to judge our love
with all the mess around us
times are tough
and I know it takes
more than I give now
to build a world
where you and I can live.
And I need you now
to help me through
to be the one
I know is true
to hold my hand
to keep the faith
to be my guard
to be my strength"
One Word Review: Classic
If I had to describe Enuff Z'Nuff with one sentence then I would say: Enuff Z'Nuff play the best Melodic Hard Rock out there, and they are the only band, I feel I can justly compare to The Beatles.
That is a bold statement, and one that needs clarification. What I mean is that I hold Enuff Z'Nuff in as much awe as The Beatles. When I listen to the music of Enuff Z'Nuff, it's impossible not to feel something. Factors such as songwriting skills, the energy they play with, the timeless fresh feel of the songs, the unforgettable melodies which stay in your head long after others are gone, the fantastic vocal harmonies, all the sing along choruses, the simple yet deep lyrics filled with irony, humor and little word plays, and the amount of quality music they have written, all add up. The result of all these things, makes me put them in the same league as The Beatles in terms of quality, quantity and ingenuity. Enuff Z'Nuff is one of the only bands, that are able to play seemingly simple music, that inspires on many levels, and with time you suddenly see that the music is not that simple at all.
Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) Enuff Z'Nuff have never enjoyed the same popularity as that other band from the 60'ies. If that had been the case, I'm not sure that they would still be alive and making music today. Since 1989, where their self-titled debut came out, they have put out 13 studio albums, all of which, have their own strengths. So where to start if you want to discover one of the most overlooked, ignored and misunderstood bands out there? Well, Strength was where I started, so you might as well do that too.
Strength... That is exactly what this album has shown during the past 20 years, since I first bought it. While listening to it earlier today, I found myself smiling all the way through the album, because even today, the album is able to bring the same feeling of wonder, as I got 20 years ago, when the album finally clicked with me. It took a long time for that "click" to happen and I remember giving the album many listens and many chances before something magical happened. Patience was definitely rewarded.
The bass playing of Chip Z'Nuff is "one of a kind". This guy really has the groove. His bass is apparent in all the songs, keeping them tight, while at the same time giving them that special groove, and a kind of relaxed, laid back feeling. With the brilliant bass playing and perfect vocal harmonies he creates with lead singer Donnie Vie, I have no problems proclaiming this guy a musical genius and a perfect layer of bass lines.
Guitar hero Derek Frigo plays one awesome solo after another. Always melodic, always giving his personal touch throughout the songs. His guitar playing makes this album a joy to listen to. There's always something going on. Derek Frigo fits the band perfect, and it was a shame that he left after the next album, "Animals With Human Intelligence". Sadly, Derek Frigo died in 2004. R.I.P.
Donnie Vie is the other "one of a kind" musical genius in Enuff Z'Nuff. His vocals may take a little time to win you over, if you've never heard his voice before, but take my word for it. He has the most charismatic voice in the world, and ranks among my favourite singers ever.
Vikki Fox on drums should not go unmentioned. He puts on a solid performance and gives all the songs the tightness and rhythm, that is necessary for them to work so well.
Strength is filled with classic rock songs, that go beyond what you would expect of a typical Hard Rock band. These are not just simple straight ahead tunes. Though you might get that impression after the first couple of listens, I'm sure that, like me, you will suddenly see that this music has several layers, which take some time and patience to peel away. Once you've gotten that far, chances are, you will see the true beauty of this band. The real strength of Enuff Z'Nuff has always been that they are able to tuck something special away in their music, which suddenly stands out and gives it a timeless feel, and makes it different from any other band out there.
A good example of this is the title track Strength. Definitely the most diverse song the band had done at this time. By incorporating instruments like Violin, Cello and the unmistakable Mellotron, the band creates a fantastic melancholic atmosphere, that in turn works perfectly with the lyrics about relationships and love. A slow, emotional song where the vocal work of Donnie Vie really shines. A touch of genius is when the violin enters the sound with a solo that fits the mood perfectly. Then notice the way the violin and cello help build the tension and atmosphere in the final chorus and climatic ending part. A definite highlight.
Besides Strength, the album continues to weave magic through each of its other tracks.
Heaven or hell is a solid opener that shows what great energy this band has. Already here you'll notice the awesome dual vocal harmonies that Chip & Donnie are capable of creating. The guitar of Derek Frigo is constantly roaming around in the background, adding an edge of fierceness to the music.
Missing you is a slow emotional song that drips with feeling, both from the vocals of Donnie Vie, but also in the emotion-filled guitar work of Derek Frigo. The feeling this song sends across is a feeling of being hung-over on a Sunday afternoon, after the girl you love just left you a couple of days before. The song builds in momentum and peaks in its last, tense part with frantic bass lines underlining the desperation.
