Category Archives: Cassette Chronicles

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – BLACK ‘N BLUE’S ‘WITHOUT LOVE’

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.

BLACK ‘N BLUE – WITHOUT LOVE (1985)

More than three years ago, I wrote about Black ‘N Blue’s third album Nasty Nasty. In the opening of the article, I mentioned that the album had more of a raw production sound to it after a more streamlined sound failed to break the band to a bigger audience.

That attempt at a more streamlined sound was this second album from the band. While I’ve known of the band for decades, I didn’t spend a whole lot of time checking out their music and so as I listened to Without Love for this article, I was hearing it for the very first time. I guess thirty six years from the album’s original release qualifies as being late to the party.

While the band’s timing and material is usually cited as the reason for why they didn’t become more well-known, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by this album. I do like a real melodic hook to the rock I listen to, so as Without Love opened with the track “Rockin’ On Heaven’s Door”, I was quickly taken with the track. It’s a fast paced rocker (a description that fits most of the eleven songs on the album) that has a great instaneous hook that draws you in.

Black ‘N Blue didn’t quite follow that opening song up strongly with the next two songs on Side One of Without Love though. The album’s title track is good but doesn’t quite thrill me the way the first song did and “Stop The Lightning” was shoulder shrug inducing for me, just a “meh” kind of track.

But the first side does come back to form strongly with the song “Nature Of The Beach”, which is an ode to living life on said beach. It’s got a great feel to the music and I like the lyrical / vocal take from Jaime St. James. As for the side closing “Miss Mystery”, that’s a song that has such a catchy delivery I found that I wished it had become a hit for the band.

While I wasn’t totally sold on the entirety of Side One, when I flipped the tape over I found that I really loved Side Two.

The second side of Without Love kicks off with “Swing Time”, which much like “Rockin’ On Heaven’s Door” is a side opening rocker guaranteed to hook you fast. I loved the song.

While I thought the “Bombastic Plastic” song title (and ensuing use of it in the chorus) came off sounding a bit silly, the music for the track more than made up for it. The song “Strange Things” opens up with a slower delivery that deepens the music’s feel and as it goes on, a more rocking tempo takes over. The opening part of the song seemingly hinted at a kind of cinematic type of song which I think would’ve played out great. That said, I liked how the band took both styles in the song and melded them into one great song.

There’s a definitive stomp to the groove driven bluesy rock sound on “Two Wrongs (Don’t Make It Love”). For those who love that overt blues rock sound in their music, you will love this one.

Black ‘N Blue’s cover of the Aerosmith song “Same Old Song And Dance” came out rather well. It pretty much plays it straightforward with how they perform the track, but the weird thing is that I’m not sure how many members of the actual band were involved in the recording for this one. If you look at the liner notes, other than vocals and lead guitar, it seems everything was played by guest musicians (including noted music producer Bob Rock on rhythm guitar). Call me crazy but what’s the point of doing a cover if most of your band doesn’t appear on the track?

Of course, if you want the true spark track that drives my enjoyment of Without Love, look no further than “We Got The Fire”. This song is a killer rock track that shows off the band in spectacular fashion. While I have a ways to go in exploring all the songs Black ‘N Blue recorded, this one is definitely a song that would make my best of list for sure.

It’s strange that an album that was so relatively unpopular back in the day that the band overhauled their sound the next time out would be one I enjoyed so much. I believe it is available on CD and I just might find myself upgrading because Black ‘N Blue’s Without Love is one hell of an entertaining release!

NOTES OF INTEREST: The band co-wrote the title track and “Miss Mystery” with Jim Vallance, the longtime songwriting partner of Bryan Adams.

Vallance played “Simmons drums” on “We Got The Fire”. The song featured Loverboy singer Mike Reno on backing vocals and Toto’s Steve Porcaro as one of three musicians credited on keyboards for the track. Adam Bomb contributed “additional guitars” to the song as well.

The band’s cover of Aerosmith’s “Same Old Song And Dance” being included on the cassette edition of Without Love seems to have been forgotten in terms of online research. I looked at the Wikipedia entry for the album and the song is only listed as a bonus track for the CD version.

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – JUDAS PRIEST’S ‘RAM IT DOWN’

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.

JUDAS PRIEST – RAM IT DOWN (1988)

In the week leading up to the writing of this article, thanks to a big storm I had no power for 3 days. So my original plans to pull a cassette out of The Big Box of Cassettes and write about that was kind of sidelined.

I couldn’t really do any research on an album I wasn’t familiar with already. So this week’s write up on the Judas Priest album Ram It Down comes from my own personal cassette collection and it is an album that I am indeed rather familiar with. I still had to do some research but at least I knew the album beforehand. In fact, it was the first Judas Priest album I ever bought. And that might be at least part of the reason why it still stands the test of time for me and remains one of my favorite albums from the band.

