Category Archives: Cassette Chronicles

The Cassette Chronicles – Lou Gramm’s ‘Long Hard Look’

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: THIS IS THE LAST REGULAR ARTICLE IN THE SERIES FOR 2019. A BEST OF THE YEAR PIECE WILL APPEAR IN A WEEK OR TWO. THE REGULAR SERIES WILL RETURN IN 2020.)

LOU GRAMM – LONG HARD LOOK (1989)

Following the success of his first solo release Ready Or Not in 1987 (that generated the Top 5 single “Midnight Blue”), singer Lou Gramm’s second solo release hit store shelves in 1989 and continued his run as one of the more notable voices in rock history.

While still a member of Foreigner until 1990, the ongoing creative issues between Gramm and Mick Jones over the direction of the band’s music had to have played a role in why this particular album had such a rock and/or hard rock feel to the material.

While I do remember the song “Just Between You And Me” (which would go on to hit #6 on the singles chart) quite fondly, I’d never listened to this album before. This is a sad realization for me because as it turns out, it’s a pretty darn good album.

The first side of the album is astoundingly good. While I wasn’t totally into the rather uptempo love song “True Blue Love”, it’s not terrible per se. I just didn’t find myself particularly inspired by it.

But that song aside, the rest of side one is one rocker after another. The album opens with “Angel With A Dirty Face” and the song really grabs you right from the start. Fast paced with a sweet guitar line running through the song, the track has a very cool sounding chorus that blends it all together. Personally, I think this would’ve been another great choice to release as a single back then.

That’s followed up by “Just Between You And Me” and I’d say it is one of his best songs whether solo or from his days with Foreigner. Hard driving tempo combined with just the right pop touch to make it the hit that it became, the track still stands up perfectly.

There’s a slightly edgier undertone to the song “Broken Dreams”, particularly as it relates to the guitar work. I don’t know why, but this song really worked for me. It also had another big sounding chorus, so that helps as well. As for the side closing “I’ll Come Running”, well it is just a great sounding track with a kick you in the butt song construction that got my blood pumping.

Anyone who’s listened to the classic rocker tracks from Foreigner knows that Lou Gramm can really deliver the goods when it comes to high energy and fast paced vocals. “Hot Blooded”, “Juke Box Hero”, “Cold As Ice” anyone?

But you could’ve floored me with “Hangin’ On My Hip”, lead song on Side 2 of Long Hard Look. It’s a pure hard rock track. There’s no “classic” rock or “pop” rock description for this song , it is HARD ROCK. And Lou Gramm really seemed to cut loose vocally on the song. It’s just freaking awesome to hear him do this kind of track, even if I’m 30 years late in discovering it.

Given the era this album was released, it comes as no surprise that there is a power ballad to deal with. It is just a tad bit ironic that ballads were an issue between Lou Gramm and Mick Jones but Gramm still couldn’t get away from the song style on his solo release. I know that Gramm wrote this song all on his own, but good grief this was just cloying claptrap to me.

Thankfully, the turn for the softer side of things was short-lived as the album closes out with rockers like “Day One”, “I’ll Know When It’s Over” and a cover of the Small Faces song “Tin Soldier”.

Lou Gramm’s standing as one of the defining voices of rock music is secured. But finding out just how good Long Hard Look was, even three decades after I should’ve done so, I can’t help feeling that I need to do a far better job in getting to know the ins-and-outs of his work in order to have a far better sense of appreciation for just how special he is as a singer. Long Hard Look is an excellent way to begin doing that very thing.

NOTES OF INTEREST: Guitarist Nils Lofgren played guitar on the songs “Just Between You and Me” and “Day One”. The latter track also featured guitar playing from Dio and Def Leppard guitarist Vivian Campbell. He played on the songs “Broken Dreams” and “Hangin’ On My Hip” as well.

The Cassette Chronicles – Julian Lennon’s ‘Valotte’

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.

JULIAN LENNON – VALOTTE (1984)

When I dug this album out of the Big Box of Cassettes, I was brought back to 1984 and reminded of the time when I first heard the title track to the album. I can’t remember if it was part of the regular rotation on 92 Pro FM out of Providence, Rhode Island or if it was on their Sunday morning broadcast of American Top 40 with Casey Kasem, but for some reason the song struck a chord with me.

