Category Archives: Cassette Chronicles

The Cassette Chronicles – AC/DC’s ‘Back In Black’

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.

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AC/DC – BACK IN BLACK (1980)

Record Store Day 2018 was rather a dull and stale event for me. While I look forward to it each year, I’ve found less and less material amongst the slew of special releases that I’m interested in buying with each year’s passing. This year’s batch of music was the worst yet for me. There was really only one item that I wanted and it was specifically because it would be used for this article you are now reading.

AC/DC’s Back In Black got a special 2018 re-release on cassette. So instead of listening to the album on a tape that is 38 years old, I wanted a new copy (I own it on CD as well).

Unfortunately, I got to my local shop later than I’d hoped and couldn’t seem to find a copy of it. So, it seemed I was outta luck. Then fate, in the personage of my friend Jeff, intervened. He was going out to his local shop the day after Record Store Day and he was getting a copy of the album for himself and offered to pick up one for me if they had a second copy. A week later, the album was in my hands all the way from the state of Georgia.

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

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

Of course, I didn’t discover 1980’s Back In Black until it had been out a few years but by the time I was that full-fledged member of the metal music community, I was in love with the title track and “You Shook Me All Night Long”. I still am today as I get a real charge of electricity running through me whenever I hear the intro for either song.

So that’s a little background about my connection with the band. As for this particular listening session, I found it a bit odd that without any planning on the day I was going to listen to the album, I pulled out my AC/DC shirt and read the appreciation article in Classic Rock magazine on the passing of Malcolm Young.

So, how does this album that has sold so many albums since it came out that it ranks #2 all-time behind Michael Jackson’s Thriller in terms of total number of albums sold fair all these years later?

No surprise here, but it is still as fantastic a recording now as it was upon its initial release. I know so much has been written about the album and the individual songs that anything I say might seem like you’ve read it a million times before, but this album is simply a perfect encapsulation of the band. They really couldn’t have done better (and let’s be honest, never quite did) than what they did on Back In Black.

The first side of the album features stone cold classics like the eerily ominous “Hells Bells” with that echoing church bell intro and the relentless burner “Shoot To Thrill”. The latter song might just be one of my favorite songs from the band. What makes the album so remarkable to me is that even the songs that are an admitted step down from being “classic AC/DC”, they are still really great songs. While I’ve heard “What Do You Do For Money Honey” and “Given The Dog A Bone” countless times, I actually found myself with a refreshed sense of enthusiasm for both tracks. I know that “Let Me Put My Love Into You” is about as subtle as a sledgehammer through a plate glass window but still, the song has its single entendre charms.

As for Side Two, what can be newly said about the killer 1-2 punch of the title track and “You Shook Me All Night Long”? Easily the two best known songs from the Brian Johnson era and two of the best songs from the entire breadth of the band’s discography, you can’t ask for more out of these two songs. Hell, I saw Melissa Etheridge play “You Shook Me All Night Long” in concert with Aerosmith’s Joe Perry on guitar and it still was a song that just kicked my butt all over again. As for the title cut, it’s perfect. ‘Nuff Said.

Closing with a defiant to the establishment anthem like “Rock And Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution” brought AC/DC’s legacy altering album to a rousing finish but before that you had the boozy charm of “Have A Drink On Me” and fiery “Shake A Leg” to keep the blood pumping.

Ideally, I would love to desire to buy lots of new stuff on Record Store Day each year. But the offerings (and cost of them) kind of precludes that. That said, I certainly was able to get the one true treasure I coveted and getting to write about how much it means to me makes it all worthwhile.

I don’t know what might be next for the band. Cliff Williams has retired, Malcolm Young died and Brian Johnson had to leave the band (or was unceremoniously kicked out depending on who’s telling the story) over the potential loss of his hearing. It’s just Angus with longtime drummer Chris Slade left in the band. But whether this is the end of the band or not, to have a senses-shattering album like Back In Black is all that any band could ever ask for. And since we are forever about to rock, AC/DC should be saluted endlessly for their contribution to our eternal playlist.

The Cassette Chronicles – 38 Special’s ‘Special Forces’

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.

