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THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – BABYLON A.D.’S ‘NOTHING SACRED’

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.

BABYLON A.D. – NOTHING SACRED (1991)

It was more than five years ago when I wrote about the self-titled Babylon A.D. album. In that piece, I noted that while I liked the two big singles from the album, it wasn’t until I listened to the album while writing that article that I finally found a true appreciation for the rest of the album.

Now when it comes to the band’s follow up album Nothing Sacred, I couldn’t honestly say that I remember ever even hearing any of the songs on it before listening to it for this article. As I would go on to discover, that isn’t quite accurate…I think.

The cassette I have has been sitting in The Big Box of Cassettes for a good long while so when I pulled it out, I was surprised to discover that it was actually a promo copy of the album. Stamped with a “Promo Only” on the card insert and on the cassette itself, there’s no liner notes and the artwork that appears on the official release is nowhere to be found. You can check out of picture of what the promo copy looks like just below.

While the debut album had single success with “Hammer Swings Down” and “Bang Go The Bells”, I can’t recall if either of the songs released as singles for Nothing Sacred made any noise on the radio or the charts. But with both songs appearing on Side One of the album, the band did get things off to a damn good start. Singer Derek Davis (still billed as just “Derek” in the liner notes) helps propel the opening track “Take The Dog Off The Chain” off to a rollicking start. There’s an infectious energy to the music and I found myself buzzing as I listened to the track. I can definitely see why the song was picked as a single.

The second single is the song “So Savage The Heart”. The first thing to note about the song is that it has a killer title. It falls into a mid-to-uptempo groove musically and you can probably get away with calling it a “power ballad”, though that might be doing the song a bit of a disservice. In 1991, I’m guessing the formula of releasing a rocker and then a ballad as singles was still standard operating procedure. But in a nice twist in the narrative, I quite enjoyed the song.

As for the rest of the songs on the first side of the album, “Bad Blood” is a pretty darn good rocker and “Sacrifice Your Love” is pretty intense musically. As the song heads towards its end, the pace kicks into another gear and the guitar playing from Danny De La Rosa (who co-wrote this track as well as 8 others on the album) and Ron Freschi get amped up.

As I listened to “Redemption”, I wasn’t really into it the first time around. But the heavy drama that fills and fuels the lyrics ended up growing on me from the second listen onward. The vocals end up capturing the tone the lyrics set up and while it starts off a bit slower musically, it picks up that pacing when it needs to.

The side-ending song “Down The River Of No Return” is another one of those tracks with a great title. Unfortunately, I didn’t connect with the track much at all. A ballad that is pretty much a soft delivery from start to finish, it just didn’t do a thing for me.

Remember how I said I hadn’t heard any of the songs before and that I would discover that I wasn’t exactly accurate in that belief? Well, that’s where the opening song on Side Two comes into play. The song “Psychedelic Sex Reaction” is the only song on Nothing Sacred where there are any outside writers. Derek Davis did co-write the track but three other names appear as well. But I’m only sure about one of them and that was Jack Ponti. While I didn’t remember the song from it’s title, once it started playing I distinctly remember the song’s chorus. It’s a massively catchy track that kind of makes you wonder why it wasn’t released as a single. Until you listen to the lyrics that is. Not that there’s anything overtly bad about them but you can see where they might’ve given someone pause in 1991. Anyway, I really got into the song but I have no idea where I might’ve heard it. Maybe I did hear it on the radio back in the day or something. But I think a more likely explanation is that I must’ve heard it on Dee Snider’s radio show “The House Of Hair”. Regardless of how and where I heard it before, the song has a great hook and that chorus is draws you in from the get-go.

The “Dream Train” track has a cool bluesy sound in the intro which goes on to recur throughout the song. But after that intro, the song does kick into more of a hard rocking number. I liked the song but will say that some of the vocals seem to get a bit lost in the mix at times.

The rocking “Blind Ambition” is another song with a catchy hook and chorus. That’s followed up with “Slave Your Body” which is an astoundingly killer song.

When I first saw “Of A Rose” on the album’s track listing, I thought that it had to be a ballad. But I was happy to see that while definitely on the softer side of things, it was instead a short but indelibly crafted instrumental. That song leads into the closing track “Pray For The Wicked” an amped-up rocker that leaves the listener on an adrenaline high as the final notes play.

It’s no secret that Babylon A.D. never quite broke through to superstar status in their initial heyday. But it wasn’t because they lacked the talent or the material. The Nothing Sacred album amply demonstrates that they had both in abundance. Much like with their debut album, it has taken me decades to come around to the album in full but I think anyone who listens to the album has to agree that Nothing Sacred album is yet another underappreciated gem of the hard rock genre.

NOTES OF INTEREST: When I wrote about the self-titled debut album, I noted that the band hadn’t released a new album since 2000. Well, five months after I wrote that article, Babylon A.D. released the album Revelation Highway. I got to review it for another website and summed it up by saying the album was indeed a hard rocking revelation. If you don’t have or hadn’t known about the album, I’d say go out and pick it up. You won’t regret it.

Eric Pacheco, the brother of drummer Jamey Pacheco who had joined the band on bass back in 2018, passed away in December 2020.

