this release online was that when the band hit it big with Out of the Cellar, their record label remixed the EP to give it more of a polished production sheen and bring it in line with how the group sounded on their debut album and then reissued the EP. I’m not actually sure which version of the album I have here but I’m probably going to say that it is the remixed edition. Still, despite the possible production changes, the band’s somewhat rawer feel for this earliest material manages to still shine through.

I was pretty pleased to discover (or thanks to a potentially faulty memory, re-discover) this EP. It gives me a new viewpoint on the band’s music and I’m glad to say that I found the music pretty entertaining. So much so that I may just have to think about checking out some of their other albums all over again and write about them down the line.

NOTES OF INTEREST: The European version of the Ratt EP contains an additional track. It’s an earlier recording of the song “You’re In Trouble” which found its re-recorded way onto the Out of the Cellar album as well.

The model for the EP’s cover art was Tawny Kitaen. At the time, she was the girlfriend of Ratt guitarist Robbin Crosby.

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – BLACKEYED SUSAN’S “ELECTRIC RATTLEBONE”

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.

BLACKEYED SUSAN – ELECTRIC RATTLEBONE (1991)

Due in large part to the fact that I wasn’t much of a fan of Britny Fox beyond the song and video for “Girlschool”, I don’t see it as unreasonable that I never bothered checking out singer “Dizzy” Dean Davidson’s new band Blackeyed Susan after he left Britny Fox.

However, seeing as this year marks the 30th anniversary of the release of the Blackeyed Susan’s debut album Electric Rattlebone, I thought it would be the perfect time to at least give the music a chance.

And I have to say, I really am quite surprised to find just how much I loved the album! While Britny Fox was squarely in the glam rock side of the 80’s rock era, Davidson took Blackeyed Susan into a more blues rock driven sound and style. This choice, even three decades after the fact, turned out to be the right one in terms of getting me to enjoy what I was hearing.

If you didn’t know that the music was going to be bluesy hard rock before listening to the album, the brief title track that opens up side one of the album clues you in pretty quickly. That song bleeds into “Satisfaction” which is a fast moving rocker with a real catchy vibe to it. It didn’t take that long for me to find myself humming along to the song’s chorus.

The song “Sympathy” brings that bluesier sound even more to the forefront and gives you one of the album’s best tracks. The “Old Lady Snow” song has a great sound to it as well, with a rocking tempo and a perfectly cast female backing vocalists that helps enhance the vocals for the track. You can chalk this up as another of the album’s highlights.

And given that this was 1991 and the power ballad was still a necessary evil for any rock band to include, you have a song like “Ride With Me”. But with this particular song, I thought the songwriting bypassed being overly emotionally manipulative. Sure it is sentimental, but not in a sappy kind of way. This actually worked to give the song a bit more gravitas in my mind.

The side-closing “Don’t Bring Me Down” is a power rocking track. It’s not quite as fast moving as a couple of the other songs on Side One (at the start anyway) but it definitely doesn’t lack in the rock right in your face department.

The second side of the album opens with “Indica”, a brief instrumental with a Middle Eastern sound from the use of a sitar. I can’t say it did much for me, but it certainly does serve as a table setter for the rest of Side Two.

While I didn’t think much of the instrumental, I loved “She’s So Fine”, another great rocking anthem for the band. The song “How Long” is slower in pace but is no less effective as it goes for a heavily blues flavored down and dirty vibe.

The album closes out on a very high note with the songs “Holiday” and “Heart Of The City”. Both tracks have a rocking intensity that leaves you wanting more. The latter song is an ode to the city of Philadelphia but the lyrical sentiments could work for anyone that has an attachment to their own hometown.

My relative disinterest in Britny Fox left me on the outside looking in when it came to Blackeyed Susan. It is safe to say that I just assumed the music would be the same thing as Britny Fox. For that, I definitely made an ass of myself. Thirty years later, I found myself rocking out to music that freely admit that I should have discovered long before now. However, now that I’m finally on board I can honestly say that I’m glad to find out that Electric Rattlebone is an excitingly energetic slice of driving blues rock that I hope to keep playing many times over!

NOTES OF INTEREST: While I really like the album now, Electric Rattlebone did not catch on with the music world at the time it was released. It was branded a commercial failure and the band’s record label pulled support for the band while it was on tour for the album.

The ballad “Best Of Friends” is dedicated to original Britny Fox drummer Tony “Stix” Destra, who was killed in a car accident in 1987.