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38 SPECIAL – SPECIAL FORCES (1982)

Sometime back in 2017, I was pawing through the CD racks at my local record shop when I thumbed my way to the 38 Special divider. Unsurprisingly, the only CD the store had available was a greatest hits compilation. I made the decision to purchase that CD because in the band’s commercial heyday, I loved a lot of the songs that I ended up hearing on the radio, particularly the ones that made the singles chart that I would hear played on American Top 40.

But in that time and place I never owned any of the group’s albums (I did pick up their Drivetrain album that was released in 2004 and remains their last studio release to this point). So the compilation was a good way to hear what is considered their best material. And I loved the album! I played it numerous times while rocking out with those “Wild-Eyed Southern Boys” and their great rock and roll style.

But I wanted to hear more of their material, the songs that didn’t make the cut as a “greatest hit”. On one of my small cassette shopping sprees, I was able to grab up a copy of Special Forces and now I’ve finally gotten around to listening to it.

Given that four of the songs were released as singles, it should be no particular kind of surprising that there’s a lot of good stuff on this release. In fact, pretty much most of the album is outstanding. 

The album opens with “Caught Up In You” which for anyone who knows anything about the band will recognize as one of the band’s best known songs. It went to #10 on the pop singles chart while “You Keep Runnin’ Away” landed at #38. The latter song is a decent enough song but I really wasn’t all that captivated by the song, which is probably a bit odd considering that it was a track on the compilation.

What really stands out for me besides the appeal of the songs themselves is how great the guitar work is on Special Forces. Jeff Carlisi shreds all over the place on songs like “Back Door Stranger”, “Back On Track” (another single release) and “Take ‘Em Out”, a song that is an uninhibited rocker that will always be one that blows the doors off a place.

There’s not much in the way of a true ballad type song on the album, the band really does keep their foot on the gas most of the way through. However, with the judicious use of sound effects to simulate a dark and stormy night, they gave “Chain Lightnin'” a wider cinematic scope. You can feel the barely contained energy the song has. The song was released as a single, but I don’t remember hearing it back then, so when I did hear it for what was likely the first time (again, on that compilation), it quickly became one of my personal favorite tracks from 38 Special. 

It should also be noted that with both Don Barnes and Donnie Van Zant providing vocals, the band sounds great there as well. The southern rock stylings with the AOR vocals make for a winning combination in my book.

That song “Back On Track” that I mentioned before was not only notable for the guitar work, it had a grandly intoxicating vibe to the entire song. “Rough-Housin'” stepped lively as well.

Between 1977 and 1988, 38 Special were a huge success. Between charting singles, hit albums and concert tours, the band had it all going for them. I remember being glued to the radio whenever one of their songs start playing. The Special Forces album is a stand out example of just what it was that made the band as great as they were at that time. It’s got the songwriting chops and the electrifying performances. 38 Special were on the top of their game here and this is an album you will find yourself playing over and over again.

NOTES OF INTEREST: Former Survivor keyboardist Jim Peterik is a longtime collaborator with 38 Special and he co-wrote three of the songs on Special Forces. All three (“Caught Up In You”, “Chain Lightnin'” and “You Keep Runnin’ Away”) were released as singles.

Singer Don Barnes recorded a solo album called Ride The Storm in 1989 that was never released due to the record label being sold. However, it finally saw the light of day in 2017 via MelodicRock Records. I can say that it was an outstanding album!

The Cassette Chronicles – DANGER DANGER’S ‘SCREW IT’

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.

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DANGER DANGER – SCREW IT! (1991)

It is a good thing that there isn’t a statute of limitations on discovering new-to-me music that was released so long ago. For one thing, this series would likely not exist. More importantly, it would rob me of the chance to discover this “new” music that I either missed the first time around or consciously ignored.

And that brings me to the second album from the band Danger Danger. Now, like most people that grew up during the 80’s and very early 90’s, I am well aware of the two big songs that came from their first album. “Bang Bang” and “Naughty Naughty” are their best known tracks to this day. That said, I never really got into the band beyond those two singles and by the time Screw It! came out in 1991, I had most definitely stopped paying attention. And while their name remained in my memory all this time, I’d never been moved to check out their music.

