Category Archives: Cassette Chronicles

The Cassette Chronicles – Keel’s ‘Keel’

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.

KEEL – KEEL (1987)

For those of us who consider ourselves passionate fans of music, the truth of the matter is that there is always going to be entirely too much material for us to get to it all in a timely manner. And that’s allowing for the notion that we’ll ever get to it all.

Of course, taking three decades to check out an album is likely pushing the boundaries of the phrase “Better Late Than Never” but such is the case with Keel’s self-titled fourth album. While I have a Facebook friend who is seemingly friends with singer Ron Keel, I can’t begin to even guess whether or not I’ve ever heard a song from the band before now.

Like many metalheads, I’ve of course heard of the band but Keel fell into the category of a band I just never found time for back during metal’s 1980’s golden period. After listening to the Keel album, it would seem they now fall into the category of how did I miss out on them the first time around.

I say that because I was surprisingly taken with this album. Things kick off with a rousing and rocking anthem in “United Nations”. The music is incredibly strong with the guitar work of Bryan Jay and Marc Ferrari being immediately captivating. Ron Keel’s voice quite obviously fit the material but I found myself really listening to his vocals throughout the album, which led me to kicking myself over having ignored the band all these years.

The song “Somebody’s Waiting” was a bit of dip in the quality for me. It’s okay but doesn’t seem to have quite the same energetic feel as most of the other tracks on the album. Seeing how the album was put out in 1987, you can imagine that there was a power ballad type of song included. And with “Calm Before The Storm”, you’d be right in that assumption. I wasn’t quite taken with the song but I did like that the lyrics didn’t suffer from a sugary overload of trite emotional waterworks.

Still, the first side of the album is explosively rocking with the killer “Cherry Lane” and “King of the Rock”. The latter song is a furious blaze of music, with the song’s opening guitar driven intro quickly establishing itself as a song that needs to be not only heard, but played repeatedly…on 11!

The second side of the album opened up a little weaker than I would’ve hoped. “It’s a Jungle Out There” isn’t necessarily a bad song. The fast paced number just kind of felt rushed and everything ran together for me. It didn’t feel as if it truly blended all the elements together.

However, that’s the only down note about the second side of the album. Because wow did Keel kill it with the other songs. I don’t know what it was about the title “I Said The Wrong Thing To The Right Girl” but from the title to the actual song there was just something about the song that really appealed to me. I know that the title may seem a little silly but for me, any residual giggles about the title were blown away by just how good the song was. Another potentially silly sounding title was “If Love Is A Crime (I Wanna Be Convicted)”. I know it sounds kind of like something that would be included on a Ramones album but again the song itself is so strong that the title is just left in the dust when you think of it.

I thought “Don’t Say You Love Me” was a standout track. And thankfully, the song was a balls out rocker. Keel ends the album with literal and figurative fireworks. The song “4th of July” explodes from start to finish. Given that we just had the holiday recently, the way the song concludes with the inclusion of recorded fireworks going off, it was a nice kind of celebratory way to end the album.

So I’ve once again been surprised by my own musical ignorance. As I listened to each song I kept wondering why this album hadn’t been a bigger thing back in the day. The irony of thinking that while I was one of those millions who ignored the band and album does not escape me.

I will say that while the cassette played well enough for me to be able to write this article, it does seem like it might be ready to give up the ghost. I don’t say this often but I liked the album so much that I’m going to be looking to upgrade to a CD edition as soon as I can because the Keel album is just too good for me to not have in my musical collection anymore.

NOTES OF INTEREST: Guitarists Marc Ferrari and Bryan Jay would leave the band a year after the release of this album. However, they rejoined the band in 1998 and again in 2009 for Keel’s 25th anniversary reunion.

Black ‘N Blue frontman Jaime St. James sang backup vocals on “It’s A Jungle Out There” and “If Love Is A Crime (I Wanna Be Convicted)”

The song “Calm Before The Storm” was co-written by the longtime Dio and Rainbow bassist Jimmy Bain.

The Cassette Chronicles – Def Leppard’s ‘Pyromania’

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.

DEF LEPPARD – PYROMANIA (1983)

As I set to writing this article I was trying to come up with some new kind of angle that hasn’t been covered ad nauseum over the 36 years since Def Leppard first released Pyromania. But whether it is talking about the big hit songs from this album that launched the band into the stratosphere of rock royalty or the painstakingingly intense recording of the album as spearheaded by Mutt Lange, there’s not a whole heck of a lot that hasn’t been written about the album.

