Category Archives: Cassette Chronicles

The Cassette Chronicles – Fifth Angel’s ‘Time Will Tell’

BY JAY ROBERTS (SPECIAL TO LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE)

The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s that I have acquired through Purchase Street Records in New Bedford, MA.

The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from the 1980’s 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.

FIFTH ANGEL – TIME WILL TELL (1989)

The second and final album from the band Fifth Angel took the band’s sound in a decidedly more commercial direction than their self-titled debut album had.

Released in 1989, Time Will Tell was pretty much dead on arrival despite a rather impressive collection of very accessible sounding music. I know that we’re supposed to hate anything that sounds as if it is courting mega-success, but I can’t find my way to doing that with this particular album. According to various articles online, a lack of support from Epic Records and band turmoil doomed the band and this album upon release.

I’ve had this album in my own personal collection for years but the cassette finally wore out. Then I acquired a new cassette copy and got reminded just how much I enjoyed this album.

The majority of this 11-track album features fast paced rockers with hooks galore. There are a couple of ballads that slow things down a bit but they aren’t bad so I tend to like hearing those songs each time I play the album.

The song “Midnight Love” is the perfect song to showcase the album’s commercial appeal. In 1989, this song had the right combination of sound, pace, lyrics and overall balls out performance. It should’ve given Fifth Angel a hit song. The title track should also have been earmarked to raise the band’s profile.

But much like you’d probably expect, nothing seemed to quite fall in the band’s favor. Of course, what really shot the band in the foot was the fact that they never played live during the time they were together. In the late 1980’s, if you weren’t touring there was just no way to make inroads to success. Fifth Angel broke up in 1990 having played a grand total of ZERO live shows.

The best thing about listening to this album again was reminding myself that they had covered UFO’s “Lights Out”. You’d think I would have remembered that but you’d be wrong. Instead, when I was checking out the writing credits I “discovered” or rather rediscovered it was the UFO song. Don’t you just hate when the memory fades on certain things. By the way, while singer Ted Pilot, guitarist Ed Archer and drummer Ken Mary did the majority of the songwriting, all five members of the band saw at least one writing credit for the album.

For me, the best song on the album is “We Rule”, which is just an in your face all out aggressive track. It’s the song that would be akin to the band flexing their muscles for all to see.

The funny thing is that the band is actually back together. Since 2009, they’ve been an active band and have even played a handful of live concerts. Guitarists Ed Archer and Kendall Bechtel along with bassist John Macko have kept the band going with various singers and drummers. The band was rejoined by original drummer Ken Mary in 2017. There has even been talk of a new album at some point down the road.

Time Will Tell is a very underappreciated gem of an album that could’ve been a highlight of the 80’s metal era but instead, like the band itself, found it slipping into the cracks and being mostly forgotten.

Notes of Interest: Singer Lisa Dalbello appears on backing vocals for the songs “Broken Dreams” and “So Long”. The Canadian artist, aside from her own recording career, has been a successful writer and producer for a variety of other musicians.

Fifth Angel singer Ted Pilot has long since left the music business. When there was talk about the band performing live for the first time, he was initially on board to front the band. But it never came to fruition. He is an endodontist with a successful practice in Washington state.

The Cassette Chronicles – Europe’s self-titled debut

BY JAY ROBERTS (SPECIAL TO LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE)

The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s that I have acquired through Purchase Street Records in New Bedford, MA.

The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from the 1980’s 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.

Europe – Europe (1983)

I would hazard a guess that when Europe’s third album, The Final Countdown, made the band into international superstars, only the most hardcore music lovers realized that there were already two albums to the band’s credit.

It is a bit funny to think that while the album was originally released in 1983, Europe’s self-titled debut didn’t get an apparent US release until 1989, at least according to the liner notes on this cassette edition of the album.

The album was recorded as a four piece and shows the nascent Swedish band in a far more uptempo mode with songs that rock out more aggressively than you’d ever think. The music is far less dominated by the keyboard sound that would come to define the band’s best days. This album is akin to how raw and rocking the first couple of Def Leppard’s albums sounded.

Three quarters of the lineup from this first album are still in the band to this day (though guitarist John Norum did leave the band in 1986 right as the band was breaking out. He returned to the band when they staged their reunion. I wrote about his 1987 solo album Total Control in a previous article in this series).