But singer Ted Poley’s involvement in the surprisingly outstanding self-titled Tokyo Motor Fist album in 2017 piqued my interest. What finally made my decision to check out the music of Danger Danger however, was the recent (April 14th, 2018) solo show that Poley played near me. I decided to take in the show and was rewarded with an outstanding performance the truly did convert me into a fan of the singer.

So, I dug into the big box of cassettes and came up with the band’s second release and decided to write about it.

The album’s release came towards the end of “The Metal Years,” but was rather chock full of some great tunes. The singles for the album were the rocker “Monkey Business” and the ballad track “I Still Think About You”. Both songs are really good, particularly “Monkey Business” (with its cinematic intro piece “Ginger Snaps”), but what I found was that they weren’t my favorite tracks. The deeper cuts had a lot going for it and in some cases, in hindsight of course, might just have made for better choices for singles.

Another thing I noticed that while a lot of the song lyrics deal with a somewhat over the top obsession with all things sex (not that that is a bad thing in my book), at times the band was almost charmingly reflective. This is reflected in songs like “Comin’ Home” and “Find Your Way Back Home”.

Now I will say that the uptempo “Slipped Her The Big One” somehow failed to come together for me. I know that I’m likely going to be in the minority in that opinion but I thought the song just lacked something that would’ve put the track over the top.

Also, you know how when labels reissue albums and add bonus tracks? In the case of the song “Yeah, You Want It!”, if Screw It! ever gets the reissue treatment I’d guarantee to buy it if they’d delete the song from the track list. Not to be overly dramatic but this is one of the worst songs I’ve ever heard.

That being said, when the band rocks out with their metaphorical….nahh, not going there. But seriously, the band is really on fire the more they fire up their material.

While tracks “Every Body Wants Some” and “Don’t Blame It On Love” get the blood pumping, other tracks are positively heart-stopping. I just loved “Get Your Shit Together” which had a steal of an Andy Timmons guitar solo in it. The guitarist’s six string performance was top notch on a lot of the songs. Meanwhile, “Crazy Nites” blazes bright from start to finish and I loved how the Janis Joplin lyric “take another little piece of my heart” was semi-covertly thrown into the mix at the end of the song.

And while there’s absolutely not subtlety in the song title “Horny S.O.B.”, the song is almost nightmarishly awesome. Sure, it’s a topic that you’ve listened to about 1,000 songs in your lifetime but the performance from the band and particularly Ted Poley’s unapologetic embodying of the lyrics made this song a complete winner to me. It was the opening song at the solo show I went to and you just can’t help being drawn in by the song. Plus, while it may not completely sum me up here in the present, I’m quite sure this one could’ve been my personal motto back in 1991. I would’ve loved to have heard this on the radio back in the day along with “Don’t Blame It On Love” and “Crazy Nites”.

So, while it may have taken a concert from 27 years after the release of the Screw It! album to finally get off my musical duff and give Danger Danger a true and thorough listen, I’ve now done so and once again find myself completely in the wrong to have stubbornly or perhaps stupidly overlooked the band all these years. My 20-year-old self has a lot to answer for regarding saying “Screw It!” to Screw It!

NOTES OF INTEREST: Three-fourths of the band Extreme (Gary Cherone, Nuno Bettencourt and Pat Badger) are credited with backing vocal appearances on “Slipped Her The Big One” and being part of the rap on “Yeah, You Want It!”.

Adult film star Ginger Lynn is credited on the album for “Moans, Groans & Assorted Boners”.

The Cassette Chronicles – Lita Ford’s ‘Out For Blood’

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.

Click on the above image to purchase tickets!

LITA FORD – OUT FOR BLOOD (1983)

I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t always “discover” an artist on their first album. I can usually count on finding an interesting new musician two or three albums into their career. This is much like how I discover new authors to read as well. But I like to go back and get the earlier works so that I have a fuller appreciation of where they came from and what they were like before they made the music that caught my attention.

Such is the case with Lita Ford. As you might imagine, I never really knew of her before she hit MTV paydirt with “Kiss Me Deadly”. I quickly bought the Lita album but then found out that she had two solo albums before it and of her connection to The Runaways.