Yes, Pyromania is the album that truly launched the band’s career. Their two previous albums are really good. There’s no doubt about that. But in comparison to this album and then the even more massive success of Hysteria, both On Through The Night and High ‘n’ Dry somehow come off as relatively overlooked. For all the talk about how intense the collaboration with Lange was for this album, you can’t fault the finished product. There’s ten songs on the album and even though three songs are recognized as all-time rock classics, there is not a single bad track on the album (Okay, to be honest, I hate the outro on the album closing “Billy’s Got A Gun”). To this day, how can you not get a little shot of electricity when you hear “Photograph”, “Rock of Ages” or “Foolin'”?

But I love songs like “Stagefright” and “Die Hard The Hunter” as well. And the opening salvo of “Rock! Rock! (Til You Drop)” still gets me all keyed up to listen to the album in full.

See what I mean? It’s nice to read that stuff, but I’m not exactly saying anything that hasn’t been written before.

So instead, I thought I’d just go into a little bit of my own experience with the album instead. Pyromania was one of the first albums I ended up with as I took my initial foray into what has become a passionate love of rock and metal.

I can’t remember exactly how I came to possess my cassette copy of the album, but I am pretty sure that my parents bought it for me. Which is quite amusing when you consider that they wouldn’t buy me REO Speedwagon’s Hi Infidelity or Twisted Sister’s Stay Hungry albums when I asked for them because of the cover art. But if you take a look at the cover art for Pyromania, you might wonder why that was an okay piece for them to buy me.

Anyway, I still have that very cassette but for some reason I do not have the original case or the liner notes card that came with it. Instead, for years it has been stored in holder that was originally for blank cassettes (which were usually used to tape songs off the radio of course!). The liner card was flipped inside out and the track listing was written in hand in blue ink. And the album still plays wonderfully. I’d have to check because I think I did finally upgrade to a CD version of the album but I still love that cassette.

I’ve seen the band in concert twice, once in 1993 and then again in 2000. My sister was a big fan of Def Leppard at one point and I took her to that 2000 show. Rock fandom didn’t quite stick with her though as she’s more of a country music fan these days.

One of the coolest memories I have that is associated with the days of Pyromania is opening gifts that Christmas. My parents had managed to buy me not only an album cover art T-shirt but they had found a Def Leppard Union Jack painter’s cap. Let me tell you, I was pretty stoked when I opened that particular package.

Over the years, there has been an ebb and flow to my fandom for the band. I hated the Slang, Yeah! and Songs from the Sparkle Lounge releases, but I also loved Euphoria and truly raved about the 2015 Def Leppard album. But when I find the band has really hit on all the high marks that define their career, they are a vastly underrated rock act. Yes, I know that they seem to shy away from even being called a rock band, but that’s what they are and that is why I remain pretty devoted to their music.

Hysteria may be the band’s highest benchmark in terms of commercial success (more than 25 million albums sold). But for me and I’m guessing many others, that success wouldn’t have been possible without the breakthrough the band experienced as they worked on what would become Pyromania. It is an album that never fails to entertain me and stands up strong against whatever you might want to throw at it.

NOTES OF INTEREST: English musician Thomas Dolby, best known for the hit pop song “She Blinded Me With Science” played keyboards on the Pyromania album. He’s credited under the pseudonym Booker T. Boffin.

Producer Mutt Lange provided backing vocals on the album and did the spoken word intro on the song “Rock Of Ages”.

Despite being fired from the band before the completion of recording Pyromania, guitarist Pete Willis played the rhythm guitar tracks for all ten songs on the album.

The Cassette Chronicles – Beau Nasty’s ‘Dirty, But Well Dressed’

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.

BEAU NASTY – DIRTY, BUT WELL DRESSED (1989)

Even those who consider themselves hardcore fans of the 80’s metal years are likely to have some band that either they have never heard of before. Perhaps there’s a chance they’ve heard the name but memories of the music have been obscured by the passage of time.

The latter might just be the most fitting explanation for the band Beau Nasty. I’m sure most people reading this article are probably scratching their head saying, “Who?”.

