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The Cassette Chronicles – Bad Company’s ‘Holy Water’

By JAY ROBERTS

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

WRITER’S NOTE: On May 6th, 2020, singer Brian Howe died as the result of a heart attack. I woke up that morning to discover the news and it hit me like a gut punch. I just loved his voice and the job he did fronting Bad Company between 1986 – 1994. While the band has virtually wiped out Howe’s time with them from their official history, the four studio albums he recorded with them are among the finest melodic rock albums one could hope to hear.

Howe was a pretty darn good songwriter, managing to come up with any number of hard driving rock numbers, the heart-rending ballad and every song style in between. Hell, the guy even co-wrote the lyrics for the song “I’ll Get Even” on Megadeth’s Cryptic Writings album!

The 2010 solo album Circus Bar is one of the best albums I’ve ever heard and it was among my favorites of the year upon its release. You can check out what I wrote about that album HERE.

The death of Brian Howe is a huge loss to his family and friends. The loss to those of us who are fans of his music is markedly different of course, but no less a profound sadness. I can only hope that anyone who hasn’t heard his work before now will soon discover that Howe’s voice was one of the great highlights of rock and roll.

BAD COMPANY – HOLY WATER (1990)

Depending on who you ask, opinions vary about the best of the four studio albums that Bad Company recorded with Brian Howe as the group’s lead singer. A lot of people will say it is Dangerous Age and it would be hard to argue with that choice. It’s a great album and I love it a lot myself.

But if I’m the one making the call, I have to go with Holy Water. The album was the most successful release in terms of sales (it went platinum) during the Howe era and I pretty much consider it their masterwork for this part of their history.

There are thirteen songs on the album and there isn’t a bad one in the lot. As I was listening to the album ahead of writing this piece, I even got to get a new perspective on a trio of the “album track” songs. They didn’t get the airplay as a single release but I got to enjoy them anew as songs that give the album the depth of quality it has.

The first side of the album wastes no time in kicking off things in a rocking fashion with the title track. It bursts out of your speakers and really grabs your attention. It’s the kind of declarative statement that makes you sit up and take notice. As I was researching some information about the album online, I saw that when the “Holy Water” song was released as a single, it became the #1 rock track for a couple of weeks. I’ve listened to this album a lot since it was released but as I listened to the track again, I could definitely recall how I felt when I would hear it playing on the radio as I would listen to 94 HJY out of Providence, Rhode Island.

That song was followed up by “Walk Through Fire” which became a Top 40 single for the band. It’s another pure rocker that gets the blood flowing through your veins. The band had a huge hit with the power ballad “If You Needed Somebody”, which made it into the Top 20. While it does have what would be considered the standard requirements for a song of its nature, I can listen to that track over and over and not get bored with it.

While the remaining three songs on the first side of the album weren’t released as singles, they still give you plenty of bang for your buck. “Stranger Stranger” has an amazing riff that runs through the song. The song rocks but with a slyly seductive groove to it.

The Mick Ralphs-written song “Lay Your Love On Me” closes out the first side with a driving tempo. However, the most surprising discovery for me was actually rediscovering the song “Fearless”. It’s a blast of pure hard rock rhythm that is so surprisingly effective that I found myself singing along to the lyrics.

There’s been a lot of talk over the years about what led to the split and acrimony between Brian Howe and both Simon Kirke and Mick Ralphs. A lot of that talk centers around the songwriting for the band. However, I don’t see how the credits for this album could be such a breaking point for the band. Brian Howe co-wrote seven of the Holy Water‘s thirteen songs. Meanwhile, Simon Kirke wrote one song on his own and co-wrote another. Mick Ralphs had “Lay Your Love On Me” on his own and co-wrote three other songs.

But regardless of who wrote what, I have never been able to understand why the band grew apart. I mean, the album is full of great material. Yes, it is a dramatically different sound than the classic rock origins of the band. But as a confirmed fan of the more melodic rock stylings, this album is one of the highlights of that genre.

If you can’t take my word for, then just flip the album over to side two and check out songs like “With You In A Heartbeat”, “I Don’t Care” and “Never Too Late”. While the album is chock full of great straight up rockers, it closes on a decidedly more mellow note. Simon Kirke sings lead and plays the acoustic guitar on “100 Miles”. It’s a decidedly upbeat song and it kind of gives you a preview of the direction of his songwriting would go on the solo albums he did in 2011 (Filling The Void) and 2017 (All Because of You).

Much like “Fearless”, the songs “Dead of the Night” and “I Can’t Live Without You” became moments of re-discovery for me as I listened to the album. They are both hard rocking numbers with explosively melodic choruses heightened by a big backing vocal sound. Once again, I found myself singing along to these tracks.

