Category Archives: Cassette Chronicles

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – PRETTY BOY FLOYD’S ‘LEATHER BOYZ WITH ELECTRIC TOYZ”

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.

PRETTY BOY FLOYD – LEATHER BOYZ WITH ELECTRIC TOYZ (1989)

I must admit that while I’ve been aware of Pretty Boy Floyd since they first appeared on the music scene, I can’t really say I’ve got any great memory of their music. When I pulled the Leather Boyz With Electric Toyz cassette out of The Big Box of Cassettes, it marked the first time I’d ever sat down to listen to any of the band’s albums. Maybe I’d seen one of their videos on Headbanger’s Ball back in the day or heard a track on Dee Snider’s House of Hair radio show but the band just never made an impression on me.

So when I listened to this debut album from the band, I was surprised to find myself enjoying the album…a lot! Released in 1989, it has all the earmarks that you’d expect to find from a glam band of the era. Singer Steve “Sex” Summers, guitarist Kristy “Krash” Majors, bassist Vinnie Chas and drummer Kari “The Mouth” Kane have a big brassy sound, plenty of fast paced rocking tracks and the requisite power ballad. And they certainly had plenty of that “glam metal” look and style.

As far as the fast paced rocking tracks go, the band wastes no time in putting on a fiery display of bold guitar-led rock and roll. The first side of the album opens with the title track which quickly captures your ear with a catchy vibe musically and one big earworm of a chorus. The lyrics seem plenty self-referential which is a theme that shows up on a few other tracks as the album played through. I can’t rightly recall if this particular style of lyric writing was heavily predominant in 1989 or not but it did seem to work well for the band here.

The first of the two singles (with accompanying videos) that were released from the album was the song “Rock & Roll (Is Gonna Set The Night On Fire)” and it is another fast moving track that set you back on your heels a bit with its relentless pacing.

I wasn’t that crazy about the song “Wild Angels” though. It’s a slow to midtempo power ballad track that just felt a little weak to me. It wasn’t absymal as some ballads of the era were or have become over time but my notes on the song were “Eh…ok” so I’d say this would be the skip track of the album for me.

The remaining two songs on the first side of the album were pretty good though. “48 Hours” an ode to rocking out on the weekend was pretty good and Pretty Boy Floyd’s cover of the 1981 Motley Crue song “Toast Of The Town” was a nicely done remake.

When the second side of the album is played, you get five straight songs that gives Leather Boyz With Electric Toyz that much more of a memorable edge. “Rock And Roll Outlaws” and “The Last Kiss” are straight forward rockers that will get you pumping your fists like a madman.

The band’s second single was, unsurprisingly for the times, the power ballad “I Wanna Be With Me”. But what did surprise me about the song is how the balance between the slower pacing of the main verses and the big bold harder rocking chorus was handled perfectly. It was a really decent track. I will say that using the song to close the album was strange but still a good song is a good song no matter where it places in the running order.

The song “Your Mama Won’t Know” is an over-the-top burner of a track. While the character embodied by Summers in the vocals is trying to talk what I can only assume is some girl into “fooling around”, the rest of the band puts on an incredibly razor sharp and blitzing musical onslaught.

The surprise track of the second side of the album for me was “Only The Young”. No, this is not a cover of the Journey track of the same name. What got me was the way the song starts out as more of a ballad. And not a particularly interesting one. I was THIS CLOSE to kind of tuning out. But then the song suddenly burst out into a full bore rocker and the song got a lot better. In the end, despite that stiff start, I quite enjoyed the song.

The Leather Boyz With Electric Toyz turned out to be a lot less successful than anyone involved with the creation and release of the album had to be hoping for. It peaked at #130 on the Billboard album chart in 1989. However, what I found (however long delayed) was that whatever the album and band lacked in terms of sales, the music was highly entertaining and definitely worthy of giving it another listen if you haven’t checked out the first Pretty Boy Floyd album in a while.

NOTES OF INTEREST: Pretty Boy Floyd broke up in 1991 but they’ve gotten back together a couple of times and are still active (with a host of lineup changes) today. Original bassist Vinnie Chas passed away in 2010.

Leather Boyz With Electric Toyz was the first of three full-length studio albums from Pretty Boy Floyd. Size Really Does Matter came out in 2004 and Public Enemies was released in 2017. There has been one EP and two live releases as well.

