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FILMING LOCATION SPOTLIGHT – “THE GOOD SON” (1993)

On the final Friday of every month in 2021, Limelight Magazine spotlights the filming location site(s) we visited for some of our favorite (and not so favorite) films and TV shows. Today we spotlight several of the filming locations for the movie The Good Son, which was directed by Joseph Ruben. The film was released on this day in 1993. The top photo is a screen shot taken from the film while the photo underneath it is what the location looks like when I visited in March 2021. These photos were taken in Gloucester, Manchester, Marblehead, and Rockport, MA, and Newington, NH.

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – PRETTY BOY FLOYD’S ‘LEATHER BOYZ WITH ELECTRIC TOYZ”

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.

PRETTY BOY FLOYD – LEATHER BOYZ WITH ELECTRIC TOYZ (1989)

I must admit that while I’ve been aware of Pretty Boy Floyd since they first appeared on the music scene, I can’t really say I’ve got any great memory of their music. When I pulled the Leather Boyz With Electric Toyz cassette out of The Big Box of Cassettes, it marked the first time I’d ever sat down to listen to any of the band’s albums. Maybe I’d seen one of their videos on Headbanger’s Ball back in the day or heard a track on Dee Snider’s House of Hair radio show but the band just never made an impression on me.

So when I listened to this debut album from the band, I was surprised to find myself enjoying the album…a lot! Released in 1989, it has all the earmarks that you’d expect to find from a glam band of the era. Singer Steve “Sex” Summers, guitarist Kristy “Krash” Majors, bassist Vinnie Chas and drummer Kari “The Mouth” Kane have a big brassy sound, plenty of fast paced rocking tracks and the requisite power ballad. And they certainly had plenty of that “glam metal” look and style.

As far as the fast paced rocking tracks go, the band wastes no time in putting on a fiery display of bold guitar-led rock and roll. The first side of the album opens with the title track which quickly captures your ear with a catchy vibe musically and one big earworm of a chorus. The lyrics seem plenty self-referential which is a theme that shows up on a few other tracks as the album played through. I can’t rightly recall if this particular style of lyric writing was heavily predominant in 1989 or not but it did seem to work well for the band here.

The first of the two singles (with accompanying videos) that were released from the album was the song “Rock & Roll (Is Gonna Set The Night On Fire)” and it is another fast moving track that set you back on your heels a bit with its relentless pacing.

I wasn’t that crazy about the song “Wild Angels” though. It’s a slow to midtempo power ballad track that just felt a little weak to me. It wasn’t absymal as some ballads of the era were or have become over time but my notes on the song were “Eh…ok” so I’d say this would be the skip track of the album for me.

The remaining two songs on the first side of the album were pretty good though. “48 Hours” an ode to rocking out on the weekend was pretty good and Pretty Boy Floyd’s cover of the 1981 Motley Crue song “Toast Of The Town” was a nicely done remake.

When the second side of the album is played, you get five straight songs that gives Leather Boyz With Electric Toyz that much more of a memorable edge. “Rock And Roll Outlaws” and “The Last Kiss” are straight forward rockers that will get you pumping your fists like a madman.

The band’s second single was, unsurprisingly for the times, the power ballad “I Wanna Be With Me”. But what did surprise me about the song is how the balance between the slower pacing of the main verses and the big bold harder rocking chorus was handled perfectly. It was a really decent track. I will say that using the song to close the album was strange but still a good song is a good song no matter where it places in the running order.

The song “Your Mama Won’t Know” is an over-the-top burner of a track. While the character embodied by Summers in the vocals is trying to talk what I can only assume is some girl into “fooling around”, the rest of the band puts on an incredibly razor sharp and blitzing musical onslaught.

The surprise track of the second side of the album for me was “Only The Young”. No, this is not a cover of the Journey track of the same name. What got me was the way the song starts out as more of a ballad. And not a particularly interesting one. I was THIS CLOSE to kind of tuning out. But then the song suddenly burst out into a full bore rocker and the song got a lot better. In the end, despite that stiff start, I quite enjoyed the song.

The Leather Boyz With Electric Toyz turned out to be a lot less successful than anyone involved with the creation and release of the album had to be hoping for. It peaked at #130 on the Billboard album chart in 1989. However, what I found (however long delayed) was that whatever the album and band lacked in terms of sales, the music was highly entertaining and definitely worthy of giving it another listen if you haven’t checked out the first Pretty Boy Floyd album in a while.

NOTES OF INTEREST: Pretty Boy Floyd broke up in 1991 but they’ve gotten back together a couple of times and are still active (with a host of lineup changes) today. Original bassist Vinnie Chas passed away in 2010.