I didn’t really know much about the band until I got this album. Pretty much my first memory of the band was when I was attending Boy Scout camp (try not to laugh at that notion) and one of the counselors had a cassette holder full of Judas Priest cassettes. I didn’t hear any of them at the time but I remember seeing the line up of albums in the holder. I don’t remember the counselor’s name but he was a huge fan of the band as you might imagine.

Of course, my lack of knowledge about the band was turned around when I got the Ram It Down album. Before I’d even listened to any of the music, I was struck by the stunning artwork. I love the visual of the fist crashing down from the sky onto the planet (presumably Earth itself).  You can’t say it doesn’t catch your eye.

But for all that I love the art, when the album started I found myself immediately hooked. Right from the Rob Halford scream on the title track that opens the album, this was an album I knew I was going to love. But it wasn’t just that scream that made the “Ram It Down” song stand out to me. The song’s rip-roaring frenetic pace captured my imagination as well. The speed at which the guitars pummelled your ear drums was just relentless.

The track “Heavy Metal” is the kind of anthemic rocker you might expect from Judas Priest if you have any kind of history with the band. I loved the killer guitar solo that powered the intro to the track. The fiery pacing of “Love Zone” and “Come And Get It” made the tracks winners in my eyes back in 1988 as well as when I listened to it for this article.

When I decided to write about the album, I mentioned to a friend of mine that I was working on an article that would be as hard as iron and as sharp as steel. Which is of course a lyrical line from the Side One closing number “Hard As Iron”. The song has a nice little edgy feel to it and Halford delivers those vocals superbly.

The first side of the album is just one great track after another in my book and there’s not really much of a let up when you flip the tape over to Side Two.

For me, the song “Blood Red Skies”, which opens the second side, is one of my favorite Judas Priest songs. I loved the way the band established the song with a moody atmospheric opening part. But as the vocals kick in, you can’t help but imagine that the song is the blueprint for a science fiction screenplay or novel set in some kind of dystopian future. After the first verse of lyrics, the song does grow into more of a straightforward rocker but in all, this is just an incredible song.

I’m also a big fan of “I’m A Rocker”. It’s another anthem track, this time paying tribute to the rock and roll lifestyle but it can also be easily adopted by the metal fandom as their own musical declaration of intent too.

I don’t know how the rest of the Priest fanbase feels about the band’s cover of Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” but I’ve always kind of liked the song. It was done for the comedic movie Johnny Be Good starring Anthony Michael Hall but it also ended up on Ram It Down as well. The thing I vaguely remember about the song is that upon its release there was an article that had the band saying if they didn’t like how the song turned out as they recorded it, it never would’ve seen the light of day. I have no idea where I read that but it has stuck in my memory all these years.

The song “Love You To Death” is a bit slower in tempo than most of the other songs on Ram It Down but it still has a beat to it that kind of makes you want to stomp your feet to it. And the inclusion of the sound of a whip in the mix drives home the fact that the song can have more than one meaning to it.

In the more than three decades since the release of Ram It Down, I’ve always considered the album closing “Monsters Of Rock” track to be the one real down note about the album. It always seemed so plodding in nature that it just felt completely out of place alongside the rest of the material. And while the song certainly hasn’t changed tempo in all these years, for some reason as I listened to it for this piece, I found myself struck by how much I was actually appreciating the song. Perhaps it just hit me just right this time, the result of years of listening to the song. But I really was quite surprised to find myself enjoying the song. It was almost like I was “finally” hearing it for the first time.

Ram It Down was my first Judas Priest album and to this day it remains one of my favorites. It is just chock full of great material fueled by a killer rhythmic foundation, screaming guitars from Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing and the vocals of the Metal God himself, Rob Halford. If you can’t appreciate the greatness of this album, I just don’t know what there is left to say to you. But in all honesty, you really have to give the album a new listen and I think you’ll discover that it is just as strong an album as the more readily acknowledged classic albums from the band.

NOTES OF INTEREST: Despite not being overly well received by critics, the Ram It Down album did achieve gold certification. The 2001 remastered CD edition has two live songs included as bonus tracks. (I own that remastered edition as well as the cassette edition.)

Two songs recorded during the Ram It Down sessions that didn’t make the cut for the album did eventually get released on the remastered CD editions of other Judas Priest albums. The song “Thunder Road” appeared on Point Of Entry. Meanwhile, the song “Fire Burns Below” showed up on Stained Class.

According to the online information about the album, though he is credited on the album, drummer Dave Holland didn’t play on many of the Ram It Down songs. The band opted to use a drum machine for the most part. This was the last album he was a part of with Judas Priest. Holland passed away in 2018.

Original magazine advertisement for Judas Priest’s Ram It Down.

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – DANGEROUS TOYS’ ‘HELLACIOUS ACRES’

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.

