Category Archives: Cassette Chronicles

The Cassette Chronicles – Princess Pang’s self-titled debut

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 – Hookers & Blow will perform at The Vault at Greasy Luck Brewpub, located at 791 Purchase Street in New Bedford, MA, on Saturday, January 20, 2018. Click on the above ad to purchase tickets!

PRINCESS PANG – PRINCESS PANG (1989)

Formed in Sweden but mostly identified as an American band, Princess Pang is one of the more obscure late 80’s rock bands I can think of. The reasons for this is that they released just this one album and it went absolutely nowhere. They got some recognition for the album’s lead track, “Trouble In Paradise”, but if you look online there’s not a whole lot of talk about the band and they aren’t even listed as having so much as a Wikipedia page.

And while I find that a gigantic shame now, I guess you could say that I was part of the problem back then. I absolutely loved the “Trouble In Paradise” song. The video was good and singer Jeni Foster had that whiskey soaked bluesy sound to her vocals. But when I originally bought this album, I really didn’t get into the rest of the songs and ended up letting the band just slip away from my conscious thought.

I had the cassette in my collection for years but it had disappeared through loss or destruction. That didn’t stop me from remembering the band though and when I got this new to me cassette version, I knew that I had to give it another shot. And I’m glad that I did, because upon reflection, this album actually rocks!

Though there are the expected trappings of the glam metal sound, the music is definitely slanted more towards that bluesy hard rock that I love so much. While Foster’s vocals are the primary selling point for me, the guitar work from Jay Lewis and Andy Tjernon is pretty exhilarating when the band kicks off the more electrically charged rockers in their repertoire.

As I said, “Trouble In Paradise” was the lead single and opening track on the album. The way Foster’s voice cuts through and captures your ear on this song is intriguing. She takes no prisoners. I remember just loving the way her vocal sounded on the opening two lines of lyrics, “Caught me downtown / on the southside of Holy Joe’s place”. I know that it is a simple little lyric but I was hooked on the song right then and there. It’s a no-holds-barred rock and roll stomp kind of a song.

The rest of the side one of the album is actually quite rocking with the exception of “Find My Heart A Home”. This song was written by Foster alone (she at least co-wrote every track on the album) and brings you down from the immediate musical high of the first song with a more mid-tempo track. It’s decent enough, but not a song I really got into as much as the rest.

I loved the solo on “South St. Kids” and “Sympathy” was another shot of adrenaline, but I think the other stand out song has to be “No Reason To Cry”. Leaning into that bluesy driven sound I mentioned, this song has a bar room boogie kind of feel that will leave you wondering if you are in the midst of some honkytonk bar. It really did a number on me when I heard it again.

Side two has six tracks and again shows the band in its more fiery rocking state. The only bump in the road for me was “Baby Blue”. The song is a ballad with the pace ticking upwards during the chorus, but it just didn’t do a thing for me.

Otherwise, the band unleashes one salvo after another. “Too Much Too Soon” plays out as a cautionary tale and has a big edgy vibe in the chorus. “China Doll” and “Scream & Shout” get your heart rate up and “I’m Not Playin” brings the house (and album) down with a crescendo of rocking pyrotechnics.

The album was released by Metal Blade Records, which in hindsight seems kind of odd given that the label is generally associated with heavier sounding music. But looking back, they got it right by getting the Princess Pang album on the shelves. It is more of an indictment on music fans (myself included from back then) that it ended up being criminally ignored.

The band may be long gone and sadly barely remembered but this album is a fine testimonial to their talent, even if it has gone unrecognized for so long.

NOTE OF INTEREST: The album is nearly impossible to find on CD. Or rather to find an affordable copy. Looking on eBay, the rare listing for a CD copy has always been expensive. I’ve actually messaged British reissue label Rock Candy Records a few times suggesting they look into giving this album a place in their release schedule. Naturally, I’m still waiting for a response.

The Cassette Chronicles – BulletBoys ‘Freakshow’

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.

BULLETBOYS – FREAKSHOW (1991)

It’s time for another musical true confession. I’m not really much of a BulletBoys fan. Oh sure, I liked “Smooth Up In Ya” from their self-titled album and I suppose the second single from that album, the cover of The O’Jays song “For The Love of Money” is okay. But if honesty is indeed the best policy, I couldn’t really tell you anything about the rest of that first album. I’m not even sure that I ever owned it.

