Category Archives: Cassette Chronicles

The Cassette Chronicles – JOHN CAFFERTY AND THE BEAVER BROWN BAND’s ‘TOUGH ALL OVER’

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.

JOHN CAFFERTY AND THE BEAVER BROWN BAND – TOUGH ALL OVER (1985)

Back in 2018, I wrote an article in this series about the John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band album Roadhouse. As I said then, I know that they will always be most famous for the song “On The Dark Side” from the first Eddie and the Cruisers movie. But then again most musicians would kill to have even one song that stands the test of time.

I admit that I come to my own fandom for the band because of the movie soundtracks but hearing the stuff not tied to those films, I can see just what people seem to have missed out on. After the smash success of the first movie soundtrack, the band’s second album might not have had the same level of commercial success but Tough All Over is a pretty damn solid piece of music.

The pure rock and roll sound the band captures in their music always seems to grab me whenever I listen to their music. The soulful and powerful vocals and the driving rhythms and pounding beat are further enhanced with that sweet saxophone sound cutting through the mix. The keyboards give the material an added dimension and when you mix in that all-female backing chorus employed on a couple of the album’s songs, the material on Tough All Over just becomes a bit of magic.

Side One opens with three of the four singles that were released in support of the album. “Voice of America’s Sons” has a quick up-tempo pace and there is a strikingly good guitar solo. In fact, the guitar work from Gary Gramolini is pretty damn enticing throughout the album.

The title track became a Top 40 hit for the band as a single and it is one of those “story” type songs that lets the band’s ability as chroniclers of “small town hopes and dreams” shine bright. I know that is the bread and butter of Springsteen but surely there’s always room for more than one artist to mine that particular vein of songwriting, yes?

The third song on Side One is “C-I-T-Y” which was a Top 20 hit for the band on the singles chart and believe me, the zesty driving beat to the song is all you could ever hope for when it comes to a fun, get the party started rock and roll anthem.

The entire first side of the album is actually chock full of one upbeat and up-tempo rock and roll song. Cafferty’s vocals are always the immediate draw. He’s got a sound that becomes imprinted on the listener and whenever you hear him sing, you immediately recognize that sound. Those first three songs may be the hits but when you listen to “Where The Action Is” and “Dixieland”, you understand just how good he is at making the lyrics come alive for you.

The second side of the album is a bit of a different breed in comparison to the first side. It opens with a rocking “Strangers In Paradise” but then things kind of slow down. The material hits the only real speedbump for me on “Small Town Girl”. The song was the fourth single from the album and I just really couldn’t find any way to appreciate the track. I was bored, plain and simple.

On “More Than Just One Of The Boys”, the songwriting-slash-storytelling comes to the forefront once more. I’ve said before how much I like stories of any kind and this is the band once again proving they’ve got those authorial chops.

After being fueled up with all the rocking anthems and stories, I think the slow pace of “Small Town Girl” was part of what made me dislike the song. But given that Tough All Over‘s closing song “Tex-Mex (Crystal Blue)” was similarly paced, I was a bit flabbergasted that the song drew me in far more than the other track. It may not have been an adrenaline burst in terms of pacing but the band’s focused musicianship melded together with Cafferty’s emotive vocal take to envelop the listener and transport them to the Lone Star State.

You may dismiss John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown band as a Springsteen substitute or as a soundtrack band, but you are doing both them and yourself a huge disservice. They have a rock and roll sound that draws in the listener and Tough All Over shows that they are more than just their career highlights.

NOTES OF INTEREST: The song “Voice of America’s Sons” was used on the soundtrack to the Sylvester Stallone movie Cobra. John Cafferty had a solo track called “Heart’s On Fire” on the Rocky IV soundtrack. The band’s music has also been used for movies like There’s Something About Mary and Dumb and Dumber To.

While the original release of album featured a cover shot of the band standing on a street, the album was given a reissue with a new cover that featured artwork from the Eddie and the Cruisers movie as well as the added tagline “The Voice of Eddie and the Cruisers”.

The Cassette Chronicles – Ted Nugent’s ‘Penetrator’

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.

TED NUGENT – PENETRATOR (1984)

The recent passing of vocalist Brian Howe made me want to seek out the one bit of his discography that I had never heard before. This was an idea easier said than done however. The Ted Nugent album Penetrator was Howe’s first US gig and judging by what I’ve read online, this album is not looked upon all that fondly by the press or Ted Nugent’s fanbase. Making matters worse, when I tried to find a CD edition of the album online, it seemed I would have to give up an arm or a leg to afford the asking prices.

But the day was saved by my friend Roger. He arranged to drop off his cassette copy of the album in my mailbox (social distancing, don’t you know) so that I could listen to it.

