Category Archives: Cassette Chronicles

The Cassette Chronicles – Giuffria’s ‘Giuffria”

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.

GIUFFRIA – GIUFFRIA (1984)

In discussions amongst rock fans of a certain age (or shall we say vintage so we don’t feel quite so old), one band that seems to inevitably pop up when the talk turns to bands that had everything going for it and yet just seemed to fail for reasons passing understanding is Giuffria.

The band was founded by keyboardist Greg Giuffria after he left the band Angel. The lineup also featured David Glen Eisley on vocals, Craig Goldy on guitar, bassist Chuck Wright and drummer Alan Krigger. And they really did seem to have it all together. Eisley was a powerhouse vocalist and Craig Goldy could really shred. Wright had appeared on the Quiet Riot album Metal Health (even if he wasn’t an official member of the band). They had a great pedigree.

When you listen to Giuffria, you can see that they also had the songwriting chops. Now anyone who followed Greg Giuffria when he started up House of Lords after the end of Giuffria is well aware of his penchant for over the top and somewhat pompous keyboard flourishes. So it won’t be too much of a surprise that there is plenty of that here. Sometimes it really enhances the song, like on the album opening “Do Me Right”. That song is very heavily influenced by Greg Giuffria’s keyboards but at the same time it has a pretty healthy rocking sound to it as well.

Other times, the keyboards get a bit too hoity-toity sounding like on “Trouble Again”, the song that opens up the album’s second side.

The combination of the band’s two musical styles comes together most prominently on the song “Call To The Heart”. This is the song that likely every rock fan will know as it was Giuffria’s one big hit (it went to #15 on the singles chart) in their short run. I remember hearing the song on the radio when I was a kid and I really liked it back then. As I was listening to the album for this article, I found that while I still liked the song, it didn’t quite have the same draw it once did though.

I actually found myself more keen on the harder edge rocking tracks like “Don’t Tear Me Down” and “Dance” to be honest. Those two songs are on the first side of the album and they really got my heartbeat racing as I listened along.

I wasn’t crazy about the midtempo power ballad that closes out the first side of the album. “Lonely In Love” was just a run of the mill attempt at the big successful lighters in the air at a concert kind of song for me.

Giuffria really rocked out hard on “Turn Me On”, one of my favorite tracks on the album. “Line of Fire” was pretty entertaining as well. There is a slow intro and build up to the song before it picks up the pace. And I really liked Goldy’s guitar solo in the song as well.

But the album did close out on a sour note for me I must say. The last two songs seem to be a thematic double shot. You have “The Awakening” which was a random bunch of weirdness that never gelled as a properly done song in my book. And then “Out of the Blue (Too Far Gone)” made you feel like the band was attempting to craft a tune for some kind of gothic horror film or something. It really doesn’t fit with the rest of the material on the album and I’m likely to skip these songs on any future plays of the cassette.

Even with that downer of a finish, the Giuffria album does a solid job of entertaining the rock masses. They obviously had the ability to craft some quality rock songs. And the individual players were top-notch at their respective positions.

So why didn’t the album take off? Well, I can’t really give a good answer to that. However, I was also wondering why the band is more of an afterthought currently and I think I have at least an inkling of an idea. I’m probably wrong but in listening to the Giuffria album, the material is pretty evidently from the 1980’s. I mean if you’ve spent any time listening to the 80’s rock genre, you know how a band is likely to sound in terms of production. Now, it wasn’t such a bad thing when the bands were releasing the albums in the 80’s. It was what sold and what people wanted to hear. But not every band with that sound transcends that time period to have what would be considered a true classic representation of the genre. And sadly, I think that’s why Giuffria is generally more of a “Whatever Happened To…” remembrance than a band that people are still clamoring for more music from.

It’s kind of sad because I really enjoyed most of the songs on the album and I bet if more people had not failed to see what they had back then, the band might’ve had a longer run and been more successful.