So, I think it is of little surprise to anyone reading that I never bothered with album #2 Freakshow. For better or worse, BulletBoys just had nothing that kept me coming back for a second dose, so now I come at Freakshow as if it is a brand new release.

I will say that the cover art and liner notes are visually striking. As for the music, there are 12 songs on the album. Unfortunately, I think the fact that I really don’t like Marq Torien’s voice really affected me from truly getting into any of the songs.

The band released three songs from the album as singles and two of them were cover songs. The first of the covers is “Hang On St. Christopher” from Tom Waits which did nothing for me at all. I do have to admit, however, that I did kind of like “Talk To Your Daughter” which was done by bluesman J.B. Lenoir. Even Torien’s grating vocals couldn’t mess that song up entirely.

As for the rest of side one of the album, it was an exercise in restraint. By that I mean, I had to restrain myself from shutting the album off and forgetting about doing this article.

Side 2 of the album started off interestingly enough with the song “Goodgirl”. It had a pretty interesting musical backing, particularly with Mick Sweda’s guitars. I didn’t much care for “Do Me Raw” though.

If I could listen to just the music, I think I would be raving about “Ripping Me”, a fast-paced rocker that has a real good sense of intensity to it. But the vocals are just crap. I do have to give Torien some credit though. I think he did a really good job with “Say Your Prayers” and “O Me O My.” The songs rock and the vocals really do fit themselves well to each track.

In the end, this album kind of illustrates the end times of the 80’s metal years. There’s some interesting stuff scattered about the album but not really a lot and it usually feels like you’ve heard it a million times before…and done better, a lot better.

NOTE OF INTEREST: Freakshow was reissued on CD in 2005 by Wounded Bird Records. The band’s third album, Za-Za, was included on the same disc.

Marq Torien is still fronting the band today but with none of the other original members involved.

The Cassette Chronicles – White Lion’s ‘Mane 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 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.

WHITE LION – MANE ATTRACTION (1991)

It seems a bit fitting that as the seal is broken on Year 2 of The Cassette Chronicles, I should be breaking open the seal on this week’s album selection.

Yes, this copy of the Mane Attraction album was never opened from its original wrapping after it was bought at a Strawberries record store. And yes, this is part of the Purchase Street 100 so it wasn’t me who never opened the album.

Like a lot of people, it was White Lion’s Pride album that got me interested in the band. It was pretty much based off of their three biggest songs “Wait”, “Tell Me” and “When The Children Cry”.

However, I went back to their Fight To Survive album after the fact and found myself enjoying the more dramatic and slightly heavier sound they had on that album to the more pop driven songs on Pride.

With all songs on the album written by Mike Tramp and guitarist Vito Bratta, there is a definite feel of the band trying to recapture the rawer sound that defined Fight To Survive. If you listen closely, you’ll hear that there is a deeper sound to Tramp’s vocals. He’s singing lower than on earlier records.

The opening intro on album opener “Lights and Thunder” had a gritty texture to it. The song is a pretty fast moving rocker with some cool guitar licks from Bratta. Adding an extra dimension to the track was the fact that it lasted over 8 minutes, which is not something you’d be expecting from White Lion. These various factors combined to make this one an unusually thrilling song for me.

They re-recorded “Broken Heart” from Fight To Survive for this album. This new version is decent enough but for my money, the original remains the best version of the song.

Bratta’s playing ends up being quite phenomenal on tracks like “Leave Me Alone”, a song with song unexpectedly darker overtones to the lyrics. The opening song on Side 2 is “Warsong” and it has some slick guitar sounds as well. It’s a straight up rocker (for the most part) that really lets the band as a whole cut loose and I really dug the song. Musically, I could say the same about “She’s Got Everything” though I did find it lyrically boring.

Though the band got overshadowed by the explosion of the mostly awful grunge movement, they did have a song that should’ve been a commercial hit during the time of its original release in “Love Don’t Come Easy”. The track has a great hook to it in both sound and a catchy chorus.