The 2003 reissue of Leather Boyz With Electric Toyz came with 5 bonus tracks. A second reissue came  in 2011 which had a cover of the Alice Cooper song “Department Of Youth” included. Cooper is one of four artists thanked in the original liner notes.

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – TESLA’S ‘THE GREAT RADIO CONTROVERSY’

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.

TESLA – THE GREAT RADIO CONTROVERSY (1989)

It’s been a while since I popped in my copy of the Tesla album The Great Radio Controversy and I really don’t know why that is. But what I do know is that when it was released in 1989, it made a huge impression on me. What got me to put this cassette on and write about it now was that I’ve been watching videos on this guy Brendon Snyder’s YouTube channel and one of the videos he did was a ranking of Tesla’s studio albums. It got me thinking about my own collection of the band’s albums and the realization that I hadn’t spent a lot of time listening to the band in a while. And so, it was time to rectify that situation and get an article out of it at the same time.

While Tesla broke through in the decade of “hair bands”, they were never really part of that particular scene. And that was fine with me. I love various bands that made their bones putting on makeup and using Aquanet, but it wasn’t the only stripe of music I appreciated even in the midst of the decade where heavy metal ruled the world.

But as much as I loved the album back then, as I listen to it now I find that I have an even greater appreciation for it.

You can’t accuse the band of skimping on material here either, because there’s a monster thirteen songs on the album with nary a bad one in the bunch. The Great Radio Controversy had four singles released from the album and they ran the gamut from pure ballsy hard rock to the purely sentimental and appropriately titled “Love Song”.

The first side of the album features two of band’s single releases from the album. The first is the album opening “Hang Tough”, an in-your-face hard rocking track that is still instantly memorable all these years later. In fact, I found myself singing along with each song on the album despite not having listened to it in full for quite a while. You just don’t forget these songs! Oddly enough, I didn’t fully realize I was singing along word-for-word it until I was three songs into the album.

You get relentlessly paced rockers like “Lady Luck”, “Did It For The Money” and “Yesterdaze Gone”. Each song features an explosive musical soundtrack combined with singer Jeff Keith’s distinctively raspy vocals powering over the top of the music. Besides Jeff Keith, the lineup of Frank Hannon, Tommy Skeoch, Brian Wheat and Troy Luccketta are in top notch form throughout this album.

While “Lazy Days, Crazy Nights” is a bit more restrained in terms of tempo the song still packs a heavy punch. The other single from Side One is the song “Heaven’s Trail” (No Way Out)”. While “Love Song” may have given Tesla its biggest charting hit, it was this song that gave their hard rocking side the most visibility at the time. It’s a huge song and the use of slide guitar on the song’s intro and outro gave the song a bit of a different spin to help make it that much more memorable.

But I have to say my favorite song on Side One (and by extension the entire album) is “Be A Man”. It’s another fast moving rocker but it was the lyrics for the song that really hit home with me. If you listen to the song, I think you’ll understand why I liked the song so much.

The second side of The Great Radio Controversy starts off in a similar fashion as the first side did. Like “Hang Tough”, the song “Makin’ Magic” is a balls-to-the-wall rocker that gets you pumped up like you wouldn’t believe. That leads into another of the album’s singles with the song “The Way It Is”. While quite as hard driving as “Makin’ Magic”, it still holds its own as a rocking number.

I’ve mentioned “Love Song” a couple of times already in this article but I found that when I listened to the song here, it managed to retain the good feelings I had about it when it was originally released. The song hit #10 on the singles chart and I still like it to this day. The song has a longer than usual intro before getting to the main part of the song. And while it is overtly sentimental, it leaves out the excessive sappy feeling which lets the song age like a fine wine and remain an appreciated classic.

What really got me on Side Two was what would be considered the “album tracks”. “Paradise” starts off much slower, in a kind of mood setting musical exploration. Then as the song progresses it becomes a deeper and heavier tone until it finally just spills over into a huge rocking monster of a track. The album closing “Party’s Over” doesn’t waste any time on a build up. It just rocks out from the first note to last and brings the album to a fitting crescendo that leaves you eager to just listen to the album all over again.

