Category Archives: Cassette Chronicles

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – HELIX’S ‘WALKIN’ THE RAZOR’S EDGE’

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.

HELIX – WALKIN’ THE RAZOR’S EDGE (1984)

For longtime readers of The Cassette Chronicles, you might recall that the 1987 Helix album Wild In The Streets was the very first album to be spotlighted. It was the band’s sixth studio album but it was the very first time that I’d ever even heard of the band. Despite my enduring love of that album, I never really tried to hear the early Helix material until just recently. I tried to listen to a copy of Long Way To Heaven a while back but the tape pretty much imploded before I got two songs into it.

But after 160 or so articles since that first one on Wild In The Streets, I thought it was time to take another listen to the band’s earlier offerings and ended up pulling a copy of Walkin’ The Razor’s Edge out of The Big Box of Cassettes.

As I was taking notes I was surprised to see that the band recorded two covers amongst the ten tracks on the album. I did like their cover of the Crazy Elephant song “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin” which was amped up rather nicely. However, I was a little less enthused by the cover of the A Foot In Coldwater track “(Make Me Do) Anything You Want”. It’s the only song on the album that you find the band hitting the brakes and making a turn towards balladry. I didn’t think the song was terrible in and of itself, but it just doesn’t really get me excited overall.

As for the rest of the album, what else can I say but…WOW! The band rocks out hard and fast throughout the other nine tracks (including the Crazy Elephant cover). And this is kind of why I seem to have an affinity for Helix. They just come out and rock your socks off with some hard charging rock and roll that sounds like it is the perfect soundtrack for a rocking Saturday night party. The fast fretwork from Brent Doerner and Paul Hackman get the blood pumping and singer Brian Vollmer (the only original member of the band still in the band lineup to this day) draws you in. I hope no one takes this in a negative way but his vocals always seem to be a little tongue in cheek. It’s a playful smart aleck kind of tone that helps enliven the proceedings just that much more. Vollmer’s vocals strike me that he’s having just as much of a good time as the music is intended to make the listener have for themselves.

The album opens with “Rock You” which was the first single released from the album. It’s got a perfectly catchy anthemic sound and sets the stage for the rest of the album’s fast charging rocking bent. The rest of Side One is just as aggresively entertaining as that song. The tracks “Young & Wreckless”, “Animal House”, “Feel The Fire” and the outstandingly cool sounding “When The Hammer Falls” are all designed to get you up and pumping your fists in the air.

The album’s two cover songs are on Side Two but sandwiched amid them are three more uptempo tracks. “My Kind of Rock” is another anthemic track with “You Keep Me Rockin'” closing out the album quite nicely. But it’s the song “Six Strings, Nine Lives” that really showcases just how furiously fast the band could rock out musically when they put their foot on the gas.

As I said, I’ve been very remiss in checking out the early origins of the band. But after listening to Walkin’ The Razor’s Edge, it is high time for me to rectify that gap in my musical experience. This is a hellaciously entertaining good time and show’s just how good a time it was to be growing up in the middle of the 1980’s hard rock uprising!

NOTES OF INTEREST: As I said, I want to check out more of the band’s early work and that should be a bit easier as four of their albums in total have been reissued on CD by Rock Candy Records. Besides Wild In The Streets and Walkin’ The Razor’s Edge (which has three live cuts included as bonus tracks), the No Rest For The Wicked and Long Way To Heaven albums are also available.

The band shot three videos for the album. They were for the songs “Rock You”, “(Make Me Do) Anything You Want” and “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'”. According to the Wikipedia entry for the Walkin’ The Razor’s Edge album, Helix actually shot two versions of the video for “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'”. One was the regular version to be shown on regular music channels. But the second one was the “adult” version which featured topless models in the video. However, I’m not sure that that version is available to see online because one of the models was porn star Traci Lords, who unbeknownst to the entire industry at the time (in 1984) was actually underage during the majority of her adult career. (Additional fun fact, I actually met Traci Lords at one of the Super Mega Fest conventions a few years back).

The song “Rock You” was written by Bob Halligan, Jr. He’s had a pretty prolific career both as a performer and a songwriter. Some of his credits include writing “(Take These) Chains” and “Some Heads Are Gonna Roll” for Judas Priest. He also wrote “Twist” for the Halford album Resurrection. He co-wrote seven of the ten songs on the Kix album Midnite Dynamite and co-wrote the band’s biggest hit song “Don’t Close Your Eyes” (from the Blow My Fuse album). He also co-wrote “Rise To It” and “Read My Body” with Paul Stanley for the Kiss album Hot In The Shade. Halligan Jr. has his own band called Ceili Rain.

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – TOTO’S ‘IV’

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.

TOTO – IV (1982)

The first Toto album was a big hit for the band, but after the next two albums weren’t as successful, the group had one last shot to hit it big or face being dropped from their label.

The pressure of having to create music that will please a large audience might crack any performer but Toto rose to the occasion and gave music fans 1982’s IV album.

If you are the least bit familiar with Toto, then you’ve certainly heard their two most successful songs. “Rosanna” opens the album and “Africa” closes things out. If you were only interested in those particular tracks, the cassette makes it easy to play the first, then flip it over and essentially play the second right off as well.

Now, I’m a big fan of both songs. Whenever I hear them on the radio I still harken back to the days when I would listen to the track on the radio in my room at the time and sing along with each verse. Not that I was any good at it but I got the joy out of the song regardless.

