Category Archives: Cassette Chronicles

The Cassette Chronicles – Rush’s ‘Moving Pictures’

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.

RUSH – MOVING PICTURES (1981)

It is with broken hearts and the deepest sadness that we must share the terrible news that on Tuesday our friend, soul brother and band mate of over 45 years, Neil, has lost his incredibly brave three and a half year battle with brain cancer (Glioblastoma). We ask that friends, fans, and media alike understandably respect the family’s need for privacy and peace at this extremely painful and difficult time. Those wishing to express their condolences can choose a cancer research group or charity of their choice and make a donation in Neil Peart’s name.

Rest in peace brother.

Neil Peart September 12, 1952 – January 7, 2020

The above statement was released on Friday January 10th, 2020 and it sent shock waves through the music world as fellow musicians and fans worldwide were stunned by the death of Neil Peart. Of course, it wasn’t just that the husband, father and drummer for the band Rush had passed away, but that so very few people even knew that he’d been sick with brain cancer. But I guess that was by design and intent, summed up by a song on the very album I’m writing about in this article.

I wasn’t originally going to be writing about a Rush album this week, but I kind of felt compelled to do so because of Peart’s passing.

There has always seemed to me a schism in how music fans have felt about Rush. You have the diehards who can’t get enough of the band. To them, Rush is the be all, end all of music. Then you have those who for a myriad of reasons, just don’t like them at all.

I suppose that I can understand each side. But I’m somewhere in the middle. For me, in the most general of terms, Rush has always been a “radio band” to me. That’s the phrase I use for bands that I love hearing on the radio but don’t really feel overly compelled to buy their albums. Or if I do buy their music, it is on a very limited basis. I hear Rush all the time on 94 HJY out of Providence, Rhode Island. And whenever they play a song, I love to hear it. The band’s “hits” are damn good and invite repeated listening.

But for whatever reason, I’ve never been a diehard. I didn’t see them in concert and I’d only bought a couple of their albums (on cassette). When I first discovered the idea of concept albums, it was releases by Queensryche and Iron Maiden that fueled my fire for that style. When I found out Rush had done one with 2112, I bought it. Of course, maybe I’m just not smart enough to appreciate what they did on that album but sadly, I found it impenetrable for me. I also had the Presto album which was purchased because I really liked the song “Show Don’t Tell”. Unfortunately, neither album still has a home in my music collection.

So it was off to the record shop where I knew I could pick up a Rush cassette to be the focus of today’s piece. I’ll admit that I kind of took the easy way out by picking Moving Pictures because it was stocked with three huge hits for the band.

(Let me add that I fully realize that whatever I write from this point forward, I know it is a case of most people thinking “No Shit, Sherlock” regarding my impressions)

The seven track album runs just over 40 minutes but there’s a whole lot of musicality packed into every second of its run time.

Side One is top heavy with three killer classics, but before I talk about those I want to mention the other song on this side first. “YYZ” is an instrumental and I think it will shock no one that I haven’t heard it before. Like I said, I’m a hits on the radio fan for the most part. I think that my lack of musical ability tends to affect my ability to appreciate most instrumental works as well. But I have to say that I came away pretty invigorated by “YYZ”. There’s plenty of spotlight moments for guitarist Alex Lifeson and bassist Geddy Lee as well as Neil Peart. Of course, it doesn’t surprise me that when they are all melding into one sound that the song is at its best. It was a nice discovery to make.

As for the hits, what can I say that is new to anyone regarding “Tom Sawyer”? That’s right…nothing. It is just a flat out great song and has definitely earned its place in any best of Rush list.

“Red Barchetta” did provide me a bit of a surprise believe it or not. I’ve heard the song an ungodly amount of times but that familiarity kind of blurred the lyrics for me. As I listened to it for this article, it dawned on me that it was all about a wild drive in a car. I looked up the story behind the song and it was pretty fascinating. I think that I’ll be listening to the song with a different appreciation from now on.