All that said, the most surprising thing to me was the newfound love I discovered for the song “Flight To Nowhere”. I liked the song a lot when the album came out, my immature love of any song that used swears as lyrics saw to that initially. However, as I listened to it now, I saw it for the blazingly hot music featured in the song. It’s got the fire and fury you’d hope for but for a hard rock band, they give you one hell of a monstrously good “heavy metal” song. There’s no holding back on this song. The music is relentless and Jeff Keith’s vocal performance is out of this world!

I had heard songs from Tesla’s debut album Mechanical Resonance on the radio when it was released, but at the time I didn’t get around to buying the album. I didn’t get it until I heard The Great Radio Controversy and had been newly cast as a big fan of Tesla. So it was this second album from the band that served as my gateway to their music. As I listen to the album in the here and now, I’m reminded of just how important a release The Great Radio Controversy was for the band as it launched them into the stratosphere in 1989 and continues to resonate with their fanbase decades later and leaves Tesla in a position where they are still always ready to kick ass!

NOTES OF INTEREST: The Great Radio Controversy was certified double platinum. The liner notes for the album contain a brief summary about the fight over whether Nikola Tesla or Guglielmo Marconi was the actual inventor of radio. That fight serves as the inspiration behind the title of the album.

While guitarist Tommy Skeoch hasn’t been with the band since 2006, the rest of the lineup that made this album (with the addition of guitarist Dave Rude) are active today.

Among those thanked in the liner notes of The Great Radio Controversy are Def Leppard, David Lee Roth, Alice Cooper and Night Ranger.

I knew that I had seen Tesla in concert twice but until I checked my list I didn’t remember that both times were in support of The Great Radio Controversy. I saw them open for Poison in Worcester, MA. Tesla blew the headliners off the stage. I saw Tesla the second time when they were doing a co-headlining tour with Great White. They were alternating nights as the closing act and when I saw them at Great Woods (now the Xfinity Center) in Mansfield, MA, it was Tesla’s night as the headliner. With Badlands serving as the opening act, it was a huge triple bill of hard rock and each band was on fire that night.

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – RATT ‘DETONATOR’

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 – DETONATOR (1990)

As with the previous four articles I’ve written in The Cassette Chronicles series about various Ratt albums, Detonator is an album that I had heard a couple songs from but never purchased or listened to the full album before now.

Also like those other articles, once I listened to the album I discovered that I have done myself a grave disservice to have paid so little attention to Ratt back in the day.

While previous albums may have played with the band’s sound a bit here and there, there is no doubt that Detonator is from the full-on glam / pop metal musical vein.

The album opens with the two songs I remember hearing when it was first released. You have “Shame Shame Shame” which has a down and dirty sensibility to it. Uptempo with a bit of a sleaze rock vibe in the performance, it also has quite the catchy sound to the song as well.

I’ve listened to “Lovin’ You’s A Dirty Job” on the radio a lot over the years but as I listened to it for this article I really dug myself into the lyrical component of the song. While the lyrics are pretty straight forward in terms of being sex-drenched, I came away with a renewed appreciation of just how they were crafted with a fluidity that made the entire vocal performance flow so smoothly. I came away thinking that despite the song being one of the best known songs on the album, it is actually a bit underrated.

After those two songs, the rest of Side One is all album tracks and I have to say I was pretty impressed with the songs “Scratch That Itch” and “One Step Away”. The former cut had the requisite rock and roll tempo and it just kind of immediately attaches itself to your ears. But it was “One Step Away” that really drew me in. There’s a hook to the music that got me humming along to it. The song just has a great overall sound and I found myself hooked to the storyline of the lyrical content. Stephen Pearcy did a really exemplary job with the vocal on this one.

I will say that I wasn’t overly taken with the side closing “Hard Time”. It’s a rocking track but it feels a bit one-note to me. Still, that’s a pretty damn good first side of an album.

The second side of Detonator is a pretty good companion to Side One. It opens with “Heads I Win, Tails You Lose” and I really liked the vibe the band created with the track. In fact, by the time the album winds up with “Top Secret”, the entirety of Side Two had me seriously regretting waiting over 30 years to hear the full Detonator album.

