Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Best Albums You Never Heard

By Kurt Torster

Honeymoon Suite “Racing After Midnight” (1987)

During my retail years of the late 80s, I did my damnedest to promote bands I liked in store, which was usually a refreshing reprieve from the alternative hipster stuff that the other employees tended to play during their shifts. For every Smiths or Joy Division record that was played, I usually counter-acted with some David Lee Roth or Whitesnake. And, when one of those resulted in a sale I was all the much happier.

One album that gained a lot of play from me was Honeymoon Suite’s AOR classic, “The Big Prize.” Not a spin went by that didn’t sell a copy or two, and sometimes I wondered if I generated more sales for the band than their own label did. Though it did generate the top 40 “Feel It Again,” platinum still eluded the band.

Now back in the day, I used to be genuinely excited on Tuesdays when all the new releases came out, and the particular day this album hit, I couldn’t wait to get one out of the box and go to lunch and for a ride, just so I could crank the volume. With one listen, I was so sure that the band had outdid themselves that surely this is the one that will have them selling out arenas and filling up MTV’s rotation with hit after hit. Obviously, that never happened.

Ted Templeman’s production was spot on and highlighted a set of songs that were big, brash and full of an attitude that could only come from a band that felt like they were on the edge of superstardom.

Whether it was rockers (seemingly custom made for MTV), like “Looking Out For Number One,” “Other Side Of Midnight” or the hit single in waiting, “Love Changes Everything,” the songs had a punch that still brings me back to top down summer days.

Not to forget their more melodic AOR side, how songs like “Long Way Back,” the massive “It’s Over Now” or the straight up arena rocker “Tears On The Page” didn’t get cigarette lighters afloat I still don’t know.

Even a throwaway like “Fast Company” still features some blistering guitar work courtesy of the vastly underrated Derry Grehan and the not atypical vocals of Johnny Dee, which both help elevate it above the ever more processed pop and rock of the year.

Also of note here is an excellent cover of i-Ten’s “Cold Look” and the keyboard dominated theme song from “Lethal Weapon 2.”

Although the debut generated the biggest buzz (thanks to their biggest hit “New Girl Now”) and “The Big Prize” is the one that seems to be the cult classic, over time, this is the album I reach for more often than the others. Just tweaks all the right spots...

The band would go on to release a “Singles” collection (which contained one of the band’s best songs ever in “Still Lovin’ You”) and 1991’s better than average “Monsters Under The Bed” before taking a low profile for most of the 90s. They wouldn’t release another album until 2001 with “Lemon Tongue.” In 2008, the band released “Clifton Hill” and more recently are still quite busy touring.

1 comment:

My hmphs said...

Ah, The Big Prize. I wrote about that a few years back - one of my all-time favorite albums, and it's still a guilty pleasure of mine. I was disappointed by Racing After Midnight at the time; I think I was looking for The Big Prize II and it sounded a bit too radio friendly, I think. Their debut album is good, too.