Back then I was able to track down cassette copies of both Out For Blood and Dancin’ On The Edge, but those copies have long since worn out. I’ve been looking for replacements for a while and finally got my hands on them just recently. One surprising thing I learned is that there are two versions of the album artwork. You can see both versions below. My copy of the album features the reissued version of the artwork.

The first thing you’ll notice when listening to this album is that the production work is far more raw than anything she’s done from Lita forward. If you are only familiar with her later work, this might throw you off for a bit.

Now, I’ve seen Lita Ford live in concert and when she played the album’s title track, it was fantastic. It is the album opener here and does get things off to a rousing start. But I found both “Stay With Me Baby” and “Just A Feeling” a bit more problematic for me. While both songs are flat out rockers, they just kind of sit there waiting for something to make the songs come together. Unfortunately, it never seems to happen.

This particular development had me worried for the rest of the album but thankfully the last two songs on Side 1 allayed some of my fears. The musical vibe created for “Ready, Willing And Able” gave that track an extra dose of adrenaline and “Die For Me Only (Black Widow)” was just a balls out great rocker.

Side 2 kicked off with the Pete Heimlich written “Rock ‘n’ Roll Made Me What I Am Today”, and it is a flat out great track that is a simple anthemic declaration of rock and roll intent. The song “Anyway That You Want Me” has that ballad vibe but there’s a bit of guitar hanging around in the background waiting to cut loose. This happens during the song’s chorus and makes for an interesting kind of schizophrenic change to the track. Things closed out with another straight forward rocker called “I Can’t Stand It”. The song was particularly good with the solo on the track’s outro.

I’m not going to claim this is a great album. It has some definite peaks and valleys in terms of song quality. You know where Lita Ford was going, but it is definitely a fun listen to see where she started things off. If you are a fan of Lita’s, you’d be remiss if you haven’t check this album out before now.

NOTES OF INTEREST: Ford wrote four of the songs on the album on her own and co-wrote four others with Neil Merryweather, who produced and played bass on the album. However, according to his Wikipedia page, he was never paid for both his production work or management of Lita from this time. It led him to quitting the music business for a few years.

The drummer on Out For Blood was Dusty Watson, who would go on to play with both Rhino Bucket and Supersuckers.

The song “Any Way That You Want Me” was written by Chip Taylor, who is probably best known for writing the songs “Angel of The Morning” (a version by singer Juice Newton was a big hit) and “Wild Thing”, the hit song for The Troggs and recorded by numerous other performers. He’s also the uncle of actress Angelina Jolie.

The Cassette Chronicles – HUEY LEWIS AND THE NEWS ‘SPORTS‘

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.

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HUEY LEWIS AND THE NEWS – SPORTS (1983)

It’s funny how things work out. I didn’t think I’d be doing a piece on this particular album because I’d been waiting around to buy the 30th anniversary edition CD when I could find it at a cheap enough price.

But as luck or good fortune would have it, an online music friend of mine named Jeff spotlighted the follow up album Fore! on a music message board on which we are both active members. He does an Album of The Week feature on that board and after reading his piece I wanted to check out Huey Lewis and The News a bit more. Of course, growing up back in 1983 & 1984, I heard a lot of their music on the radio since they were all over the airwaves on 92 Pro FM out of Rhode Island and on Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 countdown show on Sundays.

But I didn’t have the albums and only knew the hits. I was going to pull the trigger on the CD version, but I did a check of one of my cassette boxes and wouldn’t you know it, I had a copy of Sports.

I’m actually quite happy that I had the cassette and could do this article because I got to kind of discover the music all over again. There were four Top 10 hits plus a Top 20 hit out of the nine songs, but even more exciting to me was how the album tracks were pretty darn good as well.

Having sold seven million copies of the album when it was first released (the liner notes for the 30th anniversary reissue apparently say the album is nearing 10 million in sales), the hit songs really don’t need much rehashing. “The Heart of Rock and Roll”, “Heart and Soul”, “If This Is It” and “I Want A New Drug” were all instant classics back then and given that they still show up on what would be considered adult contemporary or easy listening stations that people like me have to listen to at work, they are still classics. The latter of those four songs remains my favorite song from the band. I think back to singing along to the radio when that song was playing and having to explain to my somewhat taken aback mother that it wasn’t actually about drugs. She wasn’t overly protective but displayed the appropriate parental concern until shown it wasn’t necessary.