But in all honesty, I really haven’t thought much about the song over the last 35 plus years. I never owned the album itself and while I’d heard “Too Late For Goodbyes” over the years, I had no current knowledge of the “Valotte” song. So it was a little bit of a disappointing surprise to me that as I heard it as an “almost-new” song, I was left wondering why I loved it so much back then. While I still think it is a decent song, I found that the track just had a different tone to me than I had remembered from back in the day. I don’t know if it just was that it seemed somehow slower in tempo than I remembered or what, but it just wasn’t the same to me.

But as that song faded, I had to quickly turn the page and get on with my impressions of the rest of the album. As I said, this was the first time I’d heard the official album in total so there was some discoveries to be made.

The first side of the album was packed with some really intriguing songs. “O.K. For You” had a earworm of a guitar sound to it. The track had an uptempo bounce to it, which was nice considering it followed the “Valotte” song, so the energy pick me up was a nice immediate change of pace. I also really got into the song “On The Phone” which featured a big band sound particularly in the middle of the song.

Unfortunately, I can’t say that about the song “Space”. I thought the presentation of the song was more than a bit hazy, as if Lennon was casting about for some definitive direction and just never really found it. Overall, I thought this one was kind of drag.

But Side One finished strong with “Well I Don’t Know”. It featured an uptick in the music’s pacing and the song, which was written for Lennon’s father John (and if I have to explain that connection further, stop reading this article!), ended up being a rather interesting musical nugget.

As for Side Two, that opened up with the aforementioned “Too Late For Goodbyes”. I’d like to say that I remembered that this song was on the album BEFORE I listened to it but I’d be lying. However, I did remember the song and whether it was due to actually having heard it over the years or just because it hit me stronger, it is my favorite cut on the album overtaking my initial belief back in 1984 that I liked “Valotte” more as a song.

I can’t say I was completely into “Lonely” or the closing piano based “Let Me Be” but I did quite enjoy “Jesse” and “Say You’re Wrong”, which had a crackling urgency fused with a really cool pop sensibility to it.

Julian Lennon has released six solo albums over his career, but Valotte is by far his most successful in terms of sales and chart success. I have to say that I had a great time experiencing this album for the first time. There may be songs on it that didn’t quite cut the mustard with me, but perfect albums being few and far between, it was still a thrill to discover new songs that actually did make my musical heart go all pitter-patter.

I know that fans of The Beatles will likely lay claim to some of the music’s influences belonging to the Fab Four, but if you like straightforward pop music (that would now be referred to as Adult Contemporary), you’ll find that Julian Lennon’s first solo album Valotte has him standing quite capably on his own two feet.

NOTES OF INTEREST: The Valotte album (which was certified platinum) was produced by Phil Ramone. His list of credits is both extensive and a who’s who of some of the biggest names in music history. He would win 14 Grammys for his work before his death in 2013.

The “Valotte” song hit #9 on the singles chart, while “Too Late For Goodbyes” went to #5. The latter is Julian Lennon’s most successful single. The videos for both songs were directed by the legendary movie director Sam Peckinpagh.

 

The Cassette Chronicles – The Cult’s ‘Sonic Temple’

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.

THE CULT – SONIC TEMPLE (1989)

Before popping in the cassette to give The Cult’s Sonic Temple album a listen so that I could write this article, I had to think back to my recollections of the album from when it was first released and the subsequent tour opening for Metallica when I got to see the band perform live.

The album eventually spawned four singles and I actually did quite enjoy them all on their own. Whether on MTV or the radio, each time “Fire Woman” started playing my ears perked up. The other singles put out had a similar effect. But the strange thing is that I remember being more than a little disappointed when I actually got my hands on a copy of the album. I remember thinking that the rest of the material just didn’t really do much for me.

Now that I’ve given this now thirty year old release a new listen, I’ve had a pretty drastic change of opinion about the album as a whole. But there was a 2nd reason why I kind of gave up on The Cult after this album and that goes back to when I saw them live.

I’ve told the story to people before so anyone that knows me in real life will likely already know what I’m about to write here. Frankly put, singer Ian Astbury was the LAZIEST live performer I’ve ever seen. When I saw them open for Metallica, I noticed that something was off with the vocals and then I started doing that damn counting thing I sometimes do. Sure enough, Astbury was fudging his vocal performance. No, not faking it or anything, but he was actually skipping every third word of the lyrics. Didn’t matter what song, I counted them all as soon as I noticed. He would skip every third word because the crowd was singing along and filling in the vocals for him. For some reason, this just really annoyed the crap out of me and it soured me not only on the band but the album as well. I still liked “Fire Woman” but I ended up getting rid of the album over my probably unreasonable attitude about the lack of full vocal performance in a concert.

