Category Archives: Cassette Chronicles

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – DEF LEPPARD’S ‘EUPHORIA’

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 – EUPHORIA (1999)

It’s been just over two full years since I first wrote about Def Leppard for The Cassette Chronicles. I covered the Pyromania album and in that piece, I mentioned that while there were some albums from the band I didn’t like, Euphoria was one of the releases that I really enjoyed quite a bit.

Strangely, when I decided to write about this album I found that I couldn’t remember exactly when the last time I had popped the cassette in to listen to it. This led me to somewhat of a rediscovery of Euphoria and for the most part, it was well worth the experience.

The first side of the album opens with a rapid fire machine gun rocker in the form of the song “Demolition Man”. Between the fiery musical soundtrack and Joe Elliott going for broke with a blitzing vocal delivery, you get all the full bore blast of amped up yet still highly melodic rock and roll you could want with this track. On top of which, the song has a lyrically involved but repetitively catchy chorus that I couldn’t help but sing along to. Thankfully no one was in earshot of that!

That’s just the first song on the album but Euphoria actually opened up with a triumvirate of great songs. While the song’s pacing was in a slightly lower gear than “Demolition Man”, “Promises” was still an upbeat catchy number. And “Back In Your Face” lives up to its title with not only a direct delivery but there’s some added grit (particularly with Joe Elliott’s vocal performance on the song) that gives some additional heft to the track without sacrificing the band’s harmonious melodies.

“Paper Sun” was an interesting song for me. I’d kind of forgotten how the song rides a midtempo groove until the chorus where the music gets a bit livelier. And I really dug what I can only describe as the funky vibe that “All Night” had. That’s a killer and likely totally underappreciated song.

The album has thirteen songs on it, three of which are ballads in some way, shape or form. On the first side of the album, you have “Goodbye” and “It’s Only Love”. The first time I listened to the album in preparation to write this article, I didn’t really like the songs. The residual disdain I have for a lot of ballads probably played a big role in that. I wasn’t repulsed by the two songs or anything but they just didn’t do “it” for me. But the next time through, I seemed to better appreciate the songs for what they were. For those that look to Def Leppard for their softer side, I’m sure these songs really fit the bill.

The ballad on Side Two of Euphoria is “To Be Alive” but while the sentiments of the song fit the requirements of a ballad, the overall sound of the song is far more melodically uptempo and I actually found that the song was much more to my liking than the other two ballads.

Speaking of Side Two, can I just say how much I love the opening track “21st Centure Sha La La La Girl”? I really dig this one a lot. It’s got a great sound overall and I can’t help but be both bemused by and hum along to the chorus of:

“On a psychedelic space machine, galactic sugar high

Like a caffeinated satellite gone way past ninety nine

Come on, be my

21st century girl, all outrageous, quite contagious

21st century, you got solar fire

21st century girl, sweet romancer, cosmic dancer

21st century sha la la la girl”

Sure it is an entirely silly sounding group of words, but sometimes silly works. And this was one of those times.

While I’m by no means an addict for instrumental music, I have to say that listening to “Disintegrate” was one of those times where I wasn’t left wondering what the song would sound like with a vocal track. Written by guitarist Phil Collen, the song is a rambunctious rocker and shockingly, one of my favorite songs on the album.

The Euphoria album opens with a trio of great songs and it manages to end things with another great trio as well. The song “Guilty” is a solid rocker throughout. Initially I thought it might’ve been included as a fourth ballad if you generously expanded the definition but realistically, the song just ROCKS!  So does “Day After Day”. But going out on the highest of high notes, Def Leppard closes the album with “Kings Of Oblivion”, which is a flat out F’N awesome track!

While this belief is by no means come to by the scientific method, I think most Def Leppard fans would have Pyromania and Hysteria as their favorite two albums. I’d probably say that for myself as well. I know there are those who would make arguments for other releases but let’s just assume for the moment I’m right. If I was to pick albums for the next tier of great Def Leppard releases, there is no doubt that I’d put Euphoria right up there with Adrenalize and Def Leppard. It is another prime example of why Def Leppard is such a great band!

NOTES OF INTEREST: The Euphoria album was certified gold in the US. It seems like quite a comedown sales wise for the band but given it was put out in 1999, I’m glad to see that this album did that well. Though sales figure requirements are vastly different in other countries the album went gold in both Canada and Japan as well. The Japanese version of the album has one bonus track called “I Am Your Child”, while the Australian edition has both a cover of the Alice Cooper song “Under My Wheels” and an original song called “Worlds Collide”.

Ricky Warwick, currently the frontman for Black Star Riders, is credited with helping to provide the “heys” and “claps” on the “Back In Your Face” track. Former Formula One racing champion Damon Hill played the end guitar solo on “Demolition Man”. The song “To Be Alive” was originally done by guitarist Vivian Campbell’s side project Clock.