As for the songs themselves, there are some surprisingly good tunes here. Pretty much the entirety of Side 1 is enjoyable, particularly “In The Future To Come,” “Seven Door Hotel” and the rather hard rocking instrumental “Boyazont.” That last track finds Norum shredding the six strings available to him in a seeming hyperactive attack. It is flat out fantastic and then it just cuts out at the end. No fade out, it just stops at the point where you are left wanting more. I know that the song “The King Will Return” is probably the best known song from the album but strangely I found that while it is enjoyable, I didn’t quite rank it as high as others might.

The album’s second half has a solid opener in “Children of Time.” The song “Words of Wisdom” spends most of its running time in a bit of a melodic but plodding fashion, but the chorus makes up for that, it is performed at a far faster pace and I like the way singer Joey Tempest vocally delivers the lyric at that point. I love “Paradize Bay” a lot while “Memories” sees the album go out on a rocking note.

What makes this a good album in my mind is how I can sit here three decades later and feel that I’m rediscovering the band all over again. I actually owned this cassette in my own collection BEFORE making the 100 cassette purchase. But I hadn’t listened to it in a long time, so the memory of what the band had to offer at their start had admittedly faded from my memory more than just a little.

I’m not sure what the band or their fans really think of this album. It won’t be seen as an all-time classic, but I found it a surprisingly effective way to get started with the band or rekindle a fandom that might’ve died down a bit.

Of particular note is that this album’s sound is far more aligned with the band’s current day sound than that sound of their best days. After the band broke up in 1992, they only appeared together once (in 1999) before reuniting in 2003. Their sound was revamped into what can only be described as “classic rock” and they’ve been mining that particular vein of music for five albums now, rather succesfully.

NOTE OF INTEREST: The band’s drummer for this album was Tony Reno. He was let go from the band during the tour for their second album. He was replaced by Ian Haugland, who has been with the band ever since.

The Cassette Chronicles – Winger’s self-titled debut

BY JAY ROBERTS (SPECIAL TO LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE)

The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s that I have acquired through Purchase Street Records in New Bedford, MA.

The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from the 1980’s 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.

Winger – Winger (1988)

I know that it is somewhat fashionable to kick Winger whenever it comes to talking about bands that represented the downside of the 80’s metal heyday, but I think a lot of people have selectively convenient memories when it comes to the band’s debut album.

The four members (Kip Winger, Reb Beach, Paul Taylor and Rod Morgenstein) of the band each had a solid musical pedigree prior to the formation of Winger (The Dixie Dregs, Alice Cooper and studio work on the Twisted Sister album Love Is For Suckers are just some of their combined background).

The album and band, accompanied by some hit videos, was a solid performer out of the starting gate. It eventually went platinum. They toured all over the place (I saw them open for Bad Company at Boston’s Orpheum Theatre in 1988, where I got to meet the band. Heck, I still have the album cover flat they signed as well as the jean jacket that a couple of them signed as well).

As for the album itself, it was a bit hit and miss in parts, but the high points are really quite good. The first three songs on Side 1 are probably some of their best work in the first part of their career. “Madalaine” was a great uptempo rock song that amply fit the bill for that first single to introduce the band to listeners and get them hooked for the rest of the album. “Hungry” was a song that was pretty good upon first listen and gets better over time. I hadn’t heard that particular track in a while and found that I really got into it all over again when I listened to it for this article. And then you have what is probably the band’s most famous and controversial song, “Seventeen.” Now back in 1988 singing about some hot chick that was “only seventeen” might’ve been mildly offputting for some, but in general the song was just that, a song. You’d find yourself singing along without actually considering doing something statutory. Of course, in this day and age, that song wouldn’t even be allowed on an album with the sentiments it conveys. Can you imagine how controversial it would be now?

The last two tracks on the first side of the album are a little troubling for me. The ballad “Without The Night” was a mediocre at best slice of yearning and whining. But that is nothing compared to what is rightfully considered one of the worst cover songs ever recorded. I’m not sure who thought it was a good idea to cover the Jimi Hendrix song “Purple Haze” but they need some professional counseling. This is only compounded by the fact that the record company actually allowed this dreadful song on the album.

Side 2 of the album started off with the more uptempo “State of Emergency” but it just isn’t a song that meant a whole lot to me then or now. But the double shot of “Time To Surrender” and “Poison Angel” that follow show the band in a pretty in your face rocking kind of way. It gives listeners a shake and they are the kind of song that always manages to get me fired up.

