Category Archives: Cassette Chronicles

The Cassette Chronicles – John Norum’s ‘Total Control’

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.

John Norum’s Total Control (1988)

If I remember an article I read correctly, guitarist John Norum left Europe back in the 1980’s because he was unhappy over the more commercial bent of the group’s music. Given that he has been part of the lineup for years with the band’s turn towards a more classic rock sound these days, you can kind of see where he was coming from given the material that was included on this particular album.

With Norum singing lead on eight of the eleven tracks as well as playing guitar, the guitarist was clearly in as much “total control” as possible for the time. While the album’s production is clearly of the 80’s, the material does veer greatly into the heavier guitar driven sound. While keyboards do have a presence on the album, they don’t overwhelm the clearly more aggressive rocking vibe.

There are nine original songs on the album plus two covers. The cover of Thin Lizzy’s “Wild One” closes the album while Norum also covers the Vinnie Vincent Invasion song “Back on The Streets.”

The album does a nice job of keeping the blood flowing with great guitar work on tracks like “Eternal Flame” and “Law of Life,” but the downbeat and moody style employed on “Too Many Hearts” makes for a disappointing song.

When you think about it, the album is kind of a foretelling of what Europe is doing now, musically speaking. And it isn’t a bad thing either. This album is quite enjoyable and I think people will be surprised by what they hear.

Note of Interest: Swedish singer Goran Edman, who would go on to front Yngwie Malmsteen’s band for two albums (amongst many other projects), sings lead on the three tracks where Norum does not have the lead vocal.

The Cassette Chronicles – Eddie Money’s ‘Nothing To Lose’

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.

Eddie Money’s Nothing To Lose (1988)

In a previous installment of The Cassette Chronicles I wrote about Eddie Money’s Can’t Hold Back album and how beyond the two hit songs from the release, the album was otherwise lacking in high quality material.

Nothing To Lose was the follow up album to Can’t Hold Back and it is surprisingly much more of a cohesive album. This is in spite of the fact that it really only has one hit song, the solidly entertaining “Walk On Water.” Working in concert with guitarist Richie Zito (who played guitar on eight of the ten songs as well as co-producing and co-arranging), Money found a real solid groove here.

While the more commercially oriented material is the main component, there’s a couple of full on rocking tracks. “Forget About Love” and “Bad Boy” have a strong guitar that runs throughout each song. The solo on the latter song is electrifying while the more aggressive than expected guitar work on the former song at first surprised and then delighted.

The track “Let Me In” has kind of annoying build up in the chorus but the song was otherwise solid. And the atypically good but not sugary love song “Pull Together” was lyrically potent.

While this was pretty much the last Eddie Money album that I can say that I paid attention to, it did take me a little by surprise and I’m pretty happy that was the case. I’ve got a couple of online friends who rave about Eddie Money to this day and looking back on this album will likely mean I have to break down and check out some of the material that came later on.

Note of Interest: Guitarist Stevie Salas made a guest appearance on the track “Let Me In”.

The Cassette Chronicles – Lindsey Buckingham’s ‘Go Insane’

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.

Lindsey Buckingham’s Go Insane (1984)

When this album was originally released, I loved the title track. But in all honesty, I don’t think I’ve actually heard the song in the proceeding three decades. You can chalk this entire album up to the notion that sometimes feeling nostalgic or indulging yourself in it comes back and bites you in the butt rather than remind you of good times long past.

I’m not one that looks to go negative in a review or hope to be entirely positive. I just want to give my opinion on what I hear for the good or the bad. But since reviews should consist of more than “This Sucks!” here goes…

I’m not entirely sure what the point of the album was for Buckingham. The title track doesn’t live up to my memory of it at all. The vocals are entirely overproduced which leads them to seem either buried in the overall mix or treated as an afterthought throughout.

The “song” called “Play In The Rain” is the last song on the first side of the album and carries over to be the first song on side two. The only problem is that the track comes off more as a conceptual and/or experimental exercise rather than a real song. It’s a mostly existential wankfest. And that’s probably the kindest thing I can say about pretty much everything on this release. It is like the ability to write a quality song somehow deserted Buckingham here. The fact that I actually liked the title track when it was first release is kind of embarrassing now that I’ve looked back at it.

Even the most interesting song, “Loving Cup”, is ruined by the vocal production. I think if I ended up listening to this album again, I just might live up to its title and actually “go insane” for real.