NOTES OF INTEREST: The band released a second studio album in 1986 called Silk & Steel with a drastically reconstituted lineup. That album will be featured in a future Cassette Chronicles article.

The band split in 1987 after recording demos for an unreleased third album. Those unreleased tracks ended up seeing the light of day as songs for the House of Lords debut album and on singer David Glen Eisley’s Lost Tapes album which came out in 2003. He and guitarist Craig Goldy teamed up in 2017 for an album under the Eisley/Goldy banner called Blood, Guts and Games.

Craig Goldy (who I was lucky enough to meet) is best known these days for his time playing in Dio.

Giuffria had two songs (“Never Too Late” and “Say It Ain’t True”) on the soundtrack for the 1985 movie Gotcha!, while a third song called “What’s Your Name?” featured Greg Giuffria and David Glen Eisley.

The Cassette Chronicles – Maria McKee’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.

MARIA MCKEE – MARIA MCKEE (1989)

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the cover art to Maria McKee’s self-titled debut album is being undervalued.

The art is a simple portrait photo of the singer but the composition kind of makes it seem like it is a bit of an old-time photo. It’s visually striking and I know that when I first saw it, I was captivated by the picture alone. I actually had no earthly idea who Maria McKee was when I came across the cassette in the racks of the record shop I found myself perusing for some new music.

I had gone out to dinner with my family at one of the Ponderosa steakhouses. Right next door was a record shop so after dinner I went over and did some looking around. I ended up picking up two albums that night. The first was an album by the metal band Hallows Eve called Monument. Let’s just say there wasn’t anything all that memorable about that album other than the fact I bought it the same day as the Maria McKee album.

I was working my way through the racks of cassettes and I came across this album. I pulled it out because I didn’t recognize the name. And like a bolt of lightning, I saw the cover art. Again, I was totally captivated. I put it back on the rack as I continued shopping but I kept coming back to it because of the hauntingly beautiful nature of the cover art.

Despite not knowing what kind of music she played, I had to make the purchase. And then I got to hear her sing…

McKee’s solo debut came after the end of her band Lone Justice. They were what has been described at various junctures as cowpunk, Americana, country-rock and even alt-country if I’m not mistaken. The band released two albums but despite a stellar live reputation, the sales didn’t follow for whatever reason. I went back and got those albums and personally think they are spectacular but that’s just me being years too late once more.

As captivating as the cover art is, it didn’t prepare me in the least for what I was in for as I discovered McKee’s voice. She can sing like very few people I’ve ever heard in my life. She can rip out your throat with a ballsy rock style, soar to the angels with a powerful ethereal style for a ballad and pretty much anything in between those two points. Add in the fact that she’s an amazing lyricist and you have the initial idea of just how amazing I think she is.

The first side of the album opens with the jaunty uptempo number “I’ve Forgotten What It Was In You (That Put The Need In Me)”. Okay, brevity in choice of song titles is probably not one of her strong points but the song is fantastic.

Honestly, let’s just skip to the point. Each of the ten songs on the cassette is amazing. It is a rare thing for me to become so besotted with a performer from the very first time I hear them. Off the top of my head, I can only think of one other performer who did that for me and that was Beth Hart. And anyone who knows me knows how much I adore her. You can definitely include Maria McKee in that group too.

“To Miss Someone” is a cracker of tune where McKee’s ability to break your heart first comes into play. The material on the album ranges from that rocking upbeat sound to the balladry which stands out without being cloying. And then there are the pieces that seem like something out a stage musical or at least just a set piece that evokes a kind of place and time for the listener.

“Nobody’s Child” feels like that to me. It grabs you and transports you to some other place where it is just you and the song. I’m not sure if I can quite come up with a better description than that. If you listen, I think you’ll understand.

