Category Archives: Cassette Chronicles

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.

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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.

 

The Cassette Chronicles – Salty Dog‘s ‘Every Dog Has Its Day’

By JAY ROBERTS

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

Click on the above ad to purchase tickets.

SALTY DOG – EVERY DOG HAS ITS DAY (1990)

I’m not sure if using a well-worn cliche as your debut album’s title was a bit too much in the way of tempting fate, but in the case of Salty Dog it just might’ve been the harbinger of bad things to come.
Powered by a blues driven rock sound that was apparently compared to Led Zeppelin but owed just as much to the actual blues music, Salty Dog ended up being a one album wonder. This was in spite of the fact that they actually had a pretty damn good sound to their music.

While researching a bit about the album, I learned that the band pretty much went down the drain soon after the album was released. Singer Jimmi Bleacher left the band and, despite a try at going forward with a new singer, the band pretty much dissolved from that point.

Of course, that doesn’t mean Every Dog Has Its Day isn’t a showcase for what was and might’ve been with the band. Or for those with a darker viewpoint on life, a fitting epitaph instead.

The album kicks off with “Come Along,” the first of the two songs to be featured upon the original release with music videos. The thing that struck me was that despite this track being the best known of the band’s songs, I found it a bit wanting. Yes, there was a hook that draws you in at first but I thought there was something missing that left the song just this side of completely satisfying.

Musically, the entire album is pretty strong. I thought the various aspects of the guitar playing from Pete Reveen was both lively and energetic. There’s a variety of styles employed within the confines of straight up hard rock. The cheeky vibe of “Just Like A Woman” finds the band loosening up a little while the one pure ballad track “Sacrifice Me” has a much deeper emotional feel to it.

Of the 13 tracks, there are 12 originals plus a cover of the Willie Dixon song “Spoonful.”

What really got me hooked on certain songs was when the band was firing up the rock tempo on “Cat’s Got Nine” and “Ring My Bell.” On these types of songs, singer Jimmi Bleacher really sounds good.

However, there was one particular part of the album where I just found myself a bit irritated. Bleacher’s voice has a screechy/whiny aspect at times. For most of the album it is kept in check, but on songs like “Where The Sun Don’t Shine,” that Willie Dixon cover and “Heave Hard (She Comes Easy),” that whiny tone is unrestrained and quite frankly ruins the songs.

The second of the songs that got videos was “Lonesome Fool” and it employs a banjo threaded throughout the musical soundtrack. Right up until the end, the song is actually quite good. But there’s a spoken word ending verse to the song that takes it from good to downright ridiculous.

That said though, songs like the rocker “Keep Me Down” and the gonzo paced closing song “Nothin’ But A Dream” help give more heft to the album as a whole.

While circumstances conspired against Salty Dog having any kind of sustained success, this album does stand up to the idea that they had some serious talent in the band. While it does have some peaks and valleys in terms of song quality, Every Dog Has Its Day finds itself as Exhibit A in demonstrating what might’ve been for this band had they been able to hold things together.

NOTES OF INTEREST: The album’s producer was Peter Collins who also worked with Rush, Queensryche and Gary Moore.

Every Dog Has Its Day has been reissued twice on CD. The first time was in 2010 via Bad Reputation Records and then in 2016 by Rock Candy Records. The reissues came with four demos as bonus tracks.

For those that might be wondering what the band’s secnd album would’ve sounded like, you’ll able to fulfill that desire starting with the day this article goes live. On March 23, 2018, Escape Music will release Lost Treasure, which contains 11 tracks that were recorded years ago. The songs feature singer Darrel Beach who was recruited to the band after Jimmi Bleacher left the group.

The Cassette Chronicles – SWEET F.A.’s ‘STICK TO YOUR GUNS’

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. – STICK TO YOUR GUNS (1990)

The band Sweet F.A. is one who’s name I remember from the 80’s metal era, but I would’ve been hard pressed to guarantee that I’d ever actually heard any of their music.

I know that I never owned either of the band’s two albums before starting this series. This article concerns their debut release and when I first played it, I ended up feeling that the opening track, “Prince of the City,” was vaguely familiar. The song was an energetic rocker with a big amped up chorus so it was definitely a song that would’ve caught my ear back then. I still can’t say for sure but chances are that I knew the song.

While I enjoyed “Nothin’ For Nothin’,” the song that came next on the tape, I can’t say that the rest of side one was all that appealing. “Rhythm of Action” was hampered by a deliberately plodding pace that left one feeling rather pale, cold and dead inside.

As for the rest of the songs, two start out slow and progress into more of a rocking track while “Daily Grind” is a fiery rocker from the start. The problem is that none of them really felt like more than filler to me.