I have a CD edition of the album which oddly enough I bought a couple years back and still hadn’t gotten around to listening to that version either.

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – DEF LEPPARD’S ‘HIGH ‘N’ DRY’

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.

DEF LEPPARD – HIGH ‘n’ DRY (1981)

It’s funny the things you learn when you are least expecting it. About three weeks ago (at the time this article is posted), I reviewed the new Def Leppard album Diamond Star Halos for another web site. In that review I mentioned how the band’s fan base somehow manages to break down between those who like everything (generally speaking) Def Leppard has done from Pyromania onward and those who think the band “died” after their first two albums. Those latter fans have seemingly never gotten over the band’s sound changing and evolving over the ensuing decades and every time Def Leppard releases a new album, they come out of the woodwork to insist the first two albums are the only ones worth listening to.

Now, I tend to like most of the band’s releases, though there are some I have never particularly warmed to. But I do like the first two Def Leppard albums, even if I admittedly don’t listen to them quite as often as some other releases. So the fuse was lit to pull the High ‘n’ Dry album out of my personal collection and give it a listen for this series.

But the deciding factor in writing about the album this week was actually me stumbling over a CD edition of the album at my friend’s record shop. Yes, I own the cassette copy of the album and had never upgraded until just recently.

Now that I was surely going to write about it, I had to look some stuff up. And I was surprised to realize that my cassette edition is not the original 1981 release. Instead, I have the version that was re-released in 1984. What’s the difference? Well the newer version has two bonus tracks on it. Both tracks are remixes, the first being for the High ‘n’ Dry classic track “Bringin’ On The Heartbreak”. The other bonus track is for the 1981 B-side track “Me & My Wine”.

Unlike bonus track releases these days, where the extras are at the end of the album, these two tracks are mixed in the main part of the release. “Me & My Wine” closes out Side One while the remix of “Bringin’ On The Heartbreak” opens Side Two of the cassette.

But, here’s twist…remember I mentioned that CD edition I bought recently? Well, when the album got its original release in that format, the two bonus tracks were dropped from the album. In fact, they weren’t restored to the High ‘n’ Dry album until 2018. Oh, and according to the album’s Wikipedia page, the remixes were done to make the songs sound more like the material on the Pyromania album.

So by now, you might be wondering what I think of the songs themselves. Well, I have to say that listening to the High ‘n’ Dry album for this article, I got a chance to dig into the tracks almost like they were new. Of course they aren’t but it has been a while since I last checked out the album. The one thing I keyed in on first was that for all the complaining fans of the first two albums do about how Def Leppard changed their sound, they aren’t exactly wrong about that. Even with Mutt Lange as the producer for this album, they hadn’t quite streamlined the sound you would grow familiar with on both Pyromania and then Hysteria. Instead, the sound of the music feels a bit raw and definitely has more of an edgy vibe at times. Joe Elliott’s vocals are a bit rougher and less smooth in the delivery, though that’s not really a criticism, I like his vocals regardless of style.

The album opens with the song “Let It Go” which was the first single released when the album came out. It didn’t have much success on the singles chart but I really got into it as I listened for this piece. It’s got a rough-and-tumble fast pacing to it and you get caught up in the song pretty quickly. In fact, you can say that about most of Side One’s material.

Def Leppard started High ‘n’ Dry with three straight on rockers that left no doubt just how on point they were at the time. “Another Hit And Run” hits you right between the eyes, and “High ‘N’ Dry (Saturday Night)” does a great job of aiming for and hitting that anthemic high a rock band needs to nail each time out.

As for the original version of “Bringin’ On The Heartbreak”, it was the 2nd single from the album. While it didn’t break the Top 40 on the singles chart, it’s still the classic track from the album. It’s pretty much the only song I ever hear still being played on the radio from the album. And even though it is 41 years old, it still makes me echo back in time to when I first heard the song. Plus, have you listened to it? It’s just a great song. It has some roots in that power ballad style but it isn’t hamstrung by the format as the power part of that equation shines through pretty nicely too. Just a slam bang kind of track that makes me glad to be a rock and roll fan. Oh, and the follow up instrumental “Switch 625” is phenomenal! It was written by the late Steve Clark and while the lack of lyrical content is something I would usually complain about, you won’t hear it about this song. It’s a rocket-fueled song that gets your blood pumping fast and furious.

As I said above, the remixed version of the blazing rocker “Me & My Wine” closes out Side One. While I couldn’t begin to tell you the last time I heard the song, it’s still rather enjoyable.

Now, regarding the remix of “Bringin’ On The Heartbreak” that opens Side Two of High ‘n’ Dry, I think putting it so relatively soon after the original version was a mistake of sequencing. This version would’ve been better served as the last track on the album’s 1984 re-release. It’s not that the remix is bad or anything but I just have a hard time picking out the differences between how the two versions sound when they are so close in the running order. While that’s likely simply a failure on my part, it does factor into things for me.

The song “You Got Me Runnin'” is a solid rocker, but I think I was more taken with “Lady Strange”. It rocks and has a nice backing vocal take on the song’s chorus that reminds you of what was to come on later album releases.

