Category Archives: Cassette Chronicles

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – LEATHER’S ‘SHOCK WAVES’

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.

LEATHER – SHOCK WAVES (1989)

It’s funny how things work out sometimes. In 1989, I considered myself a fan of the band Chastain. But while I liked the band’s best known songs, I had a little trouble getting into the full albums as a whole. I loved the playing and of course I’d love the vocals from Leather Leone.

But there was somewhat of a disconnect that held me back from fully enjoying the albums start to finish. It wasn’t until years later when the albums got reissued (and remastered) that I FINALLY came to fully love the Chastain albums of the 80’s.

But in 1989, when Leather Leone’s first solo album Shock Waves came out, I was hooked from the start. This might be a little surprising because while it was called a solo album, it featured a lot of the people involved with making the Chastain albums. Guitarist David T. Chastain wrote or co-wrote a bunch of the songs (as well as produced the album) and at least a couple of guys from Chastain played on the album. But for whatever reason, Shock Waves really struck a chord with me.

When the explosive notes from the album opening All Your Neon came out of the speakers, I was hooked and went on one heck of a wild ride. The music for the song is outstanding, both heavy and with a subtle hook that grabs you. And the balls out vocal from Leather is incredible.

On Side One of the album it was one blow the doors off track after another. The album’s title track is just relentless. Not just musically which saw bassist David Harbour and drummer John Luke Hebert shine quite nicely but the vocal track was immensely satisfying as well.

My favorite song on the Shock Waves without a doubt is “The Battlefield Of Life”. It starts off slow, setting itself up with a well produced intro. Leather’s vocal delivery of the first couple of lyrical lines are in line with that intro. But then it is like a bomb is set off and the music ramps up with a massive burst of energy. And once again, Leather’s vocals set the song apart somehow. When the song comes in for a landing, the pace slows back down and the vocal falls back into a more restrained dramatic presentation as the song comes to a close. I should point out that guitarist Michael Harris had some great playing on this song. Even as my ears keyed to Leather’s vocals, I kept finding myself drawn to each fast moving note of his playing too.

Like “The Battlefield Of Life”, the song “In A Dream” starts off with a bit more of a dramatic presentation before a more uptempo pace takes over. But I liked the way the song switched its pace to meet the demands of the song at any given point. And Leather lets loose a fantastic scream in this song that is a pointed observation of real world issues.

When I flipped the cassette over to Side Two, the album starts up with the song “Something In This Life” flipped the script a bit. Most of the song had a heavier and slower feel to it, but then punctuated that with faster moving bits that kept you on your toes.

I can’t quite put my finger on the why but I will say that for whatever reason, I love the “Diamonds Are For Real” track a lot too. Fast paced and gripping, it’s just a song that makes you stand up and take notice.

The album’s final three tracks are all mostly slower in tempo but none of them suffers any kind of letdown in intensity for it.

The sense of drama is first and foremost for the “It’s Still In Your Eyes”…”On and on the world goes…but I remember yesterday…” I LOVE that particular lyrical passage in the song. Leather’s vocals on this song are so particularly on point that even though the track is almost exclusively slower paced, I couldn’t get enough of this one.

“Catastrophic Heaven” has a pretty expressive guitar solo and I love the way the song turns itself up to 11 when Leather’s vocal heads into the song’s brief chorus. There’s a spoken word part to the song that was pretty intriguing as well. The album closes out with “No Place Like Home”, a track that has an epic stomp feel to it.

For the longest time, I only owned this album on cassette. And yet even as the years passed, I would play it all the time and it remains a treasured favorite album of mine. I know it might be seen as something less than a full and true solo album for Leather Leone because of the heavy involvement of David T. Chastain, but for me Shock Waves was the album that set me up for a lifetime musical fandom for Leather (aside from those Chastain songs I liked of course). I love the way she sings and with Shock Waves listeners will get to hear her in full bloom!

NOTES OF INTEREST – The Shock Waves album has been reissued at least twice that I remember including a special edition marking its 30th anniversary.

Former Cannibal Corpse guitarist Pat O’Brien co-wrote “All Your Neon” and “Something In This Life” with Leather Leone. Manilla Road’s Mark Shelton wrote the album’s title track.

In 2018, Leather released her 2nd solo album II and I not only got to review that album for another site, I did an interview with her as well. She is working on a new solo album at this time with the album’s title at least tentatively set as We Are The Chosen.

Original magazine advertisement for Leather’s Shock Waves.

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – KROKUS’ ‘CHANGE OF ADDRESS’

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.

KROKUS – CHANGE OF ADDRESS (1986)

As I planned to write about this ninth studio release from Krokus, I had to head off to research some stuff online. I have to say that I was pretty surprised to find out that just two albums after Headhunter, the band ended up releasing what is considered one of the worst albums of their career. I read that online and I found myself intrigued to discover if that was totally true, a little true or completely false.

As always, the truth does seem to fall somewhere in the middle. At least for me. Krokus has said that the record label put them and their music under incredible pressure during the recording of Change Of Address. I can see some of that in terms of how commercially oriented the material turned out. But that’s not always a sign that it was all bad.

On the first side of the album, “Now (All Through The Night)” and “Hot Shot City” got things going. The first track started off with a bit more of a mid-tempo pacing but once the song got to the first chorus, Krokus kicked things into a higher gear and I thought the track turned out okay. “Hot Shot City” was a much faster rocker track that wasn’t bad either.

Next up was Krokus covering the Alice Cooper classic “School’s Out”. While you could make the argument that a cover of a track that was just 14 years old at the time it was re-done by Krokus wasn’t really necessary, at least they did a pretty good job with it. Seriously, I think singer Marc Storace’s voice is uniquely qualified to pull off the vocal performance and the Krokus version got me just as pumped up as the original version.

Now, if you want to talk BAD music well you can start with “Let This Love Begin”. I know that longtime readers will know about my hindsight disdain for ballads, but in this case I think I’m on solid ground. This is simply putrid. It’s not just that it is a shameless attempt at power ballad glory and sales, it is also because it is so wretchedly banal that even the biggest supporter of power ballads would have a hard time saying they liked it with a straight face. I would love to know how they managed to record the track without vomiting.

