Cutouts Gone Wild!: Tall Stories, “Tall Stories” (1991)

Written by Cutouts Gone Wild!, Music


Tall Stories – Tall Stories (1991)
purchase this album (Amazon)

I should have done this post months ago, when it was announced that Steve Augeri was leaving Journey and being replaced by Jeff Scott Soto, but what the hey — bad timing has been a major recurring theme in Augeri’s career, so I guess my tardiness fits.

Steve Augeri, for those of you who are completely baffled right now, was the lead singer of Tall Stories. He was then the lead singer of Tyketto, then an employee of The Gap, then the lead singer of Journey — arriving at each stop anywhere between one and eight years too late to be cool.

In the case of Tall Stories (and Tall Stories), it was closer to a year — the album showed up in the fall of 1991, right around the time the band’s target audience was discovering Pearl Jam. (Cue sad trumpet sound.) We’ve covered albums from this era before, and it almost always comes down to the fact that the genre was tired and the band in question wasn’t very good anyway. That applies here, to an extent — Tall Stories’ brand of AOR was strictly hair-by-numbers — but for what they were, the band was really pretty good; Tall Stories beats the pants off Winger’s In the Heart of the Young, for instance, which sold, only the year before, approximately two million copies more than it should have. Kip Winger would have given his stubble for songs like “World Inside You” (download) or “Never Enough” (download), and “Crawling Back” (download) isn’t much worse than Steelheart’s “Angel Eyes.”

The band also wrote most of its own material, which is admirable, and even if it doesn’t take a meeting of great minds to produce lines like “Throw my caution to the wind / You’re my savior, you’re my sin,” this democratic spirit at least partially mitigates the involvement, on a couple of songs, of ’80s rock plague Terry Thomas.

Of course, Augeri was probably the band’s main weapon. He apparently needed tape backups during shows toward the end of his tenure with Journey, but he sounds fine here — certainly good enough to slide into a career doing something other than folding sweaters. Poor bastard. Fortunately, post-Journey Steve seems to be avoiding retail; unfortunately, he’s apparently compiling an album of Tall Stories demos and outtakes. I have a hard time believing (in fact, I desperately reject the notion) that there’s an audience for this, but hey, it beats folding sweaters, right?

For more on Tall Stories (and Tall Stories), I turned to the Internet’s reigning AOR authority, the recently retired Kurt. Take it away, Kurt!

Kurt: 1991 was a transitional year for music, and an album like Tall Stories’ debut only proves it. It was the beginning of the end for the hair metal and AOR, thanks to a certain unwashed rocker from Seattle (and do I really need to name names?). This is one of those discs that, had it come out maybe a year or two earlier, might have sold an extra dozen or so copies (these guys weren’t exactly video-friendly:not that that explains how Asia or Yes became MTV stars, but I digress). I kid, of course:I think it had a chance at going gold, at least, because the rockers rocked and the ballads, um, did whatever ballads were supposed to do. Scott Shannon’s Pirate Radio should have been all over this; as was typical of the time, it was released straight to the cutout bins.

Tall Stories’ biggest asset was that singer Steve Augeri sounded so much like Steve Perry that initially, many thought it was Journey. [Jefito’s Note: I missed the Journey connection when this came out, but this is probably because I had purged my home of anything to do with that band — even my parents’ Gold & Platinum cassettes from 1983 and 1984.] Of course, the Journey boys must have heard this disc when they decided to replace Steve Perry with Steve Augeri for Arrival. Not as amusing as when Emerson, Lake & Palmer replaced Carl Palmer with Cozy Powell to keep their ELP moniker, but a Steve for a Steve almost worked until the band went and fucked it up by then replacing Steve the Second with Jeff Scott Soto.

I used to own this disc and sort of treasured it, being the AOR nut I am. But, as time wore on, the more I listened the less I liked it. It’s got ten songs and only five are any good; the other five are the sort of generic blah-ness that helped make people like Cobain and Vedder stars.

I have to admit that when songs like “Somewhere She Waits,” “Chain of Love” (download), or “Stay With Me” come up in Shuffle Mode, I do tweak that volume up a few notches, if only to feel like I’m 25 again for just a few minutes.