The last song on the first side of the album is called “Panic Beach” and no matter how many times I hear it, it feels like the first time. It is by far my favorite song from McKee’s solo career and it just strikes me as a kind of nostalgic look back to the days when you went off on a summer trip that marks a turning point in your life. The lyrics to this song are strangely poetic to me and tell a story that makes me wish it was the baseline for a movie. I’d love to see the characters come alive in person that inhabit the song.

Side two kicks off with “Can’t Pull The Wool Down (Over The Little Lamb’s Eyes)”, a song that finds McKee cutting loose vocally to a more rocking soundtrack. “More Than A Heart Can Hold” and “This Property Is Condemned” strike a chord with the vocals seeming both calm and strainingly intense at the same time.

Remember how I said McKee’s vocals feel like she is soaring to the angels? The song “Breathe” is probably the best example of that statement. On this song, McKee is ethereal beauty given form and voice. If I was to tie the cover art to one song on the album, this would be the one. It is just perfect.

The album closes with a cover of Richard Thompson’s “Has He Got A Friend For Me?” On the song, McKee is enthrallingly dynamic as she plays piano and captures a longing sense of desire or maybe desperation throughout the song.

I know that the majority of the albums that I write about in this series fall on the rock or metal side of the ledger. I will always consider myself a rock and metal fan first and foremost. But I like being able to showcase, on occasion, the other aspects of my musical fandom. And for me, there’s no better way to do so than to talk/write about the greatness of Maria McKee. She is without a doubt one of my favorite musical artists and if you check out this debut album from her, I think you will agree with that testimonial.

All that…from just a photo. Yes, a thousand words is definitely not enough.

NOTES OF INTEREST: I own this album not only on cassettte, but on vinyl and CD as well. The CD edition comes with a bonus track called “Drinkin’ In My Sunday Dress”. It’s an uptempo track that finds McKee inhabiting kind of a dissolute character as the song’s narrator. It’s a killer track that I always thought was slyly comedic as well.

Among the guests on the Maria McKee album are Robbie Robertson (he co-wrote the lyrics for “Nobody’s Child”), Richard Thompson who played guitar and mandolin and bassist Tony Levin from King Crimson and Peter Gabriel.

I have never seen McKee in live performance, the one time I had the chance the show was cancelled. McKee has acted in movies, composed soundtracks for those movies and done work as a writer. She’s worked with or had her songs covered by acts like U2, Robbie Robertson, The Dixie Chicks, Bette Midler and many more.

Maria McKee’s latest album came out on March 13th, 2020, and is called La Vita Nuova.

The Cassette Chronicles – Styx’s “Kilroy Was Here’

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.

STYX – KILROY WAS HERE (1983)

The 11th album to be released by Styx made a really big impression on me back in 1983. More accurately, it was the lead single from the album that left its mark on me.

If you were a music fan at that time, you’ll probably remember just how ingrained the song “Mr. Roboto” was on the radio. Given that it made it all the way to #3 on the singles chart, you probably couldn’t get away from the song.

But that was okay with me. I was 12, and in the relative infancy of my music appreciation. I didn’t own a lot of music of my own yet so I was always listening to the radio, including American Top 40 with Casey Kasem, to hear songs…and hoping to hear the ones I really liked again and again. This would included “Mr. Roboto”. I really loved everything about the song.

But I never owned the actual album. Heck, it wasn’t until many years later that I even knew that the album was a concept album. The notion of an album telling a single story across each song wasn’t something I was aware of at that particular age and level of musical experience.

So despite this album being a big seller, it wasn’t until I bought the cassettes that make up “The Big Box of Cassettes” from which I pull the material for this series that I had the chance to listen to Kilroy Was Here in full.

Now that I have, I’m left feeling kind of underwhelmed by the experience. The storyline revolves around a future time where rock music is outlawed. Okay, it might not be the most original story but when the album was created, music was under it’s latest siege by those who hated rock music. So it was at least a timely response upon the album’s original release.

