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The Cassette Chronicles – Def Leppard’s ‘Pyromania’

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 – PYROMANIA (1983)

As I set to writing this article I was trying to come up with some new kind of angle that hasn’t been covered ad nauseum over the 36 years since Def Leppard first released Pyromania. But whether it is talking about the big hit songs from this album that launched the band into the stratosphere of rock royalty or the painstakingingly intense recording of the album as spearheaded by Mutt Lange, there’s not a whole heck of a lot that hasn’t been written about the album.

Yes, Pyromania is the album that truly launched the band’s career. Their two previous albums are really good. There’s no doubt about that. But in comparison to this album and then the even more massive success of Hysteria, both On Through The Night and High ‘n’ Dry somehow come off as relatively overlooked. For all the talk about how intense the collaboration with Lange was for this album, you can’t fault the finished product. There’s ten songs on the album and even though three songs are recognized as all-time rock classics, there is not a single bad track on the album (Okay, to be honest, I hate the outro on the album closing “Billy’s Got A Gun”). To this day, how can you not get a little shot of electricity when you hear “Photograph”, “Rock of Ages” or “Foolin'”?

But I love songs like “Stagefright” and “Die Hard The Hunter” as well. And the opening salvo of “Rock! Rock! (Til You Drop)” still gets me all keyed up to listen to the album in full.

See what I mean? It’s nice to read that stuff, but I’m not exactly saying anything that hasn’t been written before.

So instead, I thought I’d just go into a little bit of my own experience with the album instead. Pyromania was one of the first albums I ended up with as I took my initial foray into what has become a passionate love of rock and metal.

I can’t remember exactly how I came to possess my cassette copy of the album, but I am pretty sure that my parents bought it for me. Which is quite amusing when you consider that they wouldn’t buy me REO Speedwagon’s Hi Infidelity or Twisted Sister’s Stay Hungry albums when I asked for them because of the cover art. But if you take a look at the cover art for Pyromania, you might wonder why that was an okay piece for them to buy me.

Anyway, I still have that very cassette but for some reason I do not have the original case or the liner notes card that came with it. Instead, for years it has been stored in holder that was originally for blank cassettes (which were usually used to tape songs off the radio of course!). The liner card was flipped inside out and the track listing was written in hand in blue ink. And the album still plays wonderfully. I’d have to check because I think I did finally upgrade to a CD version of the album but I still love that cassette.

I’ve seen the band in concert twice, once in 1993 and then again in 2000. My sister was a big fan of Def Leppard at one point and I took her to that 2000 show. Rock fandom didn’t quite stick with her though as she’s more of a country music fan these days.

One of the coolest memories I have that is associated with the days of Pyromania is opening gifts that Christmas. My parents had managed to buy me not only an album cover art T-shirt but they had found a Def Leppard Union Jack painter’s cap. Let me tell you, I was pretty stoked when I opened that particular package.

Over the years, there has been an ebb and flow to my fandom for the band. I hated the Slang, Yeah! and Songs from the Sparkle Lounge releases, but I also loved Euphoria and truly raved about the 2015 Def Leppard album. But when I find the band has really hit on all the high marks that define their career, they are a vastly underrated rock act. Yes, I know that they seem to shy away from even being called a rock band, but that’s what they are and that is why I remain pretty devoted to their music.

Hysteria may be the band’s highest benchmark in terms of commercial success (more than 25 million albums sold). But for me and I’m guessing many others, that success wouldn’t have been possible without the breakthrough the band experienced as they worked on what would become Pyromania. It is an album that never fails to entertain me and stands up strong against whatever you might want to throw at it.

NOTES OF INTEREST: English musician Thomas Dolby, best known for the hit pop song “She Blinded Me With Science” played keyboards on the Pyromania album. He’s credited under the pseudonym Booker T. Boffin.

Producer Mutt Lange provided backing vocals on the album and did the spoken word intro on the song “Rock Of Ages”.

Despite being fired from the band before the completion of recording Pyromania, guitarist Pete Willis played the rhythm guitar tracks for all ten songs on the album.

The Cassette Chronicles – Beau Nasty’s ‘Dirty, But Well Dressed’

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.

BEAU NASTY – DIRTY, BUT WELL DRESSED (1989)

Even those who consider themselves hardcore fans of the 80’s metal years are likely to have some band that either they have never heard of before. Perhaps there’s a chance they’ve heard the name but memories of the music have been obscured by the passage of time.

The latter might just be the most fitting explanation for the band Beau Nasty. I’m sure most people reading this article are probably scratching their head saying, “Who?”.

Don’t worry though, you are in good company. I am pretty sure that I’ve heard the band’s name before but I can’t really guarantee that. And as for any memories of hearing the music off this sole album they released, nope!