I’m a fan of storytelling, whether it be in a book or through song. And the opening song on side two feeds my love of story. “Boys Cry Tough” was a monstrously successful song on the rock charts (it went to #3) even without being released as an official single. The story of Bobby and Mary has a clearly defined narrative. As a listener, you become involved in the storyline. It’s a prime example of how to tell a story through song and when you add in the fantastic music that backs up Brian Howe’s superb vocal performance on the song, you have the showcase track of Holy Water.

While it may have taken the death of Brian Howe to get me to write about this album for The Cassette Chronicles, what matters most is that I get to share my love of the album with people. This year marks the 30th anniversary of it’s release and for my money the Holy Water album is one of the finest albums I have in my collection.

NOTES OF INTEREST: Terry Thomas produced Holy Water but he was deeply involved in all aspects of the recording as well. He co-wrote eleven of the songs and played guitar and keyboards (the cassette liner notes list it as Hammond organ) and added backing vocals as well. He and Brian Howe had worked together on Howe’s 1997 solo album Tangled In Blue and he was also the producer for the Bad Company albums Dangerous Age and Here Comes Trouble.

Brian Howe re-recorded the song “Holy Water” for his Circus Bar album but gave it a significant re-do for an entirely different spin on the track. I love the original song as I said, but if you hear the new version he did, you’ll be shocked to discover how powerful it is.

I have only seen Bad Company in concert once but it was with Brian Howe on vocals. It was during the tour for the Dangerous Age album. I can still remember the T-shirt I bought when I saw them play the Orpheum Theatre in Boston. They had Winger as their opening act.

 

EDITORIAL – Why rescheduled shows in reduced capacity venues won’t work?

[This is the first in a series of editorials related to Covid-19’s impact on JKB Entertainment Group/Limelight Magazine.]

While no one knows with absolute certainty when the concert and event business will make a full scale return due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve seen many posts from our readers, fans and friends on social media about artists playing rescheduled shows in venues with reduced capacities. Although this is a hopeful idea that could possibly work for newly announced shows, it would result in major losses for venues and promoters across the board for rescheduled shows.

JKB Entertainment Group/Limelight Magazine has been booking national touring acts at various venues throughout New England since 2009. So far, we have booked 95 shows (7 as Limelight Magazine and 88 as JKB Entertainment Group) with acts from all genres of music, including classic rock (e.g. The Zombies, Justin Hayward of The Moody Blues, Jon Anderson of Yes), ‘80s pop (Richard Marx, The Fixx, The English Beat), metal (Michael Schenker Group, Nita Strauss), alternative rock (Candlebox, Ed Kowalczyk of Live), boy bands (O-Town) and everything in between.

When a show is booked, there are several variables that factor into the ticket price, including artist fee, backline, hospitality (meals/lodging), security, sound tech, insurance, rent, and marketing costs. After developing the budget, the ticket price is set based on the capacity of the venue. In most cases, promoters need to sell between 70% and 80% of the house to break even. In some cases, it can be even higher, especially for superstar touring artists. Anything sold beyond that is your profit unless the artist is getting a backend or percentage on top of your breakeven point. [Federal and state taxes still need to be taken out of your profit].

So, if a venue has a capacity of 400 and it is reduced by 50% due to social distancing requirements, you would be taking a significant loss at selling 200 tickets because you needed to sell 300 (75% capacity) to break even. To keep the math simple, a ticket price of $35 would mean that a loss of $3,500 is automatically incurred (assuming you’ve sold all 200 tickets). Venues that have bars could make up some of that revenue, but in a reduced capacity house, alcohol sales will be much lower than before.

When a show is postponed to a new date (which we’ve already had a few), our contract with the artist is still for the original capacity of the venue. Reducing capacity to anything less than 75% would mean we have to enforce force majeure, which is a common clause in contracts that essentially frees both parties from liability or obligation when an extraordinary event or circumstance beyond the control of the parties (i.e. Covid-19 pandemic) prevents one or both parties from fulfilling their obligations under the contract.

There is also the notion that artists will lower their fees in order to still play. The likelihood of that is unlikely because of their touring expenses. Most artists lose 10% of their performance fee to their booking agent, between 10% and 20% to their manager, and, in some cases, a percentage or flat rate to their publicist. After these expenses are deducted, they need to pay their road crew, liability insurance, transportation costs, withholding taxes, other miscellaneous expenses, and finally themselves. Although it depends on each individual artist, most acts that play clubs or performing arts centers have told us they typically receive between 30% and 40% of the artist fee. Superstar acts may get a higher percentage depending on the production element of their tours. It should be noted that with reduced capacities and social distancing requirements, artists will be selling less merchandise on the road and meet and greets will likely be put on hold for the time being. On top of this, many smaller venues may not be able to properly self-distance, but that’s a whole other issue for another editorial.