I do have to say that the more traditional slow moving ballad “You’re All I Need” ended up with me missing the boat. It just didn’t move me in the least. Also, the ballad “Till Death Do Us Part” has a great solo guitar opening the song but otherwise it is a bit run of the mill.

Of course, if you do want a really good ballad from the band, you should just wait until White Lion really hit their stride over the course of the last three songs on the album. The triumvirate of songs kicks off with “Out With The Boys” which is another damn the torpedos kind of rocker before the band shifts gears with what is their only instrumental track in the song “Blue Monday”. It won’t be much of a surprise that it is a solid bluesy number when you realize that it was a tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughn who died during the time that the band was in the studio recording the album. Now, I didn’t forget that I mentioned a ballad that you would like. While it inadvertantly serves as the band’s kind of goodbye song, “Farewell To You” is just a wonderful example of a ballad done right. It’s affecting, has a superb chorus and you can really feel the emotion coming off of Mike Tramp’s vocal. Hell, as you listen to the song you can probably imagine it playing over a montage for pretty much any TV show that is airing its final episode.

As I looked back at this album, I have to wonder why I fell out of musical love with White Lion. Because Mane Attraction really did have quite a lot going for it. Maybe it was because I was out of school and working full time that I had less time to keep up with all the music I loved. Maybe it was just pure laziness. I don’t know what the truth of the matter is regarding the situation. What I do know is that now that I have listened to the album, Mane Attraction makes a play for being exactly that…a showcase album for the band.

NOTES OF INTEREST – While bassist James Lomenzo and drummer Greg D’Angelo recorded this album, they left soon after it was released. Jimmy DeGrasso was recruited as D’Angelo’s replacement. He has played with Megadeth and Alice Cooper among his other credits.

The band called it quits after touring for this album. Their last show was in at the Channel Club in Boston, MA.

Singer Mike Tramp is a now solo artist who released a fantastic album in 2017 called Maybe Tomorrow. Meanwhile, Vito Bratta pretty much disappeared from the music world after 1992 due to family reasons.

THE BEST OF THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES 2017

By JAY ROBERTS

A funny thing happened…

The idea for this column was brought about after I started shopping at my friend Roger Chouinard’s Purchase Street Records shop. I had been picking up some cassettes from him and because I’d already been doing reviews of new music for a number of years for other websites, I thought this would be a good way to look back at albums from what was my formative musical era. Then I made the 100 cassette purchase from the shop and I had a wealth of material to write about.

Initially, The Cassette Chronicles was a part of the Classic Rock Bottom message forum that I am an active member of. But when I posted a link on my Facebook page to the first forum posting I did, I got contacted by the powers-that-be here at Limelight and asked if I’d be interested in writing the series for them.

As you can see, I was! Besides writing original articles, I went back and gussied up the albums I’d already written about and 33 articles later, here we are at the end of Year 1 and I’m looking back and ranking my ten favorite articles in the series thus far.

Thanks for reading and I look forward to writing more of The Cassette Chronicles in 2018.

Please click on the album title to read the full article!

#10 – TROUBLE TRIBE – TROUBLE TRIBE (1990) TIE


#10 FIFTH ANGEL – TIME WILL TELL (1989) TIE


#09 – NIGHT RANGER – MAN IN MOTION (1988)


#08 – SURVIVOR – TOO HOT TO SLEEP (1988)


#07 – CHEAP TRICK – LAP OF LUXURY (1988)


#06 – HONEYMOON SUITE – RACING AFTER MIDNIGHT (1988)


#05 – BRYAN ADAMS – RECKLESS (1983)


#04 – BLACK SABBATH – TYR (1990)


#03 – BABYLON A.D. – BABYLON A.D. (1989)


#02 – LEATHERWOLF – STREET READY (1989)

#01 – HELIX – WILD IN THE STREETS (1987)

The Cassette Chronicles – Warrant’s ‘Ultraphobic’

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.

WARRANT – ULTRAPHOBIC (1995)

In 1995, the commercial fortunes of bands most associated with the 80’s metal scene were poor at best. Grunge now ruled the world of music and I guess that might account for why Warrant’s fourth album is a decidedly open affair mixing both metal and grunge into sound of the music.