The band is pretty darn obscure to say the least. I looked them up on line and there wasn’t really much to find. There’s not even a Wikipedia page for them.

Of course, after listening to Dirty, But Well Dressed, I can’t say that I’m all that surprised by the lack of information available. The album was released at the pinnacle of metal’s golden years. And despite the band seeming to check every box on the list of what a metal album should have in 1989, the material just really didn’t catch on with seemingly anyone. Of course, the silly album cover with the band posed in Renaissance-era costumes probably didn’t help matters with those people who scoured the shelves for new material to check out.

With the passage of time and new ears to listen though, I was surprised to find that there were some interesting songs to be heard after all. When I first listened to the album, my initial impression of singer Mark Anthony Fretz was that vocally he kind of sounded like a version of Dean Davidson from Britny Fox. Whether it was intentional or just how he sang anyway, the scratchy or raspy vocals gave a bluesy dimension to his performance at times.

The first side of the album kicks off with a song called “Shake It”. It’s not the most original title but there’s a fast paced gritty feel to the song that made me like it in spite of myself. You can check out the video the band made for the song on Youtube. Of course that strong start then gave way to a couple of mediocre rockers in “Goodbye Rosie” and “Gimme Lovin’. Not album killer tracks, but definitely felt like album filler to me.

Of course, those look like pure gold compared to the dreck that was the power ballad “Paradise In The Sand”, a song so dreadfully inane that if the TV show How I Met Your Mother had tried to use it for one of their “Robin Sparkles” episodes, the network’s standards and practices offices would’ve demanded they cut it from the show so they didn’t get arrested for crimes against humanity. Okay, perhaps that’s a bit of an oversell on my part but the song was awful.

Mercifully, the album’s title track close out Side One with a smoking energetic rocker that had me saying out loud as I listened, “I am really liking this one”. While that’s not going to win me any fine writing awards, it isn’t often that I talk to myself out loud while listening to an album for this series, so I look at that as a positive achievement on the band’s part.

Side two dug deep into that bluesy feel with the opening “Love To The Bone”. The song has a slow drawl to the opening sequence before a more driving rock tempo takes over and you are confronted with just a very cool song.

The song “Gemini” had kind of a ballad feel to it but there was more of a musical urgency to the song’s delivery. It gave the song some mildly interesting moments. Based solely on the title of the song, I thought “Piece of the Action” sounded like something that could’ve been on an early L.A. Guns release. However, the pain I felt and that you may feel if you choose to check out the album, returns in full force when another enforced ballad bleats through the speakers on “Make A Wish”. The best thing I can say about it is that it wasn’t worse than “Paradise In The Sand” (Spoiler alert: It was about equal in terms of the overly sappy quotient for this song).

The album closes with a cover of “Love Potion #9”. It is vastly “rocked” up in comparison the original song but it doesn’t do much to make this version any better.

It’s been a while since I’ve written a more downwardly slanted article about one of my albums. While Dirty, But Well Dressed has a few tracks that made things bearable, I can’t really come close to truly recommending that this one go on anyone’s must-listen to list.

NOTES OF INTEREST: As noted, this album was the only one the band produced. They formed in 1988 but had split by 1990.

While Beau Hill served as the album’s executive producer, I was more interested to find that Paul Winger is listed as a producer. Paul is the brother of Kip Winger. Both Beau Hill and Paul Winger, along with brother Nate Winger also helped provide backing vocals on the album as well.

Drummer Mike Terrana would go on from Beau Nasty to play in such heavier acts like Rage, Gamma Ray and Masterplan amongst his many credits.

The Cassette Chronicles – Queensryche’s ‘Operation Mindcrime’

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.

QUEENSRYCHE – Operation: mindcrime (1988)

I love stories. I’ve always been interested in reading or hearing stories, especially when a long thoroughly conceived tale is to be had. TV’s Babylon 5 was described as a five year novel for television, there’s the entire Star Wars movie franchise and in my mild-mannered guise as a reviewer for the noted Mystery Scene magazine, I get the chance to read and review a number of stories. So you can imagine that the notion of a concept album where all the songs are geared towards telling one single story would be right up my alley.

There’s been many examples of great concept albums over the years, with metal being a primary source of this for my own personal enjoyment. Iron Maiden’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son and W.A.S.P.’s The Crimson Idol being two album that immediately come to mind.

But for what started my love of conceptual rock and metal albums, it really begins and ends with Queensryche’s Operation: mindcrime. It’s been nearly 31 years now, and I still get goosebumps whenever I play the album. And I’m kind of obsessed with it as well.