Before I talk about what I consider my favorite song on the album (and probably my favorite Rush song period), let’s skip to Side Two first. Let me just say that I just didn’t really find “The Camera Eye” or “Witch Hunt” to be my cup of tea. But I was pretty happy to find myself enjoying “Vital Signs” a whole bunch.

Okay, back to the album centerpiece (my opinion) song. “Limelight” is the closing track on Side One and it is a musical and lyrical showcase. Peart’s thoughts and feelings about the band’s increasing fame set to music ironically only served to increase the band’s fame because this song is such an all-time classic. It also helps that Geddy Lee’s vocal for the song was particularly inspired. Neil wrote it, Lee “sold” it and Lifeson plays a hell of a solo on it.

I don’t know if this is an overreaction to Neil Peart’s death or not but I like that I gained an appreciation for one of the band’s albums regardless of the initial prompt to do so. Whether it will further key me up to do a deeper dive into the band’s music, I don’t know. But I’d like to think that it would. It is sad that it would take the death of one of the band members to do that but having a fuller appreciation of the depth of loss felt by those who have worshipped the band’s music for decades can’t be a bad thing.

In “Limelight”, Peart wrote the following:

” Living in a fisheye lens

Caught in the camera eye

I have no heart to lie

I can’t pretend a stranger

Is a long awaited friend”

I get what he was saying with that line, but I think that I can say that by discovering a love of the Moving Pictures album, I can see why Rush fans would reverse those last two lines on him at this time. Their shared love of the music Peart was involved in creating with Lee and Lifeson made him seem more friend than stranger. So I can see why those diehard fans like Limelight Magazine’s own Jay Kenney would have, upon hearing that Peart had died, “felt a shadow cross their heart.”

NOTES OF INTEREST: KNAC.COM aired a three hour block of Rush music on Sunday January 12th during The Vault radio program hosted by DJ Will as a tribute to Neil Peart.

In a bit of odd timing, a friend of mine in Wisconsin named Cindy got back in touch with me after I hadn’t heard from her in a long time. She’s a huge fan of Rush, but lost everything including her Rush music collection in a recent apartment fire. During that trip to the record shop to get the Moving Pictures cassette, I picked up a CD editions of the first Rush album and the Rush in Rio live album to send her as she begins to re-assemble her collection.

The Cassette Chronicles – David Lee Roth’s ‘A Little Ain’t Enough’

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.

DAVID LEE ROTH – A LITTLE AIN’T ENOUGH (1991)

It’s funny how things turn out sometimes. I picked this album out of The Big Box of Cassettes and even though I hadn’t listened to it yet, I kind of started writing a potential opening to this article in my head.

However, I really had to throw that out once I listened to the album. The reason for that is because most of what I was going to say by way of introduction had to be eliminated or at least changed up a bit.

While I have listened to David Lee Roth sing as part of Van Halen for years, I have to say that I was never a member of the Cult of Dave. He was a great frontman, that’s not in question. But I just never thought he was the greatest thing since sliced bread like so many other fans would likely say. And as he aged, the stuff that made him a legend became more cartoonish and sad to me.

As for his solo music, I’d heard the various songs that got played on the radio, but the only album I ever bought was the Skyscraper release. That had the big “Just Like Paradise” hit on it and I liked that album well enough. But I’d never bothered with any of his other albums, so listening to A Little Ain’t Enough for this article was also the first time I’d heard anything besides the title track.

Let’s just say I didn’t have high expectations.

And wow did I get a wildly rude awakening! Seriously, this is a such a freaking fantastic album that if I was a Looney Tunes cartoon character my eyes would be bugging out of my head and my jaw would’ve hit the ground like an anvil.

The title song opens up the 12-track album and it is still rather exciting to hear. I think I heard it recently on the Dee Snider radio show “The House of Hair” so that might be why I remember it so keenly now. Either way, it is a really rocking number that sets the stage for the rest of the album.