Since none of us know what the future holds, we’ve only booked one show since the pandemic started. This show would easily be a sellout before the outbreak but we aren’t even announcing it for fear it will be postponed to sometimes in 2021. But one thing is certain, we will not be able to reschedule any shows in venues with reduced capacities and any artists we book in the future will have Covid-19 related language in their contracts. It’s the only way we can move forward in these challenging times.

FILMING LOCATION SPOTLIGHT – “DEATH WISH 2” (1982)

On the second and fourth Friday of every month in 2020, Limelight Magazine will spotlight the filming location site(s) we visited for some of our favorite (and not so favorite) films. Today we spotlight the filming location for Death Wish 2. The film, which once again starred Charles Bronson as vigilante Paul Kersey, was released in 1982. The top photo is a screen shot taken from the movie while the photo underneath is what the location looks like today.

This filming location used for Paul Kersey’s home is located at 1203 South Crescent Heights Boulevard in Los Angeles, CA.

The Cassette Chronicles – Accept’s ‘Restless and Wild’

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.

ACCEPT – RESTLESS AND WILD (1983)

When it comes to opinions about German metallers Accept and their music, it does seem to be that a lot of the time, people kind of just start with their best known song “Balls To The Wall” (from the album of the same name). The stuff that comes before tends to be at least a little bit forgotten for some reason.

It is a considerably strange notion considering how many songs the band came up with prior the “Balls To The Wall” track that are still thought of as classic tracks to this day. I’d written about the band’s self-titled debut album in a previous article in this series. However, I thought it might be time to get around to writing a little bit about one of the other Accept albums I have in the Big Box of Cassettes.

Released in the US in 1983, the Restless and Wild album is the immediate predecessor to the Balls To The Wall album. It wastes little time in blowing the doors off your expectations with the song “Fast As A Shark”. Considered one of the earliest and best examples of “speed metal”, this bull in a china shop kind of song continually throttles the listener with an intensely relentless pace.

The title track is another classic track for the band. In fact, the first four songs (including “Ahead of the Pack” and “Shake Your Heads”) are all some of the band’s finest early work. It is songs like these that make a deep dive into the band’s discography a great treasure hunt for any metal fan. As I was listening anew to “Shake Your Heads”, I was struck by the slight similarity in the lyrics to Quiet Riot’s “Metal Health (Bang Your Head)”. Not the exact lyrics per se but the similarity in the celebration of fan reaction to metal music in general. Given that both songs were released in 1983, it just struck me as a great potentially unrealized coincidence.

But for me, the band kind of lost the plot a little bit after those first four songs. While there is a bit more artistic depth in the songwriting to “Neon Nights” (not a cover of the Black Sabbath song), it just was kind of mediocre to me. When you flip the cassette over to Side Two, that sense of the mediocre continues with “Get Ready”. “Demon’s Night” and “Don’t Go Stealing My Soul Away” are decent enough rockers but I don’t think they’d be spotlighted as amongst the best the band has to offer.

I had listened to the CD version of the album back in the middle of 2019 and thought “Flash Rockin’ Man” was a little bit of a mis-step too. But when I listened to the album for this article, I actually found myself enjoying it more than I did in the past. There’s a driving sense of urgency to the music that made the song a bit more catchy to my ears this time around.

The album closes with “Princess Of The Dawn”. The song has a kind of claustrophic feel to it. The song is one of the better known songs from the album. I like it, as it definitely highlights the band’s increased songwriting craft. But the thoroughly abrupt way the track ends will leave you wondering what the hell they were thinking. It doesn’t feel like the track had reached its natural endpoint but rather someone had shut off the recording machines at the most inopportune of times.

I’ve long considered myself an Accept fan. However, like a lot of people I first became aware of them because of the “Balls To The Wall” song. In my defense though, I didn’t just stop there. That song served as the catalyst for me as I’ve done many a deep dive into the band’s entire catalog. I own most of their albums and there are so many gems to check out. I was actually going through my music collection a few weeks back and I spent most of a day pulling out all the Accept material I own and found myself with a sense of renewal as I went through the albums in chronological order.

Accept has earned their place in metal history and while I found at least a couple of tracks on Restless and Wild to be decidedly problematic for my tastes, you can bet your ass that when you listen to this album, you will come to understand just how important the album is in the evolution of the band’s career.

NOTES OF INTEREST: The Restless and Wild album has two different covers. The version that was originally released in Europe in 1982 has a photo of two guitars on fire. When the album was released in the US and UK in 1983, that album art had been replaced by a live shot of the band. I own the band shot on cassette and I have a CD version of the album that features the guitars aflame.