Leather Boyz With Electric Toyz was the first of three full-length studio albums from Pretty Boy Floyd. Size Really Does Matter came out in 2004 and Public Enemies was released in 2017. There has been one EP and two live releases as well.

The 2003 reissue of Leather Boyz With Electric Toyz came with 5 bonus tracks. A second reissue came  in 2011 which had a cover of the Alice Cooper song “Department Of Youth” included. Cooper is one of four artists thanked in the original liner notes.

ROCKIN’ 4 VETS SERIES TO FEATURE BARRY GOUDREAU, JAMES MONTGOMERY & JON BUTCHER

By CHRISTOPHER TREACY

The Coronavirus Pandemic has been rough for just about everybody, but folks that work in event-related fundraising have especially been feeling the squeeze. It was enough to make Rockin’ 4 Vets founder Jim Tirabassi reevaluate his sense of purpose.

But in the end, he doubled down: he’s got three music fundraisers to benefit homeless veterans scheduled through early fall.

Just before the late winter lockdown of 2020, Tirabassi was working with friend and Saugus native Dennis Moschella on a project to send ten Vietnam vets on a weekend ‘trip of a lifetime’ to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, a.k.a. The Wall, in Washington D.C. The pandemic put the pair’s plans on hold for over a year.

Determined to see it through despite Murphy’s Law-style setbacks galore, Rockin’ 4 Vets finally produced its first gig of 2021 last month, starring John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band. Tirabassi walked away knowing the ten vets would get their trip to D.C., but he was also burdened with some new knowledge that helped him get his fundraising groove back.

“During that show, the company that does our ticketing told me a rather disturbing story,” he recalled. “It involved a Vietnam vet who’d become homeless and was living in a shelter, but his wife was unable to reside there and was forced to make other, less-than-healthy decisions about where to live. They’ve since found housing together; not the greatest, but an improvement. But this story was very concerning to me since I’ve had a place to put my head at night and food if I’m hungry, even during the toughest times in my life. Our vets deserve better.”

If there’s one thing Tirabassi’s never short on, it’s talented musicians who are eager to help. The upcoming trio of shows will feature Boston co-founder Barry Goudreau’s band Engine Room (Sept. 25), James Montgomery Band’s 50th Anniversary show (Oct. 2), and revered Beantown ax-man Jon Butcher, with special guest Sal Baglio from the legendary Stompers (Oct. 9). All three shows will be outdoors at the Kowloon on Rte. 1 in Saugus.

Barry Goudreau (Submitted Photo)

“It’s been a privilege having been successful in the music business and being able to continue to write and perform new music,” Goudreau said of his latest project. “It’s also a privilege to be able to do what I can for the veterans who volunteered to serve our country and make it possible for the success I’ve enjoyed. I hope folks come out to these shows to support our veterans and enjoy an afternoon of rockin’ good music in a wonderful setting.”

For Tirabassi, however, getting to this point was a journey unto itself.

“During the 2020 shutdown, I debated the idea, purpose, and overall identification of my organization,” he explained, referring to the newly renamed Rockin’ 4 Vets — formerly V is for Veterans — which he’d founded some years earlier.

“I eventually came to the decision that I needed to identify a more specific set of causes to attempt to assist and to rename the organization to better reflect how, exactly, it raises funds. To that end, the name was changed to Rockin’ 4 Vets since all the events have been live concerts.”

Tirabassi has spent the better part of his adult years moving back and forth from the east coast and warmer locations, feeling the alternating pull of the private job market and his music industry connections, which date back to the 1970s.

“In the late 70s, while in L.A., I did some booking for Steppenwolf, The Grass Roots, and The Guess Who,” he said. “When I got back to Peabody, I started working on the production end of shows — sound, lights, and staging — for local and regional talent. To be honest, it was the kind of life you had to love since there wasn’t much money in it. I’d periodically leave it to take better-paying work and then feel like I was missing out on a hard-to-finger level of excitement. It must’ve come from taking pride in a job well done because I was pretty disconnected from the crowds. It was behind-the-scenes work.” 

Tirabassi’s small-time production work eventually landed him bigger touring jobs with Foghat, Badfinger, The Outlaws, and others. The lure of being involved in the staging of live music has never left him, so it makes perfect sense that his fundraising endeavors would be rock’n’roll-related.

It also makes perfect sense that Boston-area blues legend James Montgomery would be involved. Montgomery has often used his music to raise funds throughout his long and storied career, beginning in the Vietnam era. His mother served in the Women’s Army Corps in Europe during World War II, and his father fought in Okinawa. Safe to say, the issues that face veterans returning from duty are at the forefront of his consciousness, and fundraising has been a facet of his music almost from the beginning.