I know you might wonder why I’ve never heard this album before now. Much like a lot of what I’m going to write about this release, I find myself going a bit against the grain when it comes to Ted Nugent. The truth of the matter is, I wouldn’t say that I’m all that much of a fan. Sure, I like the stuff you hear on the radio like “Stranglehold”, “Free For All”, “Wango Tango” and “Cat Scratch Fever”. I even liked the title track to the Little Miss Dangerous album. But I’ve never once felt the need to buy any of his solo music. In fact, the only material I own that features Ted Nugent are the two Damn Yankees albums.

The fact that I’m a huge fan of Brian Howe’s voice compelled me to finally listen to this album and while the research I did for this article suggests that it isn’t all that good and suffers from trying to sound like everything else coming out in the mid 1980’s and not quite getting there, I found that I kind of liked the Penetrator album. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by that feeling though. So often I hate stuff other people like and then when everyone is hating on something, it turns out that I like it. I guess that’s just a bit of my contrarian nature coming through.

I will admit that the album does sound a little dated. It is pretty easy to realize that it was released in the 1980’s. It has “that” sound which marks the era. But from the start, there’s a wildly reckless energy to a lot of the songs.

That sense of the energetic starts right at the top with “Tied Up In Love”. Given Nugent’s predilection for sex, it is no surprise that most of the material could be seen as having plenty of double entendres. But the smoking hot guitar and Howe’s vocals keep this song rocking from start to finish.

The first four songs on Side One of the album are all pretty fast-paced. I really liked the solo on “(Where Do You) Draw The Line” but I thought the keyboards through the song off a bit. That song was written by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance, which made me chuckle to think of the guy who sings balladry like “Heaven” having one of his compositions performed by the Motor City Madman. I also liked the solo in the expressively up-tempo “Don’t You Want My Love”. Say whatever you want about Ted Nugent, the man can shred his butt off on the guitar.

I think my favorite song on Side One might just be the rocker “Knockin’ At Your Door” which was written by Andy Fraser, the bassist for Free. I don’t know what it was but this was just a really cool track to me.

The closing song on the first side features a slightly slower pace as they seem to be going for a bigger sense of the dramatic. The keyboards (from Billy Squier’s Alan St. Jon) heavily influence the song here.

Brian Howe’s vocals graced the tracks on Side One, but when you flip the tape over you are immediately hit in the face as Ted himself once again steps up to the mike. You might tend to forget that you are listening to a Ted Nugent album when it is someone else singing the lyrics. But then Ted’s vocals kick in and you remember it’s “Uncle Ted’s” world and we’re all just witnesses to it.

While the Side Two opener “Thunder Thighs” pushes right against the line that marks when a song crosses over into a comedic self-parody, the maniacal guitar playing and ballsy vocal take elevate this song into a kind of interesting full-blown rocker. There is absolutely no sense of subtlety here but I have to admit that as the song played through, I didn’t care.

I did care more about the song “Blame It On The Night” though. Brian Howe was back on vocals for this song but it didn’t quite work for me because I thought the track could’ve done without the keyboards in the mix. That could just be me, but I thought it held the song back from reaching for what could’ve made it a potentially better song.

I loved the down and dirty grind of “No Man’s Land” and the self-congratulatory nature of the blazing “Lean Mean R&R Machine”. Both of the songs are flat out rockers and I thought they came out pretty damn fantastic.

And in a bit of a reversal, there was some restraint and subtlety on the album’s closing song “Take Me Home”. It is the only song that could legitimately be considered a ballad. While the tempo does increase a bit during the course of the song, it really does surprise that you. The funny thing is I went looking for the official lyrics only to find that none of the online lyric websites seems to have them. A few of them simply say “We’re sorry but the artist has decided not to disclose the lyrics for this song”. I don’t know if there’s some kind of story behind that decision or not but given the lyrics that are online for some of Nugent’s other songs, it was a bit amusing.

My entire reason for wanting to hear this album was because Brian Howe sang the majority of the songs on it. As I stated when I wrote about the Bad Company album Holy Water, I’m a huge fan of his voice. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect to find when I started listening to Penetrator given my less than full-throated support for Ted Nugent’s career. I know that the prevailing opinion about this album seems to veer towards being overwhelmingly negative, but Howe’s vocals and the fantastic music from Ted and company gave me a different opinion.

After listening to this album, even with it’s hiccups, I found the album to be surprisingly enjoyable. You could’ve probably knocked me over with a feather when I realized that fact. Now if I can just find myself a copy of my own that doesn’t require me to sell off a body part to afford it.

NOTES OF INTEREST: The album and the tour for it were the beginning and end of Brian Howe’s time with Ted Nugent. According to Howe’s Wikipedia page, a dispute over the lack of writing credits on the album (The song “Tied Up In Love” is specified) and financial matters led to his departure.