But the nine tracks varied wildly in quality for me. I still love “Mr. Roboto”, but as I listened to the song before writing this piece, I think a little of the shine has come off the track for me. It conjured up more of a warm feeling of nostalgia for when I first heard the song, rather than making me think more along the lines of “Oh wow! This is still such a great song!” I’m not hating on the song but I don’t think I feel the same kind of love for it as I did when I heard it on 92 Pro-FM out of Providence, R.I., back in the day.

As for the rest of the music, I know that I’ve heard “Don’t Let It End”, one of the band’s more signature power ballad type tracks, over the years. But I didn’t realize that it was on Kilroy Was Here. And while I’m normally loathe to appreciate this type of song these days, I have to say that it seems to have stood the test of time (for me, at least). I really enjoyed the song and thought of just how finely crafted it seemed.

I wish I could say the same for the other two tracks on the first side of the album. I listened to “Cold War” and “High Times” and just had no emotional attachment to either song at all. The former was pretty uptempo in its pacing but it didn’t get my blood pumping in the least. And for whatever reason, the latter song damn near caused me to fall back to sleep.

Side Two opened up with the strongly rocking “Heavy Metal Poisoning”. I liked the song as a whole, but I really liked the guitar solo on the track in particular. The song “Double Life” was pretty interesting as well.

However, once again I was left cold and unimpressed by songs like “Haven’t We Been Here Before” and “Just Get Through This Night”, a track that made me think about how I just wanted to get through the album.

While there are some individually great songs on the album, I can’t hide the fact that as an overall experience, I found Kilroy Was Here a bit of a disappointment. I don’t see me rushing to throw the album back in the tape deck any time soon. I kind of wonder if I’d have had a different opinion had I actually heard the album when it was originally released.

NOTES OF INTEREST: Back in August of 2019, I wrote about the band’s 1990 album Edge of the Century for this series. I’d probably listen to that one (particularly the album’s fantastic second side) more often than Kilroy Was Here.

This was the last album that was recorded by the classic Styx lineup of Dennis DeYoung, James “J.Y.” Young, Tommy Shaw and John and Chuck Panozzo.

Much like “Mr. Roboto”, the song “Don’t Let It End” enjoyed chart success as a single. It went to #6, giving the band two Top-10 hits from the album. The album itself went platinum, the last of the band’s releases to mark that achievement.

The Cassette Chronicles – TNT’s ‘Tell No Tales’

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.

(Writer’s Note: Singer Tony Harnell will be teaming up with Stryper’s Michael Sweet for “Tour 1987” a run of dates in Fall 2020 that is the first time they’ve teamed since the Stryper/TNT tour of 1987. The tour will hit The Vault Music Hall & Pub in New Bedford, MA, on October 3, 2020. Purchase tickets HERE).

 TNT – TELL NO TALES (1987)

My initial introduction to TNT came through the eye-catching artwork for the band’s album Intuition in a magazine ad that I saw. I like that kind of artwork that makes you stop on a dime to drink it all in. This was back in 1989 when I still had little in the way of regular bills to pay and could just run out and grab whatever music struck my fancy.

And that’s what I did. I bought Intuition, but I also grabbed up TNT’s two previous albums which is the one I’m going to be writing about in this article plus Knights of the New Thunder. But whatever I thought going into the albums, I found myself sorely disappointed upon those initial listens. I really never connected with the band’s music for some reason. And so, the band kind of faded from my radar only popping up whenever they made news for splitting with singer Tony Harnell or the ensuing welcoming him back to the fold over the years.

The albums exited my collection and I didn’t think much about them until it turned out I bought a couple of them as part of “The Big Box of Cassettes”. This is how it came to be that I pulled Tell No Tales out of the box this week and decided to give it a listen. (A side note here: The cassette was still in its original wrapping.) Could my reservations about the release have evolved over the ensuing three decades plus? Well, surprisingly enough they did.

Say what you want, but TNT certainly wastes no time noodling around to add length to the songs. The album is just a little over 30 minutes long including three admittedly unnecessary instrumentals amongst the eleven tracks. (There’s a 12th song listed on the album’s Wikipedia page, but “Destiny” is listed as a bonus track and I’m guessing that’s only on the CD version.)