Yes, it is special kind of dumb reasoning on my part, but that’s how it was for me then. However, like I said earlier, I’ve had a big change of opinion about things now.

The first side of the album is top heavy with all four of the released singles being on it. I mentioned “Fire Woman”, which remains a purely powerful ball of energy that continually punches you in the gut as it blazes a rocking path. The music strikes fast and hard (Billy Duffy’s guitars on this song and the entire album are outstanding) and Astbury’s vocals were and remain a huge hook for the song.

The song “Sun King” was more of a rock radio type of single so it might not be quite as well remembered but I was struck by just how much I enjoyed it this time around. As for “Sweet Soul Sister” and “Edie (Ciao Baby)”, they are just those earworm kind of songs that always key memories back to the first time you heard them.

What did surprise me a bit with Side One was the only non-single track “American Horse”. The song is rocking but I was kind of floored with how much I ended up liking the phrasing of the vocals/lyrics from Ian Astbury. It left me wondering why I didn’t hear that when I first had the album.

Side Two was a slightly different mix of songs for me. I wasn’t all that sold on the opening “Soul Asylum” or “Wake Up Time For Freedom”. Both songs just didn’t quite get over the hump for me. But the good news is, the rest of the songs really worked well. The cassette version of the album contained a bonus track called “Medicine Train” and it was a killer rock track that ended up closing the album out on a high note, but it was the middle of Side Two that did the really heavy lifting. “Automatic Blues” and “Soldier Blue” were both straight up rock songs. Start to finish, each really knew how to find its way into a listener’s blood and get them fired up.

But what really did it for me and is probably the second best song on the entire album (behind “Fire Woman”, of course) was the song “New York City”. There’s just something about this song, a hard driving rocker fueled by storming guitars and a thrilling vocal performance that drove it home for me. It’s a song that probably should’ve been at least considered for being released as a single because there’s just no reason that more people shouldn’t have heard this at the time. Which is a bit ironic coming from me since I completely missed out on all these songs the first time around because I was apparently unable to “hear” what was going on then.

So despite my decades old misgivings about the album, I can honestly say that I’ve had a huge change of heart about Sonic Temple as an album in full. I didn’t like the album tracks that much when it first came out and now I just want to pop the tape back in and play it all over again. If you are reading this article, you should probably think about doing that as well.

NOTES OF INTEREST: The album is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its release this year. The limited edition reissue of Sonic Temple came out in October 2019 and it has 5 CDs that includes a remastered edition of the album, rare tracks, a live album and more.

Iggy Pop sang backing vocals on the song “New York City”.

Sonic Temple was the last album the band recorded with bassist Jamie Stewart. He left the group in 1990. He appeared on stage with the band to celebrate the 25th anniversaries of the Love and Electric albums, but is otherwise retired from the music industry since 1994.

The Cassette Chronicles – Kiss’s ‘Lick It Up’

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.

KISS – LICK IT UP (1983)

I’ve been on a quest to get all of the Kiss albums added to my music collection. While I’d prefer to have them on CD of course, I’m doing this on the cheap so I’m not always able to find them in that format at a price I want to pay. So I’ve been picking some of the albums up on cassette which serves not only to get the album into my collection, but gives me another article in this series to write about.

Such is the case with Lick It Up. But before I talk about this album, I want to mention that I’ve been listening to the band’s album Destroyer a lot lately. That’s a CD edition and I’ve been really impressed with how much I like not only the classic hits on that album but the album tracks were pretty darn good as well. This plays a bit into my thoughts on Lick It Up so I thought I’d mention it now.

Since I’ve never owned the album before, I pretty much thought that the only song I’d know was the title track. The song is definitely worthy of its status as one of Kiss’s best known songs. What I didn’t realize until I listened to the album for this piece was that there are two other songs on the album that I didn’t realize I knew.

I’d hesitate to call them classic songs in the same vein as “Lick It Up”, but I would have to say that the reason I am so familiar with “Young And Wasted” and “All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose” is because they got played on the radio both back in 1983 and on classic rock stations to this day. As I said, I’ve never had the album before now so it wasn’t like I realized those particular songs made up part of the album’s track listing. But both of the songs immediately “rang a bell” for me and you just know that it had to be due to 94 HJY, the radio station I listen to all the time.