The drums on Penetrator were performed by Billy Squier drummer Bobby Chouinard who also played with Cher, Alice Cooper and Peter Wolf amongst his credits. Peter Wolf is credited on the Penetrator album as providing percussion and sequencing. The artwork was done by noted fantasy artist Boris Vallejo.

While I’ve never seen Ted Nugent in a solo concert, I did see him live as a part of Damn Yankees when they toured for their self-titled debut album. I remember being pretty impressed by his playing then. I wrote about that album for a previous article in The Cassette Chronicles series.

The Cassette Chronicles – Bad Company’s ‘Holy Water’

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: On May 6th, 2020, singer Brian Howe died as the result of a heart attack. I woke up that morning to discover the news and it hit me like a gut punch. I just loved his voice and the job he did fronting Bad Company between 1986 – 1994. While the band has virtually wiped out Howe’s time with them from their official history, the four studio albums he recorded with them are among the finest melodic rock albums one could hope to hear.

Howe was a pretty darn good songwriter, managing to come up with any number of hard driving rock numbers, the heart-rending ballad and every song style in between. Hell, the guy even co-wrote the lyrics for the song “I’ll Get Even” on Megadeth’s Cryptic Writings album!

The 2010 solo album Circus Bar is one of the best albums I’ve ever heard and it was among my favorites of the year upon its release. You can check out what I wrote about that album HERE.

The death of Brian Howe is a huge loss to his family and friends. The loss to those of us who are fans of his music is markedly different of course, but no less a profound sadness. I can only hope that anyone who hasn’t heard his work before now will soon discover that Howe’s voice was one of the great highlights of rock and roll.

BAD COMPANY – HOLY WATER (1990)

Depending on who you ask, opinions vary about the best of the four studio albums that Bad Company recorded with Brian Howe as the group’s lead singer. A lot of people will say it is Dangerous Age and it would be hard to argue with that choice. It’s a great album and I love it a lot myself.

But if I’m the one making the call, I have to go with Holy Water. The album was the most successful release in terms of sales (it went platinum) during the Howe era and I pretty much consider it their masterwork for this part of their history.

There are thirteen songs on the album and there isn’t a bad one in the lot. As I was listening to the album ahead of writing this piece, I even got to get a new perspective on a trio of the “album track” songs. They didn’t get the airplay as a single release but I got to enjoy them anew as songs that give the album the depth of quality it has.

The first side of the album wastes no time in kicking off things in a rocking fashion with the title track. It bursts out of your speakers and really grabs your attention. It’s the kind of declarative statement that makes you sit up and take notice. As I was researching some information about the album online, I saw that when the “Holy Water” song was released as a single, it became the #1 rock track for a couple of weeks. I’ve listened to this album a lot since it was released but as I listened to the track again, I could definitely recall how I felt when I would hear it playing on the radio as I would listen to 94 HJY out of Providence, Rhode Island.

That song was followed up by “Walk Through Fire” which became a Top 40 single for the band. It’s another pure rocker that gets the blood flowing through your veins. The band had a huge hit with the power ballad “If You Needed Somebody”, which made it into the Top 20. While it does have what would be considered the standard requirements for a song of its nature, I can listen to that track over and over and not get bored with it.

While the remaining three songs on the first side of the album weren’t released as singles, they still give you plenty of bang for your buck. “Stranger Stranger” has an amazing riff that runs through the song. The song rocks but with a slyly seductive groove to it.

The Mick Ralphs-written song “Lay Your Love On Me” closes out the first side with a driving tempo. However, the most surprising discovery for me was actually rediscovering the song “Fearless”. It’s a blast of pure hard rock rhythm that is so surprisingly effective that I found myself singing along to the lyrics.

There’s been a lot of talk over the years about what led to the split and acrimony between Brian Howe and both Simon Kirke and Mick Ralphs. A lot of that talk centers around the songwriting for the band. However, I don’t see how the credits for this album could be such a breaking point for the band. Brian Howe co-wrote seven of the Holy Water‘s thirteen songs. Meanwhile, Simon Kirke wrote one song on his own and co-wrote another. Mick Ralphs had “Lay Your Love On Me” on his own and co-wrote three other songs.

But regardless of who wrote what, I have never been able to understand why the band grew apart. I mean, the album is full of great material. Yes, it is a dramatically different sound than the classic rock origins of the band. But as a confirmed fan of the more melodic rock stylings, this album is one of the highlights of that genre.

If you can’t take my word for, then just flip the album over to side two and check out songs like “With You In A Heartbeat”, “I Don’t Care” and “Never Too Late”. While the album is chock full of great straight up rockers, it closes on a decidedly more mellow note. Simon Kirke sings lead and plays the acoustic guitar on “100 Miles”. It’s a decidedly upbeat song and it kind of gives you a preview of the direction of his songwriting would go on the solo albums he did in 2011 (Filling The Void) and 2017 (All Because of You).

