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Keyboard wizard Rick Wakeman to perform at the Narrows Center in Fall River, MA, on Oct. 19th

By CHRISTOPHER TREACY

Caped keyboard wizard Rick Wakeman remains an unforgettable pillar of talent within rock’s progressive canon. Most know him from his runs with The Strawbs and Yes, the latter spanning some of the band’s most celebrated material, beginning with 1971’s Fragile.

But what many may not realize is the breadth of his solo career, which boasts worldwide album sales of around 50 million. His first three solo recordings all became gold records in the States. When Wakeman overcame some persistent health problems by sobering up in the mid-80s, a mind-bogglingly prolific work ethic emerged; he’s released multiple full length recordings in most years since. Among them, he’s scored multiple films, sound-tracked video games, and even recorded his own version of Phantom of the Opera. Intermittently, he’s released updated versions of his Yes material, recorded a series of collaborations with his son, Adam, and composed multiple volumes of ambient, ‘relaxation music.” He’s also written three books.

Now, after 18 months of being locked down in the UK, Wakeman returns to the States this fall with “The Even Grumpier Old Rock Star Tour,” a delayed follow-up trek to his sold out ‘Grumpy’ tour in 2019, which brings him to the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River, MA, next Tuesday, October 19. [Purchase tickets HERE.]

It’s a grand piano tour that provides an overview of his entire career, highlighting early session work (he played on David Bowie’s “Life On Mars,” for instance, though he apparently declined an offer to join The Spiders From Mars) and his contributions to Yes while surely touching on three recent releases: Piano Portraits (2017), Piano Odyssey (2018), and The Red Planet, (2020).  

On the eve of leaving the UK, Wakeman took time out to answer a few questions for us in his inimitable, cheeky manner. He has much to celebrate, having been appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the Queen’s annual birthday honors. In chivalrous ranking—i.e., The Order of the British Empire—it’s just below knighthood.

SUBMITTED PHOTO (COPYRIGHT UMC)

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE (LM): Lockdown was awful and frightening in many ways, but, for those that managed to avoid illness and jarring financial consequences, it held its own kind of delight… an enforced rest, perhaps. And maybe, for intensely creative people, enforced restlessness. How did you fill your time?  

RICK WAKEMAN (RW): I found it terrible. I lost a few friends to the virus and it prevented performing, which is my great love. At 72, the last thing you need is an enforced rest! I wrote a lot, practiced a lot, screamed at the news a lot, and spent time walking with our rescue dogs who are great listeners when you’re constantly moaning about the mess the COVID virus has placed the world in… and I’m sure the dogs agreed!

LM: I imagine the Queen’s CBE honor is flattering. We don’t have anything quite the same over here, but it seems much more prestigious than an award, and it speaks to a lifetime of work rather than a particular recording or event. Can you talk a little about how that feels?

RW: It’s very flattering and genuinely came as a surprise as well.  There are four awards given twice a year. Knighthood is the highest honor, then the CBE, then the OBE and finally, the MBE. The CBE is usually given in recognition of the work you’ve done—in my case, music and broadcasting. I’m extremely proud of it. I’m a strong royalist and to have this approved by the Queen means a lot to me. I have had the honor of meeting most of the Royal Family, including the Queen… it’s wonderfully British. I wish my parents could have been alive to have seen this happen, but there’s good reason they are not, since my father would have been 107 and my mother 105!”

LM: Sometime in the 80s, Rolling Stone published a ‘rock encyclopedia’ that pegged you as a beer-swilling, meat-loving foil to Yes’s otherwise uptight vegetarianism. Is that a fairly accurate description? How did it feel to be the guy that walks in with this incredible talent and, sociologically, being the one that turns everything upside down?

RW: I remember that. Written by Cameron Crowe, if I recall correctly. Back then, when I joined on, it was probably accurate. The irony is that apart from Steve [Howe] who is a strict vegan still, the rest of the guys aren’t, and I eat very little meat at all. And whilst the others all drink alcohol, I’ve been teetotal since 1985. So, my, how things turn around!

Fragile was the first album by Yes that Rick Wakeman appeared on.

LM: In contrast to that image, your showcase piece on Fragile, “Cans and Brahms” sounds a bit prim.  