James Montgomery (Submitted Photo)

Tirabassi and Montgomery have worked together on various projects since the 70s, and it was from their relationship the ideas behind Tirabassi’s organization initially came alive.

Joining Montgomery for his 50th Anniversary celebration on Oct. 2 will be gritty soul shouter Barrance Whitfield and former U.S. Senator/Ambassador Scott Brown on guitar.

“It’s always an honor to play with James Montgomery and his All-Stars,” Brown enthused. “I’ve been a fan for decades. I’m even more impressed with the amazing philanthropic work James does for our veterans. I encourage you all to come out to a great concert for a great cause. Come out and make a difference!”

Tickets for all shows are $35.00 in advance and $40.00 at the door, available individually or at a discount for a series package. They will also be offering VIP packages. For more details, click HERE.

100% of all profits from this series will go to area veterans organizations in the area dealing with the vets homeless crisis.

These are outdoor concerts. Gates will open at 1:00 PM, and music starts at 2:00 PM.

Jon Butcher (Sumitted Photo)

FIREHOUSE TO PERFORM AT VAULT MUSIC HALL IN NEW BEDFORD, MA

Rock band FireHouse will be appearing at the Vault Music Hall in New Bedford, MA, on Saturday, November 20th for their only New England date of 2021. Boston-based rock trio Stormstress open the show. This concert is presented by JKB Entertainment Group. Purchase tickets HERE.

FireHouse rose to fame with their self-titled debut album, FireHouse, in 1990. The band’s first single, “Shake & Tumble,” had impressive radio success. The band then released their first bonafide hit, “Don’t Treat Me Bad,” followed by “Love of a Lifetime,” and “All She Wrote.” This string of hits vaulted their first album to double-platinum status in the United States while also going gold in Canada, Japan and Singapore.

The band’s second album, Hold Your Fire, produced the hits “Reach for the Sky” and “Sleeping with You.” Another Top Ten hit, “When I Look into Your Eyes,” peaked on the United States charts at #8. This album earned the band two more gold albums and over one million sales worldwide.

In 1995, FireHouse released their third album, simply titled 3. Once again, FireHouse produced another U.S. top-forty hit with “I Live My Life For You.” With this album, FireHouse made their promotional tour of Southeast Asia.

As the 1990s progressed, the band released Good Acoustics in 1996 and Category 5 in 1998.

The turn of the century brought their sixth release O2 followed by Prime Time in 2003 and Full Circle in 2011.

As music changes over time, FireHouse continues to evolve their musical style; yet, at the same time, hang onto their hard rock roots. Expect to hear what FireHouse is famous for…soulful, melodic hard rock.

The Vault is located at 791 Purchase Street in New Bedford, MA. The venue is set within a former bank building featuring original vault doors and a truly historic feel. Patrons have raved about the superior acoustics and intimate setting.

Please note that one MUST BE 21 or OLDER with Valid ID for Entry.

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – TESLA’S ‘THE GREAT RADIO CONTROVERSY’

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.

TESLA – THE GREAT RADIO CONTROVERSY (1989)

It’s been a while since I popped in my copy of the Tesla album The Great Radio Controversy and I really don’t know why that is. But what I do know is that when it was released in 1989, it made a huge impression on me. What got me to put this cassette on and write about it now was that I’ve been watching videos on this guy Brendon Snyder’s YouTube channel and one of the videos he did was a ranking of Tesla’s studio albums. It got me thinking about my own collection of the band’s albums and the realization that I hadn’t spent a lot of time listening to the band in a while. And so, it was time to rectify that situation and get an article out of it at the same time.

While Tesla broke through in the decade of “hair bands”, they were never really part of that particular scene. And that was fine with me. I love various bands that made their bones putting on makeup and using Aquanet, but it wasn’t the only stripe of music I appreciated even in the midst of the decade where heavy metal ruled the world.

But as much as I loved the album back then, as I listen to it now I find that I have an even greater appreciation for it.

You can’t accuse the band of skimping on material here either, because there’s a monster thirteen songs on the album with nary a bad one in the bunch. The Great Radio Controversy had four singles released from the album and they ran the gamut from pure ballsy hard rock to the purely sentimental and appropriately titled “Love Song”.

The first side of the album features two of band’s single releases from the album. The first is the album opening “Hang Tough”, an in-your-face hard rocking track that is still instantly memorable all these years later. In fact, I found myself singing along with each song on the album despite not having listened to it in full for quite a while. You just don’t forget these songs! Oddly enough, I didn’t fully realize I was singing along word-for-word it until I was three songs into the album.

