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The Cassette Chronicles – House of Lords’ ‘Demons Down’

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.

HOUSE OF LORDS – DEMONS DOWN (1992)

Recorded and released in 1992 just as the grunge era was beginning and effectively killing off the 80’s metal movement, the third studio album from House of Lords was pretty much ignored by both the music world at large and by myself as well.

I had pretty much moved on from the band at this particular point in time. And I’ve never heard the Demons Down album until listening to it for this article. As it turns out, I really missed out on a solidly entertaining album.

Singer James Christian and keyboardist Gregg Giuffria recorded the album with a reconstituted lineup that featured Tommy Aldridge (Whitesnake, Black Oak Arkansas) on drums, Sean McNabb (Quiet Riot) on bass and Dennis Chick on guitar (for reasons passing understanding, the guitarist was billed solely as “Chick” on the album’s liner notes).

The Demons Down album opened with a couple of songs that featured overtly religious sounding lyrics. However, there was a contrast between the two songs that made one enjoyable and the other one not so much. On the opening track “O Father”, while the overall feel of the song was done well enough, the lyrics/vocal performance came off as overly preachy. For someone like me that has as little to do with religion as possible, it was a little too much for me to fully enjoy the song.

But then came the title track as a follow up. And while that one still featured an in your face sense of the religious in the song’s lyrical content, they came off more as a storytelling device rather than a protracted screed. When they combined it with a bluesy musical score that eventually blew out to a more rocking style, there was just something to the song that made it a special bit of music.

I have to hand it to the band, they even managed to craft a solidly entertaining power ballad with “What’s Forever For”. Musically, the song is kind of what you would expect from the time of its release. But lyrically, the viewpoint of the song is coming from the end of a relationship rather than the start of one or the besotted state of romantic feelings in the midst of one. I don’t know, maybe the song just caught me right, but it was a very good track.

The song “Talk About Love” was musically invigorating particularly towards the end of the song, but I found “Spirit Of Love”, the closing song to the first side of the album to be little more than a pedestrian run through and would likely skip the song whenever I next listen to the album.

The first song on the album’s second side is “Down, Down, Down” and while the song title might not be anything special, the little guitar solo that opens it was pretty interesting. There’s a heavier musical sound to the track with a gritty set of almost vicious sounding lyrics. I really liked this song except to point out that the backing vocals tended to get a little drowned out with all that was going on musically.

There’s little nice to be said about the song “Inside You”. It was a complete chore to get through this song as it was a morass of pomposity that I’d think would be way too much for even the most die hard House of Lords fan to take more than once. It was just flat out BAD!

However, the band did itself proud with two fast paced straight forward rockers on this side of the album. “Johnny’s Got A Mind Of His Own” is a shot of pure rocking energy and the car driving down the open highway nature of “Metallic Blue” featured a tempo that matched perfectly with the song’s lyrical bent. These two tracks were wildly entertaining to my ears.

The album closer, “Can’t Fight Love”, is another uptempo song that ends up bringing Demons Down to a rousing finish, letting the album finish with a flourish not a whimper.

I wrote about the band’s Sahara album back in October 2018 and said that I thought it was one of my favorite albums that I’d written about doing this series. As much as it surprises me to say this, I think I’d have to include Demons Down (despite those two songs I didn’t like) in that category as well. Because when the band is on fire, their songs just reach out and grab you. In retrospect, I’m finding that I’d likely have enjoyed House of Lords a lot if I’d only stayed with them throughout the entirety of their career.

 NOTES OF INTEREST: Dennis Chick would go on to join Ex-White Lion singer Mike Tramp’s group Freak of Nature and play on both of that band’s studio releases.

Backing vocalists on Demons Down included Fiona, David Glen Eisley and Kiss singer Paul Stanley. Stanley was featured on the song “Can’t Fight Love”.

The Cassette Chronicles – L.A. Guns 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.

 L. A. GUNS – L. A. GUNS (1988)

Say what you want about the long and winding (and ever so confusing) road that the band L.A. Guns has found itself on over the 30 plus years of its existence, they really had it all going for them on this first album.

If you paid any attention to the Los Angeles metal scene in the 1980’s, you know all about the birth of the band, so I’m not going to rehash that here. Instead I want to focus on the album itself.

The eleven tracks show the band as a down and dirty gritty rock and roll band. While they might never have attained the commercial peaks as some of their counterparts, this debut is chock full of great music.

The funny thing about that statement is that try as I might, I can’t remember why this was the only album that I ever bought from the band. Nor can I recall why I probably haven’t listened to it in nearly 30 years either. I bought the album on cassette when it first came out but it disappeared from my collection and I never bothered to get it back until I started gathering material for this series.

So you can imagine how delighted I was to be kind of experiencing the music again like it was the first time.

The first side of the album bursts out of the speakers with a real kick in the pants rocker in “No Mercy”. In fact, the band rarely takes their foot off the gas on the album with the exception of the ballad track, which by 1988 was pretty much a required element for any band releasing material.