The funny thing is that the album started off kind of slow for me. While both “Exciter” and “Not For The Innocent” were full-on rockers, I have to say that neither song really fully captured my attention. The latter song had an edgier tone to the vocals but even that wasn’t enough. But then came “Lick It Up” and the album took off from there. I already mentioned “Young And Wasted” but the first side of the album closes with another ballsy rocker in “Gimme More”. I know that the title might conjure up the idea that it is simplistic and nothing you haven’t heard a million times before, but for some reason the song just struck a chord with me.

The second side of the album got off to a great start with the “All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose”. I’m mentally slapping myself over not realizing the song was on this album before now. “A Million To One” followed that up and the uptempo track was pretty darn good as well.

However, if I’m going to pick a song that is the underappreciated gem of the album it has to be the song “Fits Like A Glove”. It is a kick-ass song that features some fantastic guitar work and the song’s fast pacing made the experience of listening to this track for what I think is the first time a supremely enjoyable “discovery” for me.

The outstanding start of the second side hit snag with the song “Dance All Over Your Face”. For me, it kind of started with what I think is just a stupid title and the song is pretty generic and forgettable otherwise.

The album closing “And On The 8th Day” goes a long way toward finishing Lick It Up on a high note for me though. Of particular note was how the symbolism of the song’s chorus resonated with me. It’s a “rock and roll forever” kind of anthemic vibe but it just seemed to catch me at the perfect moment.

The Lick It Up album may feature only one hardcore classic track but if you haven’t heard the album in full before, I think you’ll find that there is a whole lot of stellar material that (like the Destroyer album) will leave you believing it is one of Kiss’s better start-to-finish releases.

NOTES OF INTEREST: Paul Stanley has been quoted saying that he thinks the reason the album sold so well was less to do with the music and more because it was the first album with the band taking the makeup off.

Though the album did achieve platinum status, the title track is apparently the only song that still gets played regularly in concert.

Rick Derringer played the solo on lead off track “Exciter”.

Despite co-writing 8 of the 10 songs on Lick It Up, guitarist Vinnie Vincent was out of the group before their next album due to disputes with Gene and Paul over money and his role with the group. However, in recent days there’s been talk of Vincent (among other ex-members of the group) taking part in the final Kiss show when their “End of the Road” tour comes to a close.

The Cassette Chronicles – Dokken’s ‘Back for the Attack’

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.

DOKKEN – BACK FOR THE ATTACK (1987)

If we are marking specific eras of time, the year 1987 is probably a good way to mark the high point of hard rock and heavy metal. At least in terms of their commercial peak anyway. You had landmark albums from Guns ‘N Roses, Whitesnake and Def Leppard. Those three albums alone would make any child of the 80’s metal years flash back to when all was right with the musical world.

But what surprised me was just how much I think Dokken’s Back For The Attack compares favorably with any of those releases. To be sure, the album was commercially successful but it was only certified platinum so it might be easy to write the album off as an also-ran in a side to side comparison of sales figures with those other bands.

I’ve listened to this album and loved it for a long time, but I’ve never really listened to it for any kind of critical piece. So doing so for this article was a semi-new treat for me.

What I found was that my long held belief that this is Dokken’s best album remains true to this day. There’s not a bad song amongst the 13 tracks included on the cassette. Strikingly, there’s not really much in the way of a power ballad either. I know that by 1987, that was almost a universal law but while some people might simply declare the song “Heaven Sent” to fall under that banner, it really isn’t. In fact, it has such an effervescent soundtrack that I caught myself thinking that the song was a prime example of rumbling sonic thunder. It really does leave listeners in its wake.

I think what is underestimated most about this album is that for all their interpersonal faults and feuds, Don Dokken, George Lynch, Jeff Pilson and Mick Brown pulled off a songwriting coup. Each of the tracks were written by some combination of the individual members and the passion that fueled the band drama was also poured into the songwriting as well.

