Category Archives: Cassette Chronicles

The Cassette Chronicles – Babylon A.D’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 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.

Babylon A.D’s Babylon A.D. (1989)

The self-titled album from Babylon A.D. came out just a few months after I graduated high school and the two best known tracks from the album landed with an amped up fist upside the head.

For me, there’s no doubt that the two lead tracks from this album, “Bang Go The Bells” and “Hammer Swings Down,” represent some of the best adrenaline fueled anthemic rock that the genre had to offer at the time. Both songs capture everything that made the 80’s metal era so special.

Now I would like to say that I worship this album like a religious artifact or something but the truth of the matter is that beyond those two songs, I initially didn’t really get into the rest of it. I had the cassette, but I kind of bypassed the rest of the album with only a cursory interest. I have no reason why except to say that the band and album just simply fell through the cracks for me. The album disappeared from my collection and I have no idea what happened to it. So when I got the chance to pick it up again, I knew that I had to do so.

I’d heard other songs from Babylon A.D. over the years and had really grown to appreciate what I had so casually ignored in the past. But what really got me interested in the album was when my friend Roger [Chouinard], who owns Purchase Street Records, showed me a damn near pristine vinyl edition of the album when I visited the shop one day. He put it on and we listened to the whole album and I was kind of blown away, albeit 28 years after the fact.

The songs “Maryanne” and “Sweet Temptation” keep things on a fast paced track while the extended guitar opening on “Shot O’ Love” provides one of the few quieter moments on the album.

The late comedian Sam Kinison appears on the track “The Kid Goes Wild.” The song was featured in the movie Robocop 2. While the song is pretty good, it actually could’ve done without Kinison’s mid-song ranting. The band may have been “Angry and young, under the gun” but Kinison was merely a distraction.

While the band is categorized as glam metal, singer Derek Davis (billed solely as “Derek” in the liner notes) has a bluesy timbre to his voice that gives the band a little different edge than number of bands from that time period. This is most on display in the closing track “Sally Danced” which is starts off as a blues/blues rock song before gaining more of an in your face hard rock vibe as the song progresses.

The strength of “Caught Up In The Crossfire” comes mainly from its chorus, which is just killer. Also falling into the make or break chorus category is the band’s “power ballad,” the song “Desperate”. The other saving grace is how the intensity of the song grows (much like most power ballads from the 80’s) toward the end of the song.

It may have taken me a long time to really get into this album, but believe me I’m there now. This album is a hugely underrated gem from the mid-to-late period of when metal ruled the world. If you like pure, honest and unadulterated rock and roll, you’d do right by yourself to pick this album up and make your ears bleed in the good kind of way.

Notes of interest: While Babylon A.D. hasn’t released a studio album since 2000, they’ve had four different periods of activity including their latest reformation (with 4/5 of the original lineup) that began in 2013.

Jack Ponti, a prolific musician/songwriter/producer/label executive, co-wrote five of the album’s 10 songs. He produced two mid-90’s albums by Doro Pesch and went on to be the CEO of the Merovingian Music label.

The Cassette Chronicles – Hurricane’s ‘Over the Edge’

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 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.

Hurricane’s Over the Edge (1988)

While this second album from the band is by far their most successful, I have to say that I found myself a little disappointed by it. Now, I remember the band when they first hit the “big time” with their top 40 charting “I’m On To You” from this album. But I can’t remember if I actually owned Over The Edge or not back then.

Now with “I’m On To You”, aside for the “na na na” part in the chorus, it was a killer song. There’s no denying how much of an earworm the track was at the time. The video for the song was all over MTV. Unfortunately for me at least, there wasn’t much else that caught my ear aside from the song “Shout” which was also a stand out number.

Instead, I found that they recorded one of the worst covers I’ve ever heard with Alice Cooper’s “I’m Eighteen” and then closed the album with the track “Baby Snakes” which uses “recorded” phone conversations of a guy too clueless to realize that the girl he keeps calling for a date wants nothing to do with him. Believe me the song is not the least bit entertaining and in fact is rather embarrassing to realize that it passed muster to be included on the album at all.

So, while the album did have those two decent standout cuts, I seem to have otherwise missed the boat on this band because the rest of the album just didn’t appeal to me. I guess you can chalk this one up to being another case of when nostalgia for the music of your youth didn’t pay off by bringing back any fond memories. It isn’t that I think the band was necessarily horrible or anything. But in going back and listening to the album, I realized they really did very little to set themselves apart from what was at the time a bevy of similar sounding bands.