You get relentlessly paced rockers like “Lady Luck”, “Did It For The Money” and “Yesterdaze Gone”. Each song features an explosive musical soundtrack combined with singer Jeff Keith’s distinctively raspy vocals powering over the top of the music. Besides Jeff Keith, the lineup of Frank Hannon, Tommy Skeoch, Brian Wheat and Troy Luccketta are in top notch form throughout this album.

While “Lazy Days, Crazy Nights” is a bit more restrained in terms of tempo the song still packs a heavy punch. The other single from Side One is the song “Heaven’s Trail” (No Way Out)”. While “Love Song” may have given Tesla its biggest charting hit, it was this song that gave their hard rocking side the most visibility at the time. It’s a huge song and the use of slide guitar on the song’s intro and outro gave the song a bit of a different spin to help make it that much more memorable.

But I have to say my favorite song on Side One (and by extension the entire album) is “Be A Man”. It’s another fast moving rocker but it was the lyrics for the song that really hit home with me. If you listen to the song, I think you’ll understand why I liked the song so much.

The second side of The Great Radio Controversy starts off in a similar fashion as the first side did. Like “Hang Tough”, the song “Makin’ Magic” is a balls-to-the-wall rocker that gets you pumped up like you wouldn’t believe. That leads into another of the album’s singles with the song “The Way It Is”. While quite as hard driving as “Makin’ Magic”, it still holds its own as a rocking number.

I’ve mentioned “Love Song” a couple of times already in this article but I found that when I listened to the song here, it managed to retain the good feelings I had about it when it was originally released. The song hit #10 on the singles chart and I still like it to this day. The song has a longer than usual intro before getting to the main part of the song. And while it is overtly sentimental, it leaves out the excessive sappy feeling which lets the song age like a fine wine and remain an appreciated classic.

What really got me on Side Two was what would be considered the “album tracks”. “Paradise” starts off much slower, in a kind of mood setting musical exploration. Then as the song progresses it becomes a deeper and heavier tone until it finally just spills over into a huge rocking monster of a track. The album closing “Party’s Over” doesn’t waste any time on a build up. It just rocks out from the first note to last and brings the album to a fitting crescendo that leaves you eager to just listen to the album all over again.

All that said, the most surprising thing to me was the newfound love I discovered for the song “Flight To Nowhere”. I liked the song a lot when the album came out, my immature love of any song that used swears as lyrics saw to that initially. However, as I listened to it now, I saw it for the blazingly hot music featured in the song. It’s got the fire and fury you’d hope for but for a hard rock band, they give you one hell of a monstrously good “heavy metal” song. There’s no holding back on this song. The music is relentless and Jeff Keith’s vocal performance is out of this world!

I had heard songs from Tesla’s debut album Mechanical Resonance on the radio when it was released, but at the time I didn’t get around to buying the album. I didn’t get it until I heard The Great Radio Controversy and had been newly cast as a big fan of Tesla. So it was this second album from the band that served as my gateway to their music. As I listen to the album in the here and now, I’m reminded of just how important a release The Great Radio Controversy was for the band as it launched them into the stratosphere in 1989 and continues to resonate with their fanbase decades later and leaves Tesla in a position where they are still always ready to kick ass!

NOTES OF INTEREST: The Great Radio Controversy was certified double platinum. The liner notes for the album contain a brief summary about the fight over whether Nikola Tesla or Guglielmo Marconi was the actual inventor of radio. That fight serves as the inspiration behind the title of the album.

While guitarist Tommy Skeoch hasn’t been with the band since 2006, the rest of the lineup that made this album (with the addition of guitarist Dave Rude) are active today.

Among those thanked in the liner notes of The Great Radio Controversy are Def Leppard, David Lee Roth, Alice Cooper and Night Ranger.

I knew that I had seen Tesla in concert twice but until I checked my list I didn’t remember that both times were in support of The Great Radio Controversy. I saw them open for Poison in Worcester, MA. Tesla blew the headliners off the stage. I saw Tesla the second time when they were doing a co-headlining tour with Great White. They were alternating nights as the closing act and when I saw them at Great Woods (now the Xfinity Center) in Mansfield, MA, it was Tesla’s night as the headliner. With Badlands serving as the opening act, it was a huge triple bill of hard rock and each band was on fire that night.