Of course, when you get to the second side of the album, things change up a bit. The lead track is “Whiskey River” which is a balls out rocker and a killer tune. Singer Steven David DeLong (as well as the rest of the band) had the glam/sleaze rock look but his voice had a raspy and rough edge to it that gave the better tracks on the album a little extra kick to them.

While the title “I Love Women” isn’t exactly in the vicinity of original, the actual song isn’t bad. And there’s a slickly cool vibe to the rocker “Breakin’ The Law” (which is NOT a cover of the Judas Priest classic).
Admittedly, the power ballad “Heart of Gold” and the closing track “Southern Comfort” left something to be desired, but you also had a stunningly intriguing track like “Devil’s Road.”

The material’s quality may ebb and flow a bit but I found myself rather surprised to be enjoying a lot of what Sweet F.A. had to offer on Stick To Your Guns. I don’t really see a need for them to jump on the get back together after three decades apart bandwagon, but for its time and place, they and this album were entertaining.

NOTES OF INTEREST: The band released one more album, 1991’s Temptation, before they called it a day.

The sides of the album are listed as Side F and Side A. When I first took the cassette out, I thought I had to rewind the darn thing. Also, the title track is the only song whose lyrics are included in the liner notes.

The album’s producer, Howard Benson, played the keyboards for the release.

The Cassette Chronicles – Hurricane’s ‘Slave to the Thrill’

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.

HURRICANE – SLAVE TO THE THRILL (1990)

For those not paying close attention, this is the third Hurricane studio album that has been featured in this series. I really enjoyed Take What You Want and had serious reservations about their most successful album Over The Edge. By the time Slave To The Thrill was released, I had consigned the band to the recycle bin of my personal musical interests. It would figure of course that, having now listened to the album, I did so one album too early.

Guitarist Robert Sarzo had left the band (though he did receive one co-writing credit on the rather mediocre sounding “10,000 Years”) and been replaced by Doug Aldrich. I don’t know if it was the addition of Aldrich but the music on this album is decidedly heavier without sacrificing much in the way of melody.

Of the 12 songs on the album (11 tracks are listed but track 8 is actually an uncredited instrumental called “FX” which is a mere trifle of a thing), the band wrote four songs on their own and co-wrote six more with outside writers. The remaining two songs were done entirely by outside writers. I mention this because other than a couple of misfires, this album is such a cohesive whole that you would never think there were so many irons in the songwriting fire.

The first side of the album is rocking out from the start. The song “Reign of Love” goes full out from the first notes and stays that way throughout the song. In fact, the first four tracks are all fast paced tracks that excel at getting your motor revved up. “Dance Little Sister” has a nice little rhythmic groove to it. The only negative was the ballad “Don’t Wanna Dream.” I know every track can’t be a home run, but this was another in a long line pedestrian at best ballads from the era.

Side two had much the same kind of makeup as Side one. I mentioned the disappointing “10,000 Years” earlier in this article, but other than that the songs were all rather good. “Temptation” is an explosive track while “Let It Slide” made me think of a song you’d hear in some kind of Western movie.

The band really had something going on with this slightly altered, heavier edge to their music. Doug Aldrich kills it throughout the album and for my money, singer Kelly Hansen’s vocals have a welcome more aggressive and somehow deeper feel to them.

I know that it isn’t usually a welcome thing to find out that you have misjudged or dismissed something before you should have. However, I don’t mind admitting I was wrong when it comes to something musical. I was right in my relative disdain for Hurricane’s Over The Edge, but I should definitely have stuck around for this follow up. Slave To The Thrill live up to its title billing by providing one musical thrill after another.

NOTES OF INTEREST: The original release of the album contained the album cover with a naked woman sprawled on a machine. It must’ve caused at least some bit of controversy because later pressings of the album had the nude woman removed. The version I have includes the woman.

Frank Simes co-wrote “Reign of Love” and “Young Man,” two of the album’s stand out tracks. He’s perhaps best known having toured as the musical director for The Who, solo Roger Daltrey, Stevie Nicks and Don Henley.

The Cassette Chronicles – John Cafferty and The Beaver Brown Band’s ‘Roadhouse’

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.

JOHN CAFFERTY AND THE BEAVER BROWN BAND – ROADHOUSE (1988)

If the only thing you know about John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band is the big hit single “On The Dark Side” from the Eddie and the Cruisers movie, you can be forgiven. It remains the best known song the band has ever recorded.

Unsurprisingly, the band is really quite tied to that movie (and its sequel). But in between being featured band on the soundtracks for both movies, there were a couple of albums that were the band standing on their own. While ultimately unsuccessful spotlighting themselves outside of the spotlight of the movies and soundtracks, this third album is actually rather intriguing. This is another album that found its way to me without ever having been opened.

(As an aside, I should say that I found the soundtrack for Eddie and the Cruisers II: Eddie Lives! to be an outstanding album. I play it to this day and love it every single time.)