Before I get to that, let’s go back a bit further in time. The fandom I have for Queensryche (even a bit tattered as it is given all the controversies surrounding the splitting of the band a few years back), can first be traced to before I was a metal fan. I had a much older uncle on my father’s side. He lived in Vermont and was married to a woman that had an adult son that was in the armed services. The son was home on a weekend that my family was visiting the state for a summer vacation. After everyone else had gone to bed, he put on an album that I’d never heard before. I was yet to experience the birth of my metal fandom so I didn’t think much of it at first. But once my metal nature came to the forefront, I thought back and it turned out he had been playing the Queensryche EP that night.

But let’s get back to Operation: mindcrime, shall we? Spoken word intros, set pieces, actors performing roles of the characters “Nikki”, “Dr. X” and “Sister Mary” in the stories combined with some incredible metal music, how could you not like this album?

I was about 17 or so when the album came out and I remember that I received the cassette (which I still have and was listening to for the purposes of this article) as a Christmas present from my parents. (A far cry from when my mother wouldn’t buy me metal albums for gifts, no?) Anyway, I remember everything about that first listen in the mid-morning of Christmas Day. The way my bed was situated in the room I shared with my younger brother at the time, the shelf on the bookcase where my stereo of the moment sat and reading along to the lyrics sheet as Queensryche rocked their way through a dark and somewhat apocalyptic tale of conspiracy, corruption, death and destruction and murder and mayhem. For me, it was the best present I could’ve received.

The album’s production, the songwriting and the performances from singer Geoff Tate, guitarists Chris DeGarmo and Michael Wilton, bassist Eddie Jackson and drummer Scott Rockenfield fueled the story and provided this lover of stories with a tale that I just can’t ever seem to get enough of.

I mentioned that I’m kind of obsessed with the album. Hell, for a long time I identified Queensryche as my favorite band. I would listen to Operation: mindcrime as often as possible. I own it on LP, cassette and I have both the original CD release and the 2003 reissued edition as well, plus the version that came with their Revolution Calling box set. Hell, as a member of their official fan club, I was even able to buy a cassette tape that they were selling that contained an update from “Dr. X” himself on the state of the campaign. I still have that too. I still have the bumper stickers that came when you joined the fan club, for goodness sake! I even had a separate jean jacket that was dedicated solely to Queensryche with an Operation: mindcrime backpatch as the focal point along with the band’s name done on the shoulder blades of the jacket by my mother.

When the band announced that they were going to perform the entire album on their tour for the Empire album, I knew that I HAD to be there! And I was…TWICE! It is still one of the greatest concerts I’ve ever seen. They were simply on fire at this point in their career. When they released the live album Operation: Livecrime I bought both the cassette and CD editions because I just HAD to have them both!

I’ve imagined a movie for the story (writing the screenplay would be the ideal for me) and as a Dungeons & Dragons player, my friend Fred and I even started coming up with a game setting where the Operation: mindcrime setting was a reality, we were in the middle of it and Geoff Tate was actually revealed to be an elf! Remember, I did cop to this particular obsession!

Most of my articles in The Cassette Chronicles contain some bit of review analysis about what I did and did not like about the album. But a song by song breakdown isn’t really necessary for this album. From “I Remember Now” to “Eyes of A Stranger”, I love it all! Every bit of music and lyrics serves the story and heightens my appreciation even to this day. I can’t walk away now…nor would I want to.

Of course, due to a bitter split between Geoff Tate and the rest of the band, the lineup that recorded the album no longer exists and it is a case of where I believe there will never be any possibility of a reunion. But that doesn’t sour the greatness Queensryche achieved in their heyday.

Simply put, this is my story and I am sticking with it: Operation: mindcrime is my all-time favorite album ever…period…end of discussion!

NOTES OF INTEREST: Geoff Tate has been performing the entire album on tour as part of the 30th anniversary of the release. He’ll be playing the The Vault Music Hall & Pub on June 23rd and 24th (just a few days after this article goes live) in New Bedford, MA. He’s announced plans to perform the Queensryche album Empire in its entirety during his tour for 2020.

Queensryche recorded a sequel album in 2006, Operation: mindcrime II. Ronnie James Dio performed the role of “Dr. X” on that album. The live release Mindcrime at the Moore is the only live recording of Dio performing the role on the song “The Chase”.

The Moody Blues’ Justin Hayward to perform in Fall River, MA

Justin Hayward, vocalist, guitarist and composer of The Moody Blues, is performing at the Narrows Center in Fall River, Mass., on October 9, 2019. The concert will feature Hayward playing hits and deep cuts from The Moody Blues catalog and songs from Hayward’s solo career. Michael Dawes, who is also in Hayward’s band, will open the show. Purchase tickets HERE.