Much like “Fearless”, the songs “Dead of the Night” and “I Can’t Live Without You” became moments of re-discovery for me as I listened to the album. They are both hard rocking numbers with explosively melodic choruses heightened by a big backing vocal sound. Once again, I found myself singing along to these tracks.

I’m a fan of storytelling, whether it be in a book or through song. And the opening song on side two feeds my love of story. “Boys Cry Tough” was a monstrously successful song on the rock charts (it went to #3) even without being released as an official single. The story of Bobby and Mary has a clearly defined narrative. As a listener, you become involved in the storyline. It’s a prime example of how to tell a story through song and when you add in the fantastic music that backs up Brian Howe’s superb vocal performance on the song, you have the showcase track of Holy Water.

While it may have taken the death of Brian Howe to get me to write about this album for The Cassette Chronicles, what matters most is that I get to share my love of the album with people. This year marks the 30th anniversary of it’s release and for my money the Holy Water album is one of the finest albums I have in my collection.

NOTES OF INTEREST: Terry Thomas produced Holy Water but he was deeply involved in all aspects of the recording as well. He co-wrote eleven of the songs and played guitar and keyboards (the cassette liner notes list it as Hammond organ) and added backing vocals as well. He and Brian Howe had worked together on Howe’s 1997 solo album Tangled In Blue and he was also the producer for the Bad Company albums Dangerous Age and Here Comes Trouble.

Brian Howe re-recorded the song “Holy Water” for his Circus Bar album but gave it a significant re-do for an entirely different spin on the track. I love the original song as I said, but if you hear the new version he did, you’ll be shocked to discover how powerful it is.

I have only seen Bad Company in concert once but it was with Brian Howe on vocals. It was during the tour for the Dangerous Age album. I can still remember the T-shirt I bought when I saw them play the Orpheum Theatre in Boston. They had Winger as their opening act.

 

The Cassette Chronicles – Accept’s ‘Restless and Wild’

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.

ACCEPT – RESTLESS AND WILD (1983)

When it comes to opinions about German metallers Accept and their music, it does seem to be that a lot of the time, people kind of just start with their best known song “Balls To The Wall” (from the album of the same name). The stuff that comes before tends to be at least a little bit forgotten for some reason.

It is a considerably strange notion considering how many songs the band came up with prior the “Balls To The Wall” track that are still thought of as classic tracks to this day. I’d written about the band’s self-titled debut album in a previous article in this series. However, I thought it might be time to get around to writing a little bit about one of the other Accept albums I have in the Big Box of Cassettes.

Released in the US in 1983, the Restless and Wild album is the immediate predecessor to the Balls To The Wall album. It wastes little time in blowing the doors off your expectations with the song “Fast As A Shark”. Considered one of the earliest and best examples of “speed metal”, this bull in a china shop kind of song continually throttles the listener with an intensely relentless pace.

The title track is another classic track for the band. In fact, the first four songs (including “Ahead of the Pack” and “Shake Your Heads”) are all some of the band’s finest early work. It is songs like these that make a deep dive into the band’s discography a great treasure hunt for any metal fan. As I was listening anew to “Shake Your Heads”, I was struck by the slight similarity in the lyrics to Quiet Riot’s “Metal Health (Bang Your Head)”. Not the exact lyrics per se but the similarity in the celebration of fan reaction to metal music in general. Given that both songs were released in 1983, it just struck me as a great potentially unrealized coincidence.

But for me, the band kind of lost the plot a little bit after those first four songs. While there is a bit more artistic depth in the songwriting to “Neon Nights” (not a cover of the Black Sabbath song), it just was kind of mediocre to me. When you flip the cassette over to Side Two, that sense of the mediocre continues with “Get Ready”. “Demon’s Night” and “Don’t Go Stealing My Soul Away” are decent enough rockers but I don’t think they’d be spotlighted as amongst the best the band has to offer.

I had listened to the CD version of the album back in the middle of 2019 and thought “Flash Rockin’ Man” was a little bit of a mis-step too. But when I listened to the album for this article, I actually found myself enjoying it more than I did in the past. There’s a driving sense of urgency to the music that made the song a bit more catchy to my ears this time around.

The album closes with “Princess Of The Dawn”. The song has a kind of claustrophic feel to it. The song is one of the better known songs from the album. I like it, as it definitely highlights the band’s increased songwriting craft. But the thoroughly abrupt way the track ends will leave you wondering what the hell they were thinking. It doesn’t feel like the track had reached its natural endpoint but rather someone had shut off the recording machines at the most inopportune of times.

I’ve long considered myself an Accept fan. However, like a lot of people I first became aware of them because of the “Balls To The Wall” song. In my defense though, I didn’t just stop there. That song served as the catalyst for me as I’ve done many a deep dive into the band’s entire catalog. I own most of their albums and there are so many gems to check out. I was actually going through my music collection a few weeks back and I spent most of a day pulling out all the Accept material I own and found myself with a sense of renewal as I went through the albums in chronological order.