SCENES FROM “THE PINK FLOYD EXHIBITION: THEIR MORTAL REMAINS”

On September 3, 2021, Limelight Magazine attended The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains at the Vogue Multicultural Center in downtown Los Angeles. The exhibition celebrates Pink Floyd’s place in history as the world’s cultural landscape changed throughout the 1960s and beyond. The band occupied a distinctive experimental space and was the foremost exponent of a psychedelic movement that changed the understanding of music forever, becoming one of the most important groups in contemporary music. The exhibit runs through January 9, 2022.

Filmmaker and author Adam P. Cray represented Limelight Magazine at the exhibit. Here are some photos he captured of the multimedia experience.

Winger to perform in New Bedford, MA, on Nov. 20th

UPDATED 9/16/21 – Due to unforeseen circumstances, JKB Entertainment Group/Limelight Magazine’s concert with Winger on Saturday, November 20, 2021, with special guest Stormstress, has been postponed. Everyone is working towards confirming a new date on a Saturday night in April 2022. All previous, valid tickets will be honored on the new date.   

While we will refund anyone who requests one, we kindly ask that you hold on to your tickets until the new date is announced. We’re hoping this will not take very long.

In the meantime, we are excited to announce that we have filled this date with the band FireHouse. Stormstress will also open this show. Tickets will go on-sale soon.

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If there is one hard rock band that always delivers, it’s Winger. The band, which formed in 1987, will be appearing at the Vault Music Hall in New Bedford, MA, on Saturday, November 20th. It’s their only New England date of 2021. Boston-based rock trio Stormstress open the show. This concert is presented by JKB Entertainment Group. Purchase tickets HERE.

Since their formation, Winger soared to immediate success with their 1988 self-titled release. The album spawned the hit singles “Seventeen” and “Headed For A Heartbreak” and achieved platinum sales status. Winger also stayed on the Billboard Top 200 chart for over 60 weeks where it peaked at #21. Their next album, In The Heart Of The Young, also achieved platinum status and contained the singles “Can’t Get Enuff” and “Miles Away”. The change in musical climate of the mid-90’s, compounded with unprovoked ridicule on MTV’s popular Beavis and Butthead, led the band to go on hiatus in 1994 following the release of their critically acclaimed third album Pull. In 2001, the band reunited and have not looked back since.

Winger continues to make a name for themselves with relentless touring, and recent studio albums IV, Karma and Better Days Comin’ shows the band on top of their game, winning back fans and critics alike because of their exceptional musicianship, Kip Winger’s powerful vocals, and the band’s incredible songwriting. Winger’s resurgence in popularity has seen the hard rock four-piece break back into Billboard’s Top 100 and in 2016 Grammy nominee Kip Winger hit #1 on Billboard and iTunes charts with his debut classical music album Conversations with Nijinsky.

According to Classic Rock Magazine, “This is a band who refuse to merely glide on past glories…Winger push their own boundaries.” Don’t miss Winger at The Vault Music Hall on Nov. 20th.

The Vault is located at 791 Purchase Street in New Bedford, MA. The venue is set within a former bank building featuring original vault doors and a truly historic feel. Patrons have raved about the superior acoustics and intimate setting.

Please note that one MUST BE 21 or OLDER with Valid ID for Entry.

FILMING LOCATION SPOTLIGHT – “LET’S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH” (1971)

On the final Friday of every month in 2021, Limelight Magazine spotlights the filming location site(s) we visited for some of our favorite (and not so favorite) films and TV shows. Since today marks the 50th anniversary of the release of Let’s Scare Jessica To Death (1971), here are some of the filming locations for the movie. The top photo is a screen shot taken from the film while the photo underneath it is what the location looks like when I visited in May 2021. These photos were taken at various towns in Connecticut.

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – RATT ‘DETONATOR’

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.

RATT – DETONATOR (1990)

As with the previous four articles I’ve written in The Cassette Chronicles series about various Ratt albums, Detonator is an album that I had heard a couple songs from but never purchased or listened to the full album before now.

Also like those other articles, once I listened to the album I discovered that I have done myself a grave disservice to have paid so little attention to Ratt back in the day.

While previous albums may have played with the band’s sound a bit here and there, there is no doubt that Detonator is from the full-on glam / pop metal musical vein.

The album opens with the two songs I remember hearing when it was first released. You have “Shame Shame Shame” which has a down and dirty sensibility to it. Uptempo with a bit of a sleaze rock vibe in the performance, it also has quite the catchy sound to the song as well.

I’ve listened to “Lovin’ You’s A Dirty Job” on the radio a lot over the years but as I listened to it for this article I really dug myself into the lyrical component of the song. While the lyrics are pretty straight forward in terms of being sex-drenched, I came away with a renewed appreciation of just how they were crafted with a fluidity that made the entire vocal performance flow so smoothly. I came away thinking that despite the song being one of the best known songs on the album, it is actually a bit underrated.