DANGEROUS TOYS – HELLACIOUS ACRES (1991)

More than four years ago, I wrote an article in The Cassette Chronicles series on the self-titled debut album from Dangerous Toys. And while I loved the three hit tracks and one other song a lot, I felt most of the rest of the tracks on the album fell a bit short.

I don’t recall that I ever owned the Hellacious Acres (which is just a great album title!) when it was first released. So it didn’t surprise me when I looked at the track listing on the back cover of the cassette liner notes and discovered I didn’t automatically remember any of the songs.

Of course, that proved to be somewhat inaccurate as I listened to the album. The second song on Side One of the album is “Gimme No Lip” and given that it was released as a single and had a video made for it, I know that I had to have seen and heard it back then. I guess I’ll have to chalk it up to just not hearing it much over the years and I’d forgotten that the song was on this album.

That was the only faulty memory problem with the album however. I didn’t recall hearing any of the other songs and that’s a pretty good thing because it let me discover that Hellacious Acres had plenty of great material to offer.

Side One opened with “Gunfighter” which might conjure up some kind of Old West image in your mind. And given the mood setting style of the song’s intro, you would at first be proven right. But after that intro, the song pretty much explodes into a hard hitting rocker that is about as far away from the days of dueling in the streets as you can get. Combine the relentless pace of the music with vocalist Jason McMaster’s rapid fire vocal delivery and you have just a fantastic song on your hands.

The rest of Side One seemed to channel an underlying sense of chaos as the band would continue on their hard driving pace with songs like “Sticks & Stones” and “On Top”. The latter song is fueled by sex-drenched lyrics but it is a pretty good track all around. While the band was on fire on the side closing “Sugar, Leather & The Nail”, I didn’t quite find myself drawn to the song that much.

When Dangerous Toys slowed down the pace a little for the song “Best Of Friends”, it still had a bit of an edge to the music. The song dealt with memories of a lost friend and while it did capture that nostalgic kind of feeling, it left out much of the sappiness and kept the song from being a full-on ballad.

The second side of the album opened with the song “Angel N U”. Tempo wise, the majority of the track moved from a mid-to-up tempo kind of groove. And it wasn’t bad. But when the song blows up into an almost out of control fiery pace over the last portion of the song, it didn’t work that much for me. It felt like having a bucket of cold water thrown on you. Up until that over-the-top ending, I was enjoying the song.

When a band covers a classic track, they seem to always feel a need to do something that puts their own stamp on it. Hearing Dangerous Toys cover Bad Company’s “Feel Like Making Love” had me wondering what they were thinking. What made that song such a classic was just how perfectly constructed the song was and how the finished track sounded. But this version of the song is just BAD! The band completely overplayed the music and took any kind of charm the original had. Feel like making love? No, this cover made me feel like fast forwarding the tape.

Thankfully, the last three songs of Side Two did a solid job of redeeming those two mistakes. A video was made for the album’s second single “Line ‘Em Up”, a fast paced rocker that catches your ear pretty quickly and you ride the wave of enthusiasm the band has in their performance. You can say the same thing for “Gypsy (Black-N-Blue Valentine) which just conjures up this cool vibe when I listened to it.

The album’s closing song “Bad Guy” is an amped up rocker that leaves you both exhilarated and exhausted with how the band attacks on all fronts.

While the self-titled Dangerous Toys album may have had the “hits”, I think Hellacious Acres might just have offered more when it comes to the top-to-bottom track listing. Yes, there were some tracks that didn’t really do it for me, but for the songs I did like…just WOW! It’s the 30th anniversary of the album’s release and you’ll find Hellacious Acres is just jam-packed with fiery aggressive rock and roll that will have you rocking out hard and fast!

NOTES OF INTEREST: After not playing on the first album but being pictured on the back cover, guitarist Danny Aaron did play on Hellacious Acres. However, it would be the only Dangerous Toys release he appeared on as he left the band during the tour for this album.

With the self-titled album having enjoyed some mainstream success (it would eventually be certified gold, the disappointing sales of Hellacious Acres found the band’s record label dropping them while they were out on the Operation Rock & Roll tour with Judas Priest, Alice Cooper, Motorhead and Metal Church.

While there had been previous statements from Jason McMaster that there wouldn’t be any new music from Dangerous Toys, according to Wikipedia guitarist Scott Dalhover said in 2018 that they were working on new music. Also, in 2019 the band performed their first new music, the song “Hold Your Horses”, in 24 years. Still, there’s been no new officially released music made available. The band is still playing the occasional live show, though I imagine that like most bands they didn’t do any shows in 2020.

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – CULTURE CLUB’S ‘COLOUR BY NUMBERS’

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.