The guitar work on the album has a bit of a story to it. Accept had hired guitarist Jan Koemmet before they recorded Restless and Wild. However, his tenure with the band was very short and he didn’t play a note on the album. The album’s liner notes list Herman Frank as part of the lineup, but while he was the replacement for Koemmet, he didn’t actually play on the album either. Instead, Wolf Hoffman was responsible for all the guitar tracks.

In 2018, I saw Udo Dirkscheider (under the band name ‘Dirkschneider’) performing a full set of Accept songs with his U.D.O. band. They played “Princess Of The Dawn” and “Fast As A Shark” from the Restless And Wild album during the set.

 

The Cassette Chronicles – Quiet Riot’s ‘Quiet Riot’ (1988)

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.

QUIET RIOT – QUIET RIOT (1988)

In 1983, Quiet Riot rose to the top of the metal world on the basis of their Metal Health album. They were, so to speak, the “kings of the world”. Great things seemed to lay ahead for them.

By 1988, the metal world had pretty much passed them by. The decade where metal ruled the world had pretty much left the band in the dust. This would be due in large part to the fans moving on from them and other bands sick and tired of listening to vocalist Kevin DuBrow badmouth them in the press.

But 1988 also saw the other members of Quiet Riot firing of Kevin DuBrow from his own band and the hiring of former Rough Cutt vocalist Paul Shortino. This lineup switch brought about a very different sound for the band on the Quiet Riot album. Gone was the bombastic metal explosiveness. Instead, when you listen to this album, you find that this is more of a bluesy hard rock sound for the band.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’d long moved on from Quiet Riot at this point. I vaguely recall seeing a video that I think came from this album and when I heard the music in 1988, I found myself thinking, “What the hell is this?” and never bothered to check out the album itself. It was deciding to write this article that brought about my first time listening to the release.

And I’ve got to say that I was pretty surprised to find myself really liking a lot of what they had to offer here. Yes, the sound is completely different and those who only want “Cum On Feel The Noize” are sure to never give this album its due.

The song “Stay With Me Tonight” was the single released and it leads off Side One. I can’t say that this was the song I saw the video for, but it does seem likely that it was. I may not have thought much of it three decades ago but as I listened to it now, it was a pretty effective song. Yes, time changes and so did my opinion.

I wasn’t crazy about how the production sound on Shortino’s vocals were done on “Callin’ The Shots”. They were overproduced and made it sound kind of fake and poorly edited together or something. The song “Run To You” really drives home that bluesy sound with it’s slow burn tempo. However, the addition of a big backing vocal part on the chorus threw the song’s balance off for me.

But then Side One closes out with a couple of really solid rockers. “I’m Fallin'” is a damn good song but the band really cuts loose on the song “King of the Hill” which has a pretty vibrant sound and vibe to it even now. By the way, the latter song was co-written by former Yes guitarist Trevor Rabin.

With the addition of Shortino to the lineup, he was pretty involved with the songwriting along with drummer Frankie Banali, guitarist Carlos Cavazo and producer Spencer Proffer. While there were other contributors along the way, this was the main grouping of songwriters for the album. However, with change being the only sure thing when it comes to the Quiet Riot lineup, Shortino was not the only new addition to the group’s lineup. Chuck Wright had left the band and they replaced him with Sean McNabb.

The second side of the album features a brief instrumental called “Lunar Obsession”. It is less than two minutes long and sadly, it just felt out of place to me and it really didn’t seem to need to be included.

Other than that, Side 2 ROCKED! Songs like “The Joker” and “Empty Promises” were electrifying, just pure burn rockers. The band was on fire with “In A Rush”, a song that saw the pacing match the title but in a good way.

The power ballad influence was felt most strongly with the song “Don’t Wanna Be Your Fool”. It starts off as you might expect with a slow but steady tempo. But it gradually gets stronger and faster. By the end of the song it is more of a straight ahead rocker and you kind of forget the ballad like beginning.

In 1988, the lyrics for “Coppin’ A Feel” might’ve raised an eye or two but most likely would’ve been overlooked for the most part. These days, the lyrics are slightly more problematic. Still, as a whole the song is just a killer.

I was looking up the album online and while this one did seem to do slightly better than the QR III album, it was still seen as a big disappointment. I guess I can understand that if we were still in 1988. But in the here and now, I really have to say that despite a couple of speed bump tracks the Quiet Riot album is actually a damn fine piece of work. It may be unappreciated by the majority of metal fans, but you can count me in as one who will tout the positives from this album from this point forward.