The first side of the album opens with “Kiss Of Death”, a song that found Dokken getting a bit topical as the subject of the song dealt with AIDS at a time where you wouldn’t really expect a band of the metal genre to tackle that subject. It might be stating the obvious given his acknowledged guitar god status, but the guitar work on this song will have you renewing your appreciation of George Lynch. The man shreds with everything he does, but when you haven’t listened to any of his work in a while, I know that I find myself surprised all over again. And when you hear the “Mr. Scary” instrumental, you find yourself picking your jaw off the floor. More than 30 years after it was released, that song just continues to amaze.

The album had three singles released from it and “Prisoner” is the only one that is on Side One. As with the rest of the album, I loved the song but I didn’t remember it as a single. I could’ve sworn that “Heaven Sent” was a single but not according to the information I found online as I researched the article.

“Night By Night” is a pretty darn good song as well, but the real treat was rediscovering “Standing In The Shadows”. When I first bought the album, it was one of the songs I liked the most but I had kind of forgotten that. It’s a bit more understated than other tracks on the album but if you want a song that is an underappreciated gem, I’d go with this one.

When you flip the album over to Side Two, you are hit with the song “So Many Tears” and immediately the rocking nature of the material continues onward. One of the other singles from the album was the song “Burning Like A Flame”. I remember watching the video a lot on MTV but as I listened to the song here, a different memory surfaced. I remember reading an article in a music magazine that had the writer on hand for the filming of the video. I can’t remember which magazine it was, but the memory did resurface as the song played.

I don’t know how other fans feel about the song “Lost Behind The Wall”, but the tone of the song struck a chord with me. It made me want to see the song expanded upon somehow, like there was more to the story of the song or something. Funny how you get that kind of vibe so far down the road from when you first heard the track.

The album continued on with more top notch rockers like “Stop Fighting Love”, “Cry Of The Gypsy” and “Sleepless Nights”, but it was the closing number “Dream Warriors” that finished the album off on a high note for me.

The song was originally released a few months earlier as the title cut on the soundtrack for the horror movie Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. It was a pretty successful single for the band and seeing it added to the Back For The Attack album wasn’t a real surprise. The funny thing about this song was that it was pretty much the biggest reason I went to see the movie in the first place. I’ve never been a big fan of horror movies, but I did see the 2nd movie in the Nightmare on Elm Street series and so when I found out Dokken was doing a song on the soundtrack, I knew I would go see it. Oddly enough, I think Dream Warriors was pretty much the last horror movie I ever bothered to go see in the theaters.

It might seem strange that an album that sold over a million copies strikes me as being underappreciated by rock fans at large but I just don’t think Back For The Attack gets the kind of love or reverence that it should. This is where Dokken put it all together and produced from start to finish their absolute best album!

NOTES OF INTEREST – While the band is still touring to this day, the Dokken lineup now features just singer Don Dokken from the classic lineup on a regular basis. There has been some reunion dates the past few years with the original lineup but drummer Mick Brown is at least temporarily retired now, Jeff Pilson is in Foreigner and George Lynch has a host of projects including work with Michael Sweet of Stryper and the band KXM with Dug Pinnick of King’s X and Ray Luzier of Korn.

I never got to see Dokken live during their best years. After this album and the succeeding live release, they broke up amidst that recurring feuding I mentioned before. But when they got back together (the first time anyway), I saw them live thanks to a friend having a free pass for me. I think it was in 1997 but I can’t recall for sure.

Back For The Attack has been reissued twice on CD. The second reissue came via Rock Candy Records but both versions of the reissue added the “Back For The Attack” song as a bonus cut. The first three Dokken albums (Breaking The Chains, Tooth And Nail and Under Lock And Key as well as the live album Beast From The East have also been given the reissue/remaster treatment from Rock Candy as well.

The Cassette Chronicles – Damn Yankees’ 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.

DAMN YANKEES – DAMN YANKEES (1990)

 On paper, the team up of Jack Blades, Tommy Shaw and Ted Nugent (along with newcomer drummer Michael Cartellone) might seem a wee bit strange. I know that when I first heard of the project, it didn’t seem like the AOR sound Blades and Shaw are most associated with would blend all that well with the frenetic histrionics that Nugent is known for.

But that’s why you have to listen before judging, because the self-titled debut album from Damn Yankees was a darn sight better than I think anyone that had doubts could’ve expected. Yes, the more AOR sound prevails throughout the release but there’s plenty of guitar pyrotechnics that are surely the influence of the Motor City Madman as well. Given the fact that the album went double platinum, a lot of people found the album highly enjoyable as well.