The Cassette Chronicles – Cheap Trick’s Lap of Luxury

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.

Cheap Trick’s Lap of Luxury (1988)

“You’ve got me all wound up and ready to go!”

Despite the preceding lyrical line belonging to the closing song “All Wound Up” on Lap of Luxury, the sentiment the lyric conveys pretty much sums up the whole album.

From the get the blood pumping opener “Let Go” to the final strains of music, this album doesn’t disappoint. Despite the heavy use of outside writers (the band wrote or co-wrote just six of the tracks), the music is in undeniable possession of that classic Cheap Trick rock and pop melodic sensibilities. The cover of the Elvis Presley hit “Don’t Be Cruel” is a winner in my estimation because it makes me like the song and I’m not really much of an Elvis fan.

The elephant in the room is the huge smash hit ballad “The Flame”. While the chart success of the song meant the track got insanely overplayed, it is a decent song. The funny thing is that I distinctly remember reading at least one article that the band really doesn’t care for the song. (I can’t find the article online so I can’t 100 percent confirm this though). But, it would be mildly amusing that the last big hit song the band had became one that its members liked the least.

I’m more partial to the songs that lean more towards the rock and roll side of the band’s music like “Space” and “Never Had A Lot To Lose”, but the decidedly more commercial sounding “Ghost Town” has its merits as well.

The subsequent tour for the album represents the one and only time that I’ve been able to see Cheap Trick live. They were opening for Robert Plant and I ended up going with the son of my boss at the time. The band put on a great show and, in a twisted sort of way, I’m glad that I haven’t been able to see them again so as not to sully the memory of their set. What made the set more memorable was how the band blew Robert Plant off the stage on that night. Plant’s set had the volume up so loud that you could barely hear a damn thing he was saying or singing. Cheap Trick grasped the notion that volume can’t be allowed to drown out the music.

“You’re holding out, but I’m holding on. Can’t wait until your resistance is gone.” The lyric made me wonder just how anyone could be holding back on giving some music fan loyalty to Cheap Trick. The band will always be seen for their success with At Budokan and Dream Police as well as their all-time hit “Surrender”, there’s no doubt about that. But for my money, the entirety of Lap of Luxury should be seen as one of their best collective offerings as well, regardless of how the band themselves may feel about the album.

Note of Interest: Keyboardist Greg Giuffria (House of Lords, Angel, Giuffria) co-wrote the song “All We Need Is A Dream” with Rick Nielsen and Robin Zander.

The Cassette Chronicles – Eddie Money’s ‘Can’t Hold Back’

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.

Eddie Money’s Can’t Hold Back (1986)

While classic rock radio will always keep “Two Tickets To Paradise” in their rotation when called upon to play an Eddie Money track, this album contains two more of his biggest hits in “Take Me Home Tonight (Be My Baby)”, the rocking track that features Ronnie Spector on guest vocals, and “I Wanna Go Back” which is a nice nod to nostalgia. That kind of struck me funny considering I’m listening to the full album for the first time as it has only recently had its own 30th anniversary.

The thing about this album is that despite containing two smash hits that the pop charts wholeheartedly embraced, there is nothing else really approaching the quality of either track throughout the rest of the album. I liked the song that opens up side two, “We Should Be Sleeping”, but that was mostly for the smoking guitar work in the song (particularly the solo on the outro).

While nothing is truly noteworthy for being bad, the album is top heavy with the hits and then just kind of meanders its way to the end. Pop music in the 1980’s had such a diverse roster of artists from various genres so you had to have radio friendly hits to make yourself heard in such a crowded field. However, it is very disappointing to me when an artist doesn’t back up those hits with some good old fashioned album tracks as well.

Notes of interest: Randy Jackson (now best known as a judge on American Idol) played bass on three tracks while Mr. Mister members Richard Page, Pat Mastelotto and Steve George pop up on the song “One Chance”.

The Cassette Chronicles – Autograph’s ‘Sign In Please’

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.

Autograph’s Sign In Please (1984)

“Day time, night time/Things go better with rock/I’m going 24 hours a day/I can’t seem to stop.”

For anyone listening to the radio in early 1985 when the Autograph song “Turn Up The Radio” gave the band their signature (and only) hit, that lyric was a great summing up of how it was to be a rock fan in the mid-1980’s. The song is still a hard rock anthem to this day.