The oddity of the High ‘n’ Dry album is that it has a song on it called “On Through The Night”, which was the title of their first album. I don’t know if there is a story behind how the band came to do the song for this album and not have it serve as the title track for the first album or not. But what I do know is that this is a damn fine song. No seriously, endlessly rocking soundtrack that really got to me. I think this song just rose way up on my mythical list of favorite Def Leppard songs.

Oh, one other thing I noticed with High ‘n’ Dry is that a lot of the songs seem to bleed into the next one without the traditional fade out between each track. It’s not too distracting but I will admit that I did momentarily forget to realize that “Bringin’ On The Heartbreak” had turned into “Switch 625” on Side One.

The song “Mirror Mirror (Look Into My Eyes)” was a pretty cool number. It’s got a mid-tempo delivery in the main lyrical verses and the song gets more uptempo for the chorus. But the song seems to have a little extra heavy feeling to it that makes the whole track seem somehow deeper to me. Plus, the chorus sounds fantastic.

As for the album closing “No No No”, it is an all-out blitz musically full of that “piss and vinegar” attitude that I’m guessing everyone has in the twenties. It gets you amped up and then it just cuts right out on you out of nowhere and suddenly the album is over.

But as I look back at what I just heard, I can’t help but admit that I do indeed find myself really enjoying this early version of Def Leppard. Look, I’m never going to agree with those who think Def Leppard ceased to exist when they changed their sound after their first two albums but I can at least see what they are talking about. But for me, I like that the band evolved over the past four decades. If they hadn’t, who knows if they would’ve lasted. That said, you can’t take away from the fact that the High ‘n’ Dry is just one flat out killer rock album that does indeed stand the test of time!

NOTES OF INTEREST – The High ‘n’ Dry album has gone double platinum in the US. It managed to peak at #38 on the Billboard album chart upon its original release in 1981. It was also the last album that guitarist Pete Willis was a full-time member of Def Leppard.

The cover art design was done by Hipgnosis, the art design group headed by Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell. They are probably best known for their association with Pink Floyd.

MICHAEL SCHENKER TO CELEBRATE 50TH ANNIVERSARY IN FALL RIVER, MA

Former Scorpions and UFO guitarist, Michael Schenker, is celebrating his 50th anniversary as a touring artist with a date at the Narrows Center in Fall River, MA, on October 19, 2022. It is one of the smallest venues he is playing on this tour and there is no opening act for this show. Purchase tickets HERE.

Michael Schenker Group (MSG) is a legendary name. After two phenomenal records under the guise of Michael Schenker Fest, a true guitar hero is returning to his roots. By forming Michael Schenker Group (MSG) back in 1979, Michael Schenker laid the foundations for one of hard rock’s most glorious solo careers. And while nobody expected anything less from a former guitarist for Scorpions and UFO, it’s close to impossible mentioning everything Michael has built over the past 50 years, or the countless people he influenced or played with. This, truly, is the stuff that hard rocking myths are made of.

Very few guitarists can be cited as a primary influence for the likes of James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, Dave Mustaine, Dimebag Darrell, Slash or Kerry King. However, to understand Michael Schenker means to understand one primary thing: he’s not here to be worshipped or adored, he’s not here to get rich, he’s here to play. And he’s doing it with the same swagger, verve and dizzying artistry as always.

The Narrows Center Center is located at 16 Anawan Street in Fall River, MA. Parking is available for free.

VANILLA FUDGE RETURNS TO THE NARROWS CENTER IN FALL RIVER, MA

Legendary rock band Vanilla Fudge will return to the Narrows Center in Fall River, Mass., on October 6, 2022. This concert is presented by JKB Management & Booking. Purchase tickets. HERE.

Since the summer of 1967, Vanilla Fudge were architects of a new musical style that included psychedelic, rock, soul music and gospel. They were, and are masters of reinterpreting other artist’s hit songs, and their effect on the soon to explode late 60’s “heavy metal” scene was undeniable.

To be an influence on the likes of Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Van Halen certainly secures a place in rock n roll history for the legendary Vanilla Fudge.

Now in their 55th year, the powerhouse vocals and keyboard flourishes of virtuoso organist Mark Stein, along with the fluid guitar explosions of Vinnie Martell, all anchored by one of the best rhythm sections in the history of rock music, with the legendary Carmine Appice on drums and Pete Bremy on bass, they create a sound so unique that it cannot be imitated. Your spirit will jettison right back to a “happening” in that magical summer of 1967, and this “happening” needs to be felt live to truly be appreciated!

The Narrows Center is located at 16 Anawan Street in Fall River, Mass. Tickets to this show can be purchased HERE or by calling the box office at 508-324-1926. For those wanting to purchase tickets in person, box office hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 12 noon to 5 p.m.

NEW VENUE – RICHIE KOTZEN TO PERFORM AT THE MET IN PAWTUCKET, RI, ON SATURDAY, SEPT. 10TH

Richie Kotzen (of The Winery Dogs, ex-Poison and Mr. Big) is embarking on a solo tour with his band that will make a stop at The Met in Pawtucket, RI, on Saturday, September 10th. Groundlift open the show. Tickets are on-sale now and can be purchased by clicking HERE. This show is presented by JKB Entertainment Group.