The world is a gutter is one of my favorites. The brilliant start of this song gets the juices going, especially when the volume is turned up loud. There is a really nice floating feeling to the song, in part created by the vocal harmonies and underlined by the guitar, bass and drum work. Check out the cool guitar work by Frigo at the end of this song. It makes me want the song to go on forever. Brilliant and melodic.
Goodbye is a power ballad of sorts. Starting out with just a piano and Donnie's voice, the song builds slowly to the lovely chorus. Donnie's unique voice rules this song, and perfectly conveys the sad lyrics dealing with breakups, and realizing that things just don't work out sometimes. Also notice the nice little cello part, which builds to the climax, where the vocal harmonies explode in a way, that intensifies the impact of the song considerably.
Holly wood ya is one of the weirdest songs on the album. Just listen to the way it starts. Weird in the best sense of the word though. The sweet background rhythm is a little Beatles inspired and it works great. This song has some nice little touches hidden in the background, that I suddenly started noticing after several years. The way I understand it, this song is about addiction. The piano adds a nice flavor to the song, one which is really a showcase of all the elements that make Enuff Z'Nuff unique.
There is something about Mother's eyes that gets me every time. The rhythm and feel this song has is fantastic, and the way the music flows is really amazing. I think it has a lot to do with the groove of the bass and drums, which work together in harmonized unity. As always the guitar solo is entertaining and just about perfect. The chorus is another example of the genius Chip & Donnie co-operation. The way they harmonize with each other here, and throughout the album, is really special.
In crowd is a fast paced rocker, where a groovy drive is laid down from the beginning. The lyrics, dealing with the feeling of being an outcast, are written with a nice glint in the eye. In this song the guitar work shines again.
The way home / Coming home is yet another highlight of the album. This two part song sees the band take on a more serious theme, war. Starting out as the perfect love song, sung with feeling and devotion, the song suddenly takes a dive into a darker atmosphere, when a heavy guitar riff takes over from the piano and the lyrics start telling the story of war heroes returning from something that you can never really escape from. Also check out the brilliant guitar solo.
Baby loves you should have been the hit of all times. It is one of those perfect songs that will never leave your head, once it's in there. That's the way it has worked its magic on me anyway. An up-beat party rocker with a true sing-along chorus. This song can make you feel good under just about any circumstances.
Blue Island is not to be forgotten. This one again shows the diversity of the band, with lots of little touches in the music. The melody is really good and the chorus is sent straight from heaven, listen closely for the cool guitar work. The harmonies once again work perfectly. One word for the guitar solo: Glorious!
Long way to go and Something for free are the only songs that, on their own, don't live up to the classic status all the other songs have. I just feel like I'm missing a little something in these two songs. Still, I couldn’t imagine Strength without these two songs, as they fit on the album in their own way. Long way to go gives the album some extra power, and here the party attitude, that was so apparent on their debut, rears its head. Long way to go turns of to be a nice little breather after a lot of songs with more serious lyrics. Something for free is a good song, but the chorus is repeated a few too many times and I miss a little more melody in this song.
Time to let you go is the perfect closer, and a fantastic, sad love song. Once again the vocal harmonies of Chip & Donnie are one of a kind and work perfectly. With standout bass lines, a special drum sound and several small touches, the song captures a feeling of melancholy that is highly impressive.
As I mentioned in the beginning of the review, it took a long time before I finally started realizing how amazing this album (and band) really is. When it suddenly clicked, I realized what a true classic is; a timeless piece of music that I will never tire of. After this Strength experience, I never looked back, and I'm happy to say that every Enuff Z'Nuff album out there has its own moments of genius. Some more than others but the overall level of their 13 studio albums is exceptional. The album "? (Question Mark)" is the only album I would not recommend to someone new to the band. But back to Strength. Strength is not just genius moments, it is a complete, coherent album, a string of genius songs tied together, and the music is so powerful and true, that I can only stand in awe of such brilliant songwriting.
Enuff Z'Nuff have never really gotten the success I think they deserve. When it seemed that they were close to breaking through, something always got in the way. Be it bad management, no label support, a misunderstood image, no radio airplay, bad choices for singles or whatever. I think they have tried it all... In any case, it was never the songs that held them back. And that is what I like most about Enuff Z'Nuff. They have kept on going, writing quality tunes for more than 20 years, and have never given up. This is also one of the things, I got from this album. Never give up and just keep on going, even if the world is falling down around you.
This is one of my favorite albums of all time, and what I would define as a perfect Hard Rock album. A masterpiece of its time, and today it still holds up just as well, making it timeless.
So, to conclude: Enuff Z'Nuff have always been about making fantastic music. This is what they do best and Strength is their finest examples of that. 14 songs of pure rock and emotion. A classic if there ever was one. God, I love this album.
Ok, time to let you go...
Written By Steen
Online: Saturday, July 28, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 28, 2012 - Added music videos for Baby Loves You and Mother's Eyes
Baby Loves You