I was a fan of the last entry on the Eugeology Train, a little non-Thin Lizzy Thin Lizzy and it was pretty righteous. I know Eugene liked it and the jury is still out on Jon, he’s now a week behind on his review (*scowls at Jon*). This week, it’s a band that I’m only slightly familiar with, Enuff Z’Nuff. I know their two hits, “Fly High Michelle” and “New Thing.” This album, though, well… let’s talk about it.
#7 – Strength by Enuff Z’Nuff.
I always get EZ’N and Black and Blue and a couple of other late 80s/early 90s bands mixed up. It just wasn’t what I was listening to. Mainly because I had no point of reference with them. I’m not saying they all sound the same but it was just a bunch of stuff thrown out there that I hadn’t ever heard, only heard of. I never even heard even the hits until the 2000s, until either I got it on some “hair metal” VH1 compilation or when I got Sirius (before SiriusXM) and listened to “Hair Nation.”
This just wasn’t in my wheelhouse. Other than limited availability to me, I don’t know why. I like the two hits mentioned above. But, not enough to explore more. Luckily, I have Eugene to set me straight and let me tell you, it’s not for his lack of trying. He’s tried to introduce me to so much stuff over the years and my contrary arse just wasn’t having it. I understand it’s a flaw, I’m dealing with it. But, leave it to Eug to appeal to my sense (call it a need) for a list. You got me, Eug. You got me.
So, Donnie Vie has a distinctive voice.Very much so. It’s him and you don’t forget that. His voice is at times squishy, at times piercing, at times whiny, at times mesmerizing. The two things that it is consistently, though, is powerful and darn good. His lyrics are just sliding out of the cheese of the genre and are smart and story-telling. He paints a picture and it isn’t the skanky cock-rock kind of picture. Think of a hard rock Bob Ross. That’s what he’s painting. The range, not only in pitch, but in dynamics, of Vie’s voice is most prevalent in “Goodbye.” I loved that song. I am a sucker for the power ballad, though. You expect a rock ‘n’ roll voice from a band like this but he pours his soul and emotions into “Goodbye.” Also, the swing vocal style in “Mother’s Eyes” is notable and you should pay attention; close attention. On “Baby Loves You” I can see him standing prissy, a la Mick Jagger, puffing a fag (that’s a cigarette, by the way) and being extra saucy. I don’t know why. His vocal patterns aren’t necessarily predictable, either. You may expect him to go down but he throws an upward portamento in there and you’re like, well, that was cool. At least that’s what I say. And dang! “The Way Home/Coming Home.” That is some amazing vocal work. Okay, enough of kissing his backside.
I think the two things that worked against them in my mind (back then) was the overly glam look that I had my fill of. I still liked the stuff but felt I had had all I could take of it. When you’re full you can’t keep eating. The other thing, something I still can’t forgive them for, was the over-saturated and incessant use (even though it was the 90s it was still the 80s for this) of funky “metal” spellings, especially the insistence of “V,” “X” and “Z.” All of that aside, I was unfair to them. I see the error of my ways.
The songs are riffy and catchy. Great hooks, here. Harmonies are fantastic, throughout. The varying styles are interesting, too. “Long Way to Go” is hard rock CCR; scooping riffage in the opening track, “Heaven or Hell;” dissonance mixed with Major7th chords in “Mother’s Eyes;” the 50s inspiration in “Baby Loves You;” the pop rock anthem of “In Crowd.” That’s just a brief overview of the styles. This band had it going on.
Production wise, it’s pretty balanced. You get the vocals up front, sure, but the rest of the instrumentation was all clear, present and accounted for. With the brief list of exceptions, you’d expect a person who has taken on a stage name to match the cheesy band name (ahem, Chip Z’Nuff) to be a little more blatant in his bass playing, but he really doesn’t do much other than play second fiddle to the rest of the ensemble, although he has a few shiny moments. It’s tasteful, to be sure, but I would expect a little more. It’s okay, though. It works for them. Derek Frigo (RIP) and Vik Foxx are solid here and very good at their instruments, but however good they, along with CZ’N are, they’re overshadowed by the presence, if only aurally, of Donnie Vie.
At first, I sighed when I saw this come through. Upon first listen it became background noise, but in fairness to the band, Eug and Jon, and to myself, I listened while working on something else, so it wasn’t a thorough listen. That first listen, I wasn’t impressed. There was probably more than an inkling of pent-up resistance from my younger days, too. I also thought that the album was about four songs too long. Second listen, I lost some of that edge. Third listen, I was nodding along. Fourth listen, just this morning – the first time I really listened – and I’m erasing all the reservation. I can’t think of any song to cut, I don’t care if their name is (still) cheesy and I don’t discount them any more. At least as far as this album is concerned. This is one darn fine album. It has “Strength.” Thank you, Eug, can’t wait to read your and Jon’s assessments.
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“A little spark has started fire. My will to be alone is over now. I’d slay the dragon, walk the wire. This little girl just takes me higher and higher, and higher.” – “The Way Home / Coming Home” (Rybarski/Vandevelde) (Chip Z’Nuff/Donnie Vie)