Accept has earned their place in metal history and while I found at least a couple of tracks on Restless and Wild to be decidedly problematic for my tastes, you can bet your ass that when you listen to this album, you will come to understand just how important the album is in the evolution of the band’s career.

NOTES OF INTEREST: The Restless and Wild album has two different covers. The version that was originally released in Europe in 1982 has a photo of two guitars on fire. When the album was released in the US and UK in 1983, that album art had been replaced by a live shot of the band. I own the band shot on cassette and I have a CD version of the album that features the guitars aflame.

The guitar work on the album has a bit of a story to it. Accept had hired guitarist Jan Koemmet before they recorded Restless and Wild. However, his tenure with the band was very short and he didn’t play a note on the album. The album’s liner notes list Herman Frank as part of the lineup, but while he was the replacement for Koemmet, he didn’t actually play on the album either. Instead, Wolf Hoffman was responsible for all the guitar tracks.

In 2018, I saw Udo Dirkscheider (under the band name ‘Dirkschneider’) performing a full set of Accept songs with his U.D.O. band. They played “Princess Of The Dawn” and “Fast As A Shark” from the Restless And Wild album during the set.

 

The Cassette Chronicles – Quiet Riot’s ‘Quiet Riot’ (1988)

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.

QUIET RIOT – QUIET RIOT (1988)

In 1983, Quiet Riot rose to the top of the metal world on the basis of their Metal Health album. They were, so to speak, the “kings of the world”. Great things seemed to lay ahead for them.

By 1988, the metal world had pretty much passed them by. The decade where metal ruled the world had pretty much left the band in the dust. This would be due in large part to the fans moving on from them and other bands sick and tired of listening to vocalist Kevin DuBrow badmouth them in the press.

But 1988 also saw the other members of Quiet Riot firing of Kevin DuBrow from his own band and the hiring of former Rough Cutt vocalist Paul Shortino. This lineup switch brought about a very different sound for the band on the Quiet Riot album. Gone was the bombastic metal explosiveness. Instead, when you listen to this album, you find that this is more of a bluesy hard rock sound for the band.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’d long moved on from Quiet Riot at this point. I vaguely recall seeing a video that I think came from this album and when I heard the music in 1988, I found myself thinking, “What the hell is this?” and never bothered to check out the album itself. It was deciding to write this article that brought about my first time listening to the release.

And I’ve got to say that I was pretty surprised to find myself really liking a lot of what they had to offer here. Yes, the sound is completely different and those who only want “Cum On Feel The Noize” are sure to never give this album its due.

The song “Stay With Me Tonight” was the single released and it leads off Side One. I can’t say that this was the song I saw the video for, but it does seem likely that it was. I may not have thought much of it three decades ago but as I listened to it now, it was a pretty effective song. Yes, time changes and so did my opinion.

I wasn’t crazy about how the production sound on Shortino’s vocals were done on “Callin’ The Shots”. They were overproduced and made it sound kind of fake and poorly edited together or something. The song “Run To You” really drives home that bluesy sound with it’s slow burn tempo. However, the addition of a big backing vocal part on the chorus threw the song’s balance off for me.

But then Side One closes out with a couple of really solid rockers. “I’m Fallin'” is a damn good song but the band really cuts loose on the song “King of the Hill” which has a pretty vibrant sound and vibe to it even now. By the way, the latter song was co-written by former Yes guitarist Trevor Rabin.

With the addition of Shortino to the lineup, he was pretty involved with the songwriting along with drummer Frankie Banali, guitarist Carlos Cavazo and producer Spencer Proffer. While there were other contributors along the way, this was the main grouping of songwriters for the album. However, with change being the only sure thing when it comes to the Quiet Riot lineup, Shortino was not the only new addition to the group’s lineup. Chuck Wright had left the band and they replaced him with Sean McNabb.

The second side of the album features a brief instrumental called “Lunar Obsession”. It is less than two minutes long and sadly, it just felt out of place to me and it really didn’t seem to need to be included.

Other than that, Side 2 ROCKED! Songs like “The Joker” and “Empty Promises” were electrifying, just pure burn rockers. The band was on fire with “In A Rush”, a song that saw the pacing match the title but in a good way.

The power ballad influence was felt most strongly with the song “Don’t Wanna Be Your Fool”. It starts off as you might expect with a slow but steady tempo. But it gradually gets stronger and faster. By the end of the song it is more of a straight ahead rocker and you kind of forget the ballad like beginning.

In 1988, the lyrics for “Coppin’ A Feel” might’ve raised an eye or two but most likely would’ve been overlooked for the most part. These days, the lyrics are slightly more problematic. Still, as a whole the song is just a killer.