The band is from Rhode Island and that’s also where the album was recorded. Their sound is pure classic rock and roll (additionally fueled by keyboards and saxophone) which tends to be an immediate earworm for me. Cafferty wrote all the songs on Roadhouse and his voice only serves to further enhance the quality of each track.

On side one of the album, the opener “Bound For Glory” kicks off with an audio punch in your face as the song rocks straight from the first note. “Victory Dance” was a pretty cool number as the lyrics used every possible sports metaphor about winning that you can imagine. I wasn’t crazy about the song “Killing Time” but otherwise each of the remaining five tracks were actually quite good. “Song & Dance” was the single that was released from the album. It’s another fast paced track though while I enjoyed it, it didn’t chart when it was released originally. At first I thought I wasn’t going to like “Wheel of Fortune” but the song grew on me and I did like the featured guitar solo.

Overall, the second side of the album was good, but I do have to say that I wasn’t quite as enthused about a couple of songs. It opens with a slightly less in your face rocker in “Penetration” which the 12 year old inside me couldn’t help get a chuckling about. Perhaps not the reaction that the band would hope for but I just couldn’t help myself. But that admittedly immature reaction was quickly set aside for the song “Wishing Well” which I found myself getting into sync with quite nicely.

I liked the music for “Customary Thing” but was a little iffy about the vocal performance at least in spots. It felt like the vocals were stuff far down in the mix so as to make a couple of lines a bit hard to discern what was being said. “Higher Ground” slowed things down considerably. Featuring a big backing vocal sound, the song seemed to be aiming for being a bit more dramatic in scope. The song “Road I’m Running” closes out the album. It’s got a strong opening guitar lick and only improves from there.

Having started out as a bar band, John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band may have scaled the heights, but they never seemed to forget those roots. “On The Dark Side” may be the song that everyone knows and can sing along to. But whenever I listen to any of the albums they are responsible for, I can see myself watching them in a club or other venue and just being incredibly entertained. Rock solid rock and roll music, what more can you ask for from any band?

NOTE OF INTEREST: Though the band hasn’t released a new studio album since 1989, they are still actively touring throughout New England and across the country.

The Cassette Chronicles – Lion’s ‘Dangerous Attraction’

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.

Advertisement – Click on the above ad to purchase tickets.

LION – DANGEROUS ATTRACTION (1987)

How often have you come across this dilemma? You are a fan of either a band or a particular musician but when you go back and listen to some previously unheard earlier material, you find it rather unsatisfying to say the least.

After I listened to the full-length debut album from Lion, I had that exact feeling. I’m a big fan of Doug Aldrich from his time with Dio, Whitesnake and his current gig with The Dead Daisies. Heck, I even met the guy when the latter band opened for Kiss on their “Freedom To Rock” tour.

But listening to Dangerous Attraction left me feeling pretty cold towards the majority of the music. Released in 1987, the album’s material comes off to me as run of the mill stuff that a number of bands did far better.

The songs range from out and out rockers to slow burn pieces and every stylistic choice in between. But there are glaring examples of eye rolling choices such as “Death On Legs” which moves along briskly but is quickly forgotten once the song ends. Even the more anthemic tracks like “Hard And Heavy” due little to get my adrenaline pumping.

There are nine songs on this cassette but the first side is definitely the weakest part of the album. The song “Never Surrender” is actually quite enjoyable with its rocket fuel pacing and anthem like chorus. But it is side two that features songs that are at least a tiny bit more appealing overall. “Powerlove,” “After The Fire” and “Shout It Out” are all rocker tracks that will peak your interest, even if only for a little while. Sadly, the same can’t be said for “In The Name of Love”. That track hits all parts of the song spectrum, starting out slow and steadily increasing its pace until it is a full blown rocker. Not quite a power ballad in my book, but probably close enough to it. What would’ve been more interesting to me was if the song had been something more than dreadfully boring.

Singer Kal Swan wrote or co-wrote all of the songs on the album. The liner notes credit the band as a whole for producing the album but the Wikipedia page lists Swan as the sole producer. As for how he sounds, it’s fine but I just didn’t connect with his vocals that much save on that “Never Surrender” song.

I wanted to like this album because Lion was one of those bands I remember from back in the day but never actually got around to checking out. But the album really doesn’t rise to much beyond a nod of the head to the nostalgia for the musical era that it came from and a shrug of the shoulders as I move on to other musical adventures.

NOTES OF INTEREST: There was a 10th track on the album (I’m guessing the CD version but I could be wrong about that called “The Transformers (Theme)”. The band recorded it for the animated Transformers movie, but it was not included on the cassette that I have.

The release of Dangerous Attraction in the US came via Scotti Bros. Records. The label was the longtime home of the melodic rock band Survivor.

The band broke up in 1989 after the release of their second album Trouble In Angel City.