I’ve owned this particular cassette for decades and while I probably should upgrade, the fact that I didn’t lets me write this article and come to realize that I really didn’t pay much attention to the rest of the material on IV.

I never realized that they had five singles released. And while “Waiting For Your Love” didn’t make a dent in the charts (which isn’t surprising because it fell flat as I listened to it), the other four songs certainly did. “Rosanna” went to #2 while “Africa” became the band’s only #1 hit.

But what I never knew before now was how “Make Believe” became a Top 30 hit (and was actually released before “Africa”.)  I vaguely remember the uptempo number but hearing it now gave me a new appreciation for the song. Oh, and the ballad “I Won’t Hold You Back” was went to #10. I remember the song well enough but since I haven’t paid enough attention to the album and the track listing in all these years, I didn’t remember the song was on this album. Instead, my familiarity comes from the fact I hear it on the radio station that plays at my job. The song is really low-key but rather enjoyable.

The surprise of the album’s first side for me was the song “Good For You”. A lively quick pacing had me tapping my foot along to the music and it was almost like hearing the song for the very first time.

I will say that I wasn’t all that fond of “It’s A Feeling”. The big reason for that was the completely undersold way the vocals were performed. I know that Toto is sometimes referred to as “soft rock” but this was just WAY too soft for my tastes.

The album’s second side started off superbly with the catchy beat of “Afraid Of Love”. It’s a pretty standout song really. But the weird thing is that it doesn’t really seem to get a proper ending. Instead, the next song “Lovers In The Night” seems to just start as one flowing from the other. That might’ve been okay if I’d like the song but I really got nothing out of it.

But you soon forget that when you hear “We Made It” which is another bit of lively rock and roll from the band.

It’s no great shakes to say that IV is Toto’s most famous album and that it is jam-packed with a host of great songs. Both statements are solid facts. But if like me, you haven’t spent years obsessing over the band’s music, it is quite the nice experience to learn or perhaps be reminded that the album not only stands the test of time but is always waiting there for a new generation of listeners to discover of their own accord.

NOTES OF INTEREST: The IV album was certified triple platinum in the U.S. and has reportedly sold 12 million copies worldwide since its release. Rock Candy Records did a reissue of the album in 2015.

Timothy B. Schmit from The Eagles sang backing vocals on the songs “I Won’t Hold You Back”, “Good For You” and “Africa”.

Singer Bobby Kimball was fired from the band two years after the release of IV, but returned to the band a second time for a 10 year stint. Reportedly, he’s battling dementia now.

Toto is reforming after a hiatus but only guitarist Steve Lukather and singer Joseph Williams are listed as current members of the band.

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – BANG TANGO’S ‘DANCIN’ ON COALS’

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.

BANG TANGO – DANCIN’ ON COALS (1991)

It’s a little crazy I know, but I’ve never really found myself drawn to the music of Bang Tango. Oh sure, when the band’s first album, Psycho Cafe, came out in 1989 I heard and saw the video for “Someone Like You” a number of times. It was a decent enough song but when the song would end, I would move on and put the band out of my mind.

When Dancin’ On Coals, the band’s second album, came out in 1991 the process pretty much repeated itself. I remember hearing the album’s title track but continued to move on without really checking out the rest of the band’s music. I don’t even remember hearing the song “Untied and True” which was one of the songs released as a single from this album and apparently even shot a video.

All this is to demonstrate that I pretty much know nothing about Bang Tango besides a couple of songs that got them played on the radio. But I really don’t have any kind of explanation for why I never delved further into their catalog.

This week, when I pulled Dancin’ On Coals out of The Big Box of Cassettes, I was tempted to put it back and pick another album. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to hear it. But following the rules I established for myself, I put the cassette in the player and it was off to the races.

So to speak anyway. See, if you look the band up on Wikipedia part of the descriptors for their sound is funk rock. I’m not opposed to that stylistic choice but like anything else, you can go overboard with it. And that’s pretty much what happened with the album’s first song “Soul To Soul”. I found it an entirely underwhelming track in large part because it mostly forgoes any real rock sound (there are little flourishes) and focuses more on a pop/funk vibe that worked against the song in terms of me being drawn into it.

As if to illustrate the notion that I can like a funk sounding song, the album’s closing song “Cactus Juice” feature a heavy funk and rock soundtrack in equal measure that makes for quite the interesting song. This is a song that I really enjoyed and there’s a nifty little solo as well.

But let’s head back to the first side of the album. After the disappointing to me opening track, the more rock driven tempo asserts itself on “Untied And True”. There’s a nice rhythmic feel to the music and it stands out amongst the material. Yes, I probably should’ve known this years ago but let’s move on from my well-documented musical ignorance, yes?

While I did quite enjoy the more energetic pacing of songs like “I’m In Love” and “Big Line”, I wasn’t at all into the song “Emotions In Gear”. The reason? I really did not like the soft peddled delivery when it came to singer Joe LeSte’s vocals.

The first side of the album closes with a ballad but before any regular readers skip over this mention because of my disdain for the song genre, this actually turned out to be a pretty good track. Okay, at first I didn’t start out liking the song but once it hit the chorus, I did enjoy that immensely and that helped the song grow on me as a whole.

While the first side of the album was somewhat hit or miss, the second side of Dancin’ On Coals really got my adrenaline flowing.