CULTURE CLUB – COLOUR BY NUMBERS (1983)

First off let me just type the following: guitarist Roy Hay, bassist Mike Craig and drummer Jon Moss. It might seem a strange way to start off an article about Culture Club’s smash hit second album Colour By Numbers, but I think it is worth mentioning the three members of the band who aren’t Boy George. Let’s face it, when it comes to Culture Club, despite the heavy contributions to the songwriting and the actual playing of the music, it is no great statement of fact that Hay, Craig and Moss are deeply overshadowed by the monolithic figure Boy George became in the early and mid-1980’s.

When this album was released in 1983, I was still thoroughly mixed up in my love of all things Top 40 pop music. Sunday mornings were given over to Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 countdown radio show and I had my big notebook full of week-to-week listings of each week’s chart.

And I have no problem admitting that I loved the song “Karma Chameleon”. That song still has to be seen even to this day as the group’s signature hit song. The funny thing thought is that despite loving the song and the other singles from the album, I never bought Colour By Numbers at the time. I can’t remember my reasoning for that but it never found its way into my collection until I started buying cassettes for this series.

While listening to the album, I was quickly reminded of the four hit singles. But when I first pulled the cassette out of the box, I took a quick peak at the track listing and I really only recognized two of the songs. Besides “Karma Chameleon” (which leads off the first side of the album and rose to #1), the song “Church Of The Poison Mind” (which was a Top 10 hit) is the only other song I remembered solely from the title. I find that strange for me because the song “Miss Me Blind” was a Top 5 single and “It’s A Miracle” peaked at #13. However, I don’t think either of those songs really gets much airplay on the safe for work radio station that I listen to at my job and so they seemingly faded just a bit from my memory. But as soon as they started playing on my cassette, I remembered them quite well.

For “Church Of The Poisoned Mind”, I loved the raucously upbeat tempo of the song. For “Miss Me Blind”, the fast pace and the overall construction of the song made me enjoy it. Both of those tracks are on the album’s second side. “Karma Chameleon” and “It’s A Miracle” are the two lead tracks on Side One and both are fast moving numbers as well.

As for the rest of the “album tracks” on Side One, I thought the ballad “Black Money” and “Changing Every Day” were okay. Nothing to really write home about but certainly not a drag on the album either. But the last track on Side One is a piano-centric track called “That’s The Way (I’m Only Trying To Help You)” was phenomenal! As I said, I’d never heard the remaining six songs that weren’t singles in the US before now, so this was a big surprising discovery for me. If I’m not mistaken, pretty much the entire musical soundtrack for the song came from the piano (performed by Roy Hay, if the online material is correct). But the vocal performance from Boy George and I’m assuming Helen Terry (the only female musician credited in the liner notes) was so impressive.

And that’s the thing, isn’t it? For all the handwringing that Boy George’s image brought from everyone that wasn’t the music’s target audience, he had one hell of a voice for the band’s material. I know that British new wave pop music isn’t exactly what most people would expect me to be writing about but I did quite enjoy getting to focus not only  on the music of Culture Club but hearing the breadth of Boy George’s singing was kind of impressive to me.

After Side Two of Colour By Numbers opened with the two songs that would become big singles, the remaining songs didn’t quite capture my imagination like Side One did. “Mister Man” and “Stormkeeper” trod the mid-tempo road but each song kind of just fell flat. My more metal music outlook couldn’t help see the song title “Stormkeeper” and think of it being some kind of dark and intense rocker. Yep, you guessed it, that couldn’t be further from the truth if it tried.

The closing song “Victims” was never released as a single in the US but the ballad did get released that way in both the UK and Australia. However, I can understand why a US release didn’t happen. It is just a flat out pedestrian at best song. Without couching my opinion, I didn’t really like it at all.

That said, I do have to admit that as I finally got to listen to Colour By Numbers for the first time,  I was surprised at just how much I liked most of the album. By the time this article is published, it will be just three days short of 38 years since the release of this benchmark Culture Club album. I think that any pop music fan would do well to avail themselves of the anniversary to take the opportunity and give Colour By Numbers a new listen. You just might be surprised to discover that it still holds up remarkably well all these decades later.

NOTES OF INTEREST: The Colour By Numbers album has sold more than 10 million copies since it was first released, including more than 4 million in the US. It peaked at #2 on the Billboard albums chart, stuck behind Michael Jackson’s Thriller album.

When the album was reissued in 2003 it came with five additional bonus tracks.

Singer Helen Terry performs backing and/or accompanying vocals on five Colour By Number tracks. She had a Top 10 hit of her own in 1984 called “Love Lies Lost” and released the album Blue Notes in 1986. She would go on to become the executive producer of the BRIT Awards TV show.

My cassette copy of Colour By Numbers just barely made it through the listening process, so I’m likely to find myself upgrading to a CD copy of the album at the earliest opportunity.

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.

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