The Damn Yankees album was propelled by three hits. You had the requisite power ballad in “High Enough”, which was the biggest charting song for the band. It hit #3. I know that this is where I would usually dump all over the song because it is a ballad, but that’s not happening this time because I actually like the song.

While “High Enough” is their most successful track, I think the album’s opening song “Coming of Age” is the one that really gets people amped up to this day when they hear it. There’s something about that opening riff that gets me excited nearly 30 years later when I hear it on the radio. When I played the cassette for this article, I had the same kind of charged feeling too.

The other song that got traction as a single was “Come Again” and again, I really like the song. It starts out like it is going to be a ballad but after that initial intro, the more driving rock sound kicks in and fuels the song to a greater height in my mind.

There were a couple of songs released as singles but “Runaway” and “Bad Reputation” didn’t get nearly as much individual success as the first three released songs. That’s not to say they were bad songs though. They both follow “Coming of Age” in the track listing and they are both electric rockers that keep your energy level on high.

The title track for the album closes out the first side of the album and it is a big anthemic rocker. The chorus is huge which isn’t a surprise since that particular sound is evident throughout the album. The album’s producer was Ron Nevison and he knew his way around the entire AOR sound playing field.

After “Come Again” opens Side Two, the album races to the finish line with a killer set of rockers. Now I said that the writing credits don’t get too specific about who wrote what beyond the trio. But I thought the songs “Mystified” and “Piledriver” screamed Ted Nugent. Obviously I could be completely wrong about that, but that’s just where my mind went as I listened to the album once again. There’s a similar kind of guitar noodling sound on both tracks that give it a bit of bluesy start. That start disappears on “Piledriver” once the song gets going in full because it soon bursts into an all-out rocker that brings the album to a frantic and crushing end.

Speaking of frantic fretwork and huge anthems, the song “Rock City” goes a long way towards trying to redefine the phrase “playing with wild abandon”. There’s not an ounce of subtlety on this track and that’s a good thing. The band just goes pedal to the floor musically and leaves you breathless as they rock and roll you with the song.

And that’s kind of what you needed I think. While the band members obviously had their 70’s and/or 80’s rock pedigrees, the metal years were starting their wind down by the time 1990 rolled around. And this was anything but just flat out boring glam retreads. No, there’s a seamless blend of both melodic rock with fiery guitar runs and vocals that get you to sing along. The Damn Yankees is just a sublimely fantastic album that no matter how many times you hear it, you find yourself somehow energized by the material. For me, it’s an album that will always feel timeless no matter how much time passes.

NOTES OF INTEREST: I saw the band on tour in 1991 in Mansfield, Massachusetts at was then called The Great Woods Center for the Performing Arts. They headlined over Bad Company and Tattoo Rodeo. Bad Company was excellent and I loved the Damn Yankees set as well. Ted Nugent was crazy good on the guitar in particular.

This factoid manages to amuse me for some reason. The band released just two studio albums (Don’t Tread was the band’s second album and went gold when released in 1992) but somehow have THREE greatest hits type compilations to their credit.

The band has reunited in various incarnations over the years to perform songs in concert. The one real attempt to put out a new album came in 1999 but no one from the band to the record company was happy with the music they came up with for the planned third release. That album was reportedly going to be called Bravo.

Drummer Michael Cartellone was pretty much unknown before Damn Yankees but he’s gone on to a pretty good career. He toured with Ted Nugent’s solo band as well as with John Fogerty. He’s been the drummer for Lynyrd Skynyrd since 1999. He’s also played on albums for Accept, Brad Gillis, John Wetton and Shaw/Blades among others.

 

The Cassette Chronicles – Whitesnake’s ‘Come an’ Get 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.

WHITESNAKE – COME AN’ GET IT (1981)

Before I get started in earnest with this week’s spotlight album, I want to take a minute to acknowledge a friend of the column. I’m friends with a fellow music fan named Jeff Hogland. We’re pretty active members on his Classic Rock Bottom message board and seeing as how he’s been responsible for getting me a lot of good music on his bargain shopping sprees, I consider him my state of Georgia music consigliere. But I was quite surprised when he messaged me to say that on one of his shopping sprees he’d picked up a bunch of cassettes that he was sending up to me to use in The Cassette Chronicles should I decide to write about them. A box arrived on my doorstep and suddenly I had a bunch more albums to add to “The Big Box of Cassettes”. So thanks go out to Jeff and this week’s album is from that batch of music he sent to me.