After the title track, which remains a damn fine song, you’ve got great rocking songs like “Dressed Up Vamp” and “Last Kiss” which show off the rest of the band nicely. Of particular note is the guitar work from six string duo Mark Knight and Kyle Stevens.

Bang Tango’s Dancin’ On Coals album features eleven tracks and I ended up liking nine of them. Proof positive that I needed to do a far better job of vetting the bands I decided to check out back in the day. If I had, maybe it wouldn’t take me nearly 30 years to discover that this album was pretty damn good!

NOTES OF INTEREST: While Psycho Cafe did nicely for Bang Tango, the bloom seemed to already be off the rose when Dancin’ On Coals was released. It only made it to #113 on the Billboard album charts.

Bang Tango had a few breakups over the years. They’ve also featured a revolving lineup during their inevitable reunions. However, since 2019 the original lineup of singer Joe LeSte, guitarists Mark Knight and Kyle Stevens, drummer Tigg Kettler and bassist Kyle Kyle have been back together in full.

Singer Joe LeSte formed the band Beautiful Creatures with guitarist DJ Ashba in 1999. They release a self-titled debut album in 2001 and Deuce in 2005.

The Cassette Chronicles – Banshee’s ‘Race Against Time’

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.

BANSHEE – RACE AGAINST TIME (1989)

You’ll have to forgive me this week because I have to claim complete ignorance about the album I’m writing about. It doesn’t happen often but the debut full-length album Race Against Time from Banshee had me stumped.

I do not remember either the band or the album at all. This is a pretty rare experience for me because when the album was originally released in 1989, I would’ve been at the height of my personal musical investment in the decade of metal ruling the world. I might not have heard every album but usually I would’ve at least heard a song or two. Hell, I would probably have heard of the band at least. But sadly, that is not the case with Banshee.

The band’s sound at the time of Race Against Time’s release was what you might expect. It was a highly commercial melodically infused rock/metal blend. In other words, it was what is now called “hair metal”. And while that term is generally used as an insult, it isn’t that to me. It is a fitting way to describe a large portion of what made the 1980’s musically relevant for me.

The album features eleven tracks, but you can quickly discount two of them right off the bat. Unless you are an instrumental purist, the songs “Circular Flight Of The One Winged Sparrow” and the album’s closing piece “Desert Moon” amount to little more than musical doodling. I know that might seem a little harsh but neither piece really serves to enhance the overall listening experience for me.

But that isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy what else the album has to offer. The first side of the album opens up with the song “Shoot Down The Night”. If your goal is to offer up a track that perfectly encapsulates what your band is about, Banshee did a superb job with this song. The funny thing about this song is that when I was first listening to the album and making my notes for the article, I wrote “single worthy” about this song. Turns out that I called that right because if you do a YouTube search, there’s an official video for the song. Again, the fact that I didn’t know anything about Banshee before now leads to these “new” discoveries for me.

The song “All Alone” is also fast moving but there’s a little bit of a moody atmosphere to the overall sound of the song as well. Singer Tommy Lee Flood has a deeper sounding vocal presence than a lot of other singers of the era but his delivery is pretty spectacular and I really dug into his vocals on the majority of the album’s tracks. Also, while the album lists all the songs as being written by the band, all the lyrics are separately credited to Flood.

The guitar-driven speediness of songs like the album’s title track and Side Two’s “Drive Like Hell” are a testament to the talents of guitarist Terry Dunn. Each track lives up to the titles of the songs and you find yourself incredibly amped up as you listen to the songs.

I also quite enjoyed the closing song on Side One, “Call of the Wild”. It’s another hard driving and rocking song which fits in perfectly with the rest of the album.

The band’s music focuses mostly on hook-laden fast paced rockers. This gives it a slight edge with me since they don’t get overly bogged down with pursuing “balladry” immortality. The one power ballad that is included doesn’t show up until late in the second side of Race Against Time. It’s called “Missing You” and my reaction to the song was about as generic and uninspiring as the song itself. It is just not my cup of tea at all.

But that’s the essential low point of the album for me because tracks like “Precious Metal” which is lively rocking throughout helped fuel the growing appreciation I had for this album.

The standout track for me on the second side of the album was the song “Get It On The Run”. It’s a song that is just purely energetic and drives home the band’s signature sound.

It isn’t often that I find myself utterly flummoxed by a lack of any kind of knowledge about a band from the time when I was growing up as a music fan. But I will tell you that I really found myself enjoying Race Against Time. Whatever the circumstances that surrounded Banshee not becoming a bigger presence on the music scene at the time of this album’s original release, I have to acknowledge the fact that I really missed out on them back in 1989. If I had heard it then, I think that I would’ve been a big fan of the band.

NOTES OF INTEREST: While the band broke up around 1993, they did reunite for various concerts throughout the ’90s and 2000s. When the band played a reunion show at the 2008 Rocklahoma festival, Tyson Leslie played bass for them. You might know him best today as the keyboardist for Vixen.

Bill Westfall, who played bass on Race Against Time, was a part of the band during three separate occasions. However, he is listed as having passed away during 2020 on the band’s Wikipedia page.

The band released an EP and two studio albums before their original breakup. They are still active today though. Terry Dunn is the only founding member of the band still in the lineup. Banshee has released two further albums this decade. Mindslave (2012) and The Madness (2019) mark a dramatically different and much heavier sound for the band. This might turn some people off but I checked out a couple of tracks from the albums on YouTube and found them to my liking.