After those two songs, the rest of Side One is all album tracks and I have to say I was pretty impressed with the songs “Scratch That Itch” and “One Step Away”. The former cut had the requisite rock and roll tempo and it just kind of immediately attaches itself to your ears. But it was “One Step Away” that really drew me in. There’s a hook to the music that got me humming along to it. The song just has a great overall sound and I found myself hooked to the storyline of the lyrical content. Stephen Pearcy did a really exemplary job with the vocal on this one.

I will say that I wasn’t overly taken with the side closing “Hard Time”. It’s a rocking track but it feels a bit one-note to me. Still, that’s a pretty damn good first side of an album.

The second side of Detonator is a pretty good companion to Side One. It opens with “Heads I Win, Tails You Lose” and I really liked the vibe the band created with the track. In fact, by the time the album winds up with “Top Secret”, the entirety of Side Two had me seriously regretting waiting over 30 years to hear the full Detonator album.

“Top Secret” rocks pretty fiercely and draws you in, much like “Can’t Wait On Love”. That song title may have you thinking it is a ballad, but instead it is a lively rocker that I enjoyed so much that I think it could’ve been a damn fine single for the band.

There’s a rhythmic swing to the musical performance on “All Or Nothing” and this is another track where (during the main lyrical verses) where vocalist Stephen Pearcy steps up to another level with his performance.

According to the album’s Wikipedia entry, the song “Givin’ Yourself Away” is the band’s only “power ballad”.  It was weird to think they’d never done an out and out ballad in that style before. But I guess the fact it turned out so well means it was just the right time to do a ballad. The song moves a lot slower than the album’s rocker tracks, but it doesn’t get bogged down and become a musical drag. I thought there was a real sense of sincerity to the performance and the song ended up being a pretty cool track that I do want to hear again.

To the best of my knowledge, Detonator is the last Ratt album that was released on cassette. (Yes, I might be wrong.) So this article would be the end of the series within a series. And that ending brings me to the conclusion that despite my general dismissiveness of the band other than their radio singles did an injustice to Ratt and to myself. The band, as it turns out, has a wealth of great material beyond the singles and I’m glad to have found my way to a fuller appreciation of Ratt’s catalog all these years later.

Detonator is a fabulous album with nary a mis-step that captures the band in fine form. There’s a continually renewed energetic rocking vibe throughout the album that will capture your ear and make you long for the days when metal still ruled the music world.

NOTES OF INTEREST – The Detonator album was certified gold.

Detonator was the last album bassist Juan Croucier appeared on before he left the band in 1992. He returned to the band in 2012 and has been part of the lineup in full since 2016. This was also the last album to feature guitarist Robbin Crosby before his death in 2002.

Jon Bon Jovi sang backing vocals on the “Heads I Win, Tails You Lose” track.

The only Ratt album I haven’t written about it their full length debut Out Of The Cellar. I might put an epilogue on this series of Ratt articles by writing about it at some point but given how much I’ve enjoyed the rest of the albums, I’m almost afraid that my opinion of it may change and then where will I be?

Magazine advertisement for Ratt’s Detonator

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – METAL CHURCH’S ‘BLESSING IN DISGUISE’

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.

Photo shared from Rat Pak Records Facebook page dated July 27 at 10:30 AM.

METAL CHURCH – BLESSING IN DISGUISE (1989)

At the time this article is published it will be a little over two weeks since the sudden and shocking death of Metal Church singer Mike Howe. He passed away on July 26th, 2021, and when I woke up the next morning to learn of that news, I couldn’t help but feel personally devastated. After the cause of death was reported as a suicide, it felt like being hit by a double whammy. I’ve tried to come up with some sort of understanding about what could possibly have been going on with Mike Howe that would lead him to this decision. But I really haven’t found the right way to string words together for this article. Platitudes are terrible because it is just another word for “cliches”. And the five stages of grief might account for some of the ideas I had wanted to work into this introduction, but expressing “denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance” seems a bit hackneyed from someone who didn’t really know the man outside of what I saw as a fan of his work with Metal Church.

While it may seem strange to be that affected by the death of someone I didn’t ACTUALLY know, the fact that I am such a huge fan of both the band as a whole and of Mike Howe’s work with them, left me spending the day after his death in somewhat of a haze. I broke out all the albums he made with Metal Church and played them in a musical tribute to his passing. But it didn’t feel like it was enough.

So I decided to do another Cassette Chronicles article on a Metal Church album as a way of paying a somewhat longer tribute to Mike Howe. I’d written about the Hanging In The Balance album back in April 2020. That was the third album the band recorded with Mike Howe as frontman and featured one of my all-time favorite tracks, “The Conductor”.