(Please note that this show replaces Richie’s Kotzen’s show at the Vault Music Hall on the same date. All ticket buyers have been notified of the venue change and given the option for a refund. Anyone wishing a refund, should contact the promoter jkbentertainmentgroup@gmail.com with your full number to complete the refund process).

Richie Kotzen has always been on a clear, laser-focused mission as an artist. While he is rightfully acknowledged worldwide for being a stellar guitar player, an emotive singer, and, frankly, a balls-out dynamic live performer to boot, Kotzen is quite aware he must maintain an ever-vigilant eye on ensuring one particularly important creative arrow in his artistic quiver continues to be properly nurtured — and that is his songwriting.

 “My whole existence has been driven by songs,” Kotzen admits. “I realized when I was very, very young that if I didn’t have a song to sing that, was mine, I probably wouldn’t have much of a future as an artist. That’s where I come from. It’s like I get to live my dream scenario, because my job is doing what I love to do, which is making music. It’s how I live.”

Good songs are indeed Kotzen’s creative stock in trade, and the man has spent decades making sure he delivers the goods on a consistent basis. As a vocalist, Kotzen’s impassioned style exists at the crossroads where the likes of Paul Rodgers, Terence Trent D’Arby (better known these days as Sananda Maitreya), and Rod Stewart meet. All that primal vocal energy also feeds into his love of great songwriting. To that end, Kotzen cites Daryl Hall and Don Henley as two legendary songwriters he respects and looks up to, both of whom he takes cues from for inspiration. “I’m more of a conversational writer,” Kotzen explains. “I don’t write about aliens and spaceships. It’s more about what I’m thinking, and what I’m feeling. Here’s the thing — I wait. I wait until I have something to say — and usually, that’s when it all comes together. When something strikes me, I’ll sing it into my phone, and then it’ll either live there and wait until another day, or I’ll work on it and it’ll end up on an album. That’s my process.” 

That said, the muse struck Kotzen in a much different kind of way when he got together with his longtime friend and confidant, Iron Maiden guitarist/backing vocalist and songwriter Adrian Smith, to lay down nine galvanizing tracks for March 2021’s collaborative triumph, SMITH/ KOTZEN, in addition to its follow-up four-song Record Store Day EP released later in the same year, November 2021’s aptly rousing BETTER DAYS. What both these hard-charging S/K releases reveal is a creative relationship previously only hinted at through their shared musical brotherhood. “I didn’t know what to expect,” Kotzen reveals. “Adrian would come in with either a lyrical concept or a riff, and then we would work on it together. That would usually lead me into writing another section for the song. If he came in with a chorus, I’d be writing a verse — or, if he came in with the verse, I’d come up with the chorus. We just ping-ponged our ideas back and forth like that.” 

One of the best give-and-take SMITH/KOTZEN song examples is “Scars,” a deeply cutting, yearning modern blues-burner of a track wherein Smith provided the verse riff and overall concept and lyric, and then Kotzen improvised the B section for it right there on the spot. “What you hear on the first pre-chorus is the original improv I did when I sat in front of the microphone and just freestyled,” he reports. “The song has a real honest sound to it because of that — and then the chorus just evolved from there.”  

The reason SMITH/KOTZEN works so well is quite simple. “The reality is, Adrian and I connected artistically. We just hit it off,” Kotzen confirms. “The shows we performed together earlier this year on the West Coast and in the U.K. were great, and hopefully, it all continues.” (We kinda suspect it will — or, to modify the title of one of the album’s most poignant songs, we do indeed know you now, and we want to see and hear more of what you’ve got to offer.)

  Kotzen’s undeniable push-pull skills are apparent not only all throughout SMITH/KOTZEN, but also by way of his continually resonant collaboration with Return to Forever legends bassist Stanley Clarke and drummer Lenny White, along with keyboardist Rachel Z and violinist Karen Briggs, in the jazz-fusion super collective known as Vertú — “a highlight of my career I’m still very, very proud of,” he clarifies. 

In addition to that creative benchmark and his ongoing role as the frontman of the quite formidable rocktastic three-piece band known as The Winery Dogs, Kotzen is an avowed, inveterate solo artist with 22 albums released to date under his own name. None of them are more personally affecting than his February 2020 three-disc retrospectacle 50 FOR 50, released via Kotzen’s own Headroom-Inc. label. Ostensibly intended to celebrate his 50th birthday at the front end of that fateful year, Kotzen found the genesis of 50 FOR 50 by combing through his personal archives to hone in on 50 tracks in various stages of almost-completion in order to come up with the right finishing touches to get them across the finish line. In the process, many of these songs took on a much bigger weight than the songwriter had perhaps initially envisioned.

“I still think it’s one of the best things I’ve done,” Kotzen declares. “And I’m still super-excited about it. A lot of times folks think everything you write about literally happened to you, but sometimes you may write a song about something you saw someone else go through. You may fabricate scenarios and characters from your own mind without even realizing you’re doing it, so the source of creativity becomes much broader than strictly writing about what happened to you specifically.”

Since Kotzen’s planned cross-country tour to support 50 FOR 50 around the album’s initial release timeframe was unfortunately derailed due to the pandemic, he’s now set to return to the live stage with a vengeance in the power-trio format he loves so well, starting in August 2022 to make up those earlier dates as well as play in a number of additional venues. After all, playing his music live is what brings everything together. “I like the flexibility in the level of improvisation I can do in that trio format. I go to that place in my head where I know what I’m feeling when I’m singing onstage, and I connect with it,” Kotzen observes.