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – COREY HART’S ‘fIRST OFFENSE’

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.

COREY HART – FIRST OFFENSE (1984)

It’s funny how some songs stick with you even with the passage of decades without giving much thought to the artist who performed it.

For better or for worse, that’s how it works for me regarding singer Corey Hart. He had a monster hit from this debut album in the song “Sunglasses At Night”. The song went to #7 on the Billboard singles chart and I can distinctly remember loving the song as it climbed the charts each week on Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 radio program.

I won’t admit to wearing sunglasses whenever I heard the song during the night as I would either sing or lip-synch along to the song, but if you want to assume that I did, I probably couldn’t truthfully argue with you about it. The song was just a really cool track. The funny thing is that I can’t remember the video at all. I know it got some heavy rotation on MTV but even after reading the Wikipedia information about what goes on in the video, I can’t recall it. This seems strange to me since I usually have a good memory regarding videos from the 80’s.

This is another one of those albums that I never got around to buying back in the days when I barely had started working so I wasn’t exactly flush with cash to buy everything I might’ve wanted. So when I listened to First Offense for this article, I was surprised that the album isn’t merely a pop music album. It’s got some decent rock and roll sounds to it. While the only other song released as a single was the ballad “It’s Ain’t Enough” (#17 on the singles chart), there are actually a number of songs that struck my fancy.

On the first side of the album “Lamp At Midnite” and “She Got The Radio” are strong tracks while I found “Peruvian Lady” to be a bit of a drag despite the quick moving pace of the song.

The second side of the album opens up with an incredibly strong rock track “Does She Love You”. It’s not only got a great rock vibe but the guitar work on the song is fantastic. Setting aside the strength of the album’s two singles, this is probably my favorite track of the rest of the album.

The song “Cheatin’ At School” was a bit less interesting but there’s some more strong guitar work in the song, particularly the solo. I wish I could say even that much about “The World Is Fire” but I just didn’t like that one all that much.

I’m about as uncoordinated and lacking in the necessary rhythm to be anything but an embarrasment to myself and others on the dance floor but the jaunty pace and delivery of the song “At The Dance” does get your foot tapping and if you were inclined to dance, this would be a song you might’ve heard on the audio system back in the day. It’s a get up and go type of rhythmic track and despite my inability to dance, I enjoyed the song.

It’s funny how you sometimes make connections that make no sense between songs. When I first heard the opening of the album’s closing track “Jenny Fey”, I was reminded of the song “Jenny of Oldstones” that was featured in the “A Knight Of The Seven Kingdoms” episode of the TV series Game of Thrones. I don’t know why my brain tied the songs together because the tracks really don’t share much in common beside the name “Jenny”. But the connection was made nonetheless. Whatever the reason, I found the ballad to be quite intriguing and it made for quite the all-encompassing way to end the album for me.

It isn’t always a good thing to revisit the pop music of the early-mid 1980’s. There’s been an album here and there that made me question why I had ever liked that track or group back in the day. But I have to say getting the full album exposure to First Offense was a pretty good experience for me. Sure, it’s not perfect but it is rare that any album is and despite a couple tracks that I found wanting, this is a pretty darn good release.

NOTES OF INTEREST: The First Offense album has three versions. The first two were Canadian releases in 1983 before the US version (all three are slightly different) came out in 1984. The US release is the version of the album I have. The US release was certified Gold.

Corey Hart was nominated for four Juno Awards (the Canadian Grammys) in 1984 and won for “Best Video”. He was also nominated for the Best New Artist Grammy Award for the same year.

The song “Jenny Fey” features Eric Clapton making a guest appearance on the Dobro guitar.

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – LOU GRAMM’S ‘ READY OR NOT’

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.

LOU GRAMM – READY OR NOT (1987)

Having previously written about Lou Gramm’s solo album Long Hard Look in this series, I was pretty thrilled to find myself a copy of his debut solo album on a recent shopping trip. While it is obvious that Gramm is singularly thought of from his time fronting Foreigner, it is hard to argue against the notion that he’s had some seriously good solo music as well.

Even though Gram has had so many hits with Foreigner, it is hard not to think that the song “Midnight Blue” can hold its own against any of them. The song is the commercial highlight of the album. It became a Top 5 single hit when it was released and I can remember singing along to it whenever it played on the radio. Time has not dulled the sharpness of the song for me either. It’s a pure slice of melodic rock and I think Gramm was at the top of his game with this particular performance.

The funny thing about the song for me while listening to it on the cassette is that I thought it sounded just a bit different than I remember it. I wonder if there was a radio edit version of the song or something. Of course, it is more likely that my ears were playing tricks on me. Either way, I loved hearing the track.

The album itself opens with the title cut. The song was the second and final track released as a single from the album but it didn’t fair nearly as well as “Midnight Blue”. I’d never heard the album before so as an objective first time listener, I can see why it didn’t have the same level of success. The song ranges from mid-to-uptempo in pace, but I just didn’t get that much of a heady buzz off the song as a whole.

Guitarist Nils Lofgren plays lead guitar on nine songs and his playing is pretty damn impressive. That shouldn’t be surprising or anything but it still bears mentioning here. Solos on songs like “Heartache” and “Arrow Thru Your Heart” are quite the energetic romps.