The only other release that I saw listed for the band came in 1992. According to Wikipedia, it was a self-released demo called Just A Taste.

Guitarist Rick Criniti had been Cinderella’s keyboardist before joining Blackeyed Susan. But he left Blackeyed Susan midway through the tour. I’m not sure of the timing, but I’m guessing his departure came BEFORE the label pulled the band’s support.

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THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – ELECTRIC BOYS’ ‘GROOVUS MAXIMUS’

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.

ELECTRIC BOYS – GROOVUS MAXIMUS (1992)

When it came time to start putting together this article you are now reading, I originally thought I was going to be writing an opening that talked about how I had never heard anything from the Swedish rockers Electric Boys.

And that’s why it is always good to do research. As it turns out, while I’m sure that I haven’t heard much from the band before listening to this second album from the band, I had actually heard the one song that they are probably most remembered for. On their debut album Funk-O-Metal Carpet Ride, they had the song “All Lips N’ Hips”. I wasn’t sure that I remembered the song but one quick trip to Youtube and I remembered the song (if not the actual video for it). It’s a huge sounding prime cut of 80’s metal with a big chorus and a great overall inviting soundtrack.

That said, while I probably have mostly heard that song via Dee Snider’s radio show The House of Hair, it did bring me back to when the song would’ve been originally released and I liked that metaphorical trip back through time.

I may not have heard anything else from the band, but when I pulled the group’s second album Groovus Maximus out of ‘The Big Box of Cassettes’, I was game to see what I might discover for myself. Of course, this would be one of the rare occasions where the cassette involved would be playing for the first time. Yes, the cassette was still in its original wrapping. It was apparently bought from a Strawberries record store back in the day for the whopping price of $9.99.

The Electric Boys had kind of a hybrid sound, where they crossed their hard rock inclinations with a heaping helping of funk mixed in. It’s a sound that for the most part worked in their favor on this album.

The album opened with the title cut, the first of five straight fast moving rocker type tracks on Side One. The title track has what should be an expected great rhythmic feel to it. The vocals from Conny Bloom (who wrote all the songs on the album) grab you from the start and the song’s one line chorus is an immediate earworm.

The songs “Knee Deep In You” and “The Sky Is Crying” are superb offerings. Meanwhile, there seems to be a slightly grittier tone to the vocals on “Fire In The House”, a song that is definitely more metal than funk driven.

The song “Mary In The Mystery World” starts out with a misleadingly slow intro before the song then bursts out of the speakers in a cacophonous explosion of noisy rock and roll. The main lyrical verses to the song are a bit slower in delivery but the chorus moves quite a bit more lively. I was struck by just how much of a Cheap Trick vibe I got off of the song.

The last track on the first side of the album is the not quite a ballad song “Bed of Roses”. It is near enough to that song style but it does have a bit more of a pulse in terms of tempo. Unfortunately, the song didn’t quite fully endear itself to me.

So for the most part I enjoyed the first side of Groovus Maximus. I had great expectations when I flipped over the cassette for side two and initially that hope for greatness was rewarded.

The opening song of Side Two is the powerfully rocking track “She’s Into Something Heavy”. The album is kicked up another notch on “Bad Motherfunker” which has an incredible serving of guitar work, including a solo that I enjoyed quite a bit.

But I really had trouble getting into the pretty standard power ballad “Dying To Be Loved”. And while they are both somewhat frenetic rock songs, “When Love Explodes” and “Tambourine” were pedestrian tracks at best.

I will say that Groovus Maximus closes out on a high note though. “Tear It Up” is an all attitude song with a fantastic sound to it. I loved the second verse in the song, even though if they tried to put that into a song in today’s climate, they’d likely get a bunch of crap thrown at them.

The last song is an instrumental called “March of the Spirits”. I freely admit that I have my ups and downs when it comes to instrumental music at times but this cut was actually quite good and I would definitely recommend it.

As I researched the album, I learned that Groovus Maximus did not live up to label expectations when it was released. Of course, given that the release came as the grunge sound was taking over music, I don’t think anyone should’ve been surprised that this album didn’t set the sales chart ablaze. And while I do think the second side of the album is a bit of a letdown, overall I can’t help but say that I really enjoyed giving Electric Boys a full first deep listen. The band has a really good sound that appealed to me right off as I played the cassette. I definitely missed the boat on them the first time around but I’m glad that I am on board now.

NOTES OF INTEREST: The Electric Boys split up in 1994 but got back together in 2009 and are still active to this day. Their seventh overall studio album is set to be released sometime in 2021 and will be called Ups!de Down.