Though he didn’t produce the album (the band did that themselves along with Pete Woodroffe), Mutt Lange did co-write three songs on the album and did backing vocals as well.

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – DAMN YANKEES ‘DON’T TREAD’

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.

DAMN YANKEES – DON’T TREAD (1992)

Since I was such a big fan of the self-titled debut album from Damn Yankees (I wrote about that album for this series back in October 2019), it seems particularly odd that I never bought this follow up album when it was released in 1992. I’m not sure why I skipped over the album but nearly three decades later, I actually own the album on both cassette and CD.

When I realized that I never heard the full album, I found that I couldn’t even recall hearing any of the album’s eleven tracks. Well, until I actually played the album that is. As it turns out, there are two songs that made some in-roads with me over the ensuing years.

The first side of the cassette has both of those songs and they do provide an interesting contrast. The song “Where You Goin’ Now” is the purest power ballad song on Don’t Tread and as it played I found that I actually did remember it and not in a bad way either. I enjoyed this song a lot. It became a Top 20 single when it was released, which was the second and final time the band had a charting single.

The other song I remembered is the album opening “Don’t Tread On Me”. If you ever need a perfect example of how to craft a powerful rock track to kick off an album and really grab the listener from the get-go, this is the song. It’s a superb track that immediately gets your blood moving and never lets up until the last note.

Those are the songs that are still apparently getting some airplay on specialty radio shows these days but after listening to the full release, it is not the end of the quality material Damn Yankees included on Don’t Tread.

As a matter of fact, the first side of the album is a full on rock and roll monster. Besides those two songs I wrote about above you have a straight blast rocker in “Fifteen Minutes Of Fame”. There’s the song “Mister Please”, which starts out a bit more restrained but after the second lyrical verse, the music gets a more intensely rocking pace to it. As for the song “Dirty Dog”, when you listen to the chorus, you will recognize that if they tried to write the song now, the band would be catching a ration of crap. Of course, in 1992 there would’ve been far less hue and cry about the lyrics. Instead, the cool way the music has a swinging rock and roll feel to it will make people sit up and take notice regardless of how they might invariably think of the lyrical content of its chorus.

When you flip the cassette over, the quality doesn’t abate in the least. I will say that I had a bit of a problem connecting to the song “Silence Is Broken” but it is still a decent song. After that song opens up Side Two, the rest of the musical ride is flat out fantastic!

You get a couple more attitude driven rockers in “This Side Of Hell” and the album closing “Uprising”. That latter track is infused with a strong drum track from Michael Cartellone. In a band with Jack Blades, Tommy Shaw and Ted Nugent, Cartellone is easy to overlook but he really made this song something special. In between those songs the band weaves in cuts like “Someone To Believe”, which has an uptempo pacing to go along with some damn good lyrics. While the main musical thrust of “Double Coyote” is hard driving rock and roll, the band works in quite a few bluesy flourishes to give the song an extra musical dimension. It’s a track that caught my ear the first time I listened to Don’t Tread for this article and with each successive play of the album, it continued to be a song I looked forward to hearing.

My favorite song on the album is the song “Firefly”, which is an aggressively fever pitched rocker with a blitzing guitar solo that hooks you hard. As I listened to the song, I thought back to the band’s first album and the song “Piledriver”. The two tracks feel like companion tracks, but I think “Firefly” is even heavier, musically speaking. Still, no matter how you look at it, the band is on another level with this song’s performance and whenever I listen to the album from here on out, this is the showcase song for me.

While the Damn Yankees album went double platinum, I can’t find any information on how well Don’t Tread sold upon its release. However, all these years later, what I do know is that I really missed out on one hell of a gem by not listening to Don’t Tread back in 1992.

Damn Yankees may have released just two studio albums, but by any method of measurement you care to use, Don’t Tread, like its predecessor, is an incredible example of pure hard rocking melodic rock and roll that will light the fire of any music fan who cares to listen.

NOTES OF INTEREST: Don’t Tread, as with the band’s debut album, was produced by Ron Nevison. The 2020 Rock Candy Records reissue of the album contains two live bonus cuts.

According to the album’s Wikipedia entry, the original release of the Japanese version of the Don’t Tread had two bonus tracks. One is a live version of “Come Again” from the Damn Yankees album. The second song is a studio track called “Bonestripper”. However, that song is included on the first album’s 2014 Rock Candy Records reissue. By the way, the song is another fast paced ballsy rocker and it would’ve been a great song to include on the regular US release of Don’t Tread.

Robbie Buchanan played keyboards on Don’t Tread. Besides his musical career, he had a small role as a piano player in the 1978 Bette Midler film The Rose.

Magazine advertisement for Damn Yankees Don’t Tread

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – NEVADA BEACH’S ‘ZERO DAY’

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.

