5 out of 5 Stars!
(I originally wrote this review back in 2005.)
Although I don’t own this particular compilation release, just the 1st two Tantrum albums on vinyl, I’ve had a copy of the unreleased Breaking Away on cassette since the days when the band was still together (indeed, I actually have an unmixed version of the album, since some of the background vocals had yet to be added or “upped” in the mix).
Unfortunately, the wonderful 3rd album, which included such outstanding tracks as “Rock And Roll Waltz” (Pam Bradley singing this live was a sight to behold), “Lady In Lust,” (another sexy Pam lead vocal), and “Now Or Never” (featuring Sandy Caulfield’s spectacular reach-for-the-heavens voice and the gals doing overlay harmonies in the background) never saw the light of day. Thanks (NOT!) to Ovation Records, the company that went under due to financial scandal (supposedly) just before the release of this album and basically put the nails into the Tantrum coffin. I damn that company to this day, not to mention all the other record companies that “passed” on the band in those desperate days of trying to survive.
This group played the Chicago area for many years and I never missed a show! Even in the early days prior to the band’s debut album (when they had the equally talented Sara Sachra on vocals, prior to Barb Erber joining the group). The three gals (a “rockier” Three Dog Night, female-style) were each visually “hot” (a blonde, brunette, and a redhead…what more could a guy want?), enormously talented (Barb Erber, the throaty bluesier voice, Sandy Caulfield, the Ann-Wilson powerhouse, and Pam Bradley, the jazz-inspired crooner), and gifted live performers, their harmonies blending better than vodka and tonic and a twist of lime. Never has a band been so horribly missed, at least for me. They have been, and always will be, one of my favorite musical acts and will forever hold a special place in my heart. Heck, I still have the giant autographed “Rather Be Rockin'” poster I swiped from one of their shows, now framed and hanging in a special place in my music room at home.
I almost rated the album down half a star for one or two tracks on the debut album, mostly due to the lighter production quality and the rather overall “simplistic” lyrics on tracks like “You Are My Everything,” but decided not to. They are too good overall to worry about such nonsense. (Thankfully, the group’s songwriting capabilities matured by the time of their second release, although had they not I would have still loved them anyway due to their spectacular harmonic vocal blend.) Although they had minor hits in the Midwest (at least) with “Kidnapped” (from the debut album) and “Rather Be Rockin’,” from the album of the same name, they should have been HUGE! Fate, however, was not as kind, and Ovation fizzled (have I damned them already? Regardless, they deserve another “damn”) leaving this amazing group to the history books. How very sad!
Standout tracks? From the debut album…
“Listen” (The opening track—which they used to open their live shows also—with each gal taking the lead during various sections of the song in their trademarked “swapping vocal lead” style and slamming the listener. Hells’ Bells, these girls can SING!)
“Living My Life Without You” (A smooth ballad with, once again, the swapping of the lead vocals between the three gals every other line—the ending harmonies and swapped ad-libs as the song slowly fades still give me goose-bumps.)
Standouts from Rather Be Rockin’….
“How Long?” (A “Sandy Caulfield” masterpiece of vocal brilliance. I dare anyone not to have the darned chorus ringing through their skull after just one listen. An amazing track that, again, SHOULD have been HUGE!)
“Searching For A Reason” (The album’s closer, another swapping-lead vocal extravaganza—this is Tantrum at the height of their power.)
What’s happened to the members of the group since they broke up in 1980? About the only “more major” claim to fame I know about was that the bassist (Bill Syniar) joined the group Survivor (another Chicago-based act) for that band’s last album of the 80s, Too Hot To Sleep. Apart from that, I know Pam and Sandy and Barb were either clubbing around the area as background vocalists for a variety of singers, or doing their vocal gymnastics for advertising jingles and so forth. Again, each deserved so much more.
Now, I’m off to pull out those albums yet again and get listening—it’s been way too long.
UPDATE: After writing the review, I discovered this CD on Amazon and purchased it immediately! Unfortunately, it appears it’s no longer available for a decent price. Instead, the good news is that the individual albums are now available in MP3 format.