Understanding the imprint of his own global artistic reach ultimately brings Richie Kotzen full circle with the feelings evoked by the music he cherished during his own youth, not to mention his regard for the musicians who made it. “Thankfully, I’ve been very lucky in that way,” he concludes. “People tend to gravitate toward others who are carved out of certain like-minded stones, and then you figure out how you fit into each other’s orbit. Me, I like to do that with my music.” Considering how the impact of Kotzen’s ever-expanding catalog stretches to the literal edge of the Earth, we expect the shared orbit of his songs and what they mean to his listenership and fanbase at large will only continue to widen.

The Met is located at 1005 Main Street in Pawtucket, RI.

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – SURVIVOR’S ‘VITAL SIGNS’

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.

SURVIVOR – VITAL SIGNS (1984)

I was scrolling through a Facebook music group that I’m part of last week when I came across a post marking the 40th anniversary of the Survivor album Eye Of The Tiger. Knowing that the rest of the material on that album is just as good as the monstrously successful “Eye Of The Tiger” song and that it had been almost exactly five years since I last wrote about Survivor in The Cassette Chronicles,  I made plans to write about that album for this week’s article.

But the best laid plans went for naught when I remembered that my cassette copy of the album doesn’t work anymore. I have the remastered CD edition of the release but since this series is all about cassettes, I don’t listen to other formats when doing these articles.

So instead, I’m going to be writing about the Vital Signs album. The funny thing for me is that while I am a huge fan of Survivor, it wasn’t until I bought this album on cassette that I owned any of the band’s albums. I loved “Eye Of The Tiger” when I first heard it but the only version I owned was the Rocky III soundtrack on vinyl. So Vital Signs was the first Survivor album I ever owned. (Yes, I own all the albums now!)

Vital Signs is the fifth album from Survivor, but it was the first one to feature ex-Cobra / ex-Target singer Jimi Jamison on vocals. I can’t remember where I read it so I can’t be 100% certain, but I think the reason Jamison had no writing credits on the album is because he was brought in very late in the writing/recording sessions. So all the songs were written by guitarist Frankie Sullivan and keyboardist Jim Peterik.

The album had four singles released from it and helpfully enough, those tracks are the first four songs on Side One of Vital Signs. The album opens with two straight up rocking numbers in “I Can’t Hold Back” and “High On You”. The latter song was a Top 10 hit for the band (the song peaked at #8). Both songs are still quite memorable and enjoyable all these years later and I think they stand out as “definitive” Survivor tracks alongside “Eye Of The Tiger”

As for the other two singles, the song “First Night” didn’t crack the Top 40 but I actually really like the song. It starts off like it is going to be a ballad, but after the song’s first verse of lyrics, the band bursts into a full-on kicking rocker. The guitar sound in the song is particularly good as well.

And with this album coming out in the 1980’s, you know that Survivor had a ballad on Vital Signs. However, instead of being my usual snarky self about the quality of said type of song, I have to say “The Search Is Over” is not only a fantastic ballad, but it still rings true to this day. I hear it every so often on the radio station I have to listen to at my job and I always get the warm fuzzies when it comes on. The music draws you in without being cloying and the lyrics are directly sentimental without becoming sugary dreck. Plus Jimi Jamison’s vocal performance is simply marvelous.

So that takes care of the songs that were released as singles. But Vital Signs has five “album” tracks on it and the first is the Side One closer “Broken Promises”. The mid-to-uptempo track showcases the deeper side of Survivor’s sound and lyric writing. While they are always going to be known for their big pop hits, when the band takes their music in a more dramatic direction, they always seem to deliver the goods perfectly. Such is the case with “Broken Promises”. The song’s main lyrical verses are slightly slower in tempo but when Survivor hits the chorus break, you get that big bold gang vocal sound that helps elevate the song along with the increase in the delivery pacing of the music. There is a “huskier” feel to the music and as you listen to the lyrics, I’m always reminded of how they can have a subtly deeper feel and/or meaning to them.

When you flip the cassette over to Side Two, you get one of my favorite tracks from the band in “Popular Girl”. I’ve always loved this song from the first time I heard it and think it is one of Survivor’s more underrated tracks. Making the song even more appealing to me is the fact you can listen to the vocals and interpret the lyrics in a couple of different ways. That might give you pause but surprisingly enough, whichever way you end up taking them, each version works.

The song “Everlasting” is another ballad, but unlike “The Search Is Over” which plays it mostly straight up in terms of how the song is performed, this track is purely a POWER ballad. There’s no mistaking the intent of the lyrics of course, but Survivor surrounds Jamison’s vocals with a huge musical soundtrack that quickly annihilates any doubts that a second ballad would prove inferior and serve more as an annoyance. It is just a damn good song!