The song “If I Don’t Have You” features a varied tempo to the music but it still comes off more as a ballad. There’s sense of shading to the stylistic delivery of the track but it doesn’t quite work for me. On side two of the album the song “Until I Make You Mine” is decent but I found myself enjoying the chorus more than the main lyrical passages.

It’s been reasonably well documented that the reason for Lou Gramm’s first departure from Foreigner was due to friction with guitarist Mick Jones over the direction of the band’s music. Gramm wanted to stick with the more rock-oriented approach while Jones wanted to do more softer type material.

For me, while Lou Gramm’s voice is perfectly cast for the best ballads from Foreigner, Ready Or Not makes a pretty strong statement that Gramm’s desire to rock out was the better approach. It is the aggressive rock and roll on the album that stands out the best to me. Besides “Midnight Blue”, there’s a trio of hard rocking tracks that had me kind of breathless over the overall quality of the album. “Chain Of Love” is a fascinatingly intense track while the strong guitar work woven throughout “Time” gives the song an instant vibe for the listener to click with.

But best of all is “She’s Got To Know”. There’s an immediacy to the way the song’s in-your-face delivery grabs you. There’s a killer groove to the music and I thought Gramm’s vocals were particularly well done. While “Midnight Blue” is always going to be the showcase number of Gramm’s solo catalog, I’d argue that this song is amongst his best work.

While Lou Gramm’s solo work of the 1980’s consisted of just two releases, they are stunningly good examples of just how much Gramm brings to the table as a singer and songwriter. Much like with Long Hard Look, the Ready Or Not album showcases Lou Gramm at the peak of his powers and delivers the goods in a melodically fluid and hard rocking fashion. 

NOTES OF INTEREST: The Ready Or Not album went to #27 on the Billboard album chart and received a lot of critical acclaim. The album came out in January of 1987 with Gramm still part of Foreigner when the band released the album Inside Information in December of the same year.

Eight of the ten songs on the album were co-written by Bruce Turgon. He played bass on eight of the songs and lead guitar on the song “Lover Come Back”. He previously worked with Lou Gramm when both were a part of the band Black Sheep.

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – SLADE’S ‘KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF MY POWER SUPPLY’

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.

SLADE – KEEP YOUR HANDS OF MY POWER SUPPLY (1984)

What’s that saying about life is what happens when you are busy making other plans. For all the success that the band Slade had in the 1970s (after forming in 1966), they were really only big in the UK and Europe. They hadn’t achieved much of any kind of breakthrough in the US.

And then came their huge smash hit song “Cum On Feel The Noize”…well sort of. While the song was a huge hit (reaching #1 in 1973) in the UK, it wasn’t until Quiet Riot recorded their own version of the song in 1983 that Slade became an accidental household name in America.

The Quiet Riot version of the song rose to #5 on the US charts and made their Metal Health album a worldwide smash. Also in 1983, Slade released an album called The Amazing Kamikaze Syndrome in the UK. Wanting to capture whatever bit of lightning in a bottle it could given the band’s sudden rise in profile in the US, CBS Records signed Slade to a US deal to release that album here in the US.

Funny how things work out though, right? By the time the album made its way onto shelves in the States, it was a far different version of itself. The album had been renamed obviously. But the track listing had been re-ordered from the UK version as well. Two songs (“Cocky Rock Boys (Rule O.K.)” and “Razzle Dazzle Man”) had been replaced by different songs (“Keep Your Hands Off My Power Supply” and “Can’t Tame A Hurricane”) that had been used as B-sides for the UK single version of “My Oh My”.

I should point out that while I did love the two singles released from this album, I never got around to owning any version of the album until I found this particular cassette in a newly purchased batch of albums at my friend’s record shop. I had tried to avoid spending any more money at the shop one day but couldn’t resist the lure of new albums I never owned before and ended up leaving with three more cassettes for the Big Box. But I did own a Slade compilation on CD called Get Yer Boots On, so I had the songs in my collection at least. Sadly, I don’t typically listen to that album as often as I probably should.

The album itself opens up with those two singles that helped break Slade big in the US. “Run Runaway” had been a big hit when released in the UK, but it made the Top 20 in the US and the video for the song was in heavy rotation on MTV. It’s a bouncy Scottish jig with a heavy rock soundtrack. Even now, whenever I hear the song I just get a feeling of fun that the song creates. Heavily melodic, it catches your ear and it always makes me smile.

The second single was “My Oh My” and it made the Top 40 chart as well. It’s a power ballad but it shows off Noddy Holder’s voice pretty nicely. The main lyrical passages are subdued a bit musically and then the song’s chorus is where it gets a bit more heavy sounding.

And for me, that’s it. I really don’t remember much about any other songs on the album. Apparently the song “Slam The Hammer Down” (a song that really does live up to its name), was released as a single as well but didn’t make any dent in the charts. This is a sad thing because it sure as heck showed off the band’s heavier side.

Given that Slade is best remembered for the more glam rock aspects of their 1970’s work, the more metallic (however melodically influenced) sound the band had for this album, you might think they were just going along for the ride with the trends of the early 80’s rock scene. But they had some serious chops going on here.

With all the music written by Holder and Lea, the album doesn’t suffer from a lack of focus. The other two songs on the first side of the album are “High and Dry” and “In The Doghouse”. Both of those songs are hard-hitting rock numbers and make the opening side of Keep Your Hands Off My Power Supply a rousing success in my eyes.