NOTES OF INTEREST: Drummer Frankie Banali is the one mainstay of the group to this day. Currently, he’s battling Stage 4 pancreatic cancer and just recently a GoFundMe page has been set up to help pay for his medical bills.

Quiet Riot split up after touring for this album. There was a live release coinciding with the tour for the album called ’89 Live In Japan. There’s been some confusion about the true name of this album as well. It is the second album from the band to be self-titled. It has apparently also been called QR IV. Meanwhile, Paul Shortino has said the title is just QR.

This was the only studio album that Paul Shortino recorded with the band. He’s gone on to play in variety of bands including King Kobra and Appice. He’s also got his own band, Shortino. If the global health crisis that is going on at the time of this article’s publication doesn’t cancel it, Shortino (the band) will be part of the first day lineup at the New England Rock Fest in Chicopee, MA on Friday August 14th , 2020 and feature ex-Dio guitarist Rowan Robertson in the lineup.

Sean McNabb has had a prolific music career following his time with Quiet Riot. He’s played with House of Lords, XYZ and Dokken. He was also with Great White for three separate stints including recording the Can’t Get There From Here album, my personal favorite Great White album. He’s also done acting work including appearing on the Sons of Anarchy and Mayans M.C. TV series.

Preacher Jack’s interview with Limelight Magazine from 2008

PUBLISHER’S NOTE – Lifelong musician John Coughlin, also known as Preacher Jack, recently died in a long-term care home in Massachusetts, of Covid-19. Our staff writer at the time, Ian Abreu, who is currently a City Councilor in New Bedford, MA, interviewed Preacher Jack for a story in our spring issue of Limelight Magazine 12 years ago. Since this story originally only appeared in print, we are sharing it today in his memory. RIP Preacher Jack  

By IAN ABREU

At the ripe-old age of 66, “Preacher” Jack Lincoln Coughlin still possesses the same passion for the up-tempo, boogie-woogie style of music he felt as a 13-year-old back in 1955 when his mother bought him his first piano.

“I’ll never forget this, when I was 13, I was watching Liberace on television and my mother had just given me this piano,” said Coughlin. “Well I start to see him do this boogie-woogie style of music and it just captivated me. I knew this was something I had to do.”

Boogie-woogie is a style of piano-based blues which became very popular in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s and its elements can be heard in big band, country/western, and even gospel music.

“I want to mix all races and ages when I play,” said Coughlin. “In the past, I’ve played for gangsters and cops at the same time. That’s my mission, to bring quality music to every and anyone. I’d like to maybe give people a taste of church without having to go to church.”

Long-time friend and manager Peter Levine believes that “Preacher” Jack’s sheer love for music is what truly ignites his soul.

“His appeal after all these years is his love of the music – which pours out of every pore on his body each and every time he plays out,” he said. “He loves the music, it’s his life, not a fad. He makes you feel good when he plays, which in all honesty isn’t what you necessarily get these days.”

Some of Jack’s main musical influences include: Hank Williams Sr., Liberace, Mahalia Jackson and Jerry Lee Lewis.

With the help of people such as Levine and Boston native and Extreme lead singer Gary Cherone, “Preacher” Jack has just released a new LP on Bill Hunt’s Cow Island Music label called Pictures From Life’s Other Side, which features 18 tracks of both original and covered material.

“First of all, I want to state how much I appreciate what Peter (Levine) has done, he’s essentially brought my career back, has found me work, and believes in me,” said Coughlin, who now resides in Salem, Ma. “This latest record wouldn’t have happened if it also weren’t for Gary Cherone, either, he gave me the studio time and paid for it out of his own pocket.”

With over 45 years of pounding the keyboard under his belt, “Preacher” Jack feels that his message of spreading the word about his love of boogie-woogie does not go unnoticed with the younger generation whenever he performs.

“One of my goals every time I play is to bring the best of what really is American music to the ‘new world’ of music fans,” he said. “I want people to notice that underneath my kisser, I’m just a pure lover of gospel and boogie-woogie.”

If you’re interested in finding out more information about booking Jack for your private party, corporate function, club, or lounge, contact manager Peter Levine by phone at 617-930-1121 or by e-mail at Petel39@aol.com.

“Jack is one of the finest entertainers I have ever seen,” said Levine. “He was born to entertain and in the 18 years that I have been seeing Jack, he has never disappointed an audience.”

You can also visit “Preacher” Jack’s myspace page at www.myspace.com/thepreacherjack which feature an innumerable amount of both pictures and songs.

College courtesy of longtime Preacher Jack fan Frank Chip Langille.