I was looking up the album online and while this one did seem to do slightly better than the QR III album, it was still seen as a big disappointment. I guess I can understand that if we were still in 1988. But in the here and now, I really have to say that despite a couple of speed bump tracks the Quiet Riot album is actually a damn fine piece of work. It may be unappreciated by the majority of metal fans, but you can count me in as one who will tout the positives from this album from this point forward.

NOTES OF INTEREST: Drummer Frankie Banali is the one mainstay of the group to this day. Currently, he’s battling Stage 4 pancreatic cancer and just recently a GoFundMe page has been set up to help pay for his medical bills.

Quiet Riot split up after touring for this album. There was a live release coinciding with the tour for the album called ’89 Live In Japan. There’s been some confusion about the true name of this album as well. It is the second album from the band to be self-titled. It has apparently also been called QR IV. Meanwhile, Paul Shortino has said the title is just QR.

This was the only studio album that Paul Shortino recorded with the band. He’s gone on to play in variety of bands including King Kobra and Appice. He’s also got his own band, Shortino. If the global health crisis that is going on at the time of this article’s publication doesn’t cancel it, Shortino (the band) will be part of the first day lineup at the New England Rock Fest in Chicopee, MA on Friday August 14th , 2020 and feature ex-Dio guitarist Rowan Robertson in the lineup.

Sean McNabb has had a prolific music career following his time with Quiet Riot. He’s played with House of Lords, XYZ and Dokken. He was also with Great White for three separate stints including recording the Can’t Get There From Here album, my personal favorite Great White album. He’s also done acting work including appearing on the Sons of Anarchy and Mayans M.C. TV series.

The Cassette Chronicles – Y&T’s ‘Ten’

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.

Y&T – Ten (1990)

As we mark the 30th anniversary of the release of Y&T’s ninth album, the possibly somewhat confusingly titled Ten, I had to look back at my own scant personal history with the band. It was a weird little journey to be sure.

Like most people I’m very well-versed with the song “Summertime Girls”. It remains the best known song for people who might not necessarily know much else about the band. I’d also heard other songs hear and there I’m sure, though I couldn’t guess which ones they might’ve been with any degree of certainty. When I used to write for another site, I got the chance to review a reissue of the band’s 1982 album Black Tiger. Somewhat controversially for Y&T fans who read that review, I didn’t really care for the album. It just didn’t grab me despite the band being what I would’ve previously though had all the things I usually look for in a rock band. I’m going to have to revisit that album at a future time.

For a lot of years, that was pretty much it for me with the band. Then came 2019 and Y&T was playing a show (promoted by the people behind this very website) in New Bedford, MA. I wanted to get the full experience of their well-regarded live shows so I planned to attend. In advance, I bought a compilation of greatest hits and was kind of blown away by how many songs struck a chord with me. Now I was psyched up immensely to see the show. And then the show itself surpassed my expectations and suddenly, I found myself thinking about the band in such a way that could only be termed “as a fan”. I started slowly acquiring their albums which now brings me full circle to talking about the Ten album.

What can I say? I just really loved this album. Other than the song “Come In From The Rain” which I saw the band perform live, I don’t recall ever hearing any of the other songs on the release, so I got to approach the remaining eleven tracks as a completely brand new experience.

What I learned was that Dave Meniketti, Stef Burns, Phil Kennemore and Jimmy Degrasso crafted an exceptionally entertaining rock and roll album. For more behind Degrasso’s contributions to the album see the “Notes Of Interest” at the end of this article.

I was immediately taken by the opening number on the album. “Hard Times” had a solidly rocking pace to it and the overall sound grabs your ear from the get-go.

While the uptempo nature of “Lucy” was nice, I will say that I didn’t quite connect to the song like I did with the rest of the album.

The rest of Side One was pretty impressive. There are two songs that would probably be what you’d call power ballads. While the looking back nature of this series can sometimes mean I discover tracks like “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” and the aforementioned “Come in from the Rain” and feel like I’m listening to fingernails on a chalkboard, I have to say I was pretty impressed by both songs. “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” has all the traditional underpinnings of balladry but the chorus is decidely more rocking than one might expect. As for “Come in from the Rain”, the tempo changes and singularly effective performances really clue the listener in to why it is in the band’s setlist to this day.

“Girl Crazy” might seem like it is a relic of a bygone time with its unapologetic lustful enthusiam but the song kicked my ass and I don’t feel the least little bit sorry for enjoying this powerful rocker.

The most intriguing song on the first side of the album for me was “City”. It opens with a slyly affecting bluesy guitar and a slightly understated gravelly vocal take from Meniketti before the full band kicks into high gear. The far more in-your-face rocking sound takes over and the big backing vocals on the song’s chorus put the song into the stratosphere for me.

The album’s second side doesn’t feature much of a letdown for the listener either. It starts off with “Red Hot & Ready”, which is simply a kinetic burst of rock and roll energy. The blood races and you are whisked away on a fast paced romp. You can probably say the very same thing about “She’s Gone” as well.