Unfortunately, this really didn’t work all that well. While bringing on Rick Steir and James Kottak from Kingdom Come to replace Joey Allen and Steven Sweet respectively, the resulting album failed to fire much in the way of imagination. Or at least that’s what I’ve read when researching this album. I say that because by 1995, I was long gone from the Warrant camp. Actually I was done with them after the Cherry Pie album. I hadn’t moved on to grunge (though I did like the first couple of Pearl Jam albums), but rather I just never really got into Warrant as much as many of their far more hardcore fans did.

The Ultraphobic album does come off sounding, at times, far more aggressive and gritty than would normally be associated with the band. The slick sound was given more of a raw production feel. Probably one of the best examples of this was the opening track “Undertow”. You can hear just how much the band went about incorporating the grunge “aesthetic” to the music. It’s probably the best out of the six songs on side one of the album, but not necessarily one that I would rush around trying to play again.

There’s a darker vibe to the songwriting which has apparently been attributed to the now deceased singer Jani Lane’s divorce at the time of the album’s recording.

I see this album as attempt by Warrant to stay relevant in the ever-changing musical landscape, but it really did nothing to call out to either their past or potentially future fans. Out of the eleven tracks on the album, there are really only two that I would consider worthwhile additions to their catalog. The first is the song “Live Inside Of You”. It leads off side two of the cassette and after the first six songs being an exercise in futility (to my ears anyway), it is the song that most resembles the fast paced rocker the band did so well on their first two albums.

The other song is the closing track “Stronger Now”. Written by Jani Lane, it deals with the aforementioned divorce. It’s just his vocal and a spare musical arrangment and it sounds wonderful. However, I did notice that some of the lyrics end up taking on more poignancy given the circumstances of Lane’s alchol related death in 2011.

I really wish I’d liked this album more but it just comes off as pandering to the prevailing musical tides of the time of its release while cynically expecting to keep their initial fan base as well. This is one album I won’t find myself playing again.

Notes of Interest: The band is still around today and released a new studio album called Louder Harder Faster in 2017 with their current singer Robert Mason.

Drummer James Kottak was out of the band by 1996 but joined The Scorpions and stayed with them for 20 years before being ousted in 2016.

The Cassette Chronicles – John Waite’s ‘Temple Bar’

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.

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JOHN WAITE – TEMPLE BAR (1995)

It is safe to say that while I love John Waite’s voice, that by 1995, I had pretty much moved on from any true active interest in his solo work. After listening to Temple Bar, I’m left with a little pang of regret that I skipped out on Waite during this particular period of his career.

The album was recorded the year after Waite left Bad English and according to a quote from Waite on his website, he was given the freedom to record the album as he wanted with no interference from the label.

It seems that plan paid off, at least in part. There are songs that come off as entirely too mellow for me such as the covers of Van Morrison’s “Someone Like You,” “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” from Hank Williams, and the Bill Withers song “Ain’t No Sunshine.” Maybe it is just the fact that I’m not particularly enamored with the original tracks but these renditions just came off entirely lacking in any kind of feeling for Waite making the songs his own.

Once you get into the original songs on the album, things get a lot more interesting though. I thought the album opener “How Did I Get By Without You?” was a bit afflicted by that same sense of mellowness, but the song’s overall melody was pleasant enough that I looked passed the slow pacing.

Lyrically, the album has some real high points. The first song to really kick things up a bit in terms of tempo and more in your face instrumentation (guitar and drums in particular) was “Price of My Tears”. The more active presence of the guitar is also fueled by a great set of lyrics. The track “Downtown” is piano driven but the reflective lyrics (which come off not only as someone looking back on their past, but given Waite’s own past, the words are definitely him reflecting back on his own career).

“The Glittering Prize” and “More” are two more examples of how a strong sense of lyric writing help make for that much more of a special tune. “The Glittering Prize” establishes itself as a more driven song while “More” slows things down in order for the words to sink in for the listener.

John Waite has said that Temple Bar is the album where his life as an artist began again. I find it hard to argue with his assertion because while the album isn’t nearly as aggressively uptempo as his earlier solo work, you can immediately sense a more complete package of songwriting from Waite and his co-writers. Despite my own personal lack of interest in the cover songs, the album flows well and it feels less like Waite is trying to satisfy someone else’s demands and instead recorded an album that first and foremost was important to his own sense of the artistic. This is deeply important because if the artist isn’t fully instep with the material, how could you expect the listener to be?