“Top Secret” rocks pretty fiercely and draws you in, much like “Can’t Wait On Love”. That song title may have you thinking it is a ballad, but instead it is a lively rocker that I enjoyed so much that I think it could’ve been a damn fine single for the band.

There’s a rhythmic swing to the musical performance on “All Or Nothing” and this is another track where (during the main lyrical verses) where vocalist Stephen Pearcy steps up to another level with his performance.

According to the album’s Wikipedia entry, the song “Givin’ Yourself Away” is the band’s only “power ballad”.  It was weird to think they’d never done an out and out ballad in that style before. But I guess the fact it turned out so well means it was just the right time to do a ballad. The song moves a lot slower than the album’s rocker tracks, but it doesn’t get bogged down and become a musical drag. I thought there was a real sense of sincerity to the performance and the song ended up being a pretty cool track that I do want to hear again.

To the best of my knowledge, Detonator is the last Ratt album that was released on cassette. (Yes, I might be wrong.) So this article would be the end of the series within a series. And that ending brings me to the conclusion that despite my general dismissiveness of the band other than their radio singles did an injustice to Ratt and to myself. The band, as it turns out, has a wealth of great material beyond the singles and I’m glad to have found my way to a fuller appreciation of Ratt’s catalog all these years later.

Detonator is a fabulous album with nary a mis-step that captures the band in fine form. There’s a continually renewed energetic rocking vibe throughout the album that will capture your ear and make you long for the days when metal still ruled the music world.

NOTES OF INTEREST – The Detonator album was certified gold.

Detonator was the last album bassist Juan Croucier appeared on before he left the band in 1992. He returned to the band in 2012 and has been part of the lineup in full since 2016. This was also the last album to feature guitarist Robbin Crosby before his death in 2002.

Jon Bon Jovi sang backing vocals on the “Heads I Win, Tails You Lose” track.

The only Ratt album I haven’t written about it their full length debut Out Of The Cellar. I might put an epilogue on this series of Ratt articles by writing about it at some point but given how much I’ve enjoyed the rest of the albums, I’m almost afraid that my opinion of it may change and then where will I be?

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THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – METAL CHURCH’S ‘BLESSING IN DISGUISE’

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.

Photo shared from Rat Pak Records Facebook page dated July 27 at 10:30 AM.

METAL CHURCH – BLESSING IN DISGUISE (1989)

At the time this article is published it will be a little over two weeks since the sudden and shocking death of Metal Church singer Mike Howe. He passed away on July 26th, 2021, and when I woke up the next morning to learn of that news, I couldn’t help but feel personally devastated. After the cause of death was reported as a suicide, it felt like being hit by a double whammy. I’ve tried to come up with some sort of understanding about what could possibly have been going on with Mike Howe that would lead him to this decision. But I really haven’t found the right way to string words together for this article. Platitudes are terrible because it is just another word for “cliches”. And the five stages of grief might account for some of the ideas I had wanted to work into this introduction, but expressing “denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance” seems a bit hackneyed from someone who didn’t really know the man outside of what I saw as a fan of his work with Metal Church.

While it may seem strange to be that affected by the death of someone I didn’t ACTUALLY know, the fact that I am such a huge fan of both the band as a whole and of Mike Howe’s work with them, left me spending the day after his death in somewhat of a haze. I broke out all the albums he made with Metal Church and played them in a musical tribute to his passing. But it didn’t feel like it was enough.

So I decided to do another Cassette Chronicles article on a Metal Church album as a way of paying a somewhat longer tribute to Mike Howe. I’d written about the Hanging In The Balance album back in April 2020. That was the third album the band recorded with Mike Howe as frontman and featured one of my all-time favorite tracks, “The Conductor”.

But for this article, I decided to take a look back at Blessing In Disguise, the first album from Metal Church to feature Mike Howe as their singer. But this won’t be just a look back at the album, I wanted to share a couple of stories so after each side of the album, that’s what I’m going to do.

Before talking about Side One of Blessing In Disguise, I should mention that when I looked the album up online, I was surprised to learn that it got mixed reviews upon release. The reason this blew me away is because I remember thinking it was a fantastic album through and through from the very first time I heard the album.