Don’t worry though, you are in good company. I am pretty sure that I’ve heard the band’s name before but I can’t really guarantee that. And as for any memories of hearing the music off this sole album they released, nope!

The band is pretty darn obscure to say the least. I looked them up on line and there wasn’t really much to find. There’s not even a Wikipedia page for them.

Of course, after listening to Dirty, But Well Dressed, I can’t say that I’m all that surprised by the lack of information available. The album was released at the pinnacle of metal’s golden years. And despite the band seeming to check every box on the list of what a metal album should have in 1989, the material just really didn’t catch on with seemingly anyone. Of course, the silly album cover with the band posed in Renaissance-era costumes probably didn’t help matters with those people who scoured the shelves for new material to check out.

With the passage of time and new ears to listen though, I was surprised to find that there were some interesting songs to be heard after all. When I first listened to the album, my initial impression of singer Mark Anthony Fretz was that vocally he kind of sounded like a version of Dean Davidson from Britny Fox. Whether it was intentional or just how he sang anyway, the scratchy or raspy vocals gave a bluesy dimension to his performance at times.

The first side of the album kicks off with a song called “Shake It”. It’s not the most original title but there’s a fast paced gritty feel to the song that made me like it in spite of myself. You can check out the video the band made for the song on Youtube. Of course that strong start then gave way to a couple of mediocre rockers in “Goodbye Rosie” and “Gimme Lovin’. Not album killer tracks, but definitely felt like album filler to me.

Of course, those look like pure gold compared to the dreck that was the power ballad “Paradise In The Sand”, a song so dreadfully inane that if the TV show How I Met Your Mother had tried to use it for one of their “Robin Sparkles” episodes, the network’s standards and practices offices would’ve demanded they cut it from the show so they didn’t get arrested for crimes against humanity. Okay, perhaps that’s a bit of an oversell on my part but the song was awful.

Mercifully, the album’s title track close out Side One with a smoking energetic rocker that had me saying out loud as I listened, “I am really liking this one”. While that’s not going to win me any fine writing awards, it isn’t often that I talk to myself out loud while listening to an album for this series, so I look at that as a positive achievement on the band’s part.

Side two dug deep into that bluesy feel with the opening “Love To The Bone”. The song has a slow drawl to the opening sequence before a more driving rock tempo takes over and you are confronted with just a very cool song.

The song “Gemini” had kind of a ballad feel to it but there was more of a musical urgency to the song’s delivery. It gave the song some mildly interesting moments. Based solely on the title of the song, I thought “Piece of the Action” sounded like something that could’ve been on an early L.A. Guns release. However, the pain I felt and that you may feel if you choose to check out the album, returns in full force when another enforced ballad bleats through the speakers on “Make A Wish”. The best thing I can say about it is that it wasn’t worse than “Paradise In The Sand” (Spoiler alert: It was about equal in terms of the overly sappy quotient for this song).

The album closes with a cover of “Love Potion #9”. It is vastly “rocked” up in comparison the original song but it doesn’t do much to make this version any better.

It’s been a while since I’ve written a more downwardly slanted article about one of my albums. While Dirty, But Well Dressed has a few tracks that made things bearable, I can’t really come close to truly recommending that this one go on anyone’s must-listen to list.

NOTES OF INTEREST: As noted, this album was the only one the band produced. They formed in 1988 but had split by 1990.

While Beau Hill served as the album’s executive producer, I was more interested to find that Paul Winger is listed as a producer. Paul is the brother of Kip Winger. Both Beau Hill and Paul Winger, along with brother Nate Winger also helped provide backing vocals on the album as well.

Drummer Mike Terrana would go on from Beau Nasty to play in such heavier acts like Rage, Gamma Ray and Masterplan amongst his many credits.

The Cassette Chronicles – Queensryche’s ‘Operation Mindcrime’

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 – Operation: mindcrime (1988)

I love stories. I’ve always been interested in reading or hearing stories, especially when a long thoroughly conceived tale is to be had. TV’s Babylon 5 was described as a five year novel for television, there’s the entire Star Wars movie franchise and in my mild-mannered guise as a reviewer for the noted Mystery Scene magazine, I get the chance to read and review a number of stories. So you can imagine that the notion of a concept album where all the songs are geared towards telling one single story would be right up my alley.