The thing I found the most interesting upon my re-evaluation of the album is hearing just how much fiery rock and roll the band laid out. It is on the more uptempo tracks where they shine the most. For all the seemingly mercurial nature of guitars Ronni Le Tekro, the man can blaze on a guitar. Morty Black and Diesel Dahl made for a killer rhythm section as well.

I think part of the reason that I didn’t get into TNT as much as I might’ve wished for back in the day is that I wasn’t crazy about Harnell’s high pitched vocals at the time. Suffice to say, I’ve evolved on that as well. I’ve heard a bit of his work in other projects and enjoyed his performances.

That enjoyment has worked its way backwards through his catalog because I found myself rocking out as he sang the songs “Everyone’s A Star” and what is arguably the band’s best known song, “10,000 Lovers (In One)”. When you add in “As Far As The Eye Can See”, it turns out that Tell No Tales actually had a killer three track opening to the album.

I mentioned the album includes three instrumentals. Thankfully they are mercifully brief because they don’t really add a thing to the release. Two of them are on Side One and when you add in the annoyingly distracting balladry of “Child’s Play”, the last half of the first side of the album goes out like a lamb.

But things immediately take a turn for the more rocking side of the ledger on Side Two with the tracks “Listen To Your Heart” and “Desperate Night”. Both songs are fast paced in nature and really spotlight my newly formed belief that they are at their best when they put the pedal to the mettle.

“Northern Lights” started off a bit slow for me, but when the pacing picked up, I enjoyed the song a lot more. The title track closes out the album and it just blazes a fiery path. While there is a ton of melody to it, the song is so fast that you’d think they were going head to head with a thrash band to see who could play faster. Still, the song is pretty invigorating and it actually left me wanting more.

It is always strange when my notions about an album or band undergo this kind of evolution of opinion. It leaves me wondering just why I didn’t connect with an album the first time around. I don’t have an answer to that question but I do know that the story of Tell No Tales now has a different kind of ending for this music lover and I’m almost certainly going to have to go back and check out the other albums I had to see if they leave me with a changed opinion as well.

NOTES OF INTEREST: I write CD reviews for another website and in 2018, I got to review the TNT release XIII. It was the first album to feature new singer Baol Bardot Bulsara. The album was a bit strange because Tony Harnell had once again departed the band but was credited with co-writing six of the songs on the disc and sang backing vocals on one song.

Among the solo projects and band projects that Tony Harnell has done over the years are bands like Westworld, Starbreaker, Morning Wood and a brief stint in Skid Row, he’s also done a number of tracks for the Sonic The Hedgehog video game series. Two of the recordings were done with Danger Danger singer Ted Poley.

The Cassette Chronicles – Frehley’s Comet’s ‘Second Sighting’

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.

FREHLEY’S COMET – SECOND SIGHTING (1988)

While I do consider myself a fan of the band Kiss, I’ve never really been all that particular enamored of the various solo and/or side projects from the original members. The exception to that has been a few songs here and there from guitarist Ace Frehley.

If you can’t like a song like “Rock Soldiers”, there’s just something wrong with you. But that’s a song off the first Frehley’s Comet album and this article is taking a look at the second (and last) studio album to bear the “Frehley’s Comet” banner.

While I didn’t buy the album when it was originally released, I do have pretty clear memories of hearing “Insane” and “It’s Over Now”, the two tracks that were released as singles. Of course, it probably had something to do with seeing the accompanying videos for the songs more than radio airplay, since neither song was a hit on the charts.

But what I do remember is how much I loved “Insane”. It opens the album and it is a real ball-busting rock and roll song that grabs you right from the start. As for “It’s Over Now”, it’s a power ballad sung by guitarist/singer Tod Howarth. It hits all the right notes of sentimentality without crossing over into self-parody so I rather enjoyed it once again when I played the cassette.