L.A. Guns (which featured Phil Lewis on vocals, Tracii Guns and Mick Cripps on guitar, Kelly Nickels on bass and Steve Riley on drums) rocketed through what can only be described as some of their now-classic tracks like the immensely satisfying “Sex Action” (no pun intended there), “One More Reason” and “Electric Gypsy”. Great songs one and all.

Side two opened with “Bitch Is Back” (an original track, not a cover of the Elton John song), which given how the band is situated now, comes off sounding like the perfect song to open their live sets.

That song feeds into the instrumental “Cry No More” and the aforemention ballad track, “One Way Ticket’.  This is normally where I’d tell you how I nearly vomited with how wimpy and sugary the song was but in a welcome twist in the tale, I loved the instrumental which had a really strong and cool sound to it. As for “One Way Ticket”, it was more of a power ballad and in all honesty, it kind of rocked. In terms of emotional content in a song, this one was chock full of it. I particularly enjoyed the vocal expression/performance from Phil Lewis. It is a killer track!

After that bit of an emotive slowdown, the band kicks the pace up with three highly charged rockers to close out the album. “Hollywood Tease”, “Shoot For Thrills” and “Down In The City” are all pretty decent songs overall, but I do think they are just a bit of a TINY step down from the rest of the songs on the album.

So while it has been a long time since I have heard the L.A. Guns album, I was pleased to discover all over again that the band had a raw and raucous sound that manages to catch your ear and get your blood pumping. I had quite the enjoyable experience listening to this album and if you haven’t listened to this one lately, you’d be well advised to give the album a new spin!

NOTES OF INTEREST: While Steve Riley was listed as the drummer on the debut album, it was Nickey Alexander who played the drum parts for it. He left the band before the release of the album. He would later guest on the band’s Vicious Circle album and spent two years playing with The Cramps as well.

Rock Candy Records reissued the L.A. Guns album in 2012.

I mentioned the long and winding road for the band. For years there has been bad blood between the various members and two different versions of the band. Steve Riley and Phil Lewis had one version for years while Tracii Guns fronted the 2nd version. However, Lewis and Guns reunited to release a new L.A. Guns album called The Missing Peace in 2017. (The album is actually quite good) and will release The Devil You Know sometime in 2019. This version of the band will be playing a local show in my area (New Bedford, MA) in the Vault at Greasy Luck on Saturday, April 13, 2019. Meanwhile, Steve Riley’s version of the band will be appearing at this year’s M3 Festival in Maryland.

The Cassette Chronicles – Black ‘N Blue’s self-titled debut

By JAY ROBERTS

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

BLACK ‘N BLUE – BLACK ‘N BLUE (1984)

Welcome to another year of The Cassette Chronicles. The third year of this series will now be coming to you on (Throwback) Thursday but you can bet that I’ll still be reflecting back on a variety of rock, pop and heavy metal albums throughout the year.

We’re starting the year off with an album that will be marking its 35th anniversary later this summer. Of course, given that 1984 was a pretty important year musically, I’m sure I’ll be mentioning that in more than just this particular article. So let’s get things going, shall we?

The self-titled debut album from Black ‘N Blue is a bit of an odd duck for me. I’m struck by the fact that while there’s a standard hard driving rock feel to the songs, there really didn’t seem to be an overabundance of melody to a lot of the music. By this I mean, it just hit you in the face with a rock and roll attitude but somehow also comes off a little bit tuneless to my ear. It seems strange to say that but that was my initial impression. Things did get a little better, but first impressions are generally on the mark in my experience.

The album starts off with two anthems in “The Strong Will Rock” and “School Of Hard Knocks”. As I said, the band quickly establishes itself in terms of rocking out but neither song really got me overly excited. The majority of the songs on the album were written by singer Jaime St. James and Tommy Thayer (guitarist Jeff Warner, bassist Patrick Young and drummer Pete Holmes received a single co-writing credit each) so any issues I have with the overall quality of the individual tracks would be laid at their feet.

It was the song “Autoblast” that first got my attention. It come out firing fast and furious and really caught my ear. The band followed that one up with “Hold On To 18”, which has the distinction of being the only song that enjoyed any success as a single. When I heard it, it was instantly memorable but I couldn’t tell you where I’ve heard it before because I never owned this album in the past. Still, it is a pretty good and it was the song that started to turn my opinion around regarding the album as a whole.

The song “Wicked Bitch” closed out the first side of the cassette and it was a very hard rocking number.

Side two of the album opened with a cover of the Sweet song “Action”. It was also the first of four songs in a row where the shouted choruses (featuring the song title, of course) really worked better for me than on side one.

The album really had nothing in the way of soft balladry with Black ‘N Blue instead focusing their energy crafting volume driven rockers. I wasn’t crazy about “I’m The King” or the closing song “Chains Around Heaven” but “Show Me The Night” and “One For The Money” were pretty good.