The copy of the Vital Signs album I listened to in order to write this article is the one I bought nearly 38 years ago. And though the liner notes clearly state that Frankie Sullivan and Jim Peterik wrote all the songs on the album, when I first heard the song “It’s The Singer Not The Song”, I couldn’t help thinking to myself that it seemed a pretty ballsy statement for Jimi Jamison to “make” after just joining the band. Of course, he didn’t craft the lyrics so he didn’t actually make the statement but that’s just how my mind was working when I was 13 years old I guess. That said, I absolutely love this song! It’s a high energy rocker and Jamison does a great job selling the lyrics.

The Vital Signs album closes out with “I See You In Everyone”. The song title may suggest another ballad to you, I know. However, while the lyrics do fall in that general direction, this song is actually quite dramatically intense and rocking. It ends things on a huge high note and is just yet another song that showcases just how fantastic this album was at the time of its release. I don’t think I’m overselling things when I say that Survivor’s Vital Signs is one of the all-time benchmark albums of the melodic rock genre, period!

NOTES OF INTEREST: How much do I love the album? Well, I own it on vinyl, the cassette I used to write this article, the original CD release and the Rock Candy Records CD reissue as well. That Rock Candy reissue includes the song “The Moment Of Truth” as a bonus track. It was originally released on the Karate Kid movie soundtrack. The song plays over that film’s end credits.

Vital Signs is Survivor’s second biggest album. It peaked at #16 on the album chart and was certified platinum.

ROCKIN’ 4 VETS ANNOUNCES SUMMER CONCERT SERIES

Rockin’ 4 Vets, a New England based non-profit, continues doing what it has for the last several years. Taking its new name, literally, it produces concerts in locations throughout New England to assist veterans.

During this summer, it will again be presenting concerts outside at the Kowloon in Saugus, MA, where it began doing shows in 2021. Due to the success of those shows, the facility was added a larger stage along with upgraded sound and lights, to handle this year’s line-up of performers.

Kowloon, always a place known for its food, has created a comfortable environment to enjoy these events in. It improved the layout and the seating options available to ticket holders. All shows are general admission, but people are given the opportunity to sit at small tables, for privacy, larger seating tables for groups or on the outside patio set ups for larger groups.

All shows are produced by Alive & Kicking Production for Rockin’ 4 Vets. Proceeds raised through this series will be awarded to several Veteran’s support organizations at the conclusion of the series. Rockin’4 Vets has been a staunch supporter of Vets issues most related to PTSD, addiction, and homelessness.

June 5The Jon Butcher Axis w/special guest The Willie J. Laws Band
June 19Roomful of Blues
June 26Entrain
July 10Fat City Band
July 17Victor Wainwright and the Train
July 24From A. to Beatles – featuring Johnny A. Spec Guest Sal Baglio of the Stompers!
July 31Anthony Gomes
July 7Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters
Aug 14Deric Dyer & Friends
Aug 21James Montgomery Band ft. Christine Ohlman and Rebel Montez
Aug 28Veronica Lewis

Jon Butcher – Boston rock legend and Grammy nominee Jon Butcher brings his AXIS show to Kowloon kicking off the 2022 Home Grown Rock Benefit Concert Series featuring The Willie J. Laws Band (Last Prophet of the Funky Texas Blues).

You’ll hear Axis hits, the music of Jimi Hendrix, rockin’, funky blues and much more!

Roomful of Blues – 5-time Grammy nominee Roomful of Blues make their triumphant return to Boston’s North shore for ONE SHOW ONLY!

Every Roomful of Blues show on the North Shore sells out. Don’t miss your only chance to experience their high-energy jump, swing, blues, R&B, and soul live on-stage this summer!

Entrain – Since its inception, Entrain has jammed with the likes of singer/songwriter James Taylor, Grateful Dead alum Bob Weir and rock legend Bo Diddley, and amateur saxophonist and professional leader of the Free World Bill Clinton. Entrain continues to perform as a hugely popular live act throughout the northeast and mid-Atlantic.

The Fat City Band The Fat City Band, 2018 Inductees into The New England Music Museum Hall of Fame, remains committed to one central idea – “Music Should Be Fun!” TFCB has had the good fortune to be able to write, record, and perform their own unique style of Blues, Roadhouse Rock, Jazz, and New Orleans Style R&B for all their fans and friends alike from coast to coast and beyond.

TFCB, a seven-piece band, features a lead vocalist/harmonica player, drummer, lead guitar, bass guitar, keyboards, slide trombone and tenor saxophone! They have trotted the globe and have a large New England following. While many remain in their seats to listen to their great sound, others feel compelled to get up and dance, and the R&B Café has room for both, along with fantastic acoustics.

Victor Wainwright – Grammy-nominated, multiple-award-winning Victor Wainwright and The Train are back to Boston’s North Shore after sold-out shows 3 years in a row! Don’t miss their only Boston area show this summer!

“Not only is Victor one of the greatest blues piano players in the business, he’s also a world class entertainer and vocalist.”    -Blues Revue Magazine

Johnny A – Spearheaded by Boston Hall of Fame Guitarist JOHNNY A., and stemming from his passion for The Beatles, the new project, “From A. To BEATLES”, is a collaboration of Johnny A. and like-minded musician friends to instrumentally “reimagine” the music of The Beatles.

From A. To BEATLES features some of the “best of the best” of Boston area musicians with legacies from such iconic bands as The Yardbirds, J. Geils Band, The Joe Perry Project, Peter Wolf, John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band, and Bobby Whitlock.