Speaking of Frehley and Howarth, they broke down the lead vocals quite equally. Ace sang four songs, Howarth did the other four and they teamed up on the Side One closer “Loser In A Fight”. That was a real corker of a song, a fully engaged rock tempo to the music there.

The song “Time Ain’t Runnin’ Out” was okay but of the five songs on Side One, it was probably the one I enjoyed the least. The fast pacing of the song “Dancin’ With Danger” was pretty entertaining though. It’s a cover of a song originally done by the band Streetheart. I was looking at the writing credits and Streetheart is credited but there seems to have been some kind of re-write because both Ace Frehley and Dana Strum (the bassist for Slaughter) have co-writing credits on the song as well.

I liked the first side of the album, but I think Side Two was even better. It kicks off with the heaviest sounding song on Second Sighting, “Juvenile Delinquent”, and finds Ace not only ripping it up musically but putting in a really good vocal performance as well.

The rest of Side Two is pretty rocking as well. “New Kind of Lover” is sung by Howarth, but also showcases the band’s fiery musical chops in a brilliant light too. I loved the chorus for “Separate” a lot.

The most intriguing song to me was the album closing “The Acorn Is Spinning”. It’s an instrumental and I’m just crazy enough to think it could’ve been just as memorable as say, “Mr. Scary” from Dokken. It struck me as being just that kind of level of cool. The only thing holding it back was the annoying dialogue sprinkled throughout the song. I hated the interruptions because I just wanted to hear the music they were playing.

I’ve never seen Frehley in concert, whether when he was with Kiss or as a solo artist. I’ve only recently even had the opportunity anyway. I’ve got a music related friend named Troy who has met him a number of times and even worked on Frehley’s crew for a few shows. I’m not jealous (much) but I know that after listening to Second Sighting, if I get the opportunity to see Ace in concert, I’m not going to be quite so damn foolish as to pass up that chance again.

For me, Second Sighting was an eye, or perhaps, ear opening experience because while I’ve liked individual Ace songs before, this was my first full album listen and I thought it was smashingly great!

NOTES OF INTEREST: The album was reissued by Rock Candy Records in 2014. According to the liner notes, radio DJ and TV host Eddie Trunk served as an executive producer for Second Sighting.

Jamie Oldaker was the drummer for this album, he had previously played with Eric Clapton, Bob Seger and Peter Frampton. He would go on to become a member of The Tractors.

Bassist John Regan, who played the bass tracks on the first three songs on the Michael Monroe album Not Fakin’ It (that was featured in The Cassette Chronicles series a few weeks ago, reunited with singer/guitarist Tod Howarth in 2016 for a new band called Four By Fate. They were joined by ex-Skid Row drummer Rob Affuso and release an album called Relentless.

The Cassette Chronicles – Queensryche’s ‘Rage for Order’

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.

[WRITER’S NOTE: Geoff Tate will be performing the entire Rage for Order and Empire albums when he plays a sold-out show at The Vault Music Hall & Pub in New Bedford, MA on Tuesday March 3rd, 2020.]

 QUEENSRYCHE – RAGE FOR ORDER (1986)

If you are like me and agree with the notion that the Queensryche album Operation:mindcrime is the band’s magnum opus, then I think it is probably a pretty good bet that you might also agree that the band’s 2nd full-length album (and third overall release) Rage For Order is the thematic precursor to that anarchy driven tale of conspiracy and death.

I didn’t own this album prior to getting Operation:mindcrime as a Christmas gift, but I obviously went back and snapped up all the band’s previous releases once my fandom was given full reign.

Rage For Order is not an actual concept album but it isn’t hard to notice the similarity each song has. If you have any kind of imagination, you can see this album as a kind of dystopian science fiction story where technology has won and the government rules over all…sound familiar anyone?