But for this article, I decided to take a look back at Blessing In Disguise, the first album from Metal Church to feature Mike Howe as their singer. But this won’t be just a look back at the album, I wanted to share a couple of stories so after each side of the album, that’s what I’m going to do.

Before talking about Side One of Blessing In Disguise, I should mention that when I looked the album up online, I was surprised to learn that it got mixed reviews upon release. The reason this blew me away is because I remember thinking it was a fantastic album through and through from the very first time I heard the album.

The funny thing about that is that I didn’t get the album when it was first released. Back in 1989, it wasn’t like we had the instantaneous news announcements like we do now. I didn’t even know the album was coming out until I saw the video for the song “Badlands” on MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball. But who was this new singer they had? With that mane of long blonde hair and a powerfully dynamic and ballsy vocal style, Mike Howe made an immediate impression with me. As for the “Badlands” song, I’ll talk more about that a little later.

I will say that seeing the video for the song prompted me to go out and buy the album as soon as I could. When I got the album (the cassette I listened to for this article is that very same one I bought three decades ago), I popped it in and the first thing I heard was the big booming drum fueled intro to the song “Fake Healer”. I was immediately hooked by the song, a venomously heavy track that takes the hypocrisy of the business of healthcare to task in such an on point way that it is still relevant to this day. The song is one of the two best known tracks (the other being “Badlands”) from the Blessing In Disguise album.

Since Metal Church is not glam metal by any stretch of the imagination, there aren’t a whole lot of songs about babes, booze, and partying. Instead, a lot of their songs touch on hot button topics like with “Fake Healer” or in the case of “Rest In Pieces (April 15, 1912”), a hard-hitting account of the night the Titanic sank. Iron Maiden is likely the preeminent band to touch on a lot of historical subjects in their work but Metal Church sure does themselves proud with this track.

While guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof had left the active lineup of the band, he was very involved in the songwriting for Blessing In Disguise. Vanderhoof’s replacement in the lineup, John Marshall acquitted himself nicely with the four songs he co-wrote, as did guitarist Craig Wells. I was pretty blown away with the lyrics Marshall wrote for “Of Unsound Mind” which is based off of the Edgar Allen Poe story “A Tell-Tale Heart”. The song is a fast paced blitzkrieg with a killer vibe and you feel like you are right there, hearing that heartbeat you shouldn’t be able to as the band rockets through the track.

The closing song on Side One is called “Anthem To The Estranged” and at the time of the album’s original release, it was the longest track the band had ever recorded. Well over nine minutes in length, the song kicks off with a spare acoustic guitar accompanying Mike Howe’s vocals. It’s a very slow moving track for the first two minutes or so but then the song’s sonic palette expands and gets a heavier intensity to it as it builds its thematic elements to a cinematic level. The tempo switches back and forth between the softer and heavier side of the musical equation and by the time it finishes, you have one classically epic song on your hands.

And that’s Side One for you. Now, I wanted to take a moment and talk about the first time I got to see Metal Church in concert. It was in 1989 in Boston and they were the opening act on W.A.S.P.’s tour for their Headless Children album. With Accept as the middle act, this was a triple bill I was very excited to see. While the show had been originally scheduled for The Orpheum Theater, it got moved to The Citi Club which shared Landsdowne Street with Fenway Park. I enjoyed the hell out of the show as all three bands were excellent to the best of my recollection. But what really made it great was before the show when I (along with my friends that I went to the show with) got to meet Metal Church. Well, four of the five guys anyway. Since this was only the second time I’d met some of my metal “heroes”, I didn’t actually have an album on me at the show. But I had some kind of paper in my wallet and along with bassist Duke Erickson, drummer Kirk Arrington and Craig Wells, I got to meet Mike Howe! The guy who filled that desolate and barren desert with his distinctive vocal tones in the video for “Badlands” was right there in front of me signing autographs and chatting with fans before the show. And what was my first impression? “Damn, he seems so tiny!” Seriously, that’s what I thought, embarrassingly enough.

But when I got to meet him, he was pretty cool. I mean, it was a brief interaction in the wild and woolly 1980’s Metal Years but he took the time to make even the briefest connection while signing my goofy piece of paper, which you can see I still have by the photo below.

As for the second side of Blessing In Disguise, it opens with “Badlands” and I swear no matter how many times I hear the song, I still get an electrostatic charge when that intro begins to play. It’s a flat out great song!