Of course, “Hanging On” isn’t much to write home about so that kind of dampens the enthusiasm for Side 2 a bit. The album closing with Winger’s big ballad hit “Headed For A Heartbreak” is a prime example of what happens when a metal band did a ballad that was designed to get as much airplay as possible and make the women fall in love with the band. When I first heard the song, I liked it. There’s no denying that. But then when it became a single, you couldn’t get away from the song and I found myself growing to hate the song. Even now, my acquired distaste for the song, due to it being completely overplayed, kind of made the song “white noise” to me. Your ears just kind of push the song to the background.

Now despite my varied criticisms of the album, I do like the album overall. It was a fun release during a fun time for rock and metal fans. And believe me, Winger was quite popular. Like I said, I know people like to pretend that they didn’t like Winger when they were big, but they are generally lying their butts off. And why is that? Well, we have a crappy cartoon called Beavis & Butthead to thank for that bit of revisionist history.

Yeah I said it! I thought that MTV cartoon was a flaming dung heap in the first place, but Winger obviously has a bigger axe to grind because once the show made them their weekly whipping boy, Winger’s career cratered like you wouldn’t believe.

But for those who don’t follow trends and stick to what they believe, the debut Winger album still stands out as a good memory.

NOTES OF INTEREST: Dweezil Zappa plays a solo on the “Purple Haze” cover. Guitarist Reb Beach played with Dokken on their 1999 album Erase The Slate and has been a member of Whitesnake since 2002. Winger’s 2014 album was called Better Days Comin’ and is chock full of great fast paced rockers (ignore the gawdawful ballads).

The Cassette Chronicles – Dangerous Toys self-titled debut

BY JAY ROBERTS (SPECIAL TO LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE)

The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s that I have acquired through Purchase Street Records in New Bedford, MA.

The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from the 1980’s through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums.

These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.

Dangerous Toys – Dangerous Toys (1989)

If you have a phobia of clowns, whether they look like normal circus performers or psycho killers out of a Stephen King novel, you probably never made it past the cover art of Texas rockers Dangerous Toys self-titled debut album.

However, if you did get past the cover, you found yourself confronted with a mostly in your face release of pent up aggression channeled into a sometimes quite effective dose of rock/metal.

The band does get categorized mainly as a glam metal act but if you listen to their music, it is more of a sleaze rock kind of thing. There’s an unapologetic beer, babes and guitars kind of vibe to the music

Vocalist Jason McMaster and company explode out the speakers with a double shot of the band’s brand of rock and roll. “Teas’n Pleas’n” is an unrelenting track that leaves you little time to catch your breath.

They follow that up with what I think might be their most musically fulfilling song in “Scared”.  When you listen to the lyrics to the song, combined with the soundtrack, it is pretty easy to visualize your own kind of horror movie (even if you haven’t seen the video they made to go with the track). It really is quite effective, which for me at least is saying something as I’m really not a horror movie fan. I had gotten my hands on a CD copy of this album a couple of weeks before I got the cassette and whenever I hear the song, a movie begins playing in my head. Seriously, you should go check out the video on YouTube.

For the rest of Side 1 of the album, I thought the band missed the mark a bit. Two more pedal to the metal rockers combined with “Feels Like A Hammer” a slower track with what seemed to me a fuller depth to the musical sound, all felt a little wanting to me.

When you flip the cassette over to Side 2, you get two more tracks to kick things off that showed just how potent the band’s songwriting could be. Leading off was the guaranteed to upset pretty much any woman (or if you play the song at work, human resources), “Sport’n A Woody.” For the inner 10 year old boy who loved dick jokes that seems to reside in a lot of men, this is a hilarious track. If you have anyone that ever asks you to explain the term “cock rock” to them, play them this song and all shall come clear. I can still remember singing along to this song whenever I heard it back then and being unable to stop laughing every time.

To my recollection, this song is one of the band’s three (along with “Teas’n Pleas’n” and “Scared”) best known songs. But the track “Queen Of The Nile” should be included as final inclusion on the band’s “Big 4” song sampler. It is an undistilled adrenaline charged rocker that continually keeps a charge of electricity running through me when I hear it.

Side 2 falls victim to the same flaw that Side 1 had, where the first two tracks are great but the rest pale in comparison…at best. There’s a bit of an interesting feel to “Here Comes Trouble” but otherwise the remaining songs kind of all run together.