RW: We decided that on Fragile, we would all have a solo piece to illustrate what our musical contributions to Yes were. I couldn’t do what I wanted because Yes had extreme publishing restrictions, which meant I had to record a piece that was already out of copyright, so I chose one of the pieces I studied for my A-level music course. 

LM: Let’s talk about the capes. You’ve continued wearing capes on stage since the early 70s. By the middle of the decade it almost seemed like some sort of prog-fashion, but what was the original impetus? Were you just having fun, or does it aid your playing in some way?

RW: I bought my first cape from a deejay introducing us on stage in Hartford, Connecticut in 1971. I had previously been described in a review as ‘looking like a demented spider’ with arms and legs stretching out to try and reach keyboards and petals. Seeing the deejay on stage wearing one, I realized it covered up everything, and so I bought it from him. Michael Tate, our lighting man, said afterwards, ‘That’s your answer, but you need a specialist making your capes.’ He them introduced me to a lovely lady in Cleveland who made all the classic capes for me. I still wear them for all the rock shows, but not the piano shows, as it’s really hard to play the piano wearing a cape! I might give it a go again, though.”

LM: The CBE honor comes at time when you’ve recently released a trio of very well received solo recordings and are touring a show that takes a macro view of your whole career. I imagine it’s been a time of reflection, so are there things that you’re most proud of? Is there something that gives you more satisfaction, looking back?

The Six Wives of Henry VIII was Rick Wakeman’s first official solo record.

RW: It’s a difficult question that I would probably answer differently on a daily basis. I’ll say this: my first solo album, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, was pivotal for me, as the head of A&M in England hated it. And the initial reviews weren’t good either. But, thankfully, the music loving public did like it and suddenly the record company and later reviewers changed their tune.

LM: Touring in 2021 is a bit different than in the 70s. In some ways it must be a better experience now, but maybe there are some things you miss? What’s your favorite aspect of being on the road nowadays that’s different from the pre-digital age?

RW: It’s very different now… better in some ways and not so much in others. Back then, so much was new. We were playing venues that had never before been used for rock concerts and sound and lights were just developing, so every day was a new adventure. Certainly, the reliability of [digitized] instruments make a huge, positive difference. And, of course, I miss being in my twenties for sure. It’s harder on the road when you’re in your seventies, but that’s mainly traveling and long days. Playing on stage will always be exciting, though, and long may that continue.”

The Narrows Center is located at 16 Anawan Street in Fall River, MA. Tickets can be purchased online by clicking HERE or by calling the box office at 508-324-1926. Box office hours areThursday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. and during show times.

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – CULTURE CLUB’S ‘COLOUR BY NUMBERS’

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.

CULTURE CLUB – COLOUR BY NUMBERS (1983)

First off let me just type the following: guitarist Roy Hay, bassist Mike Craig and drummer Jon Moss. It might seem a strange way to start off an article about Culture Club’s smash hit second album Colour By Numbers, but I think it is worth mentioning the three members of the band who aren’t Boy George. Let’s face it, when it comes to Culture Club, despite the heavy contributions to the songwriting and the actual playing of the music, it is no great statement of fact that Hay, Craig and Moss are deeply overshadowed by the monolithic figure Boy George became in the early and mid-1980’s.

When this album was released in 1983, I was still thoroughly mixed up in my love of all things Top 40 pop music. Sunday mornings were given over to Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 countdown radio show and I had my big notebook full of week-to-week listings of each week’s chart.

And I have no problem admitting that I loved the song “Karma Chameleon”. That song still has to be seen even to this day as the group’s signature hit song. The funny thing thought is that despite loving the song and the other singles from the album, I never bought Colour By Numbers at the time. I can’t remember my reasoning for that but it never found its way into my collection until I started buying cassettes for this series.

While listening to the album, I was quickly reminded of the four hit singles. But when I first pulled the cassette out of the box, I took a quick peak at the track listing and I really only recognized two of the songs. Besides “Karma Chameleon” (which leads off the first side of the album and rose to #1), the song “Church Of The Poison Mind” (which was a Top 10 hit) is the only other song I remembered solely from the title. I find that strange for me because the song “Miss Me Blind” was a Top 5 single and “It’s A Miracle” peaked at #13. However, I don’t think either of those songs really gets much airplay on the safe for work radio station that I listen to at my job and so they seemingly faded just a bit from my memory. But as soon as they started playing on my cassette, I remembered them quite well.

