Considering the success of tribute CDs, boxed set retrospectives and greatest
hits collections flooding the market, I have but one thing to say to the record
companies of the world - boy do I have a band for you!
I dunno, maybe it's the rampant use of peace sign logos on the album artwork, or
perhaps the hairspray-teased coifs the band sported for a while. Could have been
the fact that Vikki Foxx was a guy who looked like a girl, or maybe even the era
when this Chicago band popped onto the surface. Regardless, it's about time that
we gathered 'round and cleared up a popular misconception once and for all -
Enuff Z'nuff is NOT a hair metal band! Maybe in 1988 we could blame the band for
the lip-gloss man-bitch look that made them look like Poison wannabes, but this
is 2002, and if they were posers they would have flamed out a long time ago.
Hell, ten records into their career they're still going strong, which is not
easy to do when you don't get much airplay, let alone credibility.
Instead, Enuff Z'nuff has outlasted enough obstacles to fill three Behind The
Music episodes, and they're in the studio cranking out record number eleven. And
maybe if more people realized that, Chip and Donnie and the boys would be as
revered as their Illinois homeboys Cheap Trick. While the only original members
are childhood pals Donnie Vie (lead vocals, guitars, keys) and Chip Z'nuff
(bass, guitars, vocals), they are the true nucleus of the band and define their
sound. Pay a visit to their
very thorough website to read a history of the band's tribulations,
personnel changes and brushes with fame and obscurity. Then get your wallet
ready as we take a spin through their recorded career...
ENUFF Z'NUFF (1989) - Well, okay, maybe this is the perfect bridge
between pop and metal. Hell, even "Kiss The Clown" mocks hair metal adulation!
But Donnie Vie shows that he
can somehow sound like Robin Zander and John Lennon at the same time, and axeman
just rips through every track. Rockers "New Thing" and "Hot Little Summer Girl"
made some big waves, while "Fly High Michelle" flexed the power ballad muscle.
Nods to heroes Cheap Trick abound ("She Wants More" has Nielsen written all over
it). "Little Indian Angel" rocks, although some background vocals and effects
might not pass politically correct muster. But the best track, "For Now", is a
good example of the band's strengths - tight vocals, glam guitar, big drums and
killer hooks. If this were a debut record from a band in 2002, it...well, sadly
it would probably get ignored. But, damn it, it's a hit record!
STRENGTH (1991) - Also known as "the Enuff Z'nuff record you're
most likely to find in a bargain bin", Strength continued the tradition of
blasting out of the chute with a great leadoff track. "Heaven Or Hell" is pure
muscle pop. Derek Frigo doesn't get mentioned along with the guitarists of the
era, but damn does he smoke here (especially "Missing You"). On the title track,
the inevitable Beatles/Cheap Trick axis is explored through Vie's expressive
vocals and the haunting arrangement (violin straight outta Dylan's "Hurricane",
courtesy of Frigo's father!). Good combination of rockers like "Long Way To Go"
(a song John Lennon would have sung in Hamburg if he could have) and power
ballads ("The World Is A Gutter"). "Time To Let You Go" is Lennon and McCartney
drunk in a cowboy weeper bar, while "Something For Free" can best be described
as Led Zeppelin doing power pop, which is not a bad description for our heroes,
ANIMALS WITH HUMAN INTELLIGENCE (1993) - Drummer Vikki Foxx leaves
the band to make his move, although he did play on all of the tracks. As the
record is released, band fan Ricky Parent takes over on the stool in what
remains an amicable separation. For the third record in a row, the second track
is a midtempo number ("Black Rain") that could have been the spawn of Cheap
Trick's "Daddy Should Have Stayed In High School". "Innocence" proves that the
band can write about serious topics. A couple of the harder rock tunes here are
not memorable by comparison, but "Love Train", "These Daze" and "One Step Closer
To You" are all pop hits in my universe. Other musicians are staring to pay
props with more than words - slash sits in on sitar (!) on "Takin' A Ride". And
yes, Derek Frigo still rocks like a mofo. Enjoy that while it lasts, though (cue
Behind The Music theme...)
1985 (1994) - No, that's not a misprint. The boys were always
prolific, so to take up some time while sorting matters out, they released this
collection of early tracks.
Interesting cover of "Tears Of A Clown" as a pop metal anthem. David Letterman
has long been on