Now for all the complaints about the album’s musical style from critics, fans and the band, I would have to say that the side closing “Burning Up The Night” is actually a fantastic song. Yes, it is pure pop-oriented metal with a great hook and a draw-you-in chorus. But again I ask why is that always considered a bad thing? I loved this song and quickly found myself humming along to the chorus.

Flipping the cassette over to Side Two, the opening song “Say Goodbye” has a pretty good sound to it. The track starts off with a heavier thump to it, even with a more mid-to-uptemp pace than a full-on rocking style. But the song lyrics are telling a story that seems to have a darker take on things. The chorus has a big backing vocal sound giving it a bigger canvas to draw you in. But I was definitely intrigued by the lyrical content so for me, the song worked rather nicely.

That sense of intrigue continued with “World On Fire”. The song is over six minutes long (which seems long by 1986 standards) and it feels like Krokus is world building something throughout the song. The song doesn’t fully break into a full on rocker except for a few flourishes but I was quite keyed into this track from start to finish.

“Hard Luck Hero” is a hard rocking track that sounds like it should’ve been a single. I could see how it might’ve been used over the end credits of a 1980’s action movie as well. It’s a straightforward kind of track but I enjoyed it a lot.

The album closing “Long Way From Home” was an uptempo track for the most part but again, this song felt like Krokus was doing a bit of world building with the lyrics that were reflective in nature.

As I listened to that last song, it struck me that the Change Of Address album feels like two different albums. The first side feels like the band’s complaints about pressure from the record label forced them to write pure pop-oriented material. Even though it turned out that I liked most of the songs on that first side, as I listened to Side Two which sounds mostly like the band wrote material that appealed more to their own tastes, there is a marked difference in the tone of the songs from side to side, even allowing for the more accessible sounding “Hard Luck Hero”.

But whether pure commercial metal or the possibly deeper sounding material, I found that I enjoyed Change Of Address for what it was. Hey, it may not make anyone but me happy but I would have no problems listening to this album over and over again, though I’ll skip that ballad track!

NOTES OF INTEREST – Guitar legend Allan Holdsworth provided the solo on the album closing track “Long Way From Home”.

The track listing provided on the outside and inside of the Change Of Address liner notes is out of sync with the running order that actually appears on the album itself. I found it more than a little annoying.

The band must’ve really hated this album because even though they were promoting the album on tour with Judas Priest, they reportedly barely ever played any of the songs in concert.

When I wrote about the band’s Headhunter album back in 2018, I noted that Krokus was heading off on a farewell tour in 2019. They had a planned November 2020 date in Massachusetts that a buddy of mine and I got tickets for but the show never happened due to the pandemic.

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – BABYLON A.D.’S ‘NOTHING SACRED’

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.

BABYLON A.D. – NOTHING SACRED (1991)

It was more than five years ago when I wrote about the self-titled Babylon A.D. album. In that piece, I noted that while I liked the two big singles from the album, it wasn’t until I listened to the album while writing that article that I finally found a true appreciation for the rest of the album.

Now when it comes to the band’s follow up album Nothing Sacred, I couldn’t honestly say that I remember ever even hearing any of the songs on it before listening to it for this article. As I would go on to discover, that isn’t quite accurate…I think.

The cassette I have has been sitting in The Big Box of Cassettes for a good long while so when I pulled it out, I was surprised to discover that it was actually a promo copy of the album. Stamped with a “Promo Only” on the card insert and on the cassette itself, there’s no liner notes and the artwork that appears on the official release is nowhere to be found. You can check out of picture of what the promo copy looks like just below.

While the debut album had single success with “Hammer Swings Down” and “Bang Go The Bells”, I can’t recall if either of the songs released as singles for Nothing Sacred made any noise on the radio or the charts. But with both songs appearing on Side One of the album, the band did get things off to a damn good start. Singer Derek Davis (still billed as just “Derek” in the liner notes) helps propel the opening track “Take The Dog Off The Chain” off to a rollicking start. There’s an infectious energy to the music and I found myself buzzing as I listened to the track. I can definitely see why the song was picked as a single.

The second single is the song “So Savage The Heart”. The first thing to note about the song is that it has a killer title. It falls into a mid-to-uptempo groove musically and you can probably get away with calling it a “power ballad”, though that might be doing the song a bit of a disservice. In 1991, I’m guessing the formula of releasing a rocker and then a ballad as singles was still standard operating procedure. But in a nice twist in the narrative, I quite enjoyed the song.

As for the rest of the songs on the first side of the album, “Bad Blood” is a pretty darn good rocker and “Sacrifice Your Love” is pretty intense musically. As the song heads towards its end, the pace kicks into another gear and the guitar playing from Danny De La Rosa (who co-wrote this track as well as 8 others on the album) and Ron Freschi get amped up.

As I listened to “Redemption”, I wasn’t really into it the first time around. But the heavy drama that fills and fuels the lyrics ended up growing on me from the second listen onward. The vocals end up capturing the tone the lyrics set up and while it starts off a bit slower musically, it picks up that pacing when it needs to.

The side-ending song “Down The River Of No Return” is another one of those tracks with a great title. Unfortunately, I didn’t connect with the track much at all. A ballad that is pretty much a soft delivery from start to finish, it just didn’t do a thing for me.

Remember how I said I hadn’t heard any of the songs before and that I would discover that I wasn’t exactly accurate in that belief? Well, that’s where the opening song on Side Two comes into play. The song “Psychedelic Sex Reaction” is the only song on Nothing Sacred where there are any outside writers. Derek Davis did co-write the track but three other names appear as well. But I’m only sure about one of them and that was Jack Ponti. While I didn’t remember the song from it’s title, once it started playing I distinctly remember the song’s chorus. It’s a massively catchy track that kind of makes you wonder why it wasn’t released as a single. Until you listen to the lyrics that is. Not that there’s anything overtly bad about them but you can see where they might’ve given someone pause in 1991. Anyway, I really got into the song but I have no idea where I might’ve heard it. Maybe I did hear it on the radio back in the day or something. But I think a more likely explanation is that I must’ve heard it on Dee Snider’s radio show “The House Of Hair”. Regardless of how and where I heard it before, the song has a great hook and that chorus is draws you in from the get-go.