 

FILMING LOCATION SPOTLIGHT – “Mommie Dearest” (1981)

On the second and fourth Friday of every month in 2020, Limelight Magazine will spotlight the filming location site(s) we visited for some of our favorite (and not so favorite) films. Today we spotlight the filming location for Mommie Dearest. The film, which starred Faye Dunaway as legendary actress Joan Crawford, was released in 1981. The top photo is a screen shot taken from the movie while the photo underneath is what the location looks like today.

This filming location used for Joan Crawford’s home is located at 417 Amapola Lane in Bel Air, CA.

The Cassette Chronicles – Y&T’s ‘Ten’

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.

Y&T – Ten (1990)

As we mark the 30th anniversary of the release of Y&T’s ninth album, the possibly somewhat confusingly titled Ten, I had to look back at my own scant personal history with the band. It was a weird little journey to be sure.

Like most people I’m very well-versed with the song “Summertime Girls”. It remains the best known song for people who might not necessarily know much else about the band. I’d also heard other songs hear and there I’m sure, though I couldn’t guess which ones they might’ve been with any degree of certainty. When I used to write for another site, I got the chance to review a reissue of the band’s 1982 album Black Tiger. Somewhat controversially for Y&T fans who read that review, I didn’t really care for the album. It just didn’t grab me despite the band being what I would’ve previously though had all the things I usually look for in a rock band. I’m going to have to revisit that album at a future time.

For a lot of years, that was pretty much it for me with the band. Then came 2019 and Y&T was playing a show (promoted by the people behind this very website) in New Bedford, MA. I wanted to get the full experience of their well-regarded live shows so I planned to attend. In advance, I bought a compilation of greatest hits and was kind of blown away by how many songs struck a chord with me. Now I was psyched up immensely to see the show. And then the show itself surpassed my expectations and suddenly, I found myself thinking about the band in such a way that could only be termed “as a fan”. I started slowly acquiring their albums which now brings me full circle to talking about the Ten album.

What can I say? I just really loved this album. Other than the song “Come In From The Rain” which I saw the band perform live, I don’t recall ever hearing any of the other songs on the release, so I got to approach the remaining eleven tracks as a completely brand new experience.

What I learned was that Dave Meniketti, Stef Burns, Phil Kennemore and Jimmy Degrasso crafted an exceptionally entertaining rock and roll album. For more behind Degrasso’s contributions to the album see the “Notes Of Interest” at the end of this article.

I was immediately taken by the opening number on the album. “Hard Times” had a solidly rocking pace to it and the overall sound grabs your ear from the get-go.

While the uptempo nature of “Lucy” was nice, I will say that I didn’t quite connect to the song like I did with the rest of the album.

The rest of Side One was pretty impressive. There are two songs that would probably be what you’d call power ballads. While the looking back nature of this series can sometimes mean I discover tracks like “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” and the aforementioned “Come in from the Rain” and feel like I’m listening to fingernails on a chalkboard, I have to say I was pretty impressed by both songs. “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” has all the traditional underpinnings of balladry but the chorus is decidely more rocking than one might expect. As for “Come in from the Rain”, the tempo changes and singularly effective performances really clue the listener in to why it is in the band’s setlist to this day.

“Girl Crazy” might seem like it is a relic of a bygone time with its unapologetic lustful enthusiam but the song kicked my ass and I don’t feel the least little bit sorry for enjoying this powerful rocker.

The most intriguing song on the first side of the album for me was “City”. It opens with a slyly affecting bluesy guitar and a slightly understated gravelly vocal take from Meniketti before the full band kicks into high gear. The far more in-your-face rocking sound takes over and the big backing vocals on the song’s chorus put the song into the stratosphere for me.

The album’s second side doesn’t feature much of a letdown for the listener either. It starts off with “Red Hot & Ready”, which is simply a kinetic burst of rock and roll energy. The blood races and you are whisked away on a fast paced romp. You can probably say the very same thing about “She’s Gone” as well.

The song “Let It Out” starts out in a fast and furious style but midway through the song, the band slows it down a little before unleashing a really tasty guitar solo and finishing up in a fiery blaze.

Any hopes of a low-key finish to the album is quickly dispelled by the last three tracks. “Ten Lovers” and “Surrender” are just killer songs. However, if you want to hear what the band really can do when they completely take the brakes off, the song “Goin’ Off The Deep End” is an especially electrifying experience. It’s an frenzied no-holes-barred collaboration of the band’s talents that is sure to leave you with a feeling of exhaustion with it’s relentlessly unforgiving pace and pure rock fury.

I’m not aware of how the Ten album is viewed by the band’s long established fans but what I know is that I not only just freaking love this album! It also serves as a catalyst for me in a way. I have three other Y&T albums that I can write about in this series and Ten kind of makes me want to just dive into those albums as soon as possible so I can become an even more enthusiastic supporter of Y&T’s music!