For “Church Of The Poisoned Mind”, I loved the raucously upbeat tempo of the song. For “Miss Me Blind”, the fast pace and the overall construction of the song made me enjoy it. Both of those tracks are on the album’s second side. “Karma Chameleon” and “It’s A Miracle” are the two lead tracks on Side One and both are fast moving numbers as well.

As for the rest of the “album tracks” on Side One, I thought the ballad “Black Money” and “Changing Every Day” were okay. Nothing to really write home about but certainly not a drag on the album either. But the last track on Side One is a piano-centric track called “That’s The Way (I’m Only Trying To Help You)” was phenomenal! As I said, I’d never heard the remaining six songs that weren’t singles in the US before now, so this was a big surprising discovery for me. If I’m not mistaken, pretty much the entire musical soundtrack for the song came from the piano (performed by Roy Hay, if the online material is correct). But the vocal performance from Boy George and I’m assuming Helen Terry (the only female musician credited in the liner notes) was so impressive.

And that’s the thing, isn’t it? For all the handwringing that Boy George’s image brought from everyone that wasn’t the music’s target audience, he had one hell of a voice for the band’s material. I know that British new wave pop music isn’t exactly what most people would expect me to be writing about but I did quite enjoy getting to focus not only  on the music of Culture Club but hearing the breadth of Boy George’s singing was kind of impressive to me.

After Side Two of Colour By Numbers opened with the two songs that would become big singles, the remaining songs didn’t quite capture my imagination like Side One did. “Mister Man” and “Stormkeeper” trod the mid-tempo road but each song kind of just fell flat. My more metal music outlook couldn’t help see the song title “Stormkeeper” and think of it being some kind of dark and intense rocker. Yep, you guessed it, that couldn’t be further from the truth if it tried.

The closing song “Victims” was never released as a single in the US but the ballad did get released that way in both the UK and Australia. However, I can understand why a US release didn’t happen. It is just a flat out pedestrian at best song. Without couching my opinion, I didn’t really like it at all.

That said, I do have to admit that as I finally got to listen to Colour By Numbers for the first time,  I was surprised at just how much I liked most of the album. By the time this article is published, it will be just three days short of 38 years since the release of this benchmark Culture Club album. I think that any pop music fan would do well to avail themselves of the anniversary to take the opportunity and give Colour By Numbers a new listen. You just might be surprised to discover that it still holds up remarkably well all these decades later.

NOTES OF INTEREST: The Colour By Numbers album has sold more than 10 million copies since it was first released, including more than 4 million in the US. It peaked at #2 on the Billboard albums chart, stuck behind Michael Jackson’s Thriller album.

When the album was reissued in 2003 it came with five additional bonus tracks.

Singer Helen Terry performs backing and/or accompanying vocals on five Colour By Number tracks. She had a Top 10 hit of her own in 1984 called “Love Lies Lost” and released the album Blue Notes in 1986. She would go on to become the executive producer of the BRIT Awards TV show.

My cassette copy of Colour By Numbers just barely made it through the listening process, so I’m likely to find myself upgrading to a CD copy of the album at the earliest opportunity.

Gary Cherone’s SlipKid to celebrate music of The Who in New Bedford, MA

If you are a fan of The Who, you won’t want to miss Gary Cherone’s SlipKid: A Celebration of The Who at the Vault Music Hall in New Bedford, MA, on Friday, December 3rd. It is the popular tribute band’s first appearance in southeastern Massachusetts. Local rock trio Johnny Barnes and The Nightcrawlers open the show. This concert is presented by JKB Entertainment Group. Purchase tickets HERE.

Gary Cherone, lead singer of Extreme (and formerly Van Halen), has joined together with his brother Mark to take you on an Amazing Musical Journey through the power and passion of The Who live. The band was formed to not impersonate The Who but rather deliver the music and the experience of The Who from every era. As the band puts it, “it’s a celebration, not an imitation.” The combined backgrounds and passion of the musicians in SlipKid make for a powerful, memorable rock show – they do The Who justice for sure. Get your tickets and “join together with the band!”

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.

MUST BE 21 or OLDER with Valid ID for Entry.

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 April 23, 2022

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, April 23, 2022. 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.