NEVADA BEACH – ZERO DAY (1990)

You’ll have to pardon my ignorance when it comes to the band Nevada Beach. Despite their album Zero Day having been released over 30 years ago, it wasn’t until I started listening to the cassette for this article that I’d ever even heard of the band.  I’m not quite sure how it is that I completely missed out on so much as even hearing the name of the band before, but somehow I managed it.

That’s the downside of things. The upside is that I got to hear this as a completely new album. And let me tell you, this was a fantastic listening experience!

Nevada Beach hailed from New Hampshire. And while that wasn’t exactly a hotbed of metal bands in the 80’s and early 90’s, the lineup of Hank Decken (vocals and writer of all ten tracks on the album), Geoff Safford (guitars), Tony Rivers (bass) and John Murphy (drums) sure had their collective fingers on the pulse of what a rock/metal album should be back then.

Originally, the first side of Zero Day presented me with peaks and valleys when it came to the songs. There were two songs that just didn’t quite hit the mark with me the first time I listened to the album. So it’s a good thing in my book that I listened to the album a few times because those two songs grew on me a lot and that made the entire first side of the album a winner for me.

The first of those two tracks was “On Zero Day” and it started out with a bit more of a methodically paced sound and got heavier as the song built to the chorus.  The second song was the side closing power ballad “Only The Fool”. It has a heavier musical sound than what you might expect from a standard power ballad and I think that is what helped the song grow on me over time.

Of course, the other three songs on Side One were instant hits for me. Fast paced rockers with a catchy vibe and a chorus that hooks you from the start. The album opens with “Rough House” which should’ve been a single release because it has a immediately memorable melody line and the vocals from Decken remind you of a Bon Scott vocal performance. The comparison to Bon Scott is best exemplified by the song “Action Reaction”, a balls out rocker that hits you hard and fast yet has a compelling sense of melodic timing to it as well. The song “Waiting For An Angel” might make you think the song is a ballad, but it’s actually quite the rocking little number and the one song that had a video made for it. (You can find that on Youtube.)

While the first side of the album took a little work for me to fully grasp ALL five songs, it was love at first listen when it came to Side Two.

That side started off with a trio of songs that captured the blood pumping anthemic nature of the Nevada Beach songwriting. “Back For Blood” goes for the throat while “Walking Dead” is a rocket fueled burst of anthemic choruses and some fast moving fretwork. “Stand” is a stand out rocker as well.

The song “Big Zero” is probably the slowest track on Side Two. It moves back and forth in tempo but it grows into a big ball of sound that will stick with you.

As for the album ending “Gagged and Bound”, it’s a burst of frenetic energy powered by an aggressive burst of music and a fiery vocal take. It’s one of my favorite songs on the album!

I know that we’re talking about an album that was released 31 years ago here. It’s long since past time for my enthusiastic raving about this “new” discovery of mine to do much good for the band’s fortunes. But how can you not love the possibility of discovering something you missed out on turning out to be this stunningly fantastic example of entertaining hard rock / heavy metal?

Nevada Beach might not have struck it big in 1990, but it certainly wasn’t because they lacked the material to do so. Zero Day has at least three songs that could’ve / should’ve been huge single hits for them and there’s not a bad track amongst the entire collection of tracks. If there was ever an album that Rock Candy Records should be salivating about reissuing, it’s this one!

NOTES OF INTEREST: The band had a five track self-titled EP that was released in 1990 before the full-length album came out. Years after disbanding, Hank Decken put the band back together and in 2016 they self-released the 10 track album Read It On The Wall. The album reportedly features material that was originally written in the 1990’s. You can check out the band on social media by clicking HERE.

Hank Decken released the solo albums Life Around The Edges (1999), Another Seven Days (2002) and Fading Forward (2014).

The one nitpick I had with the album has nothing to do with the music. The sleeve design made the white text on it a little hard to read. It wasn’t anything that affected my enjoyment of the music but it was annoying when I was trying to read some of the information.

Magazine advertisement for Nevada Beach’s “Zero Day” from 1990.

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

By JAY ROBERTS

The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.

DIRTY LOOKS – TURN OF THE SCREW (1989)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By JAY ROBERTS

The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.

RATT – REACH FOR THE SKY (1988)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By JAY ROBERTS

The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.

GIANT – TIME TO BURN (1992)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By JAY ROBERTS

The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.

RATT – INVASION OF YOUR PRIVACY (1985)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By JAY ROBERTS

The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – RATT’S SELF-TITLED EP

By JAY ROBERTS

The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.

RATT – RATT (1983)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By JAY ROBERTS

The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.

BLACKEYED SUSAN – ELECTRIC RATTLEBONE (1991)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Magazine advertisement for Blackeyed Susan’s Electric Rattlebone