The song “Let It Out” starts out in a fast and furious style but midway through the song, the band slows it down a little before unleashing a really tasty guitar solo and finishing up in a fiery blaze.

Any hopes of a low-key finish to the album is quickly dispelled by the last three tracks. “Ten Lovers” and “Surrender” are just killer songs. However, if you want to hear what the band really can do when they completely take the brakes off, the song “Goin’ Off The Deep End” is an especially electrifying experience. It’s an frenzied no-holes-barred collaboration of the band’s talents that is sure to leave you with a feeling of exhaustion with it’s relentlessly unforgiving pace and pure rock fury.

I’m not aware of how the Ten album is viewed by the band’s long established fans but what I know is that I not only just freaking love this album! It also serves as a catalyst for me in a way. I have three other Y&T albums that I can write about in this series and Ten kind of makes me want to just dive into those albums as soon as possible so I can become an even more enthusiastic supporter of Y&T’s music!

An ad for Y&T’s “Ten” that appeared in a music magazine in 1990.

NOTES OF INTEREST – Drummer Jimmy Degrasso had two stints with Y&T, recording a total of four studio albums and one live release. However, on Ten he’s only featured on three songs. The rest of the album’s drum tracks were performed by Journey’s Steve Smith. Degrasso has played with a host of other notable acts in his career including Alice Cooper, Megadeth, Black Star Riders and Ratt.

The song “City” was co-written by guitarist Al Pitrelli. He’s played with Megadeth, Alice Cooper and most importantly from my viewpoint, both Savatage and Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

After the release of Ten and a live album called Yesterday & Today Live, Y&T split up for about four years before reuniting in 1995 with the same lineup that recorded Ten.

The album was produced by Mike Stone. Before his death in 2002, his career as a producer, engineer and mixer included six albums working with Queen, my favorite Journey album Frontiers, and Whitesnake’s smash 1987 self-titled album. He also worked with April Wine, Asia, Ratt and the band Ten among others. Interestingly enough, he was the co-producer of the Helix album Wild in the Streets, which was the first article in The Cassette Chronicles series.

 

 

The Cassette Chronicles – Metal Church’s ‘Hanging in the Balance’

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.

METAL CHURCH – HANGING IN THE BALANCE (1993)

While I don’t mean any actual disrespect to fans of other bands, let me just say that you can have your Megadeth and you can have your Slayer. But for me, I will always say give me my Metal Church, for the band out of Washington State are one of the most criminally underrated bands in the history of metal. Since their self-titled debut release in the mid-1980s, their music has been one of the most consistently great album catalogs the metal world has ever seen. Through numerous lineup changes and three eras of the band defined by who was singing for them at the time, Metal Church has been worthy of being worshipped as one of the best for over 30 years now.

Let me get one thing out of the way because whenever I talk about the Hanging In The Balance album, it needs to be said that the cover art is just awful. I mean BAD. As in, what the hell were people thinking?

Okay, with that out of the way let’s move on to what I like. In a word, EVERYTHING! Look, after the departure of singer David Wayne, you wouldn’t be alone in wondering if the band would be able to find someone to take over singing and be just as good. Well, the truth is Mike Howe was better. I’ve been a fan of his since the first time I saw the video for the song “Badlands” off of the Blessing In Disguise album. He had it all, the look, the gravitas and most importantly, the incredible vocal dexterity to actually raise Metal Church’s game to a new level.

I saw the band as an opening act for W.A.S.P. and Accept back in 1989 at the Citi Club in Boston and got to meet four-fifths of the lineup including Howe. And he was fantastic on that night so it wasn’t just a studio thing. He had the pipes to go over well live as well.

So when Hanging In The Balance was released in 1993, it’s not like it was a surprise to me that I’d like the album. But what I wasn’t prepared for is just how potent this album would be.

The first side of the album features six songs and they run the full emotional gamut. The opener “Gods of Second Chance” is a pretty effective opening statement for the album with Howe’s vocal growl informing the music (seriously, John Marshall and Craig Wells were really on their game throughout the album) and when the chorus explodes in your ears, you know you are in for a great ride.

“Losers In The Game” has a faster tempo that keeps your head banging along and it was here that I realized that for the first two songs, I’d actually been singing along. Okay, really I was just mouthing the lyrics but still. I’ve listened to this album a lot over the 27 years since it was released but the lyrics still make me eager to “sing along”.

I will say that when I was first becoming familiar with the album when it was released, there was something that bothered me about the song “Hypnotized”. If I’d written a review of the album back then, it would’ve been the one song I said I didn’t like. I have never been quite able to figure out what it was that I just didn’t like about the song but over the ensuing passage of time, the song has definitely grown on me.