The “Dream Train” track has a cool bluesy sound in the intro which goes on to recur throughout the song. But after that intro, the song does kick into more of a hard rocking number. I liked the song but will say that some of the vocals seem to get a bit lost in the mix at times.

The rocking “Blind Ambition” is another song with a catchy hook and chorus. That’s followed up with “Slave Your Body” which is an astoundingly killer song.

When I first saw “Of A Rose” on the album’s track listing, I thought that it had to be a ballad. But I was happy to see that while definitely on the softer side of things, it was instead a short but indelibly crafted instrumental. That song leads into the closing track “Pray For The Wicked” an amped-up rocker that leaves the listener on an adrenaline high as the final notes play.

It’s no secret that Babylon A.D. never quite broke through to superstar status in their initial heyday. But it wasn’t because they lacked the talent or the material. The Nothing Sacred album amply demonstrates that they had both in abundance. Much like with their debut album, it has taken me decades to come around to the album in full but I think anyone who listens to the album has to agree that Nothing Sacred album is yet another underappreciated gem of the hard rock genre.

NOTES OF INTEREST: When I wrote about the self-titled debut album, I noted that the band hadn’t released a new album since 2000. Well, five months after I wrote that article, Babylon A.D. released the album Revelation Highway. I got to review it for another website and summed it up by saying the album was indeed a hard rocking revelation. If you don’t have or hadn’t known about the album, I’d say go out and pick it up. You won’t regret it.

Eric Pacheco, the brother of drummer Jamey Pacheco who had joined the band on bass back in 2018, passed away in December 2020.

I have a CD edition of the album which oddly enough I bought a couple years back and still hadn’t gotten around to listening to that version either.

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – DEF LEPPARD’S ‘HIGH ‘N’ DRY’

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 – HIGH ‘n’ DRY (1981)

It’s funny the things you learn when you are least expecting it. About three weeks ago (at the time this article is posted), I reviewed the new Def Leppard album Diamond Star Halos for another web site. In that review I mentioned how the band’s fan base somehow manages to break down between those who like everything (generally speaking) Def Leppard has done from Pyromania onward and those who think the band “died” after their first two albums. Those latter fans have seemingly never gotten over the band’s sound changing and evolving over the ensuing decades and every time Def Leppard releases a new album, they come out of the woodwork to insist the first two albums are the only ones worth listening to.

Now, I tend to like most of the band’s releases, though there are some I have never particularly warmed to. But I do like the first two Def Leppard albums, even if I admittedly don’t listen to them quite as often as some other releases. So the fuse was lit to pull the High ‘n’ Dry album out of my personal collection and give it a listen for this series.

But the deciding factor in writing about the album this week was actually me stumbling over a CD edition of the album at my friend’s record shop. Yes, I own the cassette copy of the album and had never upgraded until just recently.

Now that I was surely going to write about it, I had to look some stuff up. And I was surprised to realize that my cassette edition is not the original 1981 release. Instead, I have the version that was re-released in 1984. What’s the difference? Well the newer version has two bonus tracks on it. Both tracks are remixes, the first being for the High ‘n’ Dry classic track “Bringin’ On The Heartbreak”. The other bonus track is for the 1981 B-side track “Me & My Wine”.

Unlike bonus track releases these days, where the extras are at the end of the album, these two tracks are mixed in the main part of the release. “Me & My Wine” closes out Side One while the remix of “Bringin’ On The Heartbreak” opens Side Two of the cassette.

But, here’s twist…remember I mentioned that CD edition I bought recently? Well, when the album got its original release in that format, the two bonus tracks were dropped from the album. In fact, they weren’t restored to the High ‘n’ Dry album until 2018. Oh, and according to the album’s Wikipedia page, the remixes were done to make the songs sound more like the material on the Pyromania album.

So by now, you might be wondering what I think of the songs themselves. Well, I have to say that listening to the High ‘n’ Dry album for this article, I got a chance to dig into the tracks almost like they were new. Of course they aren’t but it has been a while since I last checked out the album. The one thing I keyed in on first was that for all the complaining fans of the first two albums do about how Def Leppard changed their sound, they aren’t exactly wrong about that. Even with Mutt Lange as the producer for this album, they hadn’t quite streamlined the sound you would grow familiar with on both Pyromania and then Hysteria. Instead, the sound of the music feels a bit raw and definitely has more of an edgy vibe at times. Joe Elliott’s vocals are a bit rougher and less smooth in the delivery, though that’s not really a criticism, I like his vocals regardless of style.

The album opens with the song “Let It Go” which was the first single released when the album came out. It didn’t have much success on the singles chart but I really got into it as I listened for this piece. It’s got a rough-and-tumble fast pacing to it and you get caught up in the song pretty quickly. In fact, you can say that about most of Side One’s material.

Def Leppard started High ‘n’ Dry with three straight on rockers that left no doubt just how on point they were at the time. “Another Hit And Run” hits you right between the eyes, and “High ‘N’ Dry (Saturday Night)” does a great job of aiming for and hitting that anthemic high a rock band needs to nail each time out.

As for the original version of “Bringin’ On The Heartbreak”, it was the 2nd single from the album. While it didn’t break the Top 40 on the singles chart, it’s still the classic track from the album. It’s pretty much the only song I ever hear still being played on the radio from the album. And even though it is 41 years old, it still makes me echo back in time to when I first heard the song. Plus, have you listened to it? It’s just a great song. It has some roots in that power ballad style but it isn’t hamstrung by the format as the power part of that equation shines through pretty nicely too. Just a slam bang kind of track that makes me glad to be a rock and roll fan. Oh, and the follow up instrumental “Switch 625” is phenomenal! It was written by the late Steve Clark and while the lack of lyrical content is something I would usually complain about, you won’t hear it about this song. It’s a rocket-fueled song that gets your blood pumping fast and furious.