In 1981, Whitesnake had yet to become a big name on the American hard rock scene. The band was probably still kind of thought as Deep Purple-lite considering the lineup that recorded this fourth album included Jon Lord on keyboards and Ian Paice on drums. They had success in the UK but hadn’t really broken through in the States.

I hadn’t gotten into the band yet myself. That was still 6 years away with their self-titled album that made them into global superstars. But once I was hooked, I went back and discovered this more bluesy version of the band and I really liked it.

And if you want to know why I liked this Mark 1 version of the band as much as the more glam version, you would do well to check out Come an’ Get It because it is a great primer for music fans to discover the roots of Whitesnake itself.

There is barely a slow down on the album’s ten track running order and even the songs that start out a bit slower tend to end up rocking your socks off. You have to start off with the vocals from David Coverdale whenever you write about Whitesnake and this time is no different. The smoky sound to his voice is by now pretty recognizable but on this album in particular there is also an almost gleeful streak in his performance. This is particularly evident on the less than subtle lyrics for a song like “Would I Lie To You”. Coverdale just seems to be having a ball as he whips his way through the vocals.

The guitar work on each track is just outstanding. Bernie Marsden and Micky Moody formed a pretty potent duo during their time in Whitesnake and every time I listen to any of the material they played on I am reminded of that.

The album opens with the title track and immediately you are transported back to that late 70’s hard rock sound. (Yes, the album was put out in 1981 but it was still steeped in that 70’s sound that made classic rock CLASSIC!) Despite the song’s uptempo pacing, I found that the next song “Hot Stuff” actually rocked a little bit more.

Of course, it isn’t just hit you in the face with one riff after another on this album. The band provides a real sweet groove rocker in “Lonely Days, Lonely Nights”. That same kind of sound is apparent once more on Side Two’s “Girl” as well.

The closing song on Come an’ Get It has that slightly slower start to it that I mentioned above, but the band switches gears midstream and then they just blaze their way to the end with some slick rocking guitars being anchored by Neil Murray’s bass and the rhythm behind the drum kit from Pace.

Surprisingly, this is just scratching the surface of just how much I enjoyed this album. Though as I write that, I can’t say that this is a surprise to me. I’ve been listening to this album a lot over the years. I know that I said Jeff had sent me this album, which is the one I listened to in order to write this piece. But I actually did have this one in my own collection already.

And while I love the flat out rocking “Don’t Break My Heart Again” a whole lot, even that song pales in my estimation to my favorite two songs on this album. The first is the side two opener “Child of Babylon”. If you listen to Whitesnake long enough, you realize that there is always at least one song on their releases that would qualify for the descriptor “epic”. And “Child Of Babylon” is definitely that song for Come an’ Get It.

I’m not even quite sure how to fully write about the song. It just captures your imagination from start to finish and makes you feel as if you are witnessing something that is bigger than you could’ve imagined. I’ve loved a lot of the Whitesnake epics in the past but “Child of Babylon” stands out as one their absolute best.

But without a shadow of a doubt, my favorite song is at the total opposite of the musical spectrum. That song is “Wine, Women An’ Song”. I suppose the more snobbish side of music fans would dismiss the song as trite but there is just something about this song that struck me as being the perfect encapsulation of good time rock and roll party songs. The keyboards from Jon Lord have a huge presence in the mix and both Marsden and Moody get to lay out a solo. But what made this song more than just another kind of “cock rock” track to me is the way Coverdale performs it. I know you are supposed to be more interested in the “tongue-in-cheek” aspect of the band’s lyrics, but there’s really none of that here. Everything is pretty overt and it’s Coverdale’s devil-may-care infectious attitude that made the song a winner from the first lyrical line. And he tells you straight up that “You can tell me it’s wrong, but I love wine, women an’ song”.

I get a cheeky little thrill every time I hear this song and much like the rest of the album, it provides ample evidence that if you only know Whitesnake from the 80’s metal days that brought them multi-platinum success you are only getting half of the story. For me at least, Come an’ Get It is a fantastic representation of the best of the early version of Whitesnake and I will continue to play this album for many more years to come.

 NOTES OF INTEREST: The 2007 remastered edition of Come an’ Get It had an additional 6 bonus tracks included. They were demos and alternate takes of songs from the original track listing.

“Would I Lie To You” was a Top 20 single in the UK in 1981.