The thing that I had somehow forgotten is that this album featured Jason Becker on lead guitar. I remember that he had been in the band but not what period that was in Roth’s solo career. Looking at the songwriting credits, I did find it odd that he only had just two co-writing credits though (More on Becker in the Notes of Interest section).

Truth be told, the credited band lineup for the album was pretty intriguing. Steve Hunter (from The Alice Cooper Band), Brett Tuggle and both Matt and Gregg Bissonette. They all had songwriting credits in various combinations as well.

Still, that couldn’t have really prepared me for what was to follow the album’s title cut. Let me just get it out of the way now, there is not a bad track on here! With six songs on each side of the cassette, Roth has what would likely be thought of in the 1980’s as a perfect album to put on at a party.

The majority of the music is of the fast paced and crackling with electricity rockers but on a couple of songs (“Tell The Truth” and “Sensible Shoes”), Roth and Co. get impressively bluesy.

As I said, I like every song on this album. I bounced from one cut to the next with a very charged feeling to hear what was next. I suppose I was also waiting for a song to come on that I didn’t like so that I could say, “Ah! This Sucks!”, but I gave up on that by the time Side One finished.

I loved the Side One song “Hammerhead Shark” a lot, but I was really blown away by the Side Two track “It’s Showtime!” which was one of the two tracks that Jason Becker co-wrote. It’s is so relentlessly paced that I wondered how Roth kept up the rapid fire pace with his vocals to keep up with the music.

And that’s just a couple of tracks that I decided to spotlight in particular. But you can’t go wrong with any of the songs. You’ll find something to love with “Lady Luck”, “Shoot It”, “Last Call” and “40 Below” as well.

Normally, I might be mad to have been so thoroughly proven wrong about an artist and/or album but with the case of David Lee Roth, this album’s title proves musically prophetic because I find myself unable to get enough of this album. It’s really impressive to me and I think that once I finish writing this article, I’m going to go back and play it again!

NOTES OF INTEREST: Guitarist Jason Becker was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) a week after joining the band. While he did finish recording this album, he was unable to tour for it as his illness had progressed enough to rob him of the strength in his hands.

Guitarist Steve Hunter not only played on nine Alice Cooper albums (including the most recent one Paranormal) but he’s played with Lou Reed, Peter Gabriel, Tracy Chapman and others. He’s also released seven solo albums. According to Wikipedia, he’s legally blind.

While A Little Ain’t Enough sold enough copies to achieve gold certification, it was considered the downfall of Roth’s run of success. The tour was a failure and the album went out of print in 1996 before a remastered edition was released in 2007. The title track was co-written by singer/producer Robbie Nevil, best known for the 1986 smash hit single “C’est la Vie”.

The biggest surprise to me, other than loving the album, was discovering that longtime Dio guitarist Craig Goldy co-wrote the song “Lady Luck” for the album.

 

The Cassette Chronicles – Queensryche’s ‘Queensryche’

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.

QUEENSRYCHE – QUEENSRYCHE (E.P., 1983)

2019 was a pretty big year for Queensryche and their now ex-lead singer Geoff Tate. The band had pretty big success with their new album The Verdict, which not only got great reviews but it was named on a number of best of lists including my own personal list as well as Limelight Magazine’s Top 10 of 2019 rankings. Their tour for the album got great notices, which I agreed with when I saw their performance in Worcester, MA, early in 2019.

As for Geoff Tate, he spent the year touring behind the 30th anniversary celebration of the band’s Operation:mindcrime album. He played a two night stop in New Bedford, MA, and when I saw the first night’s show, the reports I’d heard that he sounded better than he had in years was confirmed. When I read that he was coming back to the area in 2020 to perform the albums Rage For Order and Empire, it was the first concert ticket I bought.

So when I decided to ease into this year’s Cassette Chronicles articles by featuring an EP, the original Queensryche EP was the only real choice I could make.

As I mentioned in my article on the Operation:mindcrime album last year, the EP was my first brush with the band’s music but it came at a time when I had yet to become a metal fan, so I didn’t really think much of it when I first listened to it.