As I said above, the remixed version of the blazing rocker “Me & My Wine” closes out Side One. While I couldn’t begin to tell you the last time I heard the song, it’s still rather enjoyable.

Now, regarding the remix of “Bringin’ On The Heartbreak” that opens Side Two of High ‘n’ Dry, I think putting it so relatively soon after the original version was a mistake of sequencing. This version would’ve been better served as the last track on the album’s 1984 re-release. It’s not that the remix is bad or anything but I just have a hard time picking out the differences between how the two versions sound when they are so close in the running order. While that’s likely simply a failure on my part, it does factor into things for me.

The song “You Got Me Runnin'” is a solid rocker, but I think I was more taken with “Lady Strange”. It rocks and has a nice backing vocal take on the song’s chorus that reminds you of what was to come on later album releases.

The oddity of the High ‘n’ Dry album is that it has a song on it called “On Through The Night”, which was the title of their first album. I don’t know if there is a story behind how the band came to do the song for this album and not have it serve as the title track for the first album or not. But what I do know is that this is a damn fine song. No seriously, endlessly rocking soundtrack that really got to me. I think this song just rose way up on my mythical list of favorite Def Leppard songs.

Oh, one other thing I noticed with High ‘n’ Dry is that a lot of the songs seem to bleed into the next one without the traditional fade out between each track. It’s not too distracting but I will admit that I did momentarily forget to realize that “Bringin’ On The Heartbreak” had turned into “Switch 625” on Side One.

The song “Mirror Mirror (Look Into My Eyes)” was a pretty cool number. It’s got a mid-tempo delivery in the main lyrical verses and the song gets more uptempo for the chorus. But the song seems to have a little extra heavy feeling to it that makes the whole track seem somehow deeper to me. Plus, the chorus sounds fantastic.

As for the album closing “No No No”, it is an all-out blitz musically full of that “piss and vinegar” attitude that I’m guessing everyone has in the twenties. It gets you amped up and then it just cuts right out on you out of nowhere and suddenly the album is over.

But as I look back at what I just heard, I can’t help but admit that I do indeed find myself really enjoying this early version of Def Leppard. Look, I’m never going to agree with those who think Def Leppard ceased to exist when they changed their sound after their first two albums but I can at least see what they are talking about. But for me, I like that the band evolved over the past four decades. If they hadn’t, who knows if they would’ve lasted. That said, you can’t take away from the fact that the High ‘n’ Dry is just one flat out killer rock album that does indeed stand the test of time!

NOTES OF INTEREST – The High ‘n’ Dry album has gone double platinum in the US. It managed to peak at #38 on the Billboard album chart upon its original release in 1981. It was also the last album that guitarist Pete Willis was a full-time member of Def Leppard.

The cover art design was done by Hipgnosis, the art design group headed by Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell. They are probably best known for their association with Pink Floyd.

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – SURVIVOR’S ‘VITAL SIGNS’

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.

SURVIVOR – VITAL SIGNS (1984)

I was scrolling through a Facebook music group that I’m part of last week when I came across a post marking the 40th anniversary of the Survivor album Eye Of The Tiger. Knowing that the rest of the material on that album is just as good as the monstrously successful “Eye Of The Tiger” song and that it had been almost exactly five years since I last wrote about Survivor in The Cassette Chronicles,  I made plans to write about that album for this week’s article.

But the best laid plans went for naught when I remembered that my cassette copy of the album doesn’t work anymore. I have the remastered CD edition of the release but since this series is all about cassettes, I don’t listen to other formats when doing these articles.

So instead, I’m going to be writing about the Vital Signs album. The funny thing for me is that while I am a huge fan of Survivor, it wasn’t until I bought this album on cassette that I owned any of the band’s albums. I loved “Eye Of The Tiger” when I first heard it but the only version I owned was the Rocky III soundtrack on vinyl. So Vital Signs was the first Survivor album I ever owned. (Yes, I own all the albums now!)

Vital Signs is the fifth album from Survivor, but it was the first one to feature ex-Cobra / ex-Target singer Jimi Jamison on vocals. I can’t remember where I read it so I can’t be 100% certain, but I think the reason Jamison had no writing credits on the album is because he was brought in very late in the writing/recording sessions. So all the songs were written by guitarist Frankie Sullivan and keyboardist Jim Peterik.

The album had four singles released from it and helpfully enough, those tracks are the first four songs on Side One of Vital Signs. The album opens with two straight up rocking numbers in “I Can’t Hold Back” and “High On You”. The latter song was a Top 10 hit for the band (the song peaked at #8). Both songs are still quite memorable and enjoyable all these years later and I think they stand out as “definitive” Survivor tracks alongside “Eye Of The Tiger”

As for the other two singles, the song “First Night” didn’t crack the Top 40 but I actually really like the song. It starts off like it is going to be a ballad, but after the song’s first verse of lyrics, the band bursts into a full-on kicking rocker. The guitar sound in the song is particularly good as well.

And with this album coming out in the 1980’s, you know that Survivor had a ballad on Vital Signs. However, instead of being my usual snarky self about the quality of said type of song, I have to say “The Search Is Over” is not only a fantastic ballad, but it still rings true to this day. I hear it every so often on the radio station I have to listen to at my job and I always get the warm fuzzies when it comes on. The music draws you in without being cloying and the lyrics are directly sentimental without becoming sugary dreck. Plus Jimi Jamison’s vocal performance is simply marvelous.