The surprising thing to me about the Top 20 song “Walking On A Thin Line”, besides that I barely remember it as a “hit” song, is that when you listen to the lyrics, they are kind of dark at times. Maybe it’s my slightly twisted take on life, but that additional little edge made the song that much more interesting to me this time around.

As for those four album tracks, the one odd thing I found was the song “Bad Is Bad” wasn’t a single. I could’ve sworn I heard that all over the radio because I remember it like it got played to death as most 1980’s singles would be. I remembered it far more strongly than “Walking On A Thin Line”, an actual hit. I don’t know why that is.
The band’s cover of the Hank Williams song “Honky Tonk Blues” was surprisingly effective. I’m not a huge fan of old time country music but I’ve found when I hear covers of those types of songs I can be moved to liking them a lot more than I might’ve expected.

The remaining two tracks are “Finally Found A Home” and “You Crack Me Up”. The first track starts off a bit slower but then takes off with a lively engaging soundtrack. The entirety of the performance really won me over and I dug into the song a lot. If I got to pick a set list for one of the band’s concerts, I would put the track on it. The latter of the two songs starts out fast and continues that way throughout the tune. It is another song that builds up a big enveloping vibe for the listener, drawing them in and invariably you will find yourself singing along.

Huey Lewis and The News might look like the guys who play in a bar band on the occasional Saturday night gig, but boy did they have something going for them on this album. That isn’t an earth-shattering revelation I know, but I liked being reminded of just how good they were during their heyday.

NOTES OF INTEREST: Ray Parker Jr. was apparently sued for plagiarizing “I Want A New Drug” for his “Ghostbusters” song with an out of court settlement being reached.

Longtime Doobie Brother John McFee played the pedal steel guitar on the band’s version of “Honky Tonk Blues”.

The album cover photo of the band was taken at the 2 AM Club in Mill Valley, CA which was one of the clubs the band played on their way up.

The Cassette Chronciles – Lizzy Borden’s ‘Give ‘Em The Axe’

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.

LIZZY BORDEN – GIVE ‘EM THE AXE (1984)

Released in May 1984 on Metal Blade Records, this EP from Lizzy Borden is a straight forward heavy metal primer for the band. While the band is usually more commonly associated with the hair metal genre because of the theatrics in their live shows, their sound has more in common with what would be considered a traditional heavy metal style while sometimes delivering a kind of power metal style at the same time.

While I’ve been a fan of their 1987 album Visual Lies since its release (and might just be featuring that album in this series down the line), I’d merely only known of this EP and never owned it. I came across it when I visited a store that had just gotten in a huge batch of cassettes from which I could search to my heart’s or wallet’s content.

While there are only five songs on the release, it does a really good job of showcasing the band right from the start. While the production on the EP is raw, it feels more by design than a lack of proper facilities to do a better job. I’m not an audiophile expert or anything but that’s what I thought after listening.

The last song on the release is “Rod Of Iron” which was originally featured on the Metal Blade Records compilation Metal Massacre IV in 1983. It starts out a bit slower than the rest of the material but guns start firing soon after. I thought the track was decent but for me it was actually the lesser of the five songs.

As for the rest of the album, there was no time for syrupy ballads or wimpy intros. Lizzy Borden hits you in the mouth from the start with the title track. “Kiss of Death” and “No Time To Lose” effectively echo that first punch with a follow up 1-2 punch of in your face metal.

If you are a metal fan of long standing, you’ve likely heard the vocal work from Lizzy Borden the singer. He has kind of vocal presence that soars and echoes in your head as the lyrics spill forth. If you’ve heard it, you won’t forget it and you will always instantly recognize his voice.

What really got me a bit extra excited for this album was their cover of the Rainbow song “Long Live Rock ‘N’ Roll”. It isn’t an easy thing to try and do justice to a song sung by Ronnie James Dio and as a rather huge fan of Dio myself, I’m usually extra critical. That said, I thought this cover was largely effective at paying respect to the original while still sounding like it was the band’s own song at the same time. That might sound a bit weird considering the Lizzy Borden version of the track was recorded 34 years ago but looking back is kind of the point of this series, now isn’t it?