Having chalked up over fifty years at the peak of the music and entertainment industry, Justin Hayward’s voice has been heard the world over.  Known principally as the vocalist, lead guitarist and composer for the Moody Blues, his is an enduring talent that has helped to define the times in which he worked. Over the last forty-five years the band has sold 55 million albums and received numerous awards. Commercial success has gone hand in hand with critical acclaim, The Moody Blues are renowned the world over as innovators and trail blazers who have influenced any number of fellow artists.  Justin is honoured with the Moody Blues on the Rock Walk Hall of Fame on Sunset Boulevard and last year the band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Born and brought up in Swindon in the UK, Justin’s interest in music started early when he was five years old and his grandfather bequeathed him his large collection of 78 rpm recordings. “It opened a world of imagination to me,” says Justin.  Having taught himself to play the ukulele, he soon progressed to guitar and by his early teens he was playing in local groups.  Upon leaving school at 17 he answered an advertisement in Melody Maker newspaper and successfully auditioned for UK Rock and Roll hero Marty Wilde. “I got the job playing guitar for Marty – it was a dream come true for me”. Justin credits Marty with encouraging him to become a songwriter; he made several recordings with Marty’s ‘Wilde Three’ and also appeared with them at the London Palladium.  They remain close friends to this day: “Marty is still my hero”.

Having started the ball rolling as a songwriter in his own right with a couple of solo singles, he joined the Moody Blues in the summer of 1966. Hitting his stride immediately with the single “Fly Me High”, he followed it up with the classic hit songs “Nights in White Satin” and “Tuesday Afternoon” from the seminal album Days of Future Passed. This album went on to become a favourite of the NASA astronauts and was taken aboard the Atlantis shuttle space craft by Chief astronaut “Hoot” Gibson on many missions.

This purple patch showed no sign of abating as Justin created other classic, era and genre-defining hits “Question”, “The Voice”, “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere”, “The Story In Your Eyes” and “Your Wildest Dreams”.  These laid the foundation for the incredible success story of the Moody Blues – as well as his solo work – which continues to this day.

When the Moody Blues took a break from touring in 1975, Justin worked on the Blue Jays album, followed by the hit single “Blue Guitar” (recorded with the members of 10cc). Although the Moodies continued to record and tour at the highest level, Justin also found time to create several solo albums: Songwriter, Night Flight, Moving Mountains and The View From the Hill.

In the 1980s, he was made a member of the famous “SODS” (The Society of Distinguished Songwriters) and in 2012 he was elected ‘King SOD’.  He also collaborated in 1989 with Mike Batt and the London Philharmonic Orchestra and recorded the album Classic Blue.

Justin was presented with “The Golden Note” award from ASCAP in 2005, the top honour for a British writer, and he has appeared in Nashville regularly with other songwriters in showcase events. In 2013, The Performing Rights Society in the UK awarded him his second Ivor Novello statue for ‘Outstanding Achievement’.

Justin records in Italy and France of which he says, “Spending time making music in a beautiful place with your friends is every songwriter’s dream”. Justin undertook extensive solo tours in 2016, 2017 and 2018; and in 2019 Justin will again head out on the road bringing his wonderful music to his fans in North America.

As well as live shows, Justin has released several solo recordings; an album of new songs Spirits Of The Western Sky – for Eagle Rock – was released in 2013 followed by several solo tours, and in 2014 a “live in concert” DVD Spirits…Live was made available, which reached No. 1 on the Billboard Video chart. 2016 saw the release of All The Way (Eagle Rock Entertainment), a compilation from Justin’s solo career. All The Way includes Justin’s solo songs, a recording with The London Philharmonic Orchestra, solo live performances and unique versions of classic Moody Blues tracks and the brand new song “The Wind Of Heaven.”

In January 2018, the news broke that The Moody Blues were finally to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. This recognition comes not before time but means a great deal to the band.  At the time Justin commented, “I’m extremely grateful to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, first for creating the supreme temple to all that has brought endless joy into my life since I was a small boy, and now, after all these years, for including us.

It’s a privilege to be celebrated in the same building, on the same street even, as my own heroes – Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers – and now, at last, with us, my heroine Nina Simone.

But all the thanks must go to The Moody Blues fans for giving us a wonderful, wonderful life in music – our induction has now validated the music they so love, and I’m so, so pleased, for us all. Yippee!”

Whilst the acceptance into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is a truly global endorsement, it is of course the music that matters. 2018 saw the 50th anniversary of the Days Of Future Passed album.  The band marked this with some North American dates and the release of the concert recording Days Of Future Passed Live.

“I have spent most of my life, so far, on the road”, says Justin. “Playing live and creating a small piece of magic in a room is like a drug to me, one that I never want to give up”. His is a talent that has helped soundtrack more than a generation and created a legacy that remains undimmed.