Temple Bar, for me at least, is as good an album as you could hope for. It lies pretty much at the opposite end of the musical spectrum from his amazing No Brakes release but stands well on its own and I’m immensely gratified to have heard it at long last.

The Cassette Chronicles – Contraband’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.

CONTRABAND – CONTRABAND (1991)

We’ve all heard that cliche of how when you assume, you just make an ass of you and me, right? Well, that kind of happened when I decided to write about this album.

The musical pedigree for this so-called supergroup or side project is rather noteworthy for the variety of well received rock groups of the 70’s and 80’s. You’ve got Michael Schenker (UFO, Scorpions, solo) and Tracii Guns (L.A. Guns) on guitar, Shark Island’s singer Richard Black on vocals, Bobby Blotzer from Ratt on drums and Share Pedersen from Vixen on bass. Honestly, the reason I paid any attention to the band initially was because of Pedersen, who I had a major thing for at the time.

The release of this album came with a big single and video for the opening track, the Ian Hunter written “All The Way From Memphis”. This version of the song is ultimately outstanding and likely the best remembered track from the album.

But that act of assumption by me led me to thinking that this album had been a pretty successful one when it was initially released. My perception was corrected when I read that not only were the sales of the album disappointing but the reviews weren’t all that great either. So I was left to wrack my brain as to why what I thought was so far from the truth. The reason turned out to be pretty simple. I never bought the damn album in the first place. My total exposure to the band was in fact the “All The Way To Memphis” song. I could’ve sworn I owned this one back in the day.

It might’ve been a bit of a good thing I failed to grab this one up when it was released. The material on the album leaves you with just enough of a tease to leave you rather unsatisfied. In fact, the band pretty much bookends both sides of the album with good songs while the 3 songs in the middle are at best mediocre or abysmal at their worst.

“Loud Guitars, Fast Cars & Wild, Wild Livin'” is a burst of pure adrenaline racing from one high point to the next at breakneck speed to close out the first side. The song ended up being used on the soundtrack of the movie If Looks Could Kill as well.

A cover of blues singer Roy Brown’s “Good Rockin’ Tonight” is given a more hard rock or metallic going over, but remains a superb cut and the band joined an impressive lineup of artists to record their own version of Brown’s hit including Bruce Springsteen, Montrose, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and James Brown.

David Bowie’s “Hang On To Yourself” closed out side two and that was the fourth really great sounding track on the release.

Sadly, that’s where the good news ends. The remaining six songs came off as trying a little too hard and failing to hit whatever the target was. I just wanted those songs to be over with each time I listened so I could get to the worthwhile tracks.

If I could just hear the four songs I liked, I’d be fine. However, since you have to take the album as a whole, I found my admittedly inaccurate perception of the album shattered and was left profoundly disappointed in the end.

Notes of Interest – The songwriting credits on Contraband were a treat to read about. While Richard Black got co-writing credits on three songs (only one that I liked), the rest of the band had nothing to do with any of the creative side of things. This might explain why the album comes off a bit more like a hired gun project trying to cash in at the twilight of the metal glory days than a full fledged band.

Besides the covers I already mentioned, there were a number of other songwriters utilized for the album. Two of them in particular have had a host of collaborations with big name musical acts. Michael Thompson co-wrote “Kiss By Kiss” with Mark Spiro. Thompson has worked with Babyface, David Foster, Celine Dion and Eric Clapton amongst a host of others. Meanwhile, Spiro has worked on music that is reportedly responsible for 100 million albums sold by artists such as John Waite, Bad English, Laura Branigan, Heart, Cheap Trick and many more.

Dann Huff co-wrote the song “Intimate Outrage”. He was a part of the band Giant, whose album “Last of the Runaways” was a featured album in an earlier installment of this Cassette Chronicles series.

The Cassette Chronicles – Hurricane’s ‘Take What You Want’

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.

HURRICANE – TAKE WHAT YOU WANT (1985)

Back in late April of this year, I wrote about Hurricane’s album Over The Edge. For those that don’t recall, I pretty much didn’t really like the album except for a couple of songs. I had mentioned in that article that a friend of mine was of the belief that the band’s first album was a far superior release.