During the time the band was on hiatus, singer Conny Bloom and bassist Andy Christell spent some time as members of Hanoi Rocks.

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THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – ALDO NOVA’S ‘BLOOD ON THE BRICKS’

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.

ALDO NOVA – BLOOD ON THE BRICKS (1991)

I don’t think it is that much of a shock to most music lovers that when you think of Aldo Nova, that thought likely begins and then ends pretty quickly with the hit song “Fantasy” from his self-titled debut album. It’s maybe a little unfair to sum up his career that way, but it isn’t exactly totally inaccurate either.

I have to put myself in this particular category as well. I don’t think I’ve ever heard any other song from Nova until I pulled this album out of The Big Box of Cassettes to write this article.

But for all the prior lack of knowledge about Nova’s music, I can’t help but think that I really missed out by not having listened to Blood On The Bricks before now. The fact that this is the 30th anniversary of the album’s release makes it a perfect time to finally listen to it, I’d say.

The album contains a number of highly charged rockers, full of amped up guitar rock with keyboards adding depth to the overall sound. Throw in a couple of ballads that don’t make you want to puncture your ear drums and it turns out you have quite the overlooked album.

Blood On The Bricks opens up with the title track and it does the intended job of getting things going with a kinetic burst of energy. The song moves pretty fast, with melody aplenty. The song is pretty darn catchy too. It’s a perfect kind of single for the time of the album’s initial release.

The next couple of tracks on the first side of the tape are also full on rock and roll numbers. “Medicine Man” was the third of three singles released from the album and it’s damn good as well. But I really liked “Bang Bang” a whole lot too. It may not have the most original title but the actual song itself was just…COOL!

I mentioned that the album has a couple of power ballads. The song on Side One is called “Someday”. It was the second single released from the album. While it didn’t really make much noise on the singles chart, I thought it was a decent enough track. I was a bit surprised to find that I didn’t really get into the song “Young Love” all that much. It’s an okay sounding rocker (co-written by Bryan Adams collaborator Jim Vallance) but it just didn’t really do much to differentiate itself to me.

When you flip the tape over to Side Two, you get treated to another solidly rocking opening track in “Modern World”. Of the ten songs on the album, it is one of my favorites. There’s a great feeling of aggressively melodic rock and roll that helps sell the song to you.

While “This Ain’t Love” was a bit disappointing to me, the second power ballad, “Hey Ronnie (Veronica’s Song)”, more than made up for it. “Someday” was decent but this one found me really enjoying the fullness of the track each time I listened to it.

Blood On The Bricks closes out with a couple of straight on rockers. I thought “Touch of Madness” was decent but Aldo Nova definitely saved the best for the very last number on the album. The song “Bright Lights” is over six minutes long and it is an astoundingly great song! It is simply my favorite song on the album and I would definitely say that for me, I like it even better than “Fantasy”. If that’s a blasphemous statement for fans of Nova, so be it.

I’m definitely one of those people who would only think of the song “Fantasy” if someone had asked me anything about Aldo Nova. But after listening to Blood On The Bricks, it has become quite clear that there is a lot more to discover about the artist and this album is the definitive proof of that newfound belief.

NOTES OF INTEREST: The album was produced by Jon Bon Jovi and features Randy Jackson (the former American Idol judge) on bass. The Japanese edition of the album contains the bonus track “Dance of the Dead”. This was the first album in six years, the fourth overall album in the Aldo Nova’s discography. According to his Wikipedia page, three more albums (for a total of seven) have been released.

Kenny Aronoff, who spent 16 plus years recording and touring with John Mellencamp, performed all the drum tracks on Blood On The Bricks. Aronoff has had a lengthy and varied career having performed or recorded with everyone from Tony Iommi, Melissa Etheridge (the only time I’ve actually seen him perform live), Mary Chapin Carpenter, Mick Jagger and many more.

Aldo Nova has collaborated with a number of notable artists as a writer and producer. The biggest name among these is undoubtedly Celine Dion.

Magazine advertisement for Aldo Nova’s Blood on the Bricks

The Cassette Chronicles – XYZ’s ‘Hungry’

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.

XYZ – HUNGRY (1991)

Like many, I first became aware of XYZ when their self-titled debut album was released in 1989. I remember seeing a magazine trade ad for the album and I was intrigued. After all in 1989, I was 18 and in my glory as a rock and metal fan.