Hayward is a talent that has helped soundtrack more than a generation and created a legacy that remains undimmed.

The Narrows Center is located at 16 Anawan Street. Tickets to his show can be purchase online 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.

The Cassette Chronicles – Bad English’s ‘Backlash’

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.

BAD ENGLISH – BACKLASH (1991)

You’d think when an assembled supergroup releases a smash hit (and platinum selling) debut album that when they released a second album, there’d be some expected fanfare for the follow up release.

The self-titled debut album from Bad English was a big hit spawning two big hit singles and making the lineup of singer John Waite, guitarist Neal Schon, keyboardist Jonathan Cain, bassist Ricky Phillips and drummer Deen Castronovo into a pretty famous act of their own accord. Yes, the members (except Castronovo) all had pretty big careers in their own right prior to Bad English with stints in The Babys and Journey. All that has been well covered. But these supergroup projects rarely make much of an impact. Whether you like AOR (or melodic rock as it is now known as) or not, Bad English was damn impressive when they first hit the scene.

And that’s what makes it weird that their second and final album Backlash was a total failure. I couldn’t remember why I had no memory of the album before now. I know I never bought it but was stumped as to the reasons why. I did a little searching on the Net and as it turns out, I think I just didn’t bother because there was no point in continuing with the band. Apparently, they broke up before Backlash was even MIXED. I mean if the band isn’t going to stand behind the album, why should I? At least, that’s what I think I must’ve been thinking back then.

For all the back room stuff going on that led to the band’s derailment, when I pulled the album out of The Big Box of Cassettes, I was really intrigued to give it a listen and see if I’d missed out on anything big.

It turns out that I did. There’s a pretty good selection of material on the album and it definitely represents the musical genre well.

The opening cut on Backlash is “So This Is Eden”. It’s a pretty fast paced rocking kind of song that gets you amped up pretty quickly. The song is good but I did make note of how the guitar featured in the song seemed a bit edgier than I remember from their first album.

“Straight To Your Heart” was the only song to be released as a single (It’s didn’t make the Top 40) but it’s another good honest slice of AOR rock and roll.

The album’s biggest failing for me was the inclusion of back to back ballad tracks on Side One. Now, I should say that “Time Stood Still” has a pretty interesting guitar line throughout the song. Unlike “The Time Alone With You”, which was far too sugary in its sentimental nature, “Time Stood Still” isn’t a BAD song. But neither song really does much to rise above the expected conventions of a power ballad from the 1980’s – early 1990’s. And since that’s the case, I found both songs otherwise kind of run of the mill.

But don’t despair music fans! The first side of the album closes out with a killer rocking song in “Dancing Off The Edge”. There’s a great hook and John Waite really sells the lyrics with his vocal performance. It is probably my favorite song of the entire album.

Speaking of John Waite’s singing, the opening track on Side Two, “Rebel Say A Prayer”, really gives him a spotlight. Musically, this rocker is pretty spectacular. When you combine that with another epic vocal delivery from Waite as he sings about a guy going on the run from a crime he committed and his woman standing by and going with him, the song just takes off. While the storyline of the lyrics isn’t quite the same, this song reminded me quite nicely of the Bad Company song “Boys Cry Tough” from their Holy Water album.

“Savage Blue” may sound like the title of a police thriller novel but the song has a compelling guitar solo to mix with the song’s mid to uptempo groove. Neal Schon’s guitar work really got the most interesting to me on “Pray For Rain”. The lines and solo he plays are outstanding and further serve to fuel the song when combined with the slightly darker tone or dramatic phrasing of the vocals by John Waite.

As you might expect by the title, the song “Make Love Last” starts out as another typical ballad. However, the song quickly sheds the softer side of itself for a more intense in your face approach and suddenly you find yourself in the midst of a strongly constructed rock number.

It’s a little odd to hear a song with a sarcastic take on the nature of fame when you are a famous/successful rock band but the Backlash closing song “Life At The Top” somehow manages to work around what would seem to be an insurmountable impediment. Plus the way it rocks out to the end gives the listener once last whipsaw rush of adrenaline at the end of things.

The searching I did led me to mentions that Schon and Phillips didn’t like the commercial nature of the music the band was doing and that John Waite wasn’t all that happy with the “corporate” rock image Bad English had.

But for me, since the band wrote or co-wrote the material on the album so I don’t quite understand what their problem with the songs were. It wasn’t like the songs were foisted off on them or something.