I finally decided to see if his assertion was something I would agree with. Surprisingly enough, I have to say that I do. Released by the band in 1985, Take What You Want, shows the band in its musical infancy with their “rougher” edges yet to be smoothed out to make the band more palatable for the masses.

To be fair, given that there were only six songs on the original vinyl release of the album, this release should probably be classified as an EP, but that slight nitpick aside, this was a much more enjoyable album for me to listen to. I should also note that there are a few discrepancies on the album’s liner notes. The liner notes list 1985 as the release date but on the actual cassette it says 1987. I’m not sure if this is because Enigma Records decided to re-release the album when they signed the band or not. Also, the liner notes also say that the program is repeated on both sides of the cassette but it isn’t. The first three songs are on side one while the last FOUR songs are on side two. And yes, I did emphasize that there are four songs on side two because there was a rather intriguing instrumental called “La Luna” that was added to the cassette that did not appear on the vinyl release.

Musically speaking, the album is a much more raw sounding recording. The production on the album is definitely not what you will find on the band’s subsequent releases. At times, the vocals from singer Kelly Hansen sound as if they were recorded in an echo chamber and then added into the soundtrack but yet not fully integrated into the mix as a cohesive whole.

While it is something to note, the rawness of the band’s sound didn’t affect my enjoyment of the music. In fact, it pretty much served as an enhancement to what I was listening to. Like I said, I was not pleased with their second album but this album really sold itself well to me. With the exception of the middling ballad “It’s Only Heaven” (which did have a hot guitar solo from Robert Sarzo), the band rocked out through the other tracks.

“Take Me In Your Arms” had a bit of a restrained take on the pacing at the start of the song but then blossomed into a rocker, but “The Girls Are Out Tonight” kicked into high gear from the get-go. The same can be said for the title track, the namesake track “Hurricane” and “Hot and Heavy”.

I missed out on this release when it first came out and though I knew about it all these years I never bothered to seek it out. It has been in the Purchase Street Records 100 cassette purchase box since I bought them and though I have only now gotten around to listening to it, it did really pay off for me.

Yes, hindsight is always 20-20 but this version of the band is one that I could’ve easily found myself getting behind. The songwriting is pretty damn good here. It feels a little less calculated than what was to come on album two. If I am to hazard a guess, Take What You Want is the best musical primer for anyone that wants to discover the band and is also the demonstrative choice for what the band should have been like throughout its original run.

The Cassette Chronicles – Trouble Tribe’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.

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TROUBLE TRIBE – TROUBLE TRIBE (1990)

You ever wonder why and how a band slips away from your memory? I know that I do from time to time. More often since beginning this series that’s for sure.

New York rockers Trouble Tribe had their self-titled album released by Chrysalis Records in May of 1990, and I distinctly remember picking the album up in a store. But despite liking it, I don’t remember what happened to my copy of the album. I remember liking it enough to join the band’s street team though.

Do you remember those? You send away and join up to help spread the word in your area about the band. I joined a few of those back in the day, though I couldn’t really tell you for which bands anymore. Except for Trouble Tribe that is. The reason I remember their street team is because after I sent away to join up, I forgot all about it. Until the phone rang at my house one night. My mother called down the hallway to me and said I had a call. When I picked up the phone, much to my rather astonished surprise it was Trouble Tribe drummer Steve Durrell on the other end. The conversation has faded into the misty haze of time, but it wasn’t a quick hi and bye thing, there was a few minutes spent just chatting away. I can tell you that never happened with any other band that I signed up with.

Now because I haven’t listened to the album in quite a few years, it is almost like listening to it for the first time. It is something that I like to have happen from time to time because it gets my musical imagination fired up to see what’s coming next.

The first side of the album is outstanding. So much of the music from the 80’s metal heyday had become repetitive by this point (about two years before Nirvana killed the whole damn genre). While Trouble Tribe won’t go down as the most original band of all time, their music was pretty damn invigorating all the same and felt as if it was truly their own sound rather than following a blueprint laid out for them.