While the album might be a bit of a disappointment because I thought only four of the tracks were outstanding, four songs is actually pretty decent when you factor in a lot of bands from this time frame would’ve killed to have that many good tracks. When the album was originally released, I only had a dubbed cassette copy of it (remember doing that?), and hadn’t listened to it in years so perhaps that accounts for my initial expectations and subsequent letdown.

Dangerous Toys may not go down as legends of the era, but they do provide some solid entertainment and I have to say that I wish I’d seen them in their prime. I’m sure it would’ve been quite the memorable experience.

NOTES OF INTEREST: The band hasn’t released new music since 1995, but they still get together to this day to perform live on occasion. The song “Scared” is a tribute to Alice Cooper. While guitarist Danny Aaron is pictured on the back cover of the album, he didn’t actually play on any of the songs.

The Cassette Chronicles – Survivor’s ‘Too Hot To Sleep’

BY JAY ROBERTS (SPECIAL TO LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE)

The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s that I have acquired through Purchase Street Records in New Bedford, MA.

The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from the 1980’s 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 – Too Hot To Sleep (1988)

This album was the final release from the band during their most successful period. It was also, unfortunately, a rather overlooked gem. The band changed up their sound a good bit for this album. While their keyboard heavy sound made for huge hit albums with Vital Signs and When Seconds Count, the presence of that keyboard sound is pushed into the background more than usual in favor of more of an aggressive guitar sound. While the album would still fall under the AOR banner, this is definitely a more guitar rock oriented direction for the material.

And it is a good, no check that, GREAT album. I remember hearing the first single “Didn’t Know It Was Love” on the radio station I was listening to at the job I had at the time. I was so psyched to know they had a new album coming out that I cranked the volume up. And right from the start, the band served musical notice of the tweak to their sound. The opening track on Too Hot To Sleep, “She’s A Star,” is a tour de force with a smoking hot guitar line throughout the song.

The band became a three piece for this album because they used session players for their rhythm section. Singer Jimi Jamison was huge with his vocals, even more powerful with a good dose of grit added to the mix. Frankie Sullivan (in what was probably the last instance of him seeming to give a damn) was able to do a lot more shredding on the guitar and while Jim Peterik’s keyboards weren’t as prominent as the past, he was still responsible for a lot of the actual songwriting.

In truth, there is not a single bad song on the album. I love it all. Hell, I actually had just ordered the reissued/remastered edition of the album on CD from Rock Candy Records a couple days before I bought this cassette.

Survivor may have seen this last gasp of greatness fall flat with the music buying public at large, but those of us who were and continue to be hardcore fans know the truth, this album is truly magnificent.

Notes of Interest: With longtime drummer Marc Droubay out of the band, Survivor hired drummer Mickey Curry to record the album. You’ll note that Curry was also a featured player on the first album featured in this series, Helix’s Wild In The Streets. Styx guitarist Tommy Shaw also appears on backing vocals for the album.

The Cassette Chronicles – Honeymoon Suite’s ‘Racing After Midnight’

BY JAY ROBERTS (SPECIAL TO LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE)

The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s that I have acquired through Purchase Street Records in New Bedford, MA.

The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from the 1980’s 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.

Honeymoon Suite – Racing After Midnight (1988)

In the song “Tears On The Page” there is the lyric line “We should’ve made it, we could’ve had it all.” That line could conceivably sum up the woulda, coulda, shoulda aspect of Honeymoon Suite’s career.

The band’s first three albums, including the self-titled debut and their to-this-day masterpiece The Big Prize and this Racing After Midnight release are superb examples of the best of what is now the melodic rock genre has to offer. They had it all, great guitar work, a dynamic singer, the overlayed keyboards that didn’t mute the guitar work and catchy as hell songwriting. Sadly, while there was a modicum of success in the US and far more in their native Canada, it seems the deserved fame and respect the band deserves kind of eluded them.

However, it isn’t because there was anything lacking in the material. Because on Racing After Midnight, the band is on fire throughout. The mixture of rockers and ballads keep the blood flowing and shine a spotlight on guitarist Derry Grehan and singer Johnnie Dee in particular.

The band wastes no time getting started, leading off the album with the adrenaline fueled “Lookin’ Out For Number One.” It’s one of two tracks that best highlight the fiery licks from Grehan. It’s aggressive without being over the top and full of enough melodic hooks to grab you and not let go. The other song that blazes with Grehan’s fretwork as the sole spotlighted instrument is “Other Side of Midnight,” the closing song on side one of the album.