I’m not going to say that I think Backlash is a better album than Bad English. I’m just a huge fan of the latter album. But now that I’ve finally given the band’s second album a fair chance by actually listening to it instead of outright dismissing it (like the band and general public seemed to do back in 1991), I found myself confronted with a pretty entertaining slice of melodic rock that deserves far better than being consigned to the bargain bin of music’s memory.

NOTES OF INTEREST: Despite the band having released just two albums, there was a greatest hits compilation released in 1995.

Their self-titled debut album was given a remastered release by Rock Candy Records in 2017. It contained remixes of the songs “Price of Love” and “Forget Me Not” as bonus tracks.

John Waite still enjoys a solo career while Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain remain mainstays in Journey (despite recent well publicized acrimony between the two of them), Ricky Phillips has been with Styx since 2003 and Deen Castronovo spent 17 years in Journey before being fired and is currently part of the lineup of The Dead Daisies.

 

‘THE FUTURE IS WIDE OPEN’ FOR KING’S X

By CHRIS ALO (Freelance writer for Limelight Magazine)

More than three decades after releasing their debut album and nearly forty years after they formed, progressive hard rock power trio Kings X are hard at work on a brand new studio album, offering their first new music in more than a decade.  In 2019, hard rock’s biggest “cult” group continues to do what they do best in bringing their unique mixture of prog rock, hard rock and beyond to the masses.  But this summer they are seemingly wasting no time though as they literally heading straight from the recording studio and jumping onto the tour bus.

But it has been anything but an easy ride for Kings X. Bassist and vocalist Doug Pinnick, drummer Jerry Gaskill and guitarist Ty Tabor have all individually stayed the course and kept the band together this entire time, something which is unheard of today.  Yet despite having the same lineup and having recorded albums for a number of record labels and toured the world relentlessly with an incredibly varied lineup of artists, true commercial success has still eluded them.

For those not in the know, Kings X released their first album Out of the Silent Planet way back in 1988.  Their 1989 follow up Gretchen Goes to Nebraska is considered by many as one of their strongest releases, yet still unfortunately failed to make them a household name.  Over the years Kings X released albums through Megaforce Records, Atlantic Records, Metal Blade Records, Inside Out Music and have now landed at their new home, Golden Robot.  They have shared the concert stage with a diverse range of touring partners including the likes of Anthrax, Motorhead, Dio, Dream Theater, AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Pearl Jam, Billy Squire, Motley Crue and the Scorpions, among many others.

Despite changing record labels, health setbacks and having never tasted breakout success, Kings X is one of the most respected and hard-working rock acts in the music business. With a new book chronicling their history, a feature film documentary on the horizon along with a new studio album, the future seems pretty bright for the power groove trio.  Drummer Jerry Gaskill talks to Limelight Magazine right before heading into the studio to work on the new release as well as an upcoming tour date at the Vault Music Hall at Greasy Luck in New Bedford, Mass., on July 9, 2019, with special guests blindspot and Analog Heart. Purchase tickets HERE.

ALO: Hello Jerry, how’s it going?

GASKILL: Good thanks, things are really good.  I’m really sorry I missed you the other day, we started filming a documentary and I totally forgot about our interview.  It just slipped my mind.

No worries at all, I know you are extremely busy.  But OK, let’s start with the documentary.  How is that going?

GASKILL: Great, yeah we are doing a film, a documentary with a guy by the name of Roy Turner, who is part of Tricky Kid Productions.  I truly believe that he is the guy to make this movie.  He is a fan, he believes in us and he wants to bring our story to the world.  Even people who don’t know who Kings X are, he wants to make those people aware of us.  And I think that is the perfect situation.

ALO: More film makers seem interested in making documentaries about rock bands ever since the Anvil movie.

GASKILL: Yeah, definitely and I am very very grateful.  It seems like the right time and the right people.  It’s kind of exciting for us.  We also have a book out right now too.

AL0: King’s X: The Oral History, by author Greg Prato was released earlier in 2019.  Is the film a companion piece to the book or anything like that?

GASKILL: Right, Greg did the book.  But no, the book stands alone; they are totally different entities, except that they are both about Kings X.  It is kind of a good feeling; it feels like something is happening is here, like something is on the rise.  I’m not sure.  I don’t want to get too ahead of myself but I have believed in my band and this career from the beginning, so I’m not going to stop that now (laughs.)  And we are doing a new record too, so it’s like a triple threat.

ALO: Yeah I wanted to ask you that as well.  This is your first album in a decade.  What can you tell us about the new material?

GASKILL: We have all been writing but I haven’t heard much of anything really.  I haven’t heard much of their stuff and they haven’t heard much of my stuff.  We fly out to L.A. to start the record in a few days.  We haven’t done anything except talk about it, so on Monday we fly out to L.A. and start doing it.

ALO: So when the three of you get together, that’s when the process begins of putting everything together?