There’s been many examples of great concept albums over the years, with metal being a primary source of this for my own personal enjoyment. Iron Maiden’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son and W.A.S.P.’s The Crimson Idol being two album that immediately come to mind.

But for what started my love of conceptual rock and metal albums, it really begins and ends with Queensryche’s Operation: mindcrime. It’s been nearly 31 years now, and I still get goosebumps whenever I play the album. And I’m kind of obsessed with it as well.

Before I get to that, let’s go back a bit further in time. The fandom I have for Queensryche (even a bit tattered as it is given all the controversies surrounding the splitting of the band a few years back), can first be traced to before I was a metal fan. I had a much older uncle on my father’s side. He lived in Vermont and was married to a woman that had an adult son that was in the armed services. The son was home on a weekend that my family was visiting the state for a summer vacation. After everyone else had gone to bed, he put on an album that I’d never heard before. I was yet to experience the birth of my metal fandom so I didn’t think much of it at first. But once my metal nature came to the forefront, I thought back and it turned out he had been playing the Queensryche EP that night.

But let’s get back to Operation: mindcrime, shall we? Spoken word intros, set pieces, actors performing roles of the characters “Nikki”, “Dr. X” and “Sister Mary” in the stories combined with some incredible metal music, how could you not like this album?

I was about 17 or so when the album came out and I remember that I received the cassette (which I still have and was listening to for the purposes of this article) as a Christmas present from my parents. (A far cry from when my mother wouldn’t buy me metal albums for gifts, no?) Anyway, I remember everything about that first listen in the mid-morning of Christmas Day. The way my bed was situated in the room I shared with my younger brother at the time, the shelf on the bookcase where my stereo of the moment sat and reading along to the lyrics sheet as Queensryche rocked their way through a dark and somewhat apocalyptic tale of conspiracy, corruption, death and destruction and murder and mayhem. For me, it was the best present I could’ve received.

The album’s production, the songwriting and the performances from singer Geoff Tate, guitarists Chris DeGarmo and Michael Wilton, bassist Eddie Jackson and drummer Scott Rockenfield fueled the story and provided this lover of stories with a tale that I just can’t ever seem to get enough of.

I mentioned that I’m kind of obsessed with the album. Hell, for a long time I identified Queensryche as my favorite band. I would listen to Operation: mindcrime as often as possible. I own it on LP, cassette and I have both the original CD release and the 2003 reissued edition as well, plus the version that came with their Revolution Calling box set. Hell, as a member of their official fan club, I was even able to buy a cassette tape that they were selling that contained an update from “Dr. X” himself on the state of the campaign. I still have that too. I still have the bumper stickers that came when you joined the fan club, for goodness sake! I even had a separate jean jacket that was dedicated solely to Queensryche with an Operation: mindcrime backpatch as the focal point along with the band’s name done on the shoulder blades of the jacket by my mother.

When the band announced that they were going to perform the entire album on their tour for the Empire album, I knew that I HAD to be there! And I was…TWICE! It is still one of the greatest concerts I’ve ever seen. They were simply on fire at this point in their career. When they released the live album Operation: Livecrime I bought both the cassette and CD editions because I just HAD to have them both!

I’ve imagined a movie for the story (writing the screenplay would be the ideal for me) and as a Dungeons & Dragons player, my friend Fred and I even started coming up with a game setting where the Operation: mindcrime setting was a reality, we were in the middle of it and Geoff Tate was actually revealed to be an elf! Remember, I did cop to this particular obsession!

Most of my articles in The Cassette Chronicles contain some bit of review analysis about what I did and did not like about the album. But a song by song breakdown isn’t really necessary for this album. From “I Remember Now” to “Eyes of A Stranger”, I love it all! Every bit of music and lyrics serves the story and heightens my appreciation even to this day. I can’t walk away now…nor would I want to.

Of course, due to a bitter split between Geoff Tate and the rest of the band, the lineup that recorded the album no longer exists and it is a case of where I believe there will never be any possibility of a reunion. But that doesn’t sour the greatness Queensryche achieved in their heyday.

Simply put, this is my story and I am sticking with it: Operation: mindcrime is my all-time favorite album ever…period…end of discussion!

NOTES OF INTEREST: Geoff Tate has been performing the entire album on tour as part of the 30th anniversary of the release. He’ll be playing the The Vault Music Hall & Pub on June 23rd and 24th (just a few days after this article goes live) in New Bedford, MA. He’s announced plans to perform the Queensryche album Empire in its entirety during his tour for 2020.