So that takes care of the songs that were released as singles. But Vital Signs has five “album” tracks on it and the first is the Side One closer “Broken Promises”. The mid-to-uptempo track showcases the deeper side of Survivor’s sound and lyric writing. While they are always going to be known for their big pop hits, when the band takes their music in a more dramatic direction, they always seem to deliver the goods perfectly. Such is the case with “Broken Promises”. The song’s main lyrical verses are slightly slower in tempo but when Survivor hits the chorus break, you get that big bold gang vocal sound that helps elevate the song along with the increase in the delivery pacing of the music. There is a “huskier” feel to the music and as you listen to the lyrics, I’m always reminded of how they can have a subtly deeper feel and/or meaning to them.

When you flip the cassette over to Side Two, you get one of my favorite tracks from the band in “Popular Girl”. I’ve always loved this song from the first time I heard it and think it is one of Survivor’s more underrated tracks. Making the song even more appealing to me is the fact you can listen to the vocals and interpret the lyrics in a couple of different ways. That might give you pause but surprisingly enough, whichever way you end up taking them, each version works.

The song “Everlasting” is another ballad, but unlike “The Search Is Over” which plays it mostly straight up in terms of how the song is performed, this track is purely a POWER ballad. There’s no mistaking the intent of the lyrics of course, but Survivor surrounds Jamison’s vocals with a huge musical soundtrack that quickly annihilates any doubts that a second ballad would prove inferior and serve more as an annoyance. It is just a damn good song!

The copy of the Vital Signs album I listened to in order to write this article is the one I bought nearly 38 years ago. And though the liner notes clearly state that Frankie Sullivan and Jim Peterik wrote all the songs on the album, when I first heard the song “It’s The Singer Not The Song”, I couldn’t help thinking to myself that it seemed a pretty ballsy statement for Jimi Jamison to “make” after just joining the band. Of course, he didn’t craft the lyrics so he didn’t actually make the statement but that’s just how my mind was working when I was 13 years old I guess. That said, I absolutely love this song! It’s a high energy rocker and Jamison does a great job selling the lyrics.

The Vital Signs album closes out with “I See You In Everyone”. The song title may suggest another ballad to you, I know. However, while the lyrics do fall in that general direction, this song is actually quite dramatically intense and rocking. It ends things on a huge high note and is just yet another song that showcases just how fantastic this album was at the time of its release. I don’t think I’m overselling things when I say that Survivor’s Vital Signs is one of the all-time benchmark albums of the melodic rock genre, period!

NOTES OF INTEREST: How much do I love the album? Well, I own it on vinyl, the cassette I used to write this article, the original CD release and the Rock Candy Records CD reissue as well. That Rock Candy reissue includes the song “The Moment Of Truth” as a bonus track. It was originally released on the Karate Kid movie soundtrack. The song plays over that film’s end credits.

Vital Signs is Survivor’s second biggest album. It peaked at #16 on the album chart and was certified platinum.

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – Y&T’S ‘CONTAGIOUS’

By JAY ROBERTS

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

Y&T – CONTAGIOUS (1987)

Back In April 2020, I wrote about the Y&T album Ten for The Cassette Chronicles. Having loved the album, I wrote the following: “I have three other Y&T albums that I can write about in this series and Ten kind of makes me want to just dive into those albums as soon as possible so I can become an even more enthusiastic supporter of Y&T’s music!”

So much for the best laid plans, right? It has taken me a while to get around to writing about another album in the band’s discography for this series, but that doesn’t mean I’ve been resting idly in becoming more invested in the band’s music. I’ve been slowly acquiring Y&T’s back catalog on CD, purchasing it through the band’s website, and loving what I’ve been hearing that way.

But when it came to the Contagious album, I found that it is one of the albums they don’t offer for sale through their site. That leaves me with my cassette edition and thus I can write about it here and now.

But before I start talking about the album, I just want to send out my best wishes to Y&T’s main man Dave Meniketti. At the time I’m writing this, he’s engaged in a health battle against prostate cancer and I am looking forward to his full recovery.

Now, let’s take a trip back to 1987 and check out what Contagious is all about. And yes, the disclaimer from me here is that while I did hear “Eyes Of A Stranger” as part of the band’s set when I saw them live in 2019, I have no recollection of the material on the album otherwise. So I figured to get to experience this as essentially a “new” album. Of course, that pre-listen belief turned out to be a little incorrect. Somewhere along the line since its release nearly 35 years ago, I had heard the title cut as well.

Regarding that title track, I will say that Y&T wasted no time in getting the album off to a raucous start. With a collectively shouted “Hey” bursting out of the speakers, “Contagious” grabs you by the throat and throttles you with an explosively charged rocking soundtrack. Meniketti’s vocals have a great hook throughout but it gets particularly melodically inclusive on the chorus.

“L.A. Rocks” is another hook laden power rocking track. Great chorus and as I listened I could feel the blood rushing around my body, pumping me up big time! On “The Kid Goes Crazy”, the band is on point and on fire as they propel themselves through a relentlessly rocking soundtrack with a storyline about the “glitz and glamour” of life in the spotlight. This is just a phenomenal song!

I found that “Temptation” has a slower tempo for most of the song, kind of restrained in its delivery. But you can still feel the underlying power that comes out more to the forefront during the song’s chorus and towards the end of the song. The guitar solo caught my ear as well.

Side One of the album closes out with “Fight For Your Life”. The song starts out a little slow and might strike you as heading towards power ballad territory with that opening. But it quickly turns into a highly energetic anthemic kind of rocker.

Side Two opens with “Armed And Dangerous”, a track that much like the opening cut “Contagious”, bursts from the speakers with a kinetic spark that instantly gets you amped up. The band doesn’t hold back with the song being “in-your-face” throughout. Factor in a great solo and you have another winning track in my book!

That kind of fully upfront delivery continued on “Rhythm or Not”. It’s got a full course of electrified rock and roll with a strong soundtrack and a great gang vocal employed for the chorus, but there’s a little something extra that I can’t quite describe that gives the song an added dimension to it. If you listen, maybe you can tell me what it was that made me get into the song so much.

For a song where no one from Y&T had a hand in the writing, is it wrong that I enjoyed “Bodily Harm” so much? It’s a weird amalgamation of the harder rocking sound that you get with Y&T and the rather obvious thrust for a heavily commercially appealing hook and chorus. But while that might make for a song that was “trying too hard”, here it worked.