Regardless of how true the stories behind the songs might feel these days, in 1986 this had to be a real burst of creativity for the band because the album holds up so well now. A lot of these songs became staples for the band and remain incredible recordings even now.

The album opens with “Walk In The Shadows” which from the get-go shows the band in their most attacking metallic light. This is a style that pretty much threads its way on most of the eleven songs. While the band is usually portrayed as “the thinking man’s metal band” because of their lack of sex, drugs and rock and roll lyrics, they had no trouble making the metal here. This is demonstrated amply of Side One with songs like “I Dream In Infrared”, “The Whisper” and the incredibly balls out rocking “Surgical Strike”.

The band was never really known for doing many cover songs but their cover of the Dalbello song “Gonna Get Close To You” was a bit intriguing. I am not completely sure I am remembering this correctly but I think the song was not all that well received when it was released as a single. I know I didn’t hate it when I first heard it but I still don’t consider it one of their best songs. It’s okay but that’s about it. That being said, it certainly does tie in thematically with the rest of the material.

When I first heard Rage For Order, I was still at the age where I labored under the delusion that I was a rebel against the world. While time has revealed that I was more rebel without a clue than anything else, the opening two songs on Side Two of the album fueled those delusions. “Neue Regel” (which is German from New Rule or New Reign”, according to Google translate) and “Chemical Youth (We Are Rebellion)” might not stand up as great representations of who I thought I was at the time, but they are great songs regardless. I still get a crackle of electricity running through me during the line “If we don’t stand together, we stand to lose the future” in the latter song. Again, the lyrics are incredibly accurate for modern day it would seem.

On “London”, the music moves a bit slower but Geoff Tate’s emotional vocal take is superb on the song and when the backing vocals come in during the chorus, the song takes on a bigger sense of grandeur to me.

Of course, then you have “Screaming In Digital” which to me plays like the concluding chapter to the story that plays in my head as I listen to the album. And it is one of the band’s best songs in my opinion. Just a killer collaboration between each member of the band to elevate the song into something that will be long remembered.

However, that’s not the end of the album. No, there’s “I Will Remember” which plays as kind of a post-script to the story and while it moves in a much more deliberate fashion than the more hard driving nature of most of the other material on the album, it brings things to a close quite perfectly.

As I said in the beginning, Rage For Order does seem to be a kind of thematic predecessor to Operation:mindcrime even if it isn’t a direct line concept album itself. Think about it, this album closes with “I Will Remember” while Operation:mindcrime opens with “I Remember Now”!

It is perfectly possible that I’m putting way too much thought into the motivations, meanings and themes behind the album but what I do know is that Rage For Order was a stunningly creative venture for the band and it raised their profile at the time and provided the launch pad for what was to come with their next album. So when Geoff Tate steps on stage at The Vault Music Hall on March 3, 2020, I will be hyped up with anticipation to screaming my affirmation for the album…in digital or otherwise!

NOTES OF INTEREST: How much do I love this album? It is one of those rare albums that I own on vinyl, cassette and CD. In fact, I have the original CD release and the 2003 remastered edition from the Revolution Calling boxed set that has four bonus tracks included.

What I didn’t know is that there are two demos out there from the time this album was recorded that I want to hear now. The songs were called “From The Dark Side” and “The Dream”. I don’t know if they’ve ever gotten any kind of official release.

The band recorded at title track for the Rage For Order album but it was never used. According to the Wikipedia entry for the album, the main riff eventually became the Operation:mindcrime track “Anarchy-X”.

The Cassette Chronicles – MICHAEL MONROE’s ‘NOT FAKIN’ IT’

By JAY ROBERTS

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

MICHAEL MONROE – NOT FAKIN’ IT (1989)

While most people hear the name Hanoi Rocks probably think of their music, for me the name just makes me think of their drummer who was killed by Motley Crue singer Vince Neil in that infamous car accident.