Of course, that changed once I got into the band. And as I listened to this release for the article, I was kind of taken aback by just how fantastic the band sounded right out of the gate. There’s just four songs on the EP but each one gives a clue at the band’s greatness to come.

“Queen of the Reich” is one of the band’s signature songs no matter how much time passes. Besides the obvious tie with the band’s name, the racing intensity gives the track an anthemic quality while simultaneously making your pulse pound.

The next two songs are “Nightrider” and “Blinded”. I don’t think they get nearly the recognition they probably deserve. However, you’d be remiss to simply forget about them. “Nightrider” is a fast paced metallic romp that features a kind of science fiction bent to the lyrics. This is something that would later echo on the some of the material on the Rage For Order album. As for “Blinded”, the rhythmic pounding behind the kit by drummer Scott Rockenfield gave the song the heavy sound conveyed along with the attacking guitar sound. His drum work is superb throughout but it is this song which he elevates the most.

Of course, the band’s best work is saved for the closing track “The Lady Wore Black”. As the title readily implies, this is an epic track that is the band’s first brush with telling a story with both a dramatic and theatrical sense of style. It sets the stage for all the other epics they would write over the next few albums including the entirety of the Operation:mindcrime release. It’s also the song where the legend of Geoff Tate starts to form. His vocals are superb on this track in particular as he embodies the lyrics, conveying the song’s emotional heft to the listener as if this was something that he had actually experienced himself.

Truth be told, once I had begun my Queensryche fandom and had obtained all their back material, it amazed me to realize just how fully formed the band felt right from the start. Every band has a starting point and you’d be hard pressed to deny that the Queensryche EP is just about as note perfect as a band could hope to be on their first release.

NOTES OF INTEREST: The original release of the album lasts less than 18 minutes. It was first released in 1983 by 206 Records but when the band signed with EMI-America it was reissued via that later again that same year. The tour behind this release saw Queensryche open for Quiet Riot and Twisted Sister.

When the album was first issued on CD, the song “Prophecy” was included as a bonus cut. The song was recorded during the Rage For Order period. A 2003 reissue saw the audio tracks from the Queensryche VHS release Live In Tokyo added to the album. The VHS is out of print (but I have a copy of it).

THE BEST OF THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES 2019 – YEAR 3

By JAY ROBERTS

It’s been another fun-filled year for me as The Cassette Chronicles series continued along its merry way in 2019. I got to spotlight some of my favorite bands and albums of all-time, hit the milestone of 100 articles and saw one of the articles from years past get an extra day in the sun when the band spotlighted it earlier this year as part of the 30th anniversary of its release. (Thanks to Leatherwolf!)

I love getting to write about albums from Queensryche, Savatage, and Def Leppard, there’s no doubt about that. But this year, I got to discover a lot of new music that I’d either barely heard of or had never heard of at all. Those albums were usually quite a joy for me to have “newly” discovered after all this time.

In deference to that, I decided to change up my year-end recap article for 2019. I love Operation: mindcrime, Pyromania, Hi Infidelity and all the other well-known albums I wrote about this year but let’s face it, they don’t need my help to be remembered or sought out by new audiences. So instead, I’m going to give the spotlight once again to albums that I hadn’t listened to before this year. While there are still 10 in the list, they are not in any particular order this time around.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this year of The Cassette Chronicles, whether you’ve agreed or been annoyed by the opinions I’ve expressed and I look forward to bringing you more spotlighted albums in 2020! Thanks for reading everyone!

Click on the title of the cassette to read the review.

#1 – TYKETTO – DON’T COME EASY

#2 – JULLIET – JULLIET

#3 – HOUSE OF LORDS – DEMONS DOWN


 

#4 – BATON ROUGE – SHAKE YOUR SOUL

#5 – COMPANY OF WOLVES – COMPANY OF WOLVES

#6 – BAD ENGLISH – BACKLASH

 

#7 – KEEL – KEEL

         KEEL – (TIE) THE FINAL FRONTIER

#8 – DANGER DANGER – DANGER DANGER

 

#9 – SARAYA – SARAYA

#10 – ROUGHHOUSE – ROUGHHOUSE

 

The Cassette Chronicles – Lou Gramm’s ‘Long Hard Look’

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.