The songs “Tattoo” and “Here Comes Trouble” are the band’s two big singles and they lead off the album. You can find videos for the songs on YouTube. They’ve got the right sense of melody and hooks that should’ve made them, at least for a time, far more than one of the more obscure bands of the genre. But the jam packed album (13 songs including two quick instrumentals and a cover of The Beatles song “Dear Prudence”) doesn’t stop there. Click HERE to view Trouble Tribe performing “Dear Prudence” live.

There’s a nice little bluesy intro on “Gimme Something Sweet” and the power chord driven ballad “In The End” sold itself well with me. “Back To Wall” has some standout guitar work from Adam Wacht. “Boys Nite Out” flat out rocks. Throughout the album, singer Jimmy Driscoll gives a sublimely lights out vocal performance.

As for Side two, after the heavy rhythmic pounding of the instrumental “Tribal Beast,” the high energy rocking continues with “Red Light Zone,” another killer piece of music. That flows into the edgy rocker “(Angel With A) Devil’s Kiss”.

Nobody’s perfect and that Beatles cover fell flat with me, though I’ll admit I’ve never been much of a fan of The Beatles and that may play a part in why I didn’t care for this version of the song. But things get back on track with the rocking “One By One”. The band slows things down with “Cold Heart” which is another big power chord driven epic ballad type of track. It’s not as good as “In The End” but the underpinnings of a memorable track are there for all to see. The short fast paced instrumental “F’s Nightmare” kicks things back up briefly as the album comes to a close.

I am quite terrible at making accurate predictions but since that doesn’t stop me from buying a lottery ticket, I don’t see why I can’t make one here as well. I think if this album had been released even just three years earlier, Trouble Tribe as a band might’ve had far more of a commercial impact. Still, this is definitely an overlooked and underserved gem of a rock and roll album and you’d do yourself a kindness to get your own copy. It may have taken nearly 3 decades to fully appreciate the album but I’m there now and you should find your own path to the Tribe as well.

Notes of Interest – The band has a website and a Facebook page. However, it has been awhile since either has been updated. The last information posted on their http://www.troubletribe.com website said the band was in the studio working on a new album, but that was in October of 2015.

Guitarist John Sykes (ex-Whitesnake, Blue Murder) is thanked in the liner notes.

The Cassette Chronicles – Night Ranger’s ‘Big Life’

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.

NIGHT RANGER – BIG LIFE (1987)

For the third and presumably final spotlight feature on a Night Ranger album, it is time to check out the Big Life album. It is 30 years on from its initial release and aside from the inclusion of the soundtrack title cut for the Michael J. Fox comedy film The Secret of My Success, this is a mostly disappointing album.

The first side of the album has just four songs and after checking them out I asked myself two questions. The first was how did this album ever go gold? The second question was why would anyone want to listen to these four songs ever again?

Despite featuring the requisite melodic hooks you’d likely come to expect from the band, the songwriting felt so flat and uninspired that the biggest point of interest came from the song “Rain Comes Crashing Down” and that is because the title conjures up an image in my mind that the song didn’t really match. There’s a bit of an attempt at giving the musical soundtrack to the song a cinematic vibe but it just doesn’t come fully together.

The second side comes off a little better. It opens with the “The Secret Of My Success” from the movie I mentioned above. The song was co-written by David Foster (one of three people to garner a production credit on the album along with the band themselves) and it has all the hallmarks of an 80’s movie soundtrack hit. It’s got a heavy keyboard influence running throughout the song while a rocking guitar line competes for your attention. The vocals are very up in your face during the chorus as well.

The song “Carry On” is a pretty kicking rocker with a simply outstanding guitar cut powering the song. I thought “I Know Tonight” was an understated gem of a rocker though I think that is mostly due to enjoying another standout guitar line, but it also had a smartly crafted lyrical performance as well.

The other two songs on side two are mediocre at best and did nothing to fire the musical imagination for me at all.

The band’s commercial fortunes were definitely on the wane with this album and I can certainly understand why. You have to wade through an astonishingly large amount of filler to find the diamonds in need of a polish. It is certainly to the band’s credit that their songwriting feels so much stronger these days than here on Big Life.

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Note of Interest: Vocalist Kevin Chalfant is credited with providing backing vocals on the album. He fronted the bands 707 and The Storm and was once targeted to be Steve Perry’s replacement in Journey though it never came to fruition.