Queensryche recorded a sequel album in 2006, Operation: mindcrime II. Ronnie James Dio performed the role of “Dr. X” on that album. The live release Mindcrime at the Moore is the only live recording of Dio performing the role on the song “The Chase”.

The Cassette Chronicles – Bad English’s ‘Backlash’

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.

BAD ENGLISH – BACKLASH (1991)

You’d think when an assembled supergroup releases a smash hit (and platinum selling) debut album that when they released a second album, there’d be some expected fanfare for the follow up release.

The self-titled debut album from Bad English was a big hit spawning two big hit singles and making the lineup of singer John Waite, guitarist Neal Schon, keyboardist Jonathan Cain, bassist Ricky Phillips and drummer Deen Castronovo into a pretty famous act of their own accord. Yes, the members (except Castronovo) all had pretty big careers in their own right prior to Bad English with stints in The Babys and Journey. All that has been well covered. But these supergroup projects rarely make much of an impact. Whether you like AOR (or melodic rock as it is now known as) or not, Bad English was damn impressive when they first hit the scene.

And that’s what makes it weird that their second and final album Backlash was a total failure. I couldn’t remember why I had no memory of the album before now. I know I never bought it but was stumped as to the reasons why. I did a little searching on the Net and as it turns out, I think I just didn’t bother because there was no point in continuing with the band. Apparently, they broke up before Backlash was even MIXED. I mean if the band isn’t going to stand behind the album, why should I? At least, that’s what I think I must’ve been thinking back then.

For all the back room stuff going on that led to the band’s derailment, when I pulled the album out of The Big Box of Cassettes, I was really intrigued to give it a listen and see if I’d missed out on anything big.

It turns out that I did. There’s a pretty good selection of material on the album and it definitely represents the musical genre well.

The opening cut on Backlash is “So This Is Eden”. It’s a pretty fast paced rocking kind of song that gets you amped up pretty quickly. The song is good but I did make note of how the guitar featured in the song seemed a bit edgier than I remember from their first album.

“Straight To Your Heart” was the only song to be released as a single (It’s didn’t make the Top 40) but it’s another good honest slice of AOR rock and roll.

The album’s biggest failing for me was the inclusion of back to back ballad tracks on Side One. Now, I should say that “Time Stood Still” has a pretty interesting guitar line throughout the song. Unlike “The Time Alone With You”, which was far too sugary in its sentimental nature, “Time Stood Still” isn’t a BAD song. But neither song really does much to rise above the expected conventions of a power ballad from the 1980’s – early 1990’s. And since that’s the case, I found both songs otherwise kind of run of the mill.

But don’t despair music fans! The first side of the album closes out with a killer rocking song in “Dancing Off The Edge”. There’s a great hook and John Waite really sells the lyrics with his vocal performance. It is probably my favorite song of the entire album.

Speaking of John Waite’s singing, the opening track on Side Two, “Rebel Say A Prayer”, really gives him a spotlight. Musically, this rocker is pretty spectacular. When you combine that with another epic vocal delivery from Waite as he sings about a guy going on the run from a crime he committed and his woman standing by and going with him, the song just takes off. While the storyline of the lyrics isn’t quite the same, this song reminded me quite nicely of the Bad Company song “Boys Cry Tough” from their Holy Water album.

“Savage Blue” may sound like the title of a police thriller novel but the song has a compelling guitar solo to mix with the song’s mid to uptempo groove. Neal Schon’s guitar work really got the most interesting to me on “Pray For Rain”. The lines and solo he plays are outstanding and further serve to fuel the song when combined with the slightly darker tone or dramatic phrasing of the vocals by John Waite.

As you might expect by the title, the song “Make Love Last” starts out as another typical ballad. However, the song quickly sheds the softer side of itself for a more intense in your face approach and suddenly you find yourself in the midst of a strongly constructed rock number.

It’s a little odd to hear a song with a sarcastic take on the nature of fame when you are a famous/successful rock band but the Backlash closing song “Life At The Top” somehow manages to work around what would seem to be an insurmountable impediment. Plus the way it rocks out to the end gives the listener once last whipsaw rush of adrenaline at the end of things.