While I’m probably always going to think of Queensryche when I hear or read the song title “Eyes Of A Stranger”, I was kind of surprised at just how much I liked the Y&T “Eyes Of A Stranger” track. It’s very uptempo, but not quite as musically balls out as tracks like “L.A. Rocks” or “The Kid Goes Crazy”. Still, loved the way this one came together.

Contagious closes out with an instrumental called “I’ll Cry For You”. Though there are no lyrics of course, this is the track that comes closest to what you would call a power ballad. There’s a bluesy kind of guitar playing throughout and as the song winds its way toward its end, the intensity flares up and leaves you feeling quite fulfilled at the finish.

While Contagious may not have been the kind of commercial success that time and clarity suggest that Y&T so richly deserved, the quality of the band’s material didn’t waver on the album. This is a superbly crafted album that all these years later still has a drawing power that lives up to the album’s title.

NOTES OF INTEREST – The album, which peaked at #78 on the Billboard album chart, had 30,000 copies printed with the song title “Boys Night Out” on it. However, when Geffen Records (the label that released Contagious) put out a Sammy Hagar album with the same song title, Y&T was forced to change the title to “L.A. Rocks”.

While the band members were heavily involved in the songwriting for Contagious, there were a number of co-writers working on songs as well. Guitarist Al Pitrelli (Savatage) and bassist Bruno Ravel (Danger Danger) co-wrote “Temptation” with bassist Phil Kennemore. Meanwhile Taylor Rhodes, who has worked with Aerosmith, Kix and Celine Dion, co-wrote the album’s title track with Dave Meniketti as well as collaborating with Robert White Johnson (who also worked with Celine Dion) for the song “Bodily Harm”. He further co-wrote the “Eyes Of A Stranger” with Kennemore and Meniketti.

The artist Hugh Syme, best known for his lengthy collaboration with Rush, is credited for the art direction on Contagious.

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – MARCHELLO’S ‘DESTINY’

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.

MARCHELLO – DESTINY (1989)

As we travel back to 1989 this week for a look back at Destiny, the debut album from Marchello, I find myself once again wondering just how this particular band fell through the cracks for me. It’s not just that I haven’t heard the music before but I can’t rightly recall even having heard of the band before.

And as I would discover, it is kind of a shame because I ended up enjoying the Destiny album as a whole. As I said, it was 1989 when the album came out. Heavy metal and hard rock was still on top of the musical heap. Led by singer and guitarist Gene Marchello, the album’s creation was also powered by Peppi Marchello. He produced the album as well as writing or co-writing most of the songs as well. While the shared last name indicates they are related, I couldn’t find out the exact relationship online.

As for the album itself, the song “Brown Eyes” opens things up with a quick and lively pace. It has a great catchy sound and once I stopped hearing the lyrics wrong in the chorus, I really got into the song. I was a little less enamored with the next track “Tight Pants”. The lyrics for that one would seem to be “of its time” but while that didn’t bother any sensibilities for me, the song just didn’t really strike me as being all that interesting.

The album’s title track had a kind of mood setting intro that quickly developed into a blast of amped up rock and roll energy. I liked the song for the most part but I will say that I thought the guitar solo was so over the top that it ended up being useless musical masturbation instead of fitting in with the rest of the song.

With a title like “First Love”, you can probably imagine that it would be a ballad. I mean, it was a near universal requirement at the time for bands to do ballads to get noticed. However, while the song does start off that way, it quickly becomes a heavier sounding uptempo number. In fact, before the first verse of lyrics is over, the band is rocking out.

The closing track on Side One of the cassette is a high flying rocker called “What If” and it was quite the earworm as I listened to it.

The second side of the album opens up in a similar fashion with “Living For #1”. It’s a fast moving hook-filled track that keeps you energized throughout. While that “First Love” song played with your ballad expectations, the song “Love Begins Again” is more of a straight up power ballad. The most striking part of this song is that while Gene Marchello’s vocals sound fine throughout the album, I thought they were rather thin-sounding on this one. Overall the song is OK but the strange way the vocals came out didn’t do the track any favors.

While the title of “Heavy Weight Champ Of Love” is spelled incorrectly, the song itself is actually pretty good. It’s got a hard-driving sound and the twist in the lyrical “story” is interesting given the era in which the song came out.

“She’s Magic” is pure adrenaline and while “Winners Never Lose” is another track that starts off as a ballad, the song’s pacing picks up throughout its run time and it was another pretty good song.

Perhaps the most surprising song on the album is the closing track “Rock ‘N Roll Rumble”. It surprised me because it is an instrumental, which is not always a good way to close out an album. But any hesitation on my part was quickly set aside. This is a fantastic track and while I mentioned that guitar solo that was over the top on the album’s title cut, the guitar playing here showcases Gene Marchello’s playing ability but tailors it inside the song perfectly..

It may have taken me more than thirty years to discover Marchello’s Destiny album, I was rather surprised to find out that it was a musically fulfilling release that had a good sense of the melodic with the large portion of its eleven tracks. Full on rocking overall, this new-to-me album and band made for great musical experience!

NOTES OF INTEREST – While the band recorded a second album in 1991 (entitled The Power Of Money), it was never officially released (to the best of my knowledge and Internet research) until 2012 when it came out via AOR Heaven with the new title The Magic Comes Alive.

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – BRUCE DICKINSON ‘S ‘TATTOOED MILLIONAIRE’

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.

BRUCE DICKINSON – TATTOOED MILLIONAIRE (1990)

The release of the Tattooed Millionaire album came three years before singer Bruce Dickinson would leave Iron Maiden. It all came about after Dickinson had recorded the song “Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter” for the soundtrack of the NIghtmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child movie.

However, the Dickinson version of the song was scrapped from appearing on the original release of this album when Iron Maiden planned to record a version of the song for the No Prayer For The Dying album.