Anthony Gnomes – #1 Billboard Blues Artist, is a triple threat force as a guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter. This, along with his high-energy shows and dynamic stage presence, make him one of the top draws on the Rock/Blues circuit today.

Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters – Legendary Boston Blues guitarist, is a four-time (1997, 1999, 2014, 2018) Blues Music Award winner as Guitar Player of the Year.

Deric Dyer & Friends – A collection of some of the greatest touring musicians in the country, who all happen to be local, comprised of former members of such bands as the J. Geils Band, Joe Cocker, the Joe Perry Project, and Tina turner

James Montgomery – Montgomery was and remains, a one-man dervish capable of grabbing an audience, controlling it, and giving it a night to remember.

Christine Ohlman – As long-time lead vocalist on SNL, Christine has performed with a who’s who of musical greats, covering all ranges, styles, and formats.

Veronica Lewis – Amazing local Blues performer, on the verge of a national breakout. She has been traveling in support of her initial release opening for larger acts; to great response and building an enormous following in her wake.

All shows: Gates open at 3:00 PM and show begins at 4:00 PM

Tickets – General Admission $37.50 in advance and $40 at the door. VIP with Meet & Greet along with reserved front of house seating $79.

Tickets for all shows are available at GimmeLive.com.         

For further info, contact Jim Tirabassi @ 978-979-2076 or by e-mail at jim@alivenkickingprod.com

Facebook for Rockin’ 4 Vets: https://www.facebook.com/Rockin4Vets

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – Y&T’S ‘CONTAGIOUS’

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 – CONTAGIOUS (1987)

Back In April 2020, I wrote about the Y&T album Ten for The Cassette Chronicles. Having loved the album, I wrote the following: “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!”

So much for the best laid plans, right? It has taken me a while to get around to writing about another album in the band’s discography for this series, but that doesn’t mean I’ve been resting idly in becoming more invested in the band’s music. I’ve been slowly acquiring Y&T’s back catalog on CD, purchasing it through the band’s website, and loving what I’ve been hearing that way.

But when it came to the Contagious album, I found that it is one of the albums they don’t offer for sale through their site. That leaves me with my cassette edition and thus I can write about it here and now.

But before I start talking about the album, I just want to send out my best wishes to Y&T’s main man Dave Meniketti. At the time I’m writing this, he’s engaged in a health battle against prostate cancer and I am looking forward to his full recovery.

Now, let’s take a trip back to 1987 and check out what Contagious is all about. And yes, the disclaimer from me here is that while I did hear “Eyes Of A Stranger” as part of the band’s set when I saw them live in 2019, I have no recollection of the material on the album otherwise. So I figured to get to experience this as essentially a “new” album. Of course, that pre-listen belief turned out to be a little incorrect. Somewhere along the line since its release nearly 35 years ago, I had heard the title cut as well.

Regarding that title track, I will say that Y&T wasted no time in getting the album off to a raucous start. With a collectively shouted “Hey” bursting out of the speakers, “Contagious” grabs you by the throat and throttles you with an explosively charged rocking soundtrack. Meniketti’s vocals have a great hook throughout but it gets particularly melodically inclusive on the chorus.

“L.A. Rocks” is another hook laden power rocking track. Great chorus and as I listened I could feel the blood rushing around my body, pumping me up big time! On “The Kid Goes Crazy”, the band is on point and on fire as they propel themselves through a relentlessly rocking soundtrack with a storyline about the “glitz and glamour” of life in the spotlight. This is just a phenomenal song!

I found that “Temptation” has a slower tempo for most of the song, kind of restrained in its delivery. But you can still feel the underlying power that comes out more to the forefront during the song’s chorus and towards the end of the song. The guitar solo caught my ear as well.

Side One of the album closes out with “Fight For Your Life”. The song starts out a little slow and might strike you as heading towards power ballad territory with that opening. But it quickly turns into a highly energetic anthemic kind of rocker.

Side Two opens with “Armed And Dangerous”, a track that much like the opening cut “Contagious”, bursts from the speakers with a kinetic spark that instantly gets you amped up. The band doesn’t hold back with the song being “in-your-face” throughout. Factor in a great solo and you have another winning track in my book!

That kind of fully upfront delivery continued on “Rhythm or Not”. It’s got a full course of electrified rock and roll with a strong soundtrack and a great gang vocal employed for the chorus, but there’s a little something extra that I can’t quite describe that gives the song an added dimension to it. If you listen, maybe you can tell me what it was that made me get into the song so much.

For a song where no one from Y&T had a hand in the writing, is it wrong that I enjoyed “Bodily Harm” so much? It’s a weird amalgamation of the harder rocking sound that you get with Y&T and the rather obvious thrust for a heavily commercially appealing hook and chorus. But while that might make for a song that was “trying too hard”, here it worked.

While I’m probably always going to think of Queensryche when I hear or read the song title “Eyes Of A Stranger”, I was kind of surprised at just how much I liked the Y&T “Eyes Of A Stranger” track. It’s very uptempo, but not quite as musically balls out as tracks like “L.A. Rocks” or “The Kid Goes Crazy”. Still, loved the way this one came together.