That magazine ad stuck with me because I could swear that I remember seeing not only that Don Dokken had produced the album but that Survivor guitarist Frankie Sullivan being credited in the ad as having a hand in the production as well. But that appears not to be the case since it is just Dokken that got the credits. I’m guessing that it must be my faulty memory playing another trick on me.

I guess that I liked the album well enough, but the band didn’t really stick with me that much and they kind of faded from my playlist at the time. I know that the album disappeared from my collection as well. So it probably isn’t much of a surprise that I never bought the Hungry album.

I don’t even remember hearing the single release “Face Down In The Gutter” when the album got its 1991 release. I know now that there is a video for the song but I didn’t see that either. Apparently it didn’t get a lot of play on MTV at the time because of some controversy about the way women in the video were dressed.

When I pulled the Hungry album out of The Big Box of Cassettes, I was intrigued that I’d now discover what the band had to offer me in the album’s 30th anniversary year. And I’ve got to say that I came away pretty darn pleased!

The single is the opening song on the album and it’s got a fast paced rocking style. Overall, it is just a great sounding track and has a pretty catchy and memorable chorus. I liked it immediately.

Even more impressive to me was “Don’t Say No”. Like most of the songs on Hungry, it’s got an in your face aggressively rocking feel to it, but at the same time has a fantastic hook and great melodies. I’ve got to say that I really loved the guitar work from guitarist Marc Diglio. And though I’m sure it’s well established that Terry Ilous is a damn good singer, it is here that I really came to appreciate that fact for myself.

When it comes to cover songs, I’m both picky and fickle about what makes a good cover. And there are some bands that I don’t feel should be covered by anyone because you simply can’t do the original songs justice no matter how hard you try. One of those bands is Free. There’s just something about their music that defies replication in my mind. I don’t know why I feel that way but it also extends to Bad Company and I’m guessing part of the reason may be that I’m so loyal to the vocals of Paul Rodgers. However, I came away highly impressed with XYZ’s cover of “Fire And Water”, the title track of Free’s third album. It may not be exactly like the original but I thought this version really worked well.

The rest of Side One of the album is just as impressive with the songs “When The Night Comes Down”, “Off To The Sun” and the side closing “Feels Good”. That last song pretty much sums up how I felt after listening to the first side and spoiler alert…the album as a whole.

Side Two breaks through from the start with “Shake Down The Walls”. It’s got a rocking immediacy to it and I can just imagine being in the audience at a show and just pumping my fist in the air to this track.

You’ll note that as yet I’ve not described any song with the dreaded “power ballad” term. That ends quickly on Side Two with the song “When I Find Love”. While I’ve found some ballads in recent albums that I’ve actually enjoyed, this song will not be joining the list. While it checks all the expected boxes for a power ballad to be successful, it just seemed to set my teeth on edge.

The song “H.H. Boogie” is flat out awesome and a great showcase for Marc Diglio. There’s a swinging feel to the song’s tempo and everything about this song made me want to hear it over and over again. The band gets even more aggressively paced on the song “The Sun Also Rises In Hell”. The song really got my blood pumping as the band as a whole combined to put on a fantastic performance with this track. I love just how hard-edged the song sounds and along with “H.H. Boogie”, is among my favorite cuts on the album.

Hungry closes out on a continued roll with the songs “A Roll Of The Dice” and “Whiskey On A Heartache”. The two tracks are both rockers and continue to demonstrate that while I may have taken until this release marked its 30th anniversary to “discover” it, better late than never is definitely true.

Seriously, this album is a superbly entertaining release and I know that if the band ever returns to my area whenever lives concerts return, I’m going to be in the audience…fists pumping in belated but fervent fandom!

NOTES OF INTEREST: The Hungry album failed to chart when it was released and led to the departure of guitarist Marc Diglio and drummer Paul Monroe. The band recruited new members Tony Marcus and Joey Shapiro for the tour and they are still in the current lineup today.

Personally, I thought the album cover art was a bit cartoonishly silly but I loved the “warning” in the liner notes saying that the recording may contain subliminal messages. The CD release of the album contains the bonus track “Two Wrongs Can Make A Right”. It isn’t on the cassette

Musician Jeff Paris co-wrote three of the songs on the album as well as co-arranged the band’s cover of “Fire And Water”. Over the course of his career he has written songs with and/or for Y&T, Lita Ford, Mr. Big and Vixen and others. He’s sometimes credited as Geoffrey Leib. Paris has released six solo albums as well.

Magazine advertisement for XYZs “Hungry.”