I have to say that I was a little less taken with some of the material on the second side of the album though. The title track opens up Side Two and while it’s decent enough lyrically, I thought the music came off a bit overdone and kind of spacey.

While both “Cheap ‘N’ Nasty Luv” and “Can’t Tame A Hurricane” were both pretty speedy numbers, I couldn’t help feeling they were just kind of “THERE” without really doing much to set themselves apart from any number of tracks out there at the time.

“(And Now – The Waltz) C’est La Vie” was another power ballad for the band and it featured the requisite rise-and-fall tempo in the main lyrics versus the chorus. But again, it just didn’t endear itself to me.

Okay, I know you get it. I just didn’t get into the second side of the album that much. But I will say that the album’s closing track “Ready To Explode” was a monster track for me. It does indeed “explode” out of your speakers. The song is over eight minutes long and it is an ode to a love of motor racing. The song is technically divided into four sections (“The Warm Up”, “The Grid”, “The Race” and “The Dream”). It is a glorious cacophony of rock and despite the presence of an annoying spoken word call of a race breaking things up, this song was a real big winner for me.

Overall, I like the album despite what I feel is a significantly weaker batch of songs on Side Two. But that’s just my opinion and it’s not like I’ve never been wrong before. Still, on the strength of those two singles that lead off Keep Your Hands Off My Power Supply, I can’t help but feel a bit of joyous nostalgia whenever I hear the songs. Slade may have been best known for being the band that accidentally made it possible for Quiet Riot to become kings of the heavy metal world for a time, but this album does show off the band in their own right and just how good they were themselves.

NOTES OF INTEREST – According to the album’s Wikipedia page, the band was supposed to hit the tour trail in America opening for Ozzy Osbourne. However, when bassist Jim Lea collapsed after the first night of said tour and was found to have hepatitis, the band ended up cancelling the rest of their dates with Ozzy. It was said Lea’s condition combined with the end of singer Noddy Holder’s marriage were cited as the reason for the cancellation.

The Keep Your Hands Off My Power Supply album made it to #33 on the Billboard album charts. In 2007, there was a remastered version of The Amazing Kamikaze Syndrome released with 6 bonus tracks which would likely give fans the most complete version of the two individual releases.

Noddy Holder left the band in 1992 with bassist Jim Lea leaving at the same time. The band is still active to this day with a long and winding history that you can read about by looking up the band online.

The Cassette Chronicles – Scandal’s ‘Warrior’

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.

SCANDAL FEATURING PATTY SMYTH – WARRIOR (1984)

To file the band Scandal under the “one-hit wonder” category might be strictly accurate, but it also does the band a bit of disservice. Or at least so I have now discovered for myself.

In 1984, the Warrior album was released and based on the title track being used as the lead single, the album would go on to achieve the platinum sales mark. The song “The Warrior” was a huge hit both on the radio and on MTV. The radio airplay saw the song become a top-10 hit while the video was in heavy rotation on the video channel. The fact that there was such a striking visual component in the video makes it memorable even now. (Though I think I remember seeing on that VH-1 Pop-Up Video program that the band hated the way they were done up for the video shoot.)

While I was a huge fan of the song, I never really thought much more about the band. I would venture to say that a lot of people thought the same way because when the band released the songs “Hands Tied” and “Beat Of A Heart”, neither one made the Top-40 chart.

Scandal quickly disappeared from my radar after “The Warrior” song had faded from the pop charts. As it turned out, due to band and label issues, the band broke up after a tour that ended in 1985.

So I think it is understandable that it wasn’t until just recently that I even owned a copy of this album. I found it in a stack of cassettes at a record shop and couldn’t resist picking it up.

Not having heard the album or any of the songs besides the title track before, I don’t know what I was expecting as I popped the cassette in my player. What I found out was that Scandal’s only full album is one hell of an enjoyable melodic rock album.

After the title track opens up the album, the rest of side one is pretty intriguing. The music for “Beat Of A Heart” is pretty fast moving but there is a dramatic shading to the way Patty Smyth’s vocals are presented on the song that gives the song a much more intriguing feel to it than I would’ve expected. I loved the lyrical line “Sometimes the innocent pay for an old man’s sins”. I also liked the way “Hands Tied” sounded.

Those were the three singles from the album so every other song essentially became “album tracks”, but it doesn’t lessen their impact to me. I know that it is 36 years after the fact but the catchy uptempo drive of “Less Than Half” got my feet tapping. The vocal track for the song is really good.

Now, I had said just a bit earlier in this article that I hadn’t heard any of the other songs besides “The Warrior” before. However, that was kind of a half-truth. See, the last song on side one is “Only The Young”. If you recognize that title and wonder if it is a cover of the Journey song, you’d be kind of right. The song was written and recorded by Journey in 1983 but got pulled from their album Frontiers. The band apparently sold it to Scandal who recorded their own version and released it for the Warrior album. But Journey did an about face and released their version in 1985 on the Vision Quest movie soundtrack and saw the song become a Top-10 hit.

Scandal’s version of the song might be pretty much lost in the shuffle these days but there’s enough of a twist (particularly given the vocal differences between Smyth and Steve Perry) that I loved this version of the track as well.

Side Two of the album opens with “All I Want” and “Talk To Me”. Both songs feature the band putting forth a very rocking sound with each track and truth be told, they are two of my favorite songs on the release.