Look, Black ‘N Blue is always going to be best known for being the band from which both St. James and Thayer went on to bigger and better bands/things. That’s just immutable truth. But while this is definitely a look at the band in their musical infancy, it does have some pretty special moments threaded throughout the album. It won’t be remembered as a great album, but for those music fans who like the idea of listening to a band’s entire discography as a means of doing musical genealogy, it gives you a raw and somewhat unrefined look at where the band started out from.

NOTE OF INTEREST: The album was produced by Dieter Dierks who is probably best known for his longtime association with the Scorpions and for his work with Accept as well.

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE’S TOP 10 FILMS OF 2018

Limelight Magazine viewed 83 films theatrically in 2018. This is the most films we’ve ever seen in a theater in any given year. Of these films, 74 were first run, while the rest were retro screenings of cult or modern horror classics such as It’s Alive and Ms. 45. It’s interesting to note that we viewed more female-directed features this year than at any other time. Films such as Blockers (Kay Cannon),  Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Marielle Heller), Leave No Trace (Debra Granik), The Miseducation of Cameron Post (Desiree Akhavan), The Ranger (Jenn Wexler), Revenge (Coralie Fargeat), Mary Queen of Scots (Josie Rourke) and You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay) all had females at the helm. Unfortunately, we have not seen Karen Kusuma’s The Destroyer because it was only screened in three theaters in Los Angeles and New York before the deadline for this article.

Other film highlights this year included a return to form for director Paul Schrader with First Reformed, film legends Robert Redford and Clint Eastwood giving their best performances in years in The Old Man and the Gun and The Mule respectively, and award buzz worthy documentaries (Free Solo and Will You Be My Neighbor?).

In reflecting back on the  cinematic highlights of 2018, these were our top 10 favorites. Rather than go into detail about each film, we’re only going to list them so you can discover these movies for yourself. (Disclaimer: This list is based on films I’ve seen as of Dec. 31, 2018. It could be adjusted in the future as I view other films from 2018 in early 2019).

1. A Quiet Place

2. Revenge

3. Mandy

4. Suspiria

5. Searching

6. Sicario: Day of Saldado

7. Upgrade

8. Hereditary

9. Thelma

10. You Were Never Really Here

Honorable Mentions (11-20)

11. Overlord

12. Thoroughbreds

13. The Old Man & The Gun

14. The Mule

15. Leave No  Trace

16. First Reformed

17. Can You Ever Forgive Me?

18. Annihilation

19. Widows

20. Creed 2

 

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE’S TOP 10 SOUNDTRACK SCORES OF 2018

Throughout 2018, Limelight Magazine continued its weekly “Soundtrack Saturday” series on our Facebook pages. For those who are unfamiliar with this series, we feature a different soundtrack score every Saturday from either the past or present from our collection. Since this series continues to receive positive feedback, it will resume for a fourth consecutive year in 2019.

Of the nearly 180 soundtrack scores we listened to in 2018, here are our top 10 favorites. All of these are available in physical format on CD except Upgrade which is on vinyl only.

  1. Suspiria by Thom York

2.  Mandy by Johann Johannsson

3. Searching by Torin Borrowdale

4. Halloween by John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies

5. Revenge by Rob

6. You Were Never Really Here by Jonny Greenwood

7. Sicario: Day of Soldado by Hildur Gudnadottir

8. Red Sparrow by James Newton Howard

9. Hereditary by Colin Stetson

10. [TIE] Annihilation by Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow

10. [TIE] Upgrade by Jed Palmer

THE BEST OF THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES 2018 – YEAR 2

By JAY ROBERTS

A funny thing happened…(again)

Not being accustomed to any kind of “success”, you can imagine my surprise that there seems to be a continued interest in this series. I’m happy about it of course, just surprised that my rambling thoughts have any kind of audience.

There were forty new albums covered this year and as I was assembling this list, I found it interesting that I’d only ever seen one of the groups live in concert and that wasn’t until this year. But what remains the most important aspect is the experience of discovering albums that were given short shrift or even completely ignored by me when they were first released. So I thought we’d take another look at the ten (or twelve, as the case may be) albums that made the biggest impression on me in this second year of the series. 

Thanks to everyone that has read and offered feedback on the articles.  All I can say is I’m looking forward to Year 3 of The Cassette Chronicles in 2019. It should be quite the musical thrill ride!

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

#10 [tie] – CINDERELLA – NIGHT SONGS  (1986)

#10 [tie] – CINDERELLA – LONG COLD WINTER (1988)

#9 – HUEY LEWIS AND THE NEWS – SPORTS (1983)

#8 [tie] – .38 SPECIAL – SPECIAL FORCES (1982)

#8 [tie] –  .38 SPECIAL – TOUR DE FORCE (1983) 

#7 – DANGER DANGER – SCREW IT! (1991)

#6 – TORA TORA – SURPRISE ATTACK (1989)

#5 – PRINCESS PANG – PRINCESS PANG (1989)

#4 – HEAVEN’S EDGE – HEAVEN’S EDGE (1990)

#3 – WHITE LION – MANE ATTRACTION (1991)

#2 – HOUSE OF LORDS – SAHARA (1990)

#1 – EUROPE – PRISONERS IN PARADISE (1991)