An ad for Y&T’s “Ten” that appeared in a music magazine in 1990.

NOTES OF INTEREST – Drummer Jimmy Degrasso had two stints with Y&T, recording a total of four studio albums and one live release. However, on Ten he’s only featured on three songs. The rest of the album’s drum tracks were performed by Journey’s Steve Smith. Degrasso has played with a host of other notable acts in his career including Alice Cooper, Megadeth, Black Star Riders and Ratt.

The song “City” was co-written by guitarist Al Pitrelli. He’s played with Megadeth, Alice Cooper and most importantly from my viewpoint, both Savatage and Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

After the release of Ten and a live album called Yesterday & Today Live, Y&T split up for about four years before reuniting in 1995 with the same lineup that recorded Ten.

The album was produced by Mike Stone. Before his death in 2002, his career as a producer, engineer and mixer included six albums working with Queen, my favorite Journey album Frontiers, and Whitesnake’s smash 1987 self-titled album. He also worked with April Wine, Asia, Ratt and the band Ten among others. Interestingly enough, he was the co-producer of the Helix album Wild in the Streets, which was the first article in The Cassette Chronicles series.

 

 

The Cassette Chronicles – Metal Church’s ‘Hanging in the Balance’

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.

METAL CHURCH – HANGING IN THE BALANCE (1993)

While I don’t mean any actual disrespect to fans of other bands, let me just say that you can have your Megadeth and you can have your Slayer. But for me, I will always say give me my Metal Church, for the band out of Washington State are one of the most criminally underrated bands in the history of metal. Since their self-titled debut release in the mid-1980s, their music has been one of the most consistently great album catalogs the metal world has ever seen. Through numerous lineup changes and three eras of the band defined by who was singing for them at the time, Metal Church has been worthy of being worshipped as one of the best for over 30 years now.

Let me get one thing out of the way because whenever I talk about the Hanging In The Balance album, it needs to be said that the cover art is just awful. I mean BAD. As in, what the hell were people thinking?

Okay, with that out of the way let’s move on to what I like. In a word, EVERYTHING! Look, after the departure of singer David Wayne, you wouldn’t be alone in wondering if the band would be able to find someone to take over singing and be just as good. Well, the truth is Mike Howe was better. I’ve been a fan of his since the first time I saw the video for the song “Badlands” off of the Blessing In Disguise album. He had it all, the look, the gravitas and most importantly, the incredible vocal dexterity to actually raise Metal Church’s game to a new level.

I saw the band as an opening act for W.A.S.P. and Accept back in 1989 at the Citi Club in Boston and got to meet four-fifths of the lineup including Howe. And he was fantastic on that night so it wasn’t just a studio thing. He had the pipes to go over well live as well.

So when Hanging In The Balance was released in 1993, it’s not like it was a surprise to me that I’d like the album. But what I wasn’t prepared for is just how potent this album would be.

The first side of the album features six songs and they run the full emotional gamut. The opener “Gods of Second Chance” is a pretty effective opening statement for the album with Howe’s vocal growl informing the music (seriously, John Marshall and Craig Wells were really on their game throughout the album) and when the chorus explodes in your ears, you know you are in for a great ride.

“Losers In The Game” has a faster tempo that keeps your head banging along and it was here that I realized that for the first two songs, I’d actually been singing along. Okay, really I was just mouthing the lyrics but still. I’ve listened to this album a lot over the 27 years since it was released but the lyrics still make me eager to “sing along”.

I will say that when I was first becoming familiar with the album when it was released, there was something that bothered me about the song “Hypnotized”. If I’d written a review of the album back then, it would’ve been the one song I said I didn’t like. I have never been quite able to figure out what it was that I just didn’t like about the song but over the ensuing passage of time, the song has definitely grown on me.

While it may be a bit more subtle at times, I also enjoy when Metal Church uses their songs to address something that is important to them (and generally important to the world at large if you think about it). On Hanging In The Balance, this part of their songwriting capabilities is demonstrated with the song “No Friend Of Mine”. It is a song that confronts racism and the band nailed it! The message doesn’t overwhelm the song, which is always the best way to do things. The music is intense and Mike Howe’s furious vocal performance leaves its mark. When I saw the band in 2019 (at a show that was simply magnificent), the band performed the song and it still retains the power it had when you first hear the song.

Everyone knows that the band that best captures the ability to make a song epic, whether in the depth of the songwriting or simply the length of a song is Iron Maiden. They manage to combine both songwriting and length in a way that keeps each one of their epic tracks interesting. These songs always seem to be mini-stories that have a beginning, middle and end.