Surprisingly enough, the one pure ballad track on the album, “Say What You Will” was a decent performer. The song pulls on just the right emotive strings for the listener without making you cringe. The album closes with two more rocking numbers in “Tonight” and “Maybe We Went Too Far”. Each of those tracks helps provide a solid sense of satisfaction with the album as a whole.

There may not be a whole lot to write about Scandal giving how brief their actual recording career was. I mean, an EP and one studio album don’t generally make for a legendary career. But despite the small output and various conflicts for the band, once you listen to Warrior, you will realize (however belatedly) that it is an AOR classic!

NOTES OF INTEREST: Rock Candy Records reissued the album on CD in 2014 and included the original Scandal EP as bonus tracks.

Despite breaking up in 1985, the band got back together in 2004 (prompted by an appearance on the VH-1 series Bands Reunited) and have been performing together since then. However, they’ve released no new music save a cover of the Christmas song “Silent Night” in 2011.

Three of Scandal’s original members have died over the years. Bassist Ivan Elias (cancer in 1995), drummer Frankie LaRocka (after surgery in 2005) and keyboardist Benjy King (car accident 2012). The current lineup of Scandal features only Patty Smyth and guitarist Keith Mack from the original lineup. While guitarist Zack Smith started the band, he was only a part of the reunion period from 2004-2006.

The Cassette Chronicles – Poison’s ‘Look What the Cat Dragged In’

 

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.

POISON – LOOK WHAT THE CAT DRAGGED IN (1986)

My personal renaissance with Poison continues this week! I’ve looked at both the Open Up and Say…Ahh! and Flesh & Blood albums in the series in recent weeks. I had planned to write about this album sooner than this but the two previous cassette copies I’d purchased were damaged beyond use so I had to dig to find another copy before I could finally write about the album.

The first thing I realized when looking at the liner notes was that it was released the same year as Iron Maiden’s Somewhere In Time album. This struck me a little funny because it at least explains why I definitely gave Look What The Cat Dragged In such short shrift when it was released. Well, at least in part anyway. I’d venture to say the excessive makeup the band wore probably played a part in why I didn’t really become an overly vocal fan early on.

But I will say that as I listened to the album here, I can recall how I would listen to the various songs from the album (when they’d play either on radio or MTV) in the comforts of my house and sing along to the lyrics. This would be a good thing for all involved since I can’t carry a tune in a bucket.

Since I never owned this album before now, it was a bit of a surprise to me to see how front loaded the album is. The album saw four songs released as singles and three of those tracks are the first three songs in the album’s running order.  Also surprising is the fact that the album is barely more than 30 minutes long.

While “Cry Tough” didn’t chart as a single, it’s lead slot on the album is noteworthy because it is a damn good song. I actually found that I enjoy it better than some of the band’s more successful songs. “I Want Action” was moderately more successful but still wasn’t on the Top 40 singles chart. Still, that song could pretty much sum up the early part of Poison’s career and songwriting focus if you wanted to do so. As with all bands in the decade of “hair metal”, Poison had a big ballad track on the album and that was “I Won’t Forget You”. It was the fourth of the four singles and ended up going to #13 on the singles chart.

Taking just those three songs alone, you’d have a solid album side for sure. Of course, you had two more tracks to go on Side One. I thought the rocker “Play Dirty” was energetic enough but there was something about the song that just didn’t really jibe well with me. But the album’s title track is a different matter. I wonder why the song wasn’t chosen as a single because the fast rocking pace and incredibly catchy chorus seems tailor made for chart success in the 1980’s. To this day, I still here it on specialty radio shows and it brings back many memories of growing up in the decade where metal ruled the world.

The second side of the album kicks off with one of Poison’s biggest hits “Talk Dirty To Me”. If there’s one song to single out as grabbing the public’s attention, I’m sure this song is the one that would be chosen to represent Look What The Cat Dragged In. I may not have been too effusive in my love of the song when it was released but I’m sure my 15 year old brain couldn’t get enough of this one.

Since I never owned the album before, it was particularly noteworthy to me when I realized that after “Talk Dirty To Me”, the rest of Side Two featured songs I can’t recall ever hearing before. These “new-to-me” discoveries included “Want Some, Need Some”, “Blame It On You”, “#1 Bad Boy” and “Let Me Go To The Show”. The first three of those songs are pretty good rockers but I can understand why they are pretty much album tracks. But I thought the really speedy delivery of “Let Me Go To The Show” had a little something extra working for it. It’s got that necessary driving rhythm but tons of melody with an almost tongue-in-cheek set of lyrics. I think if I’d heard it before now, I would’ve really enjoyed it a lot.

According to the Wikipedia page for the Look What The Cat Dragged In album, singer Bret Michaels called or calls the album a “glorified demo”. I can kind of see what he means because there is definitely a slightly rawer cast to the band’s sound as opposed to their later releases. But I think it works to the band’s favor, even nearly 35 years later.

The story of Poison is extremely well known by this point but it is definitely worth the look back at their beginnings to see just where it all started for them. And if you are like me and only really knew the stuff that saw airtime on radio and MTV, you get a fuller picture of all the material on the album. For me, that paid off quite handsomely as I got to see just what they had to offer from the get-go.

This renaissance I’ve been on with the band has proven to be a rather exhilarating experience and I’m glad that I’ve taken the time to do it. What did that cat drag in? One of the better representatives of the entire 80’s metal genre it would seem!

NOTE OF INTEREST: The album has sold over four million copies since its release. A 20th anniversary edition was released in 2006 with three bonus tracks including a cover of the Jim Croce song “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim”.