GASKILL: Correct, all three of us together and recording a new album together, that’s right.  I have no idea what direction the album is going to take, it’s just going to be where we are now, what we are thinking, what we are feeling.  None of us know what that is going to be

ALO: Is there a plan for release of the album?  

GASKILL: I have heard things here and there.  There has been talk about a release in fall of 2019, but to be honest, that’s not something that I am even thinking about right now.  Right now I am thinking on Monday, I am flying to LA and making a record.  For release dates and things like that, I am leaving that up to other people (laughs).

ALO: When you have done records in the past, how long does it typically take?

GASKILL: Well like you said, it’s been over ten years since we did a record, so it’s been so long, I kind of don’t remember (laughs).  I don’t remember what the process is.  But this one will be a whole new process since now we are all in different areas.  So we’ll see what happens.

ALO: So it’s been a decade since you recorded new music, how does that feel?

GASKILL: Well it’s kind of exciting but kind of daunting.  It does give me some anxiety.  I always get worried about, well, what if it’s not good enough?  There is always that aspect.  So it’s all those things rolled up into one.  But once we get together, I am sure it will be just fine.  But somebody said something recently.  Most of the things we worry about, those are things that usually never happen anyway.  So I am just taking each day as it comes,man.

ALO: This will be your first album on your new label, Golden Robot.  Obviously they haven’t released anything yet, but how has it been working with them thus far?

GASKILL: Well we haven’t done a lot with them.  But we have spoken with them, and I do think that they believe in us.  I think that just like with Greg Prato with the book and Roy with the movie and now with Golden Robot, it just feels good and it feels like now is the right time to do all of these things.  You know, I didn’t want to make a new record until it felt like it was time.  I didn’t want to do it until I thought it was the time that we could make the best record possible and it seems like now is that time.  Well, I guess we will see, won’t we (laughs).

ALO: Over the last few years you have had health issues, you lost your home due to Hurricane Sandy, and will these terrible tragedies affect the direction on the record?

GASKILL: Well, I don’t know if it will be a conscious affect on the record.  But I can tell you, that it has definitely given me a different perspective on my life.  Some of the songs that I have been writing do have some of those things thrown in there with the lyrics and whatever.  But I just learned that tragedy often times, or sometimes can cause greater things than we ever imagined.  I found that in my case.  I died, I came back, I had a heart attack, and Ilost everything in Hurricane Sandy, all those things.  But each one of those things turned into something that I thought I never could have imagined.  So there you go.

ALO: I guess you are living by the old adage, that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?

GASKILL: I guess it just depends on how you deal with things.  It’s easy to let things overwhelm you and take you over.  And just say forget it, I’m done.  Or you can rise up and learn from those situations and become better.

ALO: You are going out on the road at the end of June for a number of shows.

GASKILL: Oh yeah, I am looking forward to it.  I always look forward to doing shows and playing festivals and playing places we haven’t been yet.  We are going out on our first weekend after we done recording our new album.

ALO: Will you be playing any new material at these upcoming shows?

GASKILL: I have no idea.   I don’t know if we are going to be playing any of the new material (laughs).  I don’t know even know what the new material is going to be yet (laughs).

ALO: It seems that so many musicians are fans of Kings X.  Why is that?

GASKILL: I don’t know, but it sure seems that way.  I am honored by it.  I am a little baffled, but always honored.  It’s an honor to think that people that I look up to can turn around and look up to me as well.  That’s a pretty amazing thing to be a part of.

ALO: I know I have seen you personally open for Anthrax, Dio, Motorhead, I’ve read about you opening for Pearl Jam, AC/DC and so many others.  I guess you often get paired up with so many different acts because your band isn’t easily labeled.  Is that a plus or a minus for you?  The fact that your music can’t easily be categorized?

GASKILL: I think it’s a little bit of both.  I guess it’s probably a plus.  It would have been nice to have sold millions of records and make millions of dollars; I am still willing to find that out (laughs).  But it’s also one of those things that if that did happen, we might not be a band anymore.  We could just give it all up and go live on an island.  But like you are talking about, we have respect from musicians and the fans who love us, they really love us.  I have nothing to complain about.

I don’t think anybody really knows where to place us.  That’s the hardest thing with people, so they just place us everywhere and we just go and play.  We’ve done the Monsters of Rock cruise but then we did the progressive rock cruise, then we went and did the KISS cruise, whatever.  You never know where we are going to be.  But I guess that’s because we really don’t fit in anywhere.

ALO: Kings X was a band that was very forward thinking when it came to side projects.  Now everyone that is in a successful band seems to be in multiple bands.  Has that helped you to grow as musicians?