(WRITER’S NOTE: THIS IS THE LAST REGULAR ARTICLE IN THE SERIES FOR 2019. A BEST OF THE YEAR PIECE WILL APPEAR IN A WEEK OR TWO. THE REGULAR SERIES WILL RETURN IN 2020.)

LOU GRAMM – LONG HARD LOOK (1989)

Following the success of his first solo release Ready Or Not in 1987 (that generated the Top 5 single “Midnight Blue”), singer Lou Gramm’s second solo release hit store shelves in 1989 and continued his run as one of the more notable voices in rock history.

While still a member of Foreigner until 1990, the ongoing creative issues between Gramm and Mick Jones over the direction of the band’s music had to have played a role in why this particular album had such a rock and/or hard rock feel to the material.

While I do remember the song “Just Between You And Me” (which would go on to hit #6 on the singles chart) quite fondly, I’d never listened to this album before. This is a sad realization for me because as it turns out, it’s a pretty darn good album.

The first side of the album is astoundingly good. While I wasn’t totally into the rather uptempo love song “True Blue Love”, it’s not terrible per se. I just didn’t find myself particularly inspired by it.

But that song aside, the rest of side one is one rocker after another. The album opens with “Angel With A Dirty Face” and the song really grabs you right from the start. Fast paced with a sweet guitar line running through the song, the track has a very cool sounding chorus that blends it all together. Personally, I think this would’ve been another great choice to release as a single back then.

That’s followed up by “Just Between You And Me” and I’d say it is one of his best songs whether solo or from his days with Foreigner. Hard driving tempo combined with just the right pop touch to make it the hit that it became, the track still stands up perfectly.

There’s a slightly edgier undertone to the song “Broken Dreams”, particularly as it relates to the guitar work. I don’t know why, but this song really worked for me. It also had another big sounding chorus, so that helps as well. As for the side closing “I’ll Come Running”, well it is just a great sounding track with a kick you in the butt song construction that got my blood pumping.

Anyone who’s listened to the classic rocker tracks from Foreigner knows that Lou Gramm can really deliver the goods when it comes to high energy and fast paced vocals. “Hot Blooded”, “Juke Box Hero”, “Cold As Ice” anyone?

But you could’ve floored me with “Hangin’ On My Hip”, lead song on Side 2 of Long Hard Look. It’s a pure hard rock track. There’s no “classic” rock or “pop” rock description for this song , it is HARD ROCK. And Lou Gramm really seemed to cut loose vocally on the song. It’s just freaking awesome to hear him do this kind of track, even if I’m 30 years late in discovering it.

Given the era this album was released, it comes as no surprise that there is a power ballad to deal with. It is just a tad bit ironic that ballads were an issue between Lou Gramm and Mick Jones but Gramm still couldn’t get away from the song style on his solo release. I know that Gramm wrote this song all on his own, but good grief this was just cloying claptrap to me.

Thankfully, the turn for the softer side of things was short-lived as the album closes out with rockers like “Day One”, “I’ll Know When It’s Over” and a cover of the Small Faces song “Tin Soldier”.

Lou Gramm’s standing as one of the defining voices of rock music is secured. But finding out just how good Long Hard Look was, even three decades after I should’ve done so, I can’t help feeling that I need to do a far better job in getting to know the ins-and-outs of his work in order to have a far better sense of appreciation for just how special he is as a singer. Long Hard Look is an excellent way to begin doing that very thing.

NOTES OF INTEREST: Guitarist Nils Lofgren played guitar on the songs “Just Between You and Me” and “Day One”. The latter track also featured guitar playing from Dio and Def Leppard guitarist Vivian Campbell. He played on the songs “Broken Dreams” and “Hangin’ On My Hip” as well.