To that end, I’d wager that Metal Church has this kind of thing going for them as well. On “Waiting For A Savior”, the band starts out slow. The music is sparse, just the right touch of subtlety to fuel Mike Howe’s softer vocal presentation. They build the song’s thematic sensibilities and then all of a sudden Metal Church hits you with a sonic explosion of sound and thunder to take the song to another level. It’s like you are sitting there calmly and all of a sudden getting hit in the head with a bat.

The album side closes out with one of my favorite Metal Church songs of all-time, “Conductor”. It is a non-stop engine of metallic wonder. The musical soundtrack is outstanding but it is the rapid fire machine gun style in which the vocals are delivered that just kill me. More importantly, they kill my jaw. I’m not kidding, if you’ve heard the song and try to sing along by the time the second verse finishes, my jaw is aching. One of the many reasons I’m sure why I was never going to be a singer. I honestly don’t know how Mike Howe does this song. It is easier in the studio because you can edit the stuff together. But I’m sure but the guy’s jaw must be like a Looney Tunes cartoon character to pull it off live. Or he’s just a consummate professional vocalist, which is the more likely true explanation.

As for the second side of the album, the song “Little Boy” struck me as being structured like an old TV miniseries. The opening act, the rising tension, the crescendo and the finale. The eight-minute song has all of that in a musical maelstrom of time and tempo.

The song “Down To The River” is a faster and more direct straight ahead rocking song and the instrumental “Lovers and Madmen” is low-key but still a very cool way to lead into the album closing “A Subtle War”. This song finds Metal Church bringing the hammer to the nail as it seems to address life living in the midst of gangs or gang warfare. Again, the message doesn’t overwhelm the medium so the two halves work to make a great or greater whole.

For me, the centerpiece of the album’s second side is the song “End of the Age”. The song is at times rather hypnotic. There are definitive allusions to religion in the lyrics. This is not my general area of interest in the least, but the band makes it work. It bears repeating that they really do seem to have a masters-level appreciation for crafting a song that has all the earmarks of being an epic story. And just when you think you know where the song is taking you, there comes a killer speed driven mid-section fueled by screaming guitar work, dynamic rhythms from bassist Duke Erickson and drummer Kirk Arrington and a ripping vocal take from Mike Howe.

I’m shamelessly open about my admiration for Metal Church. I’ve given fantastic reviews to their two most recent studio albums on another site that I write for and I have always pre-ordered any new release over the last decade or so. They are simply one of my favorite bands and it is a joy to say so to anyone who will listen. So raise the altar, pour yourself a cup of sacramental wine and check out Hanging In The Balance. It is an album that will leave you, much like Wayne and Garth, proclaiming that you simply are just not worthy. In other words, you will discover that Metal Church is one of the best metal bands in history…PERIOD.

NOTES OF INTEREST – Mike Howe left the band, and the music business, for over 20 years after this album. He returned to fronting Metal Church in 2015 and they have released two brilliant studio albums as well as a live disc in that time frame. The band’s fourth release since Howe’s return is called From The Vault which was released on April 10th, 2020. That album is a 14 track (there are four bonus tracks available through purchasing various versions of the release) compilation of new recordings (including a 2020 re-recording of this album’s “Conductor”, five B-sides from the Damned If You Do sessions, cover songs and live tracks.

Hanging In The Balance was released through Blackheart Records, the label founded by Joan Jett and Kenny Laguna. Jett is credited with background vocals on the song “Little Boy” and Laguna is listed as one of the album’s three producers.

Paul O’Neill, best known for his work with Savatage and being the driving force behind Trans-Siberian Orchestra, is listed as “Musical Coordinator” for the album. He co-wrote and produced the song “Gods of Second Chance” and produced three other songs as well.

Alice in Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell plays the lead on “Gods of Second Chance”. Metal Church leader Kurdt Vanderhoof wasn’t part of the band’s official lineup for Hanging In The Balance but he is credited with providing “additional guitars” and co-wrote 10 of the 11 songs on the album. There’s a 12th track on the European version of the album called “Low to Overdrive” which he wrote as well.

 

FILMING LOCATION SPOTLIGHT – “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” (1962)

On the second and fourth Friday of every month in 2020, Limelight Magazine will spotlight the filming location site(s) we visited for some of our favorite (and not so favorite) films. Today we spotlight the filming location for What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? which was released in 1962. The film, which starred Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, was directed by Robert Aldrich, who was born in Cranston, R.I. The top photo is a screen shot taken from the movie while the photo underneath is what the location looks like today.

This filming location of the home of Jane & Blanche Hudson is located at 172 South McCadden Place, Los Angeles, CA, 90004.