Give ‘Em The Axe definitely slipped past me upon its original release. I was basically in my infancy as a rock/metal fan in 1984 so I imagine that is something I could say about a lot of albums released in 1983-1984. Getting to listen to it now came about by pure happenstance (and a large purchase of cassette collection), but I’m sure glad it did because it has kind of relit my interest in the band that I was a fan of but now want to become more invested in their material as a whole.

NOTES OF INTEREST: The band was originally together from 1983-1996. They’ve had two reunions. The first one was in 1999 and ran until 2004. They got together again in 2006 and are still a going concern to this present day. However, despite rumored work on new material, there hasn’t been a new album since 2007’s Appointment With Death.

The Give ‘Em The Axe EP was produced by Brian Slagel, who founded Metal Blade Records in 1982.

The Cassette Chronicles – Sweet F.A.’s ‘Temptation’

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.

Click on the above ad to purchase tickets.

SWEET F.A. – TEMPTATION (1991)

After I found myself a little surprised to have enjoyed Sweet F.A.’s first album Stick To Your Guns, I guess it was only a matter of time before I discovered that the band’s second album was also in the Big Box of Cassettes I have to pull potential article material from.

Though the album was released in 1991, this copy that I listened to was brand new from the long defunct Strawberries record store due to the fact it had never been opened from the original plastic wrapping.

Because of various writing projects recently, I didn’t have time to listen to the album at home. Instead I listened at work and ended up with some feedback from my co-worker as well. I had joked with him that I was going to punish him for some imaginary offense by making him listen to the album with me. He likes blues, jazz and classic rock so I really didn’t think he’d like this album.

To my surprise, he actually seemed to enjoy it as much as I did. We differed on some of the songs we liked individually but his final analysis was that it wasn’t at all a form of punishment to listen to the album with me.

Which is a good thing, because like Stick To Your Guns, I was genuinely surprised to find myself enjoying much of what they had to offer on Temptation.

The album was produced by Howard Benson, who had done the band’s first album as well. He must really have been in tune with the band because they sound great and do a good job at varying their material within hard rock style. This little twist from song to song was also mentioned by said co-worker as a reason why he ended up liking what he heard.

At first, I was worried that the Indiana-based rockers might fall victim to the sophomore jinx. The first side of the cassette is rather hit or miss. It opens with the mostly fast paced rocker “Bad Boy” which has a real gritty and sleazy feel to it.

But after that, the next three songs are a bit pedestrian at best, gawdawful at worst.

The band rebounded with “Storm Is Movin’ In” which has a very cinematic feel to the music. This effect is deepened with that grittier edge to singer Steven David De Long’s vocals. The song starts slow with the combined music and singing giving the song an extra dimension. When it switches to a more fast paced rocker, the cinematic vibe is lost but the song still remains top notch.

“Vices” closed out the first side and while the pacing is good, this song ended up being one that just didn’t come completely together for me.

The second side of the album was far better in my opinion. “Please Oh Please” was a fantastic track, blazing out of the speakers. I’d venture to say that it is one is one of my favorites from either of the two albums. But the next song, “Paralyzed (By You)” really shone brightly as Sweet F.A. fashioned a song that had a deeply noir-ish feel to it. I could imagine hearing this song on a dark night filled with potential for bad things, rain coming down to further depress the scene. It was darn near ART to my ears.

I didn’t really care for “Liquid Emotion” or “Ta Kill Ya Sunrise” that much, but the instrumental “1800” that led into the latter song was really ear catching.

Paying a bit of homage to their roots, the band’s song “Indiana Heart” a midtempo groove driven track was another track that I would love to hear over and over. Finally, if you are looking for a song that is about nothing more than pure attitude, you’ve got the balls out album closer “Reckless”. It is audio adrenaline to the Nth degree.

Though Sweet F.A. recorded just two albums, I think they had something special. It might’ve not been fully refined but had they arrived on the scene a few years earlier, the level of their success would’ve been far greater. They might be consigned to the deepest section of the Where Are They Now section of musical memory for most people, but after listening to Temptation as a follow up to Stick To Your Guns, I just know that I would’ve been a fan had I actually heard them when these albums had been originally released.