That would be due to the fact that I never really heard any of the band’s material. They were just yet another one of those bands that slipped by me when they were together. I can’t even say that I discovered them long after the fact. But I’ve long been aware of singer Michael Monroe, even if I hadn’t bothered to get off my butt and listen to any of his solo material either. Sometimes I wonder just what I was thinking back in the day. I know that there’s only so much time to check out music but as this series has shown, I’ve invariably missed out on quite a lot in the genre of music I once considered myself well-versed.

Not Fakin’ It is the second solo album from Monroe and it is his most successful in terms of both sales. My initial thought was that I’d never heard any of the music from this album before, but the lead track on Side One is “Dead, Jail or Rock ‘N’ Roll” and it so happens that a few weeks back I heard the song on the Dee Snider radio show The House of Hair.

But that track was the only song I had the least little bit of passing familiarity with amongst the ten track running order. The balls out rocking anthem certainly got me interested in what the rest of the album had to offer me and boy was I in for a musical joyride!

Seriously, this is an incredible album. It’s filled with one fiery rocking track after another. This fact will certainly keep anyone’s blood pumping but I was both amped up and repeatedly shocked at just how good the music was.

“While You Were Looking At Me” was another fast paced track that for 1989 had a somewhat topical for the times set of lyrics. “She’s No Angel” (a cover of the Heavy Metal Kids song) also burns fast and hard but the lyrics take a slightly typical turn. But don’t think that means I didn’t like the song. It was quite enjoyable. In truth, the only song that really didn’t grab me was “All Night Long With The Lights On”. I’m sure that there’s a part of Monroe’s fanbase that loves the song of course, but it just felt like a filler track for me.

The title track closes out Side One and learning that it is actually a cover of a Nazareth song was interesting. I’m going to have to check out the original version to see how it compares because the electrically charged and ripping rendition that Monroe did kicked my butt.

The album’s second side opens with probably the speediest tempo song “Shakedown”. The vocal performance from Monroe helped elevate the track in my mind. He had the rat-a-tat-tat spitfire delivery that leaves one to wonder how any performer manages to pull that song off in the studio (without editing various parts together) much less in a live setting.

I really got into both “Love Is Thicker Than Blood” and the closing number “Thrill Me” for the full throttle rocking nature of each track.

The second side’s material was great but what really did it for me was the way the songwriting gave a different slant on the more straightforward rock and roll you quickly become accustomed to on Not Fakin’ It.

The song that comes closest to being lumped into the ballad category is “Smoke Screen” and that is mostly due to it being a slower pace to the music than anything else. It’s just a cool song that ramps up the energy level when you hit the guitar solo through to the end of the song.

But I was both taken with and blown away by “Man With No Eyes”. Like “Smoke Screen”, it has a slightly less frantic pace to it. But if you listen to the lyrics as they combine with the musical soundtrack, it sounds (particularly the chorus) like it belongs as the end credits song for a horror movie. The funny thing is that the song has a pretty upbeat feel to its musical score. It just struck me as all kinds of a creative triumph.

Michael Monroe’s Not Fakin’ It was an immensely huge and stunningly welcome surprise to me. I am way behind in appreciating what Monroe has been offering for years but with this album, I’m finally there. It is just a superb set of pure rock and roll that I’m going to be playing a lot for the foreseeable future.

NOTES OF INTEREST: The creative lineup for the album (which got a remastered release in 2003) is amazing. Monroe’s Hanoi Rocks bandmate Nasty Suicide played guitar on the first three songs on the album as well as co-writing the lead track and “Smoke Screen”. Ian Hunter (Mott The Hoople) played piano on “She’s No Angel”.

Little Steven (from The E Street Band) played big creative role on Not Fakin’ It. He co-wrote two songs and was the sole writer on “While You Were Looking At Me”. He sang backing vocals on four tracks and helped with the arrangement on four tracks as well. You can look up the album’s entry on Wikipedia for the rest of the “name” players who showed up in guest spots.

The video for “Dead, Jail Or Rock ‘N’ Roll” featured an appearance by Axl Rose.