ALBUM: Rather Be Rockin'
SERIAL: OV 1747
CD REISSUE: 2005, Escape Music, ESM 118
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
LINEUP: Sandy Caulfield, Pam Bradley, Barb Erber - vocals * Ray Sapko - guitars * Phil Balsano - keyboards * Bill Syniar - bass * Vern Wennerstrom - drums
TRACK LISTING: 01 Rather Be Rockin' * 02 Don't Turn Me Off * 03 You Are The World * 04 Sammy And Susie * 05 Runnin' * 06 How Long * 07 You Need Me * 08 Take A Look * 09 Applaud The Winner * 10 Search For A Reason
It's pretty rare to see a melodic rock band with three female lead vocalists at the front. Chicago's Tantrum were a case in point. They employed multiple part harmonies by the trio of Erber, Caulfield and Bradley.. all lending their distinctly different styles to Tantrum's vocal tour-de-force. The other ace in the hole is guitarist Ray Sapko, who provides the beef and color with his guitar lines. All in all, inevitable comparisons can be made to similar acts of the time.. Karen Lawrence's 1994
, and Heart
, though to be fair, Tantrum is far more mainstream than either of those outfits. 'Rather Be Rockin' is the band's second outing on Ovation Records, their debut, the self titled 'Tantrum' was released the year before. Production duties this time around fell to John Ryan, who was previously responsible for handling those early Styx
recordings and the Climax Blues Band
. In their earlier days, the band invoked comparisons to Abba
, obviously with Barb Erber being the blonde lookalike for Agnetha Faltskog while Sandy Caulfield took on the Anni-Frid Lyngstad brunette role. I'm sure musically this wasn't the case, as Tantrum were a hard rockin' outfit, not a pop band, but the visual comparison was easy enough to be made. However, for 'Rather Be Rockin', Tantrum placed more emphasis on guitar and keyboard interplay, and a strong vocal presence.
They start out admirably enough with the title track 'Rather Be Rockin', which is prime US radio rock of the day. 'You Are The World To Me' alternates with quieter passages on the verses, before being rounded out by some stirring moments on the chorus. Sapko lets loose with some six-string flurries on the solo. The last track on Side One is called 'Runnin', and it reminds me of Ann Wilson circa 'Little Queen' era Heart
. Flip the vinyl over to Side Two and we dwelve into some great AOR.. Check out 'How Long', with it's struttin' guitars, stabbing pianos by Phil Balsano and fantastic harmony vocals on the chorus. 'You Need Me' has it's moments.. a bit erratic in places but again the vocals lift it a notch. 'Take A Look' is a return to that edged radio rock style, made legendary by bands like Starz
a few years earlier. The band's best known track is the atmospheric 'Applaud The Winner', full of dynamics and melodic twists and turns. It is similar in nature to Surrender
's classic from the same year.. 'Turn Down The Mission'. Fantastic stuff. This one was featured on the 'Striktly For Konniseurs' compilation put out by the Music For Nations label in 1984, and one listen you can tell why.
Tantrum hung around for another year or so. It was irony then, that perhaps the band's best moment lay undiscovered. As has been recorded in history, Tantrum split on the eve of their third album circa 1980/81, which unfortunately never saw the light of day officially. However, unofficially, the material reared it's head many years later, and scribes were moved to admit it could've been the breakthrough album they were looking for. In fact, I have a few of these tracks on tape, and yeah, it ain't bad! Not a lot heard from the personnel in subsequent years. Bill Syniar appeared on Survivor
's 1988 'Too Hot To Sleep' album, Sapko resorted to guitar tuition, while Caulfield sang backing vocals on fellow Chicagoan Dennis De Young
's debut 'Desert Moon' in 1985. Update:
Aug 2005 saw the release of all three Tantrum albums as a Double CD set by Escape Music. Unfortunately, the CD was nothing more than a poor vinyl rip, a shame that a label like EM had to stoop so low to put inferior product out on the market like this.. tsk tsk..
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