GASKILL: Oh yeah, I think that has helped us.  I know back when we were managed by Sam Taylor, that was something that was forbidden, if I can use that.  But when the disillusionment happened with Sam, I think we all just realized, we can do whatever we want to do.  I know that worked out great with Doug, he is just a part of everything now.  I am in New Jersey and I have played with some great musicians.  But everything has just been great.

ALO: How about playing in South America?

GASKILL: Well I haven’t heard of anything concrete.  We have talked a lot about going to South America, but we have never actually been there.  We have never been there.  We have always wanted to go to South America.  We have always wanted to go to Australia too.  We’ll see what happens.  It’s a little too early to tell, but I am open to whatever.

ALO: It’s incredible that you have been a band so long and there are still places you have not visited yet?

GASKILL: Yeah, I have always wondered why we never went down there.  But hopefully in the future we will.  The future is wide open.

Photo by Jerry LoFaro

The Cassette Chronicles – Armored Saint’s ‘Raising Fear’

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.

ARMORED SAINT – RAISING FEAR (1987)

When I think back to how I became aware of Armored Saint’s third album Raising Fear, I am pretty sure that it was from an ad in one of the many music magazines I read back in the day. Since this was 1987, there was no online way for me to discover their music beforehand. I certainly had never even heard of their March of the Saint or Delirious Nomad albums that were released prior to Raising Fear.

So I essentially picked up this album on spec. I know that can be hit or miss, but in this case it turned out perfectly as I came to regard this album as one of the band’s best releases and it still stands the test of time.

While the album certainly wasn’t all that successful in terms of sales figures, from start to finish it shines a light on Armored Saint’s combined talents in such a way that you can’t help but love the album.

The title track opens up the album and you are immediately plunged into a sizzling metallic guitar driven song. Guitarist Dave Prichard made a big impression on me when I was first listening to the album and when you combine that with the vocal work from John Bush, it wasn’t long before I was hooked.

Now, I don’t know how others feel about the cover of the Lynyrd Skynyrd song “Saturday Night Special” but while the song is obviously amped up, I found it retained the charm of the original track.

The song “Out On A Limb” crackles with a surplus of energy, much like the album closing “Underdogs”. Each song gets your pulse pounding with the fast paced blazing intensity.

It’s not all in your face rockers though. “Isolation” is decidedly slower in pacing but there’s a real dramatic presentation to the song. The intensity of the performance grows throughout and the phrasing on Bush’s vocals gives the track even more heft.

While the song “Crisis Of Life” has the expected metal soundtrack, Armored Saint crosses that sound with a rhythmic swinging vibe at the same time. I’m not sure if my description does full justice to the song but when you listen to it, I think you’ll get my meaning.

The second side of the album opens up “Frozen Will / Legacy”. The first part is a relatively brief instrumental highlighting Dave Prichard before the screaming fire of “Legacy” kicks in. The track has a great guitar line throughout and it’s a flat out winning number for me.

There’s a decidedly more vicious sound to the vocals on “Human Vulture”. This gives an added edge to the song. You can apply that opinion to “Terror” as well. John Bush has a quality to his voice that lets him sound really “evil” as the situation calls for.

With “Book Of Blood”, it was the title that first attracted me to the song. I read the title on the back of the cassette and instantly wanted to hear it. I suppose having an expectation for a song based on its title is a bad way of doing business but it ended up living up to those admittedly ridiculous teenage rebel without a clue expectations

As you can see by now, I just love the Raising Fear album. But as much as all the other songs appeal to me, it is the one song I haven’t mentioned yet that cements that love. “Chemical Euphoria” is bar none my favorite Armored Saint song. It’s a killer metal anthem from start to finish. The pace blisters your ears and I’d daresay that this track is where the band melds together in perfect fashion.

When I saw the band live in the summer of 2018, this was the one song I hoped to hear performed. It did make the set list and it blew me away. When I listen to the album and “Chemical Euphoria” starts to play, I still get the same feel of my blood pumping that much faster through my veins. That’s how I felt the first time I listened to it and that feeling continues no matter how many times I listen to it.

Raising Fear may not be recognized as a must have album for your collection by the large portion of the metal audience, but for me anyone that doesn’t appreciate the overwhelming greatness of this release just doesn’t realize what they are missing out on. It’s a great example of just how to put together an album that, as I said before, stands the test of time more than three decades after its original release.

NOTES OF INTEREST: This was the last album that guitarist Dave Prichard recorded with the band. He passed away in 1990 before Armored Saint recorded their Symbol of Salvation album.

The band was dropped by Chrysalis Records after Raising Fear was released.

Though the song “Crisis Of Life” appears as the last song on the first side of the cassette release I own, the Wikipedia page lists it as a CD-only bonus track.