Contagious closes out with an instrumental called “I’ll Cry For You”. Though there are no lyrics of course, this is the track that comes closest to what you would call a power ballad. There’s a bluesy kind of guitar playing throughout and as the song winds its way toward its end, the intensity flares up and leaves you feeling quite fulfilled at the finish.

While Contagious may not have been the kind of commercial success that time and clarity suggest that Y&T so richly deserved, the quality of the band’s material didn’t waver on the album. This is a superbly crafted album that all these years later still has a drawing power that lives up to the album’s title.

NOTES OF INTEREST – The album, which peaked at #78 on the Billboard album chart, had 30,000 copies printed with the song title “Boys Night Out” on it. However, when Geffen Records (the label that released Contagious) put out a Sammy Hagar album with the same song title, Y&T was forced to change the title to “L.A. Rocks”.

While the band members were heavily involved in the songwriting for Contagious, there were a number of co-writers working on songs as well. Guitarist Al Pitrelli (Savatage) and bassist Bruno Ravel (Danger Danger) co-wrote “Temptation” with bassist Phil Kennemore. Meanwhile Taylor Rhodes, who has worked with Aerosmith, Kix and Celine Dion, co-wrote the album’s title track with Dave Meniketti as well as collaborating with Robert White Johnson (who also worked with Celine Dion) for the song “Bodily Harm”. He further co-wrote the “Eyes Of A Stranger” with Kennemore and Meniketti.

The artist Hugh Syme, best known for his lengthy collaboration with Rush, is credited for the art direction on Contagious.

FILMING LOCATON SPOTLIGHT – “THE EXORCIST” (1973)

On the final Friday of every month in 2022, 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 some of the filming locations for the movie The Exorcist, which was directed by William Friedkin. The film was released in 1973. 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 2015. These photos were taken in Washington, D.C.

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – MARCHELLO’S ‘DESTINY’

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.

MARCHELLO – DESTINY (1989)

As we travel back to 1989 this week for a look back at Destiny, the debut album from Marchello, I find myself once again wondering just how this particular band fell through the cracks for me. It’s not just that I haven’t heard the music before but I can’t rightly recall even having heard of the band before.

And as I would discover, it is kind of a shame because I ended up enjoying the Destiny album as a whole. As I said, it was 1989 when the album came out. Heavy metal and hard rock was still on top of the musical heap. Led by singer and guitarist Gene Marchello, the album’s creation was also powered by Peppi Marchello. He produced the album as well as writing or co-writing most of the songs as well. While the shared last name indicates they are related, I couldn’t find out the exact relationship online.

As for the album itself, the song “Brown Eyes” opens things up with a quick and lively pace. It has a great catchy sound and once I stopped hearing the lyrics wrong in the chorus, I really got into the song. I was a little less enamored with the next track “Tight Pants”. The lyrics for that one would seem to be “of its time” but while that didn’t bother any sensibilities for me, the song just didn’t really strike me as being all that interesting.

The album’s title track had a kind of mood setting intro that quickly developed into a blast of amped up rock and roll energy. I liked the song for the most part but I will say that I thought the guitar solo was so over the top that it ended up being useless musical masturbation instead of fitting in with the rest of the song.

With a title like “First Love”, you can probably imagine that it would be a ballad. I mean, it was a near universal requirement at the time for bands to do ballads to get noticed. However, while the song does start off that way, it quickly becomes a heavier sounding uptempo number. In fact, before the first verse of lyrics is over, the band is rocking out.

The closing track on Side One of the cassette is a high flying rocker called “What If” and it was quite the earworm as I listened to it.

The second side of the album opens up in a similar fashion with “Living For #1”. It’s a fast moving hook-filled track that keeps you energized throughout. While that “First Love” song played with your ballad expectations, the song “Love Begins Again” is more of a straight up power ballad. The most striking part of this song is that while Gene Marchello’s vocals sound fine throughout the album, I thought they were rather thin-sounding on this one. Overall the song is OK but the strange way the vocals came out didn’t do the track any favors.

While the title of “Heavy Weight Champ Of Love” is spelled incorrectly, the song itself is actually pretty good. It’s got a hard-driving sound and the twist in the lyrical “story” is interesting given the era in which the song came out.

“She’s Magic” is pure adrenaline and while “Winners Never Lose” is another track that starts off as a ballad, the song’s pacing picks up throughout its run time and it was another pretty good song.

Perhaps the most surprising song on the album is the closing track “Rock ‘N Roll Rumble”. It surprised me because it is an instrumental, which is not always a good way to close out an album. But any hesitation on my part was quickly set aside. This is a fantastic track and while I mentioned that guitar solo that was over the top on the album’s title cut, the guitar playing here showcases Gene Marchello’s playing ability but tailors it inside the song perfectly..

It may have taken me more than thirty years to discover Marchello’s Destiny album, I was rather surprised to find out that it was a musically fulfilling release that had a good sense of the melodic with the large portion of its eleven tracks. Full on rocking overall, this new-to-me album and band made for great musical experience!

NOTES OF INTEREST – While the band recorded a second album in 1991 (entitled The Power Of Money), it was never officially released (to the best of my knowledge and Internet research) until 2012 when it came out via AOR Heaven with the new title The Magic Comes Alive.