The Cassette Chronicles – Julian Lennon’s ‘Valotte’

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.

JULIAN LENNON – VALOTTE (1984)

When I dug this album out of the Big Box of Cassettes, I was brought back to 1984 and reminded of the time when I first heard the title track to the album. I can’t remember if it was part of the regular rotation on 92 Pro FM out of Providence, Rhode Island or if it was on their Sunday morning broadcast of American Top 40 with Casey Kasem, but for some reason the song struck a chord with me.

But in all honesty, I really haven’t thought much about the song over the last 35 plus years. I never owned the album itself and while I’d heard “Too Late For Goodbyes” over the years, I had no current knowledge of the “Valotte” song. So it was a little bit of a disappointing surprise to me that as I heard it as an “almost-new” song, I was left wondering why I loved it so much back then. While I still think it is a decent song, I found that the track just had a different tone to me than I had remembered from back in the day. I don’t know if it just was that it seemed somehow slower in tempo than I remembered or what, but it just wasn’t the same to me.

But as that song faded, I had to quickly turn the page and get on with my impressions of the rest of the album. As I said, this was the first time I’d heard the official album in total so there was some discoveries to be made.

The first side of the album was packed with some really intriguing songs. “O.K. For You” had a earworm of a guitar sound to it. The track had an uptempo bounce to it, which was nice considering it followed the “Valotte” song, so the energy pick me up was a nice immediate change of pace. I also really got into the song “On The Phone” which featured a big band sound particularly in the middle of the song.

Unfortunately, I can’t say that about the song “Space”. I thought the presentation of the song was more than a bit hazy, as if Lennon was casting about for some definitive direction and just never really found it. Overall, I thought this one was kind of drag.

But Side One finished strong with “Well I Don’t Know”. It featured an uptick in the music’s pacing and the song, which was written for Lennon’s father John (and if I have to explain that connection further, stop reading this article!), ended up being a rather interesting musical nugget.

As for Side Two, that opened up with the aforementioned “Too Late For Goodbyes”. I’d like to say that I remembered that this song was on the album BEFORE I listened to it but I’d be lying. However, I did remember the song and whether it was due to actually having heard it over the years or just because it hit me stronger, it is my favorite cut on the album overtaking my initial belief back in 1984 that I liked “Valotte” more as a song.

I can’t say I was completely into “Lonely” or the closing piano based “Let Me Be” but I did quite enjoy “Jesse” and “Say You’re Wrong”, which had a crackling urgency fused with a really cool pop sensibility to it.

Julian Lennon has released six solo albums over his career, but Valotte is by far his most successful in terms of sales and chart success. I have to say that I had a great time experiencing this album for the first time. There may be songs on it that didn’t quite cut the mustard with me, but perfect albums being few and far between, it was still a thrill to discover new songs that actually did make my musical heart go all pitter-patter.

I know that fans of The Beatles will likely lay claim to some of the music’s influences belonging to the Fab Four, but if you like straightforward pop music (that would now be referred to as Adult Contemporary), you’ll find that Julian Lennon’s first solo album Valotte has him standing quite capably on his own two feet.

NOTES OF INTEREST: The Valotte album (which was certified platinum) was produced by Phil Ramone. His list of credits is both extensive and a who’s who of some of the biggest names in music history. He would win 14 Grammys for his work before his death in 2013.

The “Valotte” song hit #9 on the singles chart, while “Too Late For Goodbyes” went to #5. The latter is Julian Lennon’s most successful single. The videos for both songs were directed by the legendary movie director Sam Peckinpagh.

 

The Cassette Chronicles – The Cult’s ‘Sonic Temple’

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.

THE CULT – SONIC TEMPLE (1989)

Before popping in the cassette to give The Cult’s Sonic Temple album a listen so that I could write this article, I had to think back to my recollections of the album from when it was first released and the subsequent tour opening for Metallica when I got to see the band perform live.

The album eventually spawned four singles and I actually did quite enjoy them all on their own. Whether on MTV or the radio, each time “Fire Woman” started playing my ears perked up. The other singles put out had a similar effect. But the strange thing is that I remember being more than a little disappointed when I actually got my hands on a copy of the album. I remember thinking that the rest of the material just didn’t really do much for me.

Now that I’ve given this now thirty year old release a new listen, I’ve had a pretty drastic change of opinion about the album as a whole. But there was a 2nd reason why I kind of gave up on The Cult after this album and that goes back to when I saw them live.

I’ve told the story to people before so anyone that knows me in real life will likely already know what I’m about to write here. Frankly put, singer Ian Astbury was the LAZIEST live performer I’ve ever seen. When I saw them open for Metallica, I noticed that something was off with the vocals and then I started doing that damn counting thing I sometimes do. Sure enough, Astbury was fudging his vocal performance. No, not faking it or anything, but he was actually skipping every third word of the lyrics. Didn’t matter what song, I counted them all as soon as I noticed. He would skip every third word because the crowd was singing along and filling in the vocals for him. For some reason, this just really annoyed the crap out of me and it soured me not only on the band but the album as well. I still liked “Fire Woman” but I ended up getting rid of the album over my probably unreasonable attitude about the lack of full vocal performance in a concert.

Yes, it is special kind of dumb reasoning on my part, but that’s how it was for me then. However, like I said earlier, I’ve had a big change of opinion about things now.

The first side of the album is top heavy with all four of the released singles being on it. I mentioned “Fire Woman”, which remains a purely powerful ball of energy that continually punches you in the gut as it blazes a rocking path. The music strikes fast and hard (Billy Duffy’s guitars on this song and the entire album are outstanding) and Astbury’s vocals were and remain a huge hook for the song.

The song “Sun King” was more of a rock radio type of single so it might not be quite as well remembered but I was struck by just how much I enjoyed it this time around. As for “Sweet Soul Sister” and “Edie (Ciao Baby)”, they are just those earworm kind of songs that always key memories back to the first time you heard them.

What did surprise me a bit with Side One was the only non-single track “American Horse”. The song is rocking but I was kind of floored with how much I ended up liking the phrasing of the vocals/lyrics from Ian Astbury. It left me wondering why I didn’t hear that when I first had the album.

Side Two was a slightly different mix of songs for me. I wasn’t all that sold on the opening “Soul Asylum” or “Wake Up Time For Freedom”. Both songs just didn’t quite get over the hump for me. But the good news is, the rest of the songs really worked well. The cassette version of the album contained a bonus track called “Medicine Train” and it was a killer rock track that ended up closing the album out on a high note, but it was the middle of Side Two that did the really heavy lifting. “Automatic Blues” and “Soldier Blue” were both straight up rock songs. Start to finish, each really knew how to find its way into a listener’s blood and get them fired up.

But what really did it for me and is probably the second best song on the entire album (behind “Fire Woman”, of course) was the song “New York City”. There’s just something about this song, a hard driving rocker fueled by storming guitars and a thrilling vocal performance that drove it home for me. It’s a song that probably should’ve been at least considered for being released as a single because there’s just no reason that more people shouldn’t have heard this at the time. Which is a bit ironic coming from me since I completely missed out on all these songs the first time around because I was apparently unable to “hear” what was going on then.

So despite my decades old misgivings about the album, I can honestly say that I’ve had a huge change of heart about Sonic Temple as an album in full. I didn’t like the album tracks that much when it first came out and now I just want to pop the tape back in and play it all over again. If you are reading this article, you should probably think about doing that as well.

NOTES OF INTEREST: The album is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its release this year. The limited edition reissue of Sonic Temple came out in October 2019 and it has 5 CDs that includes a remastered edition of the album, rare tracks, a live album and more.

Iggy Pop sang backing vocals on the song “New York City”.

Sonic Temple was the last album the band recorded with bassist Jamie Stewart. He left the group in 1990. He appeared on stage with the band to celebrate the 25th anniversaries of the Love and Electric albums, but is otherwise retired from the music industry since 1994.