While it may be a bit more subtle at times, I also enjoy when Metal Church uses their songs to address something that is important to them (and generally important to the world at large if you think about it). On Hanging In The Balance, this part of their songwriting capabilities is demonstrated with the song “No Friend Of Mine”. It is a song that confronts racism and the band nailed it! The message doesn’t overwhelm the song, which is always the best way to do things. The music is intense and Mike Howe’s furious vocal performance leaves its mark. When I saw the band in 2019 (at a show that was simply magnificent), the band performed the song and it still retains the power it had when you first hear the song.

Everyone knows that the band that best captures the ability to make a song epic, whether in the depth of the songwriting or simply the length of a song is Iron Maiden. They manage to combine both songwriting and length in a way that keeps each one of their epic tracks interesting. These songs always seem to be mini-stories that have a beginning, middle and end.

To that end, I’d wager that Metal Church has this kind of thing going for them as well. On “Waiting For A Savior”, the band starts out slow. The music is sparse, just the right touch of subtlety to fuel Mike Howe’s softer vocal presentation. They build the song’s thematic sensibilities and then all of a sudden Metal Church hits you with a sonic explosion of sound and thunder to take the song to another level. It’s like you are sitting there calmly and all of a sudden getting hit in the head with a bat.

The album side closes out with one of my favorite Metal Church songs of all-time, “Conductor”. It is a non-stop engine of metallic wonder. The musical soundtrack is outstanding but it is the rapid fire machine gun style in which the vocals are delivered that just kill me. More importantly, they kill my jaw. I’m not kidding, if you’ve heard the song and try to sing along by the time the second verse finishes, my jaw is aching. One of the many reasons I’m sure why I was never going to be a singer. I honestly don’t know how Mike Howe does this song. It is easier in the studio because you can edit the stuff together. But I’m sure but the guy’s jaw must be like a Looney Tunes cartoon character to pull it off live. Or he’s just a consummate professional vocalist, which is the more likely true explanation.

As for the second side of the album, the song “Little Boy” struck me as being structured like an old TV miniseries. The opening act, the rising tension, the crescendo and the finale. The eight-minute song has all of that in a musical maelstrom of time and tempo.

The song “Down To The River” is a faster and more direct straight ahead rocking song and the instrumental “Lovers and Madmen” is low-key but still a very cool way to lead into the album closing “A Subtle War”. This song finds Metal Church bringing the hammer to the nail as it seems to address life living in the midst of gangs or gang warfare. Again, the message doesn’t overwhelm the medium so the two halves work to make a great or greater whole.

For me, the centerpiece of the album’s second side is the song “End of the Age”. The song is at times rather hypnotic. There are definitive allusions to religion in the lyrics. This is not my general area of interest in the least, but the band makes it work. It bears repeating that they really do seem to have a masters-level appreciation for crafting a song that has all the earmarks of being an epic story. And just when you think you know where the song is taking you, there comes a killer speed driven mid-section fueled by screaming guitar work, dynamic rhythms from bassist Duke Erickson and drummer Kirk Arrington and a ripping vocal take from Mike Howe.

I’m shamelessly open about my admiration for Metal Church. I’ve given fantastic reviews to their two most recent studio albums on another site that I write for and I have always pre-ordered any new release over the last decade or so. They are simply one of my favorite bands and it is a joy to say so to anyone who will listen. So raise the altar, pour yourself a cup of sacramental wine and check out Hanging In The Balance. It is an album that will leave you, much like Wayne and Garth, proclaiming that you simply are just not worthy. In other words, you will discover that Metal Church is one of the best metal bands in history…PERIOD.

NOTES OF INTEREST – Mike Howe left the band, and the music business, for over 20 years after this album. He returned to fronting Metal Church in 2015 and they have released two brilliant studio albums as well as a live disc in that time frame. The band’s fourth release since Howe’s return is called From The Vault which was released on April 10th, 2020. That album is a 14 track (there are four bonus tracks available through purchasing various versions of the release) compilation of new recordings (including a 2020 re-recording of this album’s “Conductor”, five B-sides from the Damned If You Do sessions, cover songs and live tracks.

Hanging In The Balance was released through Blackheart Records, the label founded by Joan Jett and Kenny Laguna. Jett is credited with background vocals on the song “Little Boy” and Laguna is listed as one of the album’s three producers.

Paul O’Neill, best known for his work with Savatage and being the driving force behind Trans-Siberian Orchestra, is listed as “Musical Coordinator” for the album. He co-wrote and produced the song “Gods of Second Chance” and produced three other songs as well.

Alice in Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell plays the lead on “Gods of Second Chance”. Metal Church leader Kurdt Vanderhoof wasn’t part of the band’s official lineup for Hanging In The Balance but he is credited with providing “additional guitars” and co-wrote 10 of the 11 songs on the album. There’s a 12th track on the European version of the album called “Low to Overdrive” which he wrote as well.