Of course, this is the 1980’s we are talking about so the keyboard sound also plays a big part in the band’s overall sound. While the slower tempo ballad songs are quite obviously powered by Rob Preuss’s keys work, I thought where he stood out best is when the keys and guitar were combined to give songs like “Love Changes Everything” and the aforementioned “Tears On The Page” a more fleshed out and musically deeper fulfilling sound.

The album closes with a remixed version of the ballad “Lethal Weapon.” The original version of the song was played over the closing credits of the first Lethal Weapon movie. I remember hearing the song when I saw the movie and thought that it seemed a bit trite for the song to have to work in “Lethal Weapon” into the chorus. Nearly 30 years later, I still feel it just didn’t quite mesh the way I’m sure it was intended.

The band is still together, having gone through a series of lineup changes over the years, and they still tour. There have been five albums since this one. Their 2008 release Clifton Hill was an album that I got to review when I was writing for another website at that time.

So, if you haven’t ever checked the band out, you are missing out on some fine melodic hard rock. Racing After Midnight amply demonstrates how talented Honeymoon Suite was and the fact more people didn’t get that fact at the time is a little sad because they really could’ve and should’ve had it all.

Notes of Interest: The album was co-produced by Ted Templeman, best known for his work with Van Halen, The Doobie Brothers and solo work from ex-Doobie Brother Michael McDonald. McDonald helped out with the recording of Racing After Midnight when singer Johnnie Dee was seriously injured in a car accident. McDonald wrote lyrics and sang back up on the song “Long Way Back.”

 

The Cassette Chronicles – Hericane Alice’s ‘Tear The House Down’

BY JAY ROBERTS (SPECIAL TO LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE)

The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s that I have acquired through Purchase Street Records in New Bedford, MA.

The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from the 1980’s 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.

Hericane Alice – Tear The House Down (1990)

In preparing to write about this album, I found myself thinking back to 1990 when the album was released. I had seen an ad for the album in a magazine (possibly Metal Edge, but I’m not completely sure) and it looked intriguing to me.

So, I got myself to the store and picked the album up on cassette. Unfortunately, that was pretty much the last interesting thing I can recall about the album. It was the only release from the band and I remember not thinking much of the material. So, the album eventually got weeded out of my music collection.

Of course, when I made the big 100 cassette purchase from Purchase Street Records, this album was not only amongst the many and varied possible treasures, but it was still in the original cellophane wrapping from the Strawberries record store.

In 1990, as the era of metal music ruling the charts was starting to wind down, record companies were signing pretty much any type of “hair” band in the hopes of finding a gem that could lead to big record sales. It was throwing crap against the wall to see what, if anything, would stick.

Unfortunately, listening to this album now 27 years after its release hasn’t improved the quality much at all. Instead, this is a prime example of why metal died as a chart-topping force.

The music is really not that great, lacking what I would call a true feel for melody. At times, it sounds like it is just a bunch of discordant noise strung together in the hopes that nobody would notice the lack of a cohesive whole.

Side One leads off with the band’s single (and video clip) “Wild Young And Crazy”, which is mildly entertaining I suppose but it just lacks something in the hook department. It is a fast paced song designed to get your blood pressure up, but it really just kind of falls flat. As for the rest of the songs on the first side of the tape, only the title track serves to reward the listener with any sense of raising your energy level.

As for Side Two, well let’s just say that there are five songs and be done with it. Nothing on the second side of the cassette even compares to the first side.

Part of the goal of this series of articles is not just to potentially enlighten readers to some of the glorious metal of my favorite era of music, but also to remind myself of what I loved, what I missed, and maybe rekindle something from bands that just fell by the wayside.

But listening to Hericane Alice just reminds me of everything that went wrong by the end of “The Metal Years.” I can’t even say this was a noble attempt that fell shy of the mark. This album was just pretty much an abject failure. Tear The House Down makes it that much easier to understand why the band never really went further than the one release. This won’t be an album that gets more play time from me because.

Notes Of Interest: Bassist Ian Mayo and drummer Jackie Ramos went on to play with current Dead Daisies guitarist Doug Aldrich (ex-Dio, ex-Whitesnake) in both Bad Moon Rising and Burning Rain.
Singer Bruce Naumann reformed Hericane Alice in 2007 with an entirely new lineup around him. At last check on their Facebook page, they seem to still be active.