But you can’t keep a good idea down and so without that particular song came Tattooed Millionaire. I’ve owned the album for a number of years but it isn’t one that I’ve found myself listening to all that often. And I couldn’t really figure out why until I played the tape for this article. It’s not like there aren’t a lot of great songs that make appearances on live recordings and compilations. So I was stumped.

But once I played the album, I kind of figured out what the reason might be. You see, while Charles Dickens wrote A Tale Of Two Cities, Tattooed Millionaire is a tale of two sides…of the album.

Before I get into that however, the rather amusing fact I’d forgotten about was that guitarist Janick Gers played the guitars on Tattooed Millionaire. You’d think I’d have remembered that since Gers went on to join Iron Maiden and has been with them for decades at this point. But nope, I totally wiped that from my memory. He co-wrote all but two of the songs for the original album as well.

Getting back to the album, Side One is an absolute humdinger! You’ve got the opening track “Son Of A Gun” which starts out a bit slow during the intro but then breaks out into a killer sounding rock track.

And that’s not a mis-stating of musical styles by the way. This album was clearly intended to be more of a hard rock sound to differentiate the music from what Dickinson was doing with Iron Maiden.

The album’s title track remains to this day a full-on powerhouse. You’ve got the requisite power driven rock soundtrack but with a nice twist of melody mixed in. And then you add in Bruce’s vocals track which finds him practically spitting out the venom-laced lyrics. If this song didn’t get you pumped up back then, you just didn’t have a pulse.

There are many songs that I absolutely adore from Dickinson’s solo catalog, but one of the very finest examples of his songwriting comes in the form of “Born In ’58”. It’s a nostalgic look back at growing up surrounded by the people who taught you, as Bruce sings in the song, “Old fashioned stuff like wrong and right”. I love the entirety of the song lyrics for this track and as the music alternates between a midtempo beat and a more uptempo rocking style, this song is just perfect.

It’s the ripping and raw vocal delivery from Dickinson that powers “Hell On Wheels” through its pedal flat on the floor soundtrack. The song “Gyspsy Road” closes out Side One and while it does a pretty solid job at rocking out, there’s a slightly softer touch at times as well.

So the first side of the album is really great in my estimation. But when I flipped it over to Side Two, I found myself a little less enchanted with the material.

I thought “Dive! Dive! Dive!” had a lot of fun with its very tongue-in-cheek lyrics while walloping listeners with a hard driving musical rhythm. And though I don’t hate Dickinson’s cover of the Mott The Hoople song “All The Young Dudes”, I found I didn’t quite like it as much as I once did. I don’t know why I felt that way listening to the album now but it just didn’t hit home with me like when I first heard the song. Because of that change of heart, I kind of just wanted the song to be over.

But for whatever reason, despite each of the songs being hard rocking tracks, I just didn’t really get into the last three songs on the Tattooed Millionaire all that much. While “Lickin’ The Gun” does have an interesting delivery from Dickinson when singing the song title, I just couldn’t find my way to being more appreciative of the track.

Meanwhile, “Zulu Lulu” felt like a track that should’ve been left in the vaults. As I listened to it, it was almost like it was trying to be a funny song without actually including anything that would’ve brought a chuckle from me. The album closed out with “No Lies”, which just kind of laid there flat while I kept waiting for it develop into something more.

In 1990, Bruce Dickinson was already a global musical star so it’s not like anything I say in the here and now is going to damage his standing. And believe me, I think the first side of the album is proof positive that he was being highly creative at the time. But glancing back now, the second side of Tattooed Millionaire showed that even someone as great as Dickinson had room to grow.

NOTES OF INTEREST: After Tattooed Millionaire, Bruce Dickinson has released five more solo studio albums. The last one, Tyranny Of Souls, came out after he’d rejoined Iron Maiden. It was my favorite album of 2005.

The Tattooed Millionaire album has been reissued twice. The first one came in 2002 with five bonus tracks. An expanded edition was released in 2005 with a second disc that had eleven tracks on it.

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – TWISTER SISTER’S ‘LOVE IS FOR SUCKERS’

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.

TWISTED SISTER – LOVE IS FOR SUCKERS (1987)

In 1987, the bloom was definitely off the rose for Twisted Sister. The commercial success of the band that came with the Stay Hungry album had faded and by all reports, the band members pretty much all hated each other. This is not exactly a conducive environment in which to write and record a new album.

And technically, they didn’t. The Love Is For Suckers album was actually supposed to be a Dee Snider solo album that was rebranded for Twisted Sister under record company pressure. Hell, drummer A.J. Pero didn’t even play on the material included.

But does the branding of the release make it better or worse? For me, I just love the music so regardless of what name it came out under, Love Is For Suckers is just a great collection of tracks in my mind.

I know that it is mainly focused on the more commercial sound that metal had going for it in 1987 with less of the edginess of some of the earlier Twisted Sister material, but that doesn’t make it any less interesting to me.

In fact, it’s hard to find anything I don’t like about the album. There’s ten songs and I love them all.

Side One opens up with “Wake Up (The Sleeping Giant)”, an anthemic giant middle finger type of song to the PMRC and their particular brand of evil from what is now considered back in the day. Dee Snider is well remembered for his calm, yet blistering, takedown testimonial in front of Congress. This song is the musical version of that. It’s got a kicking rock sound to it and the vocals are excellent.

That last sentence pretty much describes the rest of the material as well. Other than Side Two’s “You Are All That I Need”, each track is a hard rocking gem with plenty of fast-paced music combined with Snider’s sometimes snarling delivery of the lyrics. And even on the “You Are All That I Need” song, it’s really not too much of a ballad. Yes the lyrics are sentimental in nature (but not remotely sappy), but the music has more of an uptempo edge even if it is slightly slower in pace than the other songs.

As for the rest of Side One, “Hot Love” is a quick-stepping track fueled by lust-driven lyrics. The album’s title track features a pace that is practically blistering with Snider kind of spitting out the lyrics in such a way that your ears can’t help but be drawn to his delivery. And the mid-song more spoken word part of the lyrics is kind of hilarious to me (in a good way).