In writing this piece, I talked to the guy who runs the local comic shop I frequent about Hurricane and this particular album. He’s also big metal fan and when I brought this topic up in conversation, he was very insistent that the band’s first release, Take What You Want, was a far superior album.

Notes of Interest: The band is actually around these days with original members Robert Sarzo (guitars) and Tony Cavazo (bass) leading the group. Original singer Kelly Hansen has been fronting Foreigner since 2005. When Sarzo left the band in 1989, he was replaced by Doug Aldrich who would later go on to play for Dio, Whitesnake and he currently plays with The Dead Daisies.

The Cassette Chronicles – John Norum’s ‘Total Control’

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 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.

John Norum’s Total Control (1988)

If I remember an article I read correctly, guitarist John Norum left Europe back in the 1980’s because he was unhappy over the more commercial bent of the group’s music. Given that he has been part of the lineup for years with the band’s turn towards a more classic rock sound these days, you can kind of see where he was coming from given the material that was included on this particular album.

With Norum singing lead on eight of the eleven tracks as well as playing guitar, the guitarist was clearly in as much “total control” as possible for the time. While the album’s production is clearly of the 80’s, the material does veer greatly into the heavier guitar driven sound. While keyboards do have a presence on the album, they don’t overwhelm the clearly more aggressive rocking vibe.

There are nine original songs on the album plus two covers. The cover of Thin Lizzy’s “Wild One” closes the album while Norum also covers the Vinnie Vincent Invasion song “Back on The Streets.”

The album does a nice job of keeping the blood flowing with great guitar work on tracks like “Eternal Flame” and “Law of Life,” but the downbeat and moody style employed on “Too Many Hearts” makes for a disappointing song.

When you think about it, the album is kind of a foretelling of what Europe is doing now, musically speaking. And it isn’t a bad thing either. This album is quite enjoyable and I think people will be surprised by what they hear.

Note of Interest: Swedish singer Goran Edman, who would go on to front Yngwie Malmsteen’s band for two albums (amongst many other projects), sings lead on the three tracks where Norum does not have the lead vocal.

The Cassette Chronicles – Eddie Money’s ‘Nothing To Lose’

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 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.

Eddie Money’s Nothing To Lose (1988)

In a previous installment of The Cassette Chronicles I wrote about Eddie Money’s Can’t Hold Back album and how beyond the two hit songs from the release, the album was otherwise lacking in high quality material.

Nothing To Lose was the follow up album to Can’t Hold Back and it is surprisingly much more of a cohesive album. This is in spite of the fact that it really only has one hit song, the solidly entertaining “Walk On Water.” Working in concert with guitarist Richie Zito (who played guitar on eight of the ten songs as well as co-producing and co-arranging), Money found a real solid groove here.

While the more commercially oriented material is the main component, there’s a couple of full on rocking tracks. “Forget About Love” and “Bad Boy” have a strong guitar that runs throughout each song. The solo on the latter song is electrifying while the more aggressive than expected guitar work on the former song at first surprised and then delighted.

The track “Let Me In” has kind of annoying build up in the chorus but the song was otherwise solid. And the atypically good but not sugary love song “Pull Together” was lyrically potent.

While this was pretty much the last Eddie Money album that I can say that I paid attention to, it did take me a little by surprise and I’m pretty happy that was the case. I’ve got a couple of online friends who rave about Eddie Money to this day and looking back on this album will likely mean I have to break down and check out some of the material that came later on.

Note of Interest: Guitarist Stevie Salas made a guest appearance on the track “Let Me In”.

The Cassette Chronicles – Lindsey Buckingham’s ‘Go Insane’

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 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.

Lindsey Buckingham’s Go Insane (1984)

When this album was originally released, I loved the title track. But in all honesty, I don’t think I’ve actually heard the song in the proceeding three decades. You can chalk this entire album up to the notion that sometimes feeling nostalgic or indulging yourself in it comes back and bites you in the butt rather than remind you of good times long past.

I’m not one that looks to go negative in a review or hope to be entirely positive. I just want to give my opinion on what I hear for the good or the bad. But since reviews should consist of more than “This Sucks!” here goes…

I’m not entirely sure what the point of the album was for Buckingham. The title track doesn’t live up to my memory of it at all. The vocals are entirely overproduced which leads them to seem either buried in the overall mix or treated as an afterthought throughout.