The funny thing about that is that I didn’t get the album when it was first released. Back in 1989, it wasn’t like we had the instantaneous news announcements like we do now. I didn’t even know the album was coming out until I saw the video for the song “Badlands” on MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball. But who was this new singer they had? With that mane of long blonde hair and a powerfully dynamic and ballsy vocal style, Mike Howe made an immediate impression with me. As for the “Badlands” song, I’ll talk more about that a little later.

I will say that seeing the video for the song prompted me to go out and buy the album as soon as I could. When I got the album (the cassette I listened to for this article is that very same one I bought three decades ago), I popped it in and the first thing I heard was the big booming drum fueled intro to the song “Fake Healer”. I was immediately hooked by the song, a venomously heavy track that takes the hypocrisy of the business of healthcare to task in such an on point way that it is still relevant to this day. The song is one of the two best known tracks (the other being “Badlands”) from the Blessing In Disguise album.

Since Metal Church is not glam metal by any stretch of the imagination, there aren’t a whole lot of songs about babes, booze, and partying. Instead, a lot of their songs touch on hot button topics like with “Fake Healer” or in the case of “Rest In Pieces (April 15, 1912”), a hard-hitting account of the night the Titanic sank. Iron Maiden is likely the preeminent band to touch on a lot of historical subjects in their work but Metal Church sure does themselves proud with this track.

While guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof had left the active lineup of the band, he was very involved in the songwriting for Blessing In Disguise. Vanderhoof’s replacement in the lineup, John Marshall acquitted himself nicely with the four songs he co-wrote, as did guitarist Craig Wells. I was pretty blown away with the lyrics Marshall wrote for “Of Unsound Mind” which is based off of the Edgar Allen Poe story “A Tell-Tale Heart”. The song is a fast paced blitzkrieg with a killer vibe and you feel like you are right there, hearing that heartbeat you shouldn’t be able to as the band rockets through the track.

The closing song on Side One is called “Anthem To The Estranged” and at the time of the album’s original release, it was the longest track the band had ever recorded. Well over nine minutes in length, the song kicks off with a spare acoustic guitar accompanying Mike Howe’s vocals. It’s a very slow moving track for the first two minutes or so but then the song’s sonic palette expands and gets a heavier intensity to it as it builds its thematic elements to a cinematic level. The tempo switches back and forth between the softer and heavier side of the musical equation and by the time it finishes, you have one classically epic song on your hands.

And that’s Side One for you. Now, I wanted to take a moment and talk about the first time I got to see Metal Church in concert. It was in 1989 in Boston and they were the opening act on W.A.S.P.’s tour for their Headless Children album. With Accept as the middle act, this was a triple bill I was very excited to see. While the show had been originally scheduled for The Orpheum Theater, it got moved to The Citi Club which shared Landsdowne Street with Fenway Park. I enjoyed the hell out of the show as all three bands were excellent to the best of my recollection. But what really made it great was before the show when I (along with my friends that I went to the show with) got to meet Metal Church. Well, four of the five guys anyway. Since this was only the second time I’d met some of my metal “heroes”, I didn’t actually have an album on me at the show. But I had some kind of paper in my wallet and along with bassist Duke Erickson, drummer Kirk Arrington and Craig Wells, I got to meet Mike Howe! The guy who filled that desolate and barren desert with his distinctive vocal tones in the video for “Badlands” was right there in front of me signing autographs and chatting with fans before the show. And what was my first impression? “Damn, he seems so tiny!” Seriously, that’s what I thought, embarrassingly enough.

But when I got to meet him, he was pretty cool. I mean, it was a brief interaction in the wild and woolly 1980’s Metal Years but he took the time to make even the briefest connection while signing my goofy piece of paper, which you can see I still have by the photo below.

As for the second side of Blessing In Disguise, it opens with “Badlands” and I swear no matter how many times I hear the song, I still get an electrostatic charge when that intro begins to play. It’s a flat out great song!

The rest of the second side is pretty amped up as well. The instrumental “It’s A Secret” is an adrenaline packed and hard-hitting number that takes your breath away with its unbridled ferocity. While I don’t consider myself a huge fan of instrumental music, I always find myself blown away when a band does an instrumental piece that makes me want to hear it over and over again.

On “The Spell Can’t Be Broken” the band lays down a brutal heaviness and infuses it with a amplied sense of speed at the same time. It’s a perfect blending of the two styles and makes the song an underrated gem.