As for the album the track was released on, Sign In Please had a few good companion songs but nothing that compared to the celebratory anthem that made the band so memorable today. The debut album’s 1980’s production decision to add keyboards to everything in an attempt to give songs a glossy sheen left the band sounding what is today described as an AOR sound as opposed to a straight up hard rock sound.

Sometimes that keyboard heavy sound works, such as with the track “Night Teen & Non Stop”, but for the most part it robbed songs of an edge that the material could’ve used. But when they weren’t overwhelmed by the keys, songs like “Deep End” really shined. And despite the impossibly cliched novelty song title and lyrics to “My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend Isn’t Me” is a rather catchy rocker.

Steve Plunkett had a really cool voice with a full throated rasp that gave the band’s sound a little bit of roughness that didn’t get polished over. Unfortunately, the majority of the songs on the album just kind of fell flat.

As much as I enjoyed the big hit song when it was playing on the radio back in the day, the band quickly fell off my own personal radar after that. They didn’t have the staying power given the quickly growing slate of rock bands. But even with their status as a kind of one hit wonder band, you could do far worse than being remembered for “Turn Up The Radio”.

Notes of Interest: The band played 48 shows opening for Van Halen before they were even signed to a record label. They broke up in 1989 without ever really benefiting from the whole 80’s metal scene beyond “Turn Up The Radio.” However, guitarist Steve Lynch and bassist Randy Rand got the band back together in 2013. Steve Plunkett declined to take part in the reunion but gave his blessing as the band recruited a new singer and drummer.

The Cassette Chronicles – Helix’s ‘Wild In The Streets’

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.

Helix’s Wild In The Streets (1987)

photo-helixIn 1987, heavy metal ruled the music world and there was a seeming endless supply of new bands each week. While Canadian rockers Helix had already been around since 1974, it was the band’s Wild In The Streets album that got my attention.

I’ve owned the album on cassette since it was released, but I haven’t heard it in a number of years because I kind of unsurprisingly wore it out by playing it so much. When the opportunity to grab up what turned out to be a brand new and unopened copy of the album for the inexpensive price of a cassette, I had to have it once again.

It is kind of amusing how I stumbled onto my love for this album. I was on a school trip for the cooking class I was taking at the time. We went to Johnson & Wales University in Providence, RI, for a tour. After the tour was over, we all ended up in the school bookstore where I stumbled upon the album and really got drawn in by the intriguing cover art. I had never heard of the band before but after listening to the album that first time, I was hooked.

The 10 song collection features a bluesy party rock vibe combined with a raspy vocal performance from singer Brian Vollmer (still the singer more than 40 years into the band’s run). Not only does he have the requisite power in his voice but it comes paired with a leering sort of grin in the vocal inflections depending on the subject matter of the lyrical content for a given track.

The opening guitar riff on the title track is an invitation to experience what the band has to offer. The phrasing and big backing vocals on “Never Gonna Stop The Rock” make for an immediately endearing chorus.

The album’s material features nine straight out rockers and one power ballad. This being an album released in 1987, the inclusion of said power ballad was to be expected, but this was before the power ballad movement became too overly crass. Thus, “Dream On” (NOT the Aerosmith song) was sentimental but not sickeningly sweet and sappy.

The underlying bluesy tones from the band helped give a nice extra something to the track “High Voltage Kicks”. The band’s lack of artifice about their party rock material is pretty much confirmed with the song “What Ya Bringin’ To The Party”. Also, since I was 16 at the time and hated everything the music labeling group the PMRC stood for, any song that had some sort of swearing in it was a big draw. So you can imagine how much my idiotic teenage brain loved the album closing “Kiss It Goodbye”.

Like I said, I hadn’t listened to it in years. However, as I listened to it for the purposes of this article, I was singing along with every lyric as if it was that first day I owned the album.

There’s really not a single bad track on the album. While the band never really had much in the way of huge commercial success, this album should’ve been one of the biggest of the 80’s. I’m most assuredly in the minority opinion on this, but for me Wild In The Streets is that good.

Notes of Interest: Don Airey and Mickey Curry make guest appearances on the album. Airey (who would go on to join Deep Purple in 2002), is one of three credited players on keyboards. Curry was one of three credited drummers for the album. He has played with a who’s who of artists in his career and was the drummer for the Bryan Adams smash hit album Reckless.