 

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – TED NUGENT’S ‘IF YOU CAN’T LICK ‘EM…LICK ‘EM’

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.

Full page magazine advertisement for Ted Nugent’s “If You Can’t Lick ‘Em…Lick ‘Em”

TED NUGENT – IF YOU CAN’T LICK ‘EM…LICK ‘EM (1988)

After talking about the Ted Nugent album Penetrator a little while back in this series as a means of paying tribute to singer Brian Howe, I wasn’t sure if (or when) I might hear another album from “Uncle Ted”. But then I was sent a copy of this album and I knew that sooner or later I’d get around to writing about it. Obviously now is that time.

The album was released in 1988 and would end up being his last solo album for seven years. It was just two years later, in 1990, that the first of the two Damn Yankees albums would come out and Nugent was occupied with that band for a while.

We all know that Nugent’s reputation as a wild man of the guitar probably leads us to assume that his music is all kinds of over-the-top guitar driven histrionics with a host of single and double entendres thrown in as song titles and lyrics.

While the latter half of that statement still rings true with If You Can’t Lick ‘Em…Lick ‘Em, I was kind of surprised that the album was less like his 1970’s output and instead featured a distinctly directed focus on the more melody driven rock you would later hear Nugent be a part of with Damn Yankees. There’s plenty of guitar driven uptempo rockers here but you can hear far more melody than you might expect if you mostly know Nugent by reputation rather than a deep knowledge of his catalog.

The first side of the album is a bit hit and miss for me overall but there are some rather outstanding tracks at the same time. The opening song “Can’t Live With ‘Em” seemed a bit muted to me on first listen but when I listened again, I really found myself getting into the uptempo rocker and that feeling that the song was somehow muted and just waiting to bust loose disappeared.

“She Drives Me Crazy” was another rocking bit of music but I didn’t quite connect with the track all that much. As for the album’s title cut, I loved the long guitar solo that played out over the end of the song but if the song was meant to be some kind of anthem, it missed the mark a bit and came off sounding somewhat half-assed. It didn’t work for me at all, which is a shame since I thought the guitar playing was top notch.

But that slight disappointment was overcome by the last couple of songs on Side One. The more riotous feel you might expect from Nugent is amply evident in “Skintight”. The lyrics are not the least bit subtle and yet the song is simply marvelous.

The sex-drenched aspect of Nugent’s songs and lyrics are on full display with the song “Funlover”. That song has a lyrical line that would seem to sum up his philosophy with a nice little bow on it. I mean, there isn’t a whole lot of hidden meaning in a line like “Explicit sex /It ain’t my cup of tea / unless of course/ it’s happening to me”. And yet, between the totally unapologetic lyrics and the incredible soundtrack the vocals are combined with, I can’t help but absolutely love this song.

As for the second side of the album, the biggest shock for me was the first song “Spread Your Wings”. It’s a straight up ballad from start to finish. I kept waiting for a ballbusting burst of rock and roll to change the song’s tempo but Nugent played it straight. His vocal performance was pretty interesting too. Here again, he played it straight. Now, I don’t know if there was some hidden double entendre to the songs lyrics or title that I missed (which I suspect is entirely possible) but I really enjoyed this track a lot because it seemed to show that Nugent can go a little deeper than I would’ve expected. The fact that the song doesn’t go for the more wimpy side of balladry is another strong point in its favor.

Of course, that potential softer and straighter side of Nugent is just a brief moment when you consider the last four songs on the album are straight up rockers. There’s the breakneck speedy rocker “The Harder They Come (The Harder I Get)”. The guitar playing gets your blood pumping and Ted’s vocal growl enlivens the lyrics like “You’ve got 31 flavors…they’re all good enough to eat”. I almost feel ashamed of myself for just how much I loved this song. Pure lust driven rock and roll to liven up your musical playlist, that’s for sure.

“Separate The Men From The Boys Please” is solid but it is the last two songs that really capped off this listening experience for me. “Bite The Hand” has some fantastic guitar work and really got me jazzed up as I listened to the song. The closing track is “That’s The Story Of Love”. It’s a hard rocking song with a very cool vibe to it and there is a great chorus that really helps sell the song to the listener.

However you may feel about Ted Nugent the person, you can’t help but recognize his talents as a musician. I know that Nugent’s work from the 70’s is his bread and butter and that it seems like this period of his music catalog is pretty much ignored but I can’t help but say that I actually quite enjoyed the If You Can’t Lick ‘Em…Lick ‘Em album. It’s a great rock and roll album with an ample dose of pure melody and despite a couple of tracks that didn’t work for me, it was an eye-opening experience for me. Discovering more about this side of Nugent’s musical personality kind of makes me want to explore more of this part of his career to see what else there might be waiting to jump out at me.

NOTES OF INTEREST: The album closing song “That’s The Story Of Love” was co-written by Ted Nugent with Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora.

The If You Can’t Lick ‘Em…Lick ‘Em album was the first album to feature Ted Nugent as the sole lead vocalist. He also played the bass part on the title track.

Chuck Wright, who is best known as the bassist for Quiet Riot, played bass on eight of the album’s songs. The late Pat Torpey (Mr. Big) played the drums for the album. Rhythm guitarist Dave Amato would go on to play with Jimmy Barnes, REO Speedwagon, Cher, Richie Sambora among others.