You can probably guess what “I’m So Hot For You” is about but along with the song “Tonight”, the song rocks and rolls to a strong finish for the first side of the album.

Side Two keeps the motor running with the anthemic rocker “Me And The Boys” and  “I Want This Night (To Last Forever)”. The latter song may sound like it is a ballad but it’s definitely a rocker that will keep the energy flowing through you.

My favorite song on the album has always seemed to be “One Bad Habit”. It kind of fits me in a lot of ways. The song moves fast but what makes the track for me is Snider’s vocals and the ode to a love of rock and roll with a heavy dose of realistic sarcasm to the lyrics at times. If I was ever to request Snider to play a song from this album, it would be “One Bad Habit”.

The album closes out with an anthemic shout out track called “Yeah Right!”. While the song lyrics aren’t going to win any praise about being masterful, I love the way the song brings the album to a rousing conclusion and leaves the listener (ME!) with an amped up feeling that I just want to play the album over again immediately.

The Love Is For Suckers album didn’t do much business for the band and after a brief tour in support of it, Snider officially left the band. It’s kind of the orphaned child of the band’s catalog. I can understand the reasons for why this is the case, but I don’t agree with them. Nearly 35 years after its original release, this is just great album that, to me at least, perfectly encapsulates the metal scene of the late 1980’s!

NOTES OF INTEREST: The Love Is For Suckers album was reissued in 1999 via Spitfire Records with four bonus tracks. Those bonus tracks got a separate EP release in 2021 under the title Feel Appeal: Love Is For Suckers Extras.

Beau Hill produced the album, which might account for the various guest appearances of Kip Winger and Reb Beach from Winger (though I’ve read stuff online that suggest they played on the album a lot more than credited for. Not sure if that’s true or not). Both Steve Whiteman and Jimmy Chalfant from Kix show up as well. Hill produced Winger’s debut album in 1988 and helped produce the 1985 Kix album Midnite Dynamite.

Joey Franco was the drummer who recorded the Love Is For Suckers album in place of A.J. Pero. He played in Widowmaker with Snider as well. TNT guitarist Ronni Le Tekro helped arrange the material for the album. And according to Wikipedia actor Luke Perry (Beverly Hills, 90210) made a guest appearance providing “additional shouts”.

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – NUCLEAR VALDEZ’S ‘I AM I’

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.

NUCLEAR VALDEZ – I AM I (1989)

I’ve had the Nuclear Valdez album I Am I hanging around ever since I got it when I purchased the Big Box of Cassettes a few years back. I’d never gotten around to listening to or writing about the album and that led to me making an assumption about the album that turned out to be pretty much wrong on all counts. While most of the albums in the box are from the 80’s metal genre, the Nuclear Valdez album is clearly more of a straight up rock album. It may have come out in 1989 when heavy metal was still in it’s prime years but the band certainly didn’t go chasing too hard after that particular vein of glory.

So you can understand I was initially rather surprised when I listened to the album. Those wrongheaded expectations meant I had to work just a little harder to fully get into the album in order to write about it. But once I did that work, I had a much clearer picture of I Am I.

The band had a minor hit with the video for the opening song “Summer” and as I listened to it, I could understand why. It’s pretty uptempo and upbeat with a catchy hook that will draw you in. The music’s pacing is pretty relentless (and melodic) throughout. It will definitely grab your attention.

I thought the songs “Hope” and the side ending “Unsung Hero (Song For Lenny Bruce)” were decent enough but I definitely had to work at developing an appreciation for them. That didn’t happen at all with the ballad “If I Knew Then” which was simply a painfully drawn out exercise for me.

But the intriguingly titled “Trace The Thunder” was a fantastic song. Another faster paced track, I also found that the song sounded like something you might’ve heard from Canadian rockers Honeymoon Suite. This is most evident to me in the vocals from singer Froilan Sosa. It actually took me a while to figure out what band this song reminded me of but once I did, the song became even more of a winner in my eyes (I’m a big fan of Honeymoon Suite).

The second side of the album felt a little bit stronger to me. While “Strength” was decent enough, Nuclear Valdez really found a groove starting with the track “Eve”. Lyrically, the song might feel like it should’ve been a ballad, but I thought the much quicker rocking pace to the music elevated the song as a whole. The song “Apache” is a full on rocker that really appealed to me as well.

The band took a deeper lyrical turn on the songs “Run Through The Fields” and “Where Do We Go From Here”. For “Run Through The Fields”, the song moves from mid-to-uptempo in terms of musical pace. Musically, the song is excellent and assuming I’m not overthinking the lyrical content, the band is quite keen on driving a point home. (I’m going to let anyone who checks out the album figure out the specifics of what the band is singing about on their own). Oh, and that Honeymoon Suite sound seemed in evidence on this song as well.

As for “Where Do We Go From Here”, the song tempo moves a bit faster even with that same deeper lyrical take. And like “Run Through The Fields”, the song really takes hold of you.

The last song on the album is listed as a bonus track, but however you designate it “Rising Sun” is a solidly crafted uptempo number (with a guitar solo that I enjoyed a lot) that brings the album to a fitting conclusion.

I had some ill-conceived notions about the album before I listened to it but being a bit challenged by what I did end up listening to turned out to be surprisingly enjoyable in the end. While Side One of the album is not quite as strong as the second side, Nuclear Valdez’s I Am I is quite the new discovery for me!

NOTES OF INTEREST: The I Am I album was the band’s debut but they have released three more albums over the years: 1992’s Dream Another Dream, 2000’s In A Minute All Could Change and 2017’s Present From The Past.

The band got their name from a co-worker of bassist Juan Diaz. The co-worker reportedly had an explosive temper. Original guitarist Jorge Barcala left the band after the Dream Another Dream.

The I Am I album featured guest appearances by Bruce Brody (ex-Lone Justice) and Benmont Tench (Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers) on keyboards. Singer Meredith Brooks provided backing vocals on the song “Rising Sun”.