The “song” called “Play In The Rain” is the last song on the first side of the album and carries over to be the first song on side two. The only problem is that the track comes off more as a conceptual and/or experimental exercise rather than a real song. It’s a mostly existential wankfest. And that’s probably the kindest thing I can say about pretty much everything on this release. It is like the ability to write a quality song somehow deserted Buckingham here. The fact that I actually liked the title track when it was first release is kind of embarrassing now that I’ve looked back at it.

Even the most interesting song, “Loving Cup”, is ruined by the vocal production. I think if I ended up listening to this album again, I just might live up to its title and actually “go insane” for real.

The Cassette Chronicles – Cheap Trick’s Lap of Luxury

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 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.

Cheap Trick’s Lap of Luxury (1988)

“You’ve got me all wound up and ready to go!”

Despite the preceding lyrical line belonging to the closing song “All Wound Up” on Lap of Luxury, the sentiment the lyric conveys pretty much sums up the whole album.

From the get the blood pumping opener “Let Go” to the final strains of music, this album doesn’t disappoint. Despite the heavy use of outside writers (the band wrote or co-wrote just six of the tracks), the music is in undeniable possession of that classic Cheap Trick rock and pop melodic sensibilities. The cover of the Elvis Presley hit “Don’t Be Cruel” is a winner in my estimation because it makes me like the song and I’m not really much of an Elvis fan.

The elephant in the room is the huge smash hit ballad “The Flame”. While the chart success of the song meant the track got insanely overplayed, it is a decent song. The funny thing is that I distinctly remember reading at least one article that the band really doesn’t care for the song. (I can’t find the article online so I can’t 100 percent confirm this though). But, it would be mildly amusing that the last big hit song the band had became one that its members liked the least.

I’m more partial to the songs that lean more towards the rock and roll side of the band’s music like “Space” and “Never Had A Lot To Lose”, but the decidedly more commercial sounding “Ghost Town” has its merits as well.

The subsequent tour for the album represents the one and only time that I’ve been able to see Cheap Trick live. They were opening for Robert Plant and I ended up going with the son of my boss at the time. The band put on a great show and, in a twisted sort of way, I’m glad that I haven’t been able to see them again so as not to sully the memory of their set. What made the set more memorable was how the band blew Robert Plant off the stage on that night. Plant’s set had the volume up so loud that you could barely hear a damn thing he was saying or singing. Cheap Trick grasped the notion that volume can’t be allowed to drown out the music.

“You’re holding out, but I’m holding on. Can’t wait until your resistance is gone.” The lyric made me wonder just how anyone could be holding back on giving some music fan loyalty to Cheap Trick. The band will always be seen for their success with At Budokan and Dream Police as well as their all-time hit “Surrender”, there’s no doubt about that. But for my money, the entirety of Lap of Luxury should be seen as one of their best collective offerings as well, regardless of how the band themselves may feel about the album.

Note of Interest: Keyboardist Greg Giuffria (House of Lords, Angel, Giuffria) co-wrote the song “All We Need Is A Dream” with Rick Nielsen and Robin Zander.

The Cassette Chronicles – Eddie Money’s ‘Can’t Hold Back’

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 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.

Eddie Money’s Can’t Hold Back (1986)

While classic rock radio will always keep “Two Tickets To Paradise” in their rotation when called upon to play an Eddie Money track, this album contains two more of his biggest hits in “Take Me Home Tonight (Be My Baby)”, the rocking track that features Ronnie Spector on guest vocals, and “I Wanna Go Back” which is a nice nod to nostalgia. That kind of struck me funny considering I’m listening to the full album for the first time as it has only recently had its own 30th anniversary.

The thing about this album is that despite containing two smash hits that the pop charts wholeheartedly embraced, there is nothing else really approaching the quality of either track throughout the rest of the album. I liked the song that opens up side two, “We Should Be Sleeping”, but that was mostly for the smoking guitar work in the song (particularly the solo on the outro).

While nothing is truly noteworthy for being bad, the album is top heavy with the hits and then just kind of meanders its way to the end. Pop music in the 1980’s had such a diverse roster of artists from various genres so you had to have radio friendly hits to make yourself heard in such a crowded field. However, it is very disappointing to me when an artist doesn’t back up those hits with some good old fashioned album tracks as well.

Notes of interest: Randy Jackson (now best known as a judge on American Idol) played bass on three tracks while Mr. Mister members Richard Page, Pat Mastelotto and Steve George pop up on the song “One Chance”.