The song “Cannot Tell A Lie” is an explosive sonic attack against the empty promises politicians make time and time again. Mike Howe delivers a blisteringly intense vocal performance with a furious growl in his vocals. The pacing is so fast that when the song ends you feel like you’ve been richocheting around the room the whole time.

The album closing “The Powers That Be” moves just as fast but there’s a slight bit of restraint in comparison to the speed driven attack of “Cannot Tell A Lie”, it allows for just a bit more of a sense of melody into the mix of the song that enlivens the track a bit differently than the preceding number and finishes the album on a high note.

Now we all know what happened after Blessing In Disguise, right? Metal Church released two more excellent albums with Mike Howe but the band split up in 1996 and Mike Howe completely left the music industry.
There’d be a couple of reunions and some great albums (I, for one, love the Ronny Munroe years) but in 2015 came the surprising announcement that after nearly two decades out of the business, Mike Howe was coming back to Metal Church! Don’t get me wrong, like I said, I was a big fan of Ronny Munroe, but the news that Mike Howe was rejoining Metal Church was incredibly exciting! But how would he sound? Well, any fears about not sounding good were laid to rest pretty quickly because not only did he sound fantastic, but it felt like he’d never left. The band released the albums XI, Classic Live and then came Damned If You Do in 2018. How much did I like all this material? Well, I got to review all three of those albums (as well as the From The Vault release that came out in 2020) for KNAC.COM and I loved them all.

But it was the tour for Damned If You Do that once again brought me into contact with Mike Howe (as well as the rest of the band). They played a show in New Bedford, MA as part of a co-headlining tour with Doro Pesch. After their set, they did a meet and greet signing at the merchandise table and I got to have another brief interaction with Howe. And it was fantastic! The long hair had been long since replaced by a shorter haircut and while he hadn’t grown to be 6 foot 5 or anything, he looked so fit that he could probably kick your ass without getting winded! While still brief, during those few moments I had to talk with him as he signed my CD, I shared the story about meeting him in 1989 and having reviewed the new album. And while he could’ve been aloof, he looked straight at me with no glazing over of his eyes and paid attention. It’s a small thing really, but it’s that kind of effort that forges a bond between the band and their fans. While I never got to take a photo with him, it’s the memories of those two meetings that I will treasure for the rest of my life.

The Blessing In Disguise album was my introduction to the vocal talents of Mike Howe. It’s a great album that ranks high amongst the band’s full discography for me. I really don’t have anything negative to say about it because it is a showcase for Metal Church at their best.

But as I listened to the album, and all the other albums that Mike Howe was a part of, I couldn’t help feel saddened that there wouldn’t be anything more from him. I don’t know what the future will hold for Metal Church as a band. I hope they continue because I’d hate to lose them. But to borrow a song title from that Hanging In The Balance album, the crushing loss of Mike Howe does feel like it is the “End Of The Age” for some reason.

On the song “Badlands”, which was the only co-writing credit Mike Howe had on Blessing In Disguise, was the following lyric:

“As the world awakens me so hard, my values have been changed
I make a promise to myself: Never again
A dusty godforsaken path, endless to my dismay
I know these are the badlands, somehow I’ll find my way.”

Since I first heard them, those four lines have served as a kind of personal motto for me. Now I don’t know if it was Mike Howe who wrote those specific four lines but he sang them and I’ve always kind of loved the fact that I could think it was him who helped give me that motto.

Mike Howe was just 55 years old when he passed away. It was far too soon for someone who had provided so much to the world of metal, but I think still had so much more to offer.

My condolences go out to Howe’s family and friends and to everyone in the metal community who, like me, feel we lost someone pretty damn special to our musical fandom.

Rest In Peace Mike Howe, you will be forever missed but your spirit will never die.

NOTES OF INTEREST: I own the Blessing In Disguise album on both cassette and CD. It was produced by Terry Date. This was the 2nd and thus far final time the band worked with him.

Mike Howe came to Metal Church from the band Heretic. Howe sang on the album the band’s album Breaking Point in 1988. The album’s producer was none other than Metal Church’s Kurdt Vanderhoof. I actually have that album on vinyl, though I got it AFTER he’d become Metal Church’s singer.

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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”.