The rest of the second side is pretty amped up as well. The instrumental “It’s A Secret” is an adrenaline packed and hard-hitting number that takes your breath away with its unbridled ferocity. While I don’t consider myself a huge fan of instrumental music, I always find myself blown away when a band does an instrumental piece that makes me want to hear it over and over again.

On “The Spell Can’t Be Broken” the band lays down a brutal heaviness and infuses it with a amplied sense of speed at the same time. It’s a perfect blending of the two styles and makes the song an underrated gem.

The song “Cannot Tell A Lie” is an explosive sonic attack against the empty promises politicians make time and time again. Mike Howe delivers a blisteringly intense vocal performance with a furious growl in his vocals. The pacing is so fast that when the song ends you feel like you’ve been richocheting around the room the whole time.

The album closing “The Powers That Be” moves just as fast but there’s a slight bit of restraint in comparison to the speed driven attack of “Cannot Tell A Lie”, it allows for just a bit more of a sense of melody into the mix of the song that enlivens the track a bit differently than the preceding number and finishes the album on a high note.

Now we all know what happened after Blessing In Disguise, right? Metal Church released two more excellent albums with Mike Howe but the band split up in 1996 and Mike Howe completely left the music industry.
There’d be a couple of reunions and some great albums (I, for one, love the Ronny Munroe years) but in 2015 came the surprising announcement that after nearly two decades out of the business, Mike Howe was coming back to Metal Church! Don’t get me wrong, like I said, I was a big fan of Ronny Munroe, but the news that Mike Howe was rejoining Metal Church was incredibly exciting! But how would he sound? Well, any fears about not sounding good were laid to rest pretty quickly because not only did he sound fantastic, but it felt like he’d never left. The band released the albums XI, Classic Live and then came Damned If You Do in 2018. How much did I like all this material? Well, I got to review all three of those albums (as well as the From The Vault release that came out in 2020) for KNAC.COM and I loved them all.

But it was the tour for Damned If You Do that once again brought me into contact with Mike Howe (as well as the rest of the band). They played a show in New Bedford, MA as part of a co-headlining tour with Doro Pesch. After their set, they did a meet and greet signing at the merchandise table and I got to have another brief interaction with Howe. And it was fantastic! The long hair had been long since replaced by a shorter haircut and while he hadn’t grown to be 6 foot 5 or anything, he looked so fit that he could probably kick your ass without getting winded! While still brief, during those few moments I had to talk with him as he signed my CD, I shared the story about meeting him in 1989 and having reviewed the new album. And while he could’ve been aloof, he looked straight at me with no glazing over of his eyes and paid attention. It’s a small thing really, but it’s that kind of effort that forges a bond between the band and their fans. While I never got to take a photo with him, it’s the memories of those two meetings that I will treasure for the rest of my life.

The Blessing In Disguise album was my introduction to the vocal talents of Mike Howe. It’s a great album that ranks high amongst the band’s full discography for me. I really don’t have anything negative to say about it because it is a showcase for Metal Church at their best.

But as I listened to the album, and all the other albums that Mike Howe was a part of, I couldn’t help feel saddened that there wouldn’t be anything more from him. I don’t know what the future will hold for Metal Church as a band. I hope they continue because I’d hate to lose them. But to borrow a song title from that Hanging In The Balance album, the crushing loss of Mike Howe does feel like it is the “End Of The Age” for some reason.

On the song “Badlands”, which was the only co-writing credit Mike Howe had on Blessing In Disguise, was the following lyric:

“As the world awakens me so hard, my values have been changed
I make a promise to myself: Never again
A dusty godforsaken path, endless to my dismay
I know these are the badlands, somehow I’ll find my way.”

Since I first heard them, those four lines have served as a kind of personal motto for me. Now I don’t know if it was Mike Howe who wrote those specific four lines but he sang them and I’ve always kind of loved the fact that I could think it was him who helped give me that motto.

Mike Howe was just 55 years old when he passed away. It was far too soon for someone who had provided so much to the world of metal, but I think still had so much more to offer.

My condolences go out to Howe’s family and friends and to everyone in the metal community who, like me, feel we lost someone pretty damn special to our musical fandom.

Rest In Peace Mike Howe, you will be forever missed but your spirit will never die.

NOTES OF INTEREST: I own the Blessing In Disguise album on both cassette and CD. It was produced by Terry Date. This was the 2nd and thus far final time the band worked with him.

Mike Howe came to Metal Church from the band Heretic. Howe sang on the album the band’s album Breaking Point in 1988. The album’s producer was none other than Metal Church’s Kurdt Vanderhoof. I actually have that album on vinyl, though I got it AFTER he’d become Metal Church’s singer.

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