The searching I did led me to mentions that Schon and Phillips didn’t like the commercial nature of the music the band was doing and that John Waite wasn’t all that happy with the “corporate” rock image Bad English had.

But for me, since the band wrote or co-wrote the material on the album so I don’t quite understand what their problem with the songs were. It wasn’t like the songs were foisted off on them or something.

I’m not going to say that I think Backlash is a better album than Bad English. I’m just a huge fan of the latter album. But now that I’ve finally given the band’s second album a fair chance by actually listening to it instead of outright dismissing it (like the band and general public seemed to do back in 1991), I found myself confronted with a pretty entertaining slice of melodic rock that deserves far better than being consigned to the bargain bin of music’s memory.

NOTES OF INTEREST: Despite the band having released just two albums, there was a greatest hits compilation released in 1995.

Their self-titled debut album was given a remastered release by Rock Candy Records in 2017. It contained remixes of the songs “Price of Love” and “Forget Me Not” as bonus tracks.

John Waite still enjoys a solo career while Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain remain mainstays in Journey (despite recent well publicized acrimony between the two of them), Ricky Phillips has been with Styx since 2003 and Deen Castronovo spent 17 years in Journey before being fired and is currently part of the lineup of The Dead Daisies.

 

The Cassette Chronicles – Armored Saint’s ‘Raising Fear’

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.

ARMORED SAINT – RAISING FEAR (1987)

When I think back to how I became aware of Armored Saint’s third album Raising Fear, I am pretty sure that it was from an ad in one of the many music magazines I read back in the day. Since this was 1987, there was no online way for me to discover their music beforehand. I certainly had never even heard of their March of the Saint or Delirious Nomad albums that were released prior to Raising Fear.

So I essentially picked up this album on spec. I know that can be hit or miss, but in this case it turned out perfectly as I came to regard this album as one of the band’s best releases and it still stands the test of time.

While the album certainly wasn’t all that successful in terms of sales figures, from start to finish it shines a light on Armored Saint’s combined talents in such a way that you can’t help but love the album.

The title track opens up the album and you are immediately plunged into a sizzling metallic guitar driven song. Guitarist Dave Prichard made a big impression on me when I was first listening to the album and when you combine that with the vocal work from John Bush, it wasn’t long before I was hooked.

Now, I don’t know how others feel about the cover of the Lynyrd Skynyrd song “Saturday Night Special” but while the song is obviously amped up, I found it retained the charm of the original track.

The song “Out On A Limb” crackles with a surplus of energy, much like the album closing “Underdogs”. Each song gets your pulse pounding with the fast paced blazing intensity.

It’s not all in your face rockers though. “Isolation” is decidedly slower in pacing but there’s a real dramatic presentation to the song. The intensity of the performance grows throughout and the phrasing on Bush’s vocals gives the track even more heft.

While the song “Crisis Of Life” has the expected metal soundtrack, Armored Saint crosses that sound with a rhythmic swinging vibe at the same time. I’m not sure if my description does full justice to the song but when you listen to it, I think you’ll get my meaning.

The second side of the album opens up “Frozen Will / Legacy”. The first part is a relatively brief instrumental highlighting Dave Prichard before the screaming fire of “Legacy” kicks in. The track has a great guitar line throughout and it’s a flat out winning number for me.

There’s a decidedly more vicious sound to the vocals on “Human Vulture”. This gives an added edge to the song. You can apply that opinion to “Terror” as well. John Bush has a quality to his voice that lets him sound really “evil” as the situation calls for.

With “Book Of Blood”, it was the title that first attracted me to the song. I read the title on the back of the cassette and instantly wanted to hear it. I suppose having an expectation for a song based on its title is a bad way of doing business but it ended up living up to those admittedly ridiculous teenage rebel without a clue expectations

As you can see by now, I just love the Raising Fear album. But as much as all the other songs appeal to me, it is the one song I haven’t mentioned yet that cements that love. “Chemical Euphoria” is bar none my favorite Armored Saint song. It’s a killer metal anthem from start to finish. The pace blisters your ears and I’d daresay that this track is where the band melds together in perfect fashion.

When I saw the band live in the summer of 2018, this was the one song I hoped to hear performed. It did make the set list and it blew me away. When I listen to the album and “Chemical Euphoria” starts to play, I still get the same feel of my blood pumping that much faster through my veins. That’s how I felt the first time I listened to it and that feeling continues no matter how many times I listen to it.

Raising Fear may not be recognized as a must have album for your collection by the large portion of the metal audience, but for me anyone that doesn’t appreciate the overwhelming greatness of this release just doesn’t realize what they are missing out on. It’s a great example of just how to put together an album that, as I said before, stands the test of time more than three decades after its original release.

NOTES OF INTEREST: This was the last album that guitarist Dave Prichard recorded with the band. He passed away in 1990 before Armored Saint recorded their Symbol of Salvation album.

The band was dropped by Chrysalis Records after Raising Fear was released.

Though the song “Crisis Of Life” appears as the last song on the first side of the cassette release I own, the Wikipedia page lists it as a CD-only bonus track.

The Cassette Chronicles – Reo Speedwagon’s ‘Hi Infidelity’

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.

REO SPEEDWAGON – HI INFIDELITY (1980)

While this series is called The Cassette Chronicles, if you were to file this particular article under a sub-heading it would likely be “Albums My Mother Wouldn’t Buy For Me When I Was A Kid Because of the Cover Art”. I think if you look at the cover art and remember the time that it came out, you can probably understand why a parent wouldn’t buy the album for her nine year old. I actually had to hear the album in full for the first time at a friend’s house because he had it while I was out of luck until a few years later when I got my first job and could buy whatever music I wanted.

The funny thing is, the album art actually didn’t make any impression on me at that age. Instead, it was the song “Tough Guys” that made me want to have the album. Between the audio snippet from the “Our Gang” serials (“The Little Rascals” for those who don’t recall the other name) that fronted the song to Kevin Cronin singing “She thinks they’re full of shit”, to a nine year old who loved the “The Little Rascals” and didn’t quite yet have fluency in profanity, this was just a COOL song!

Of course, without strong songs the album wouldn’t have gone anywhere. However, a lack of material wasn’t a problem for REO Speedwagon on this album. The songs ranged from straight up rockers, power ballads and even songs that sounded as if they belonged in another era (The song “In Your Letter” stirs up echoes of 60’s pop music).

The first side of the album features the most recognizable of the band’s songs. Kicking off with the sublime rocker “Don’t Let Him Go”, the band moved with ease from one song to the next and keeps things on an electrifying high throughout. I think anyone who grew up in the 80’s has to know the #1 hit “Keep On Loving You”. This was back when the ballads were part of the whole instead of that calculated “We Need A Love Song” type of track so I actually still rather enjoy the song.

As for “Follow My Heart”, it’s got a huge hook to it but at the same time it’s a dynamically powerful vocal performance set to a killer rock sound as well. “Take It On The Run” was another big hit for the band and it remains one of the songs I remember liking right away when I first heard it.

The second side of the album kicks off with “Tough Guys” and like I said, I really love the song for reasons explained above, plus the fact that it’s just a damn fine rocker. As for the rest of the song on Side Two, I think it is probably less remembered than Side One because it has more album tracks than singles but the song “Out of Season” is an outright underappreciated classic. It’s a burning bright rocker and I have to say that I probably forgot how much I liked it until listening to the album again for this article. “Shakin’ It Loose” also rocks out pretty fast. “Someone Tonight” isn’t quite as fast, but still moves to a quicker beat. The album closes with “I Wish You Were There” which despite the notion the song’s title might give you, isn’t quite the same kind of ballad that “Keep On Loving You” is. However, like that song, “I Wish You Were There” is a rather appealing number (the backing chorus helps give an extra dimension of depth to the song) and actually does a pretty remarkable job of straddling the line between rocker and ballad to bring the album to a fully satisfying conclusion.

While these days the band occupies the classic rock package tours you see going out every summer, REO Speedwagon was arguably the hottest band in the country in the early 80’s on the strength of the Hi Infidelity. If this album was released today, it would be filed under the “melodic rock” banner. However you think of the band, this was a huge high point for them and for my money, the album still resonates as strongly today as it did back then.

NOTES OF INTEREST: Hi Infidelity has been certified ten times platinum and hit #1 on the album chart when it was released. The album was reissued in 2011 for the 30th anniversary and included a second disc that had demo tracks from the original recording sessions.

Guitarist Gary Richrath, who passed away in 2015, left the band in 1989.

Mr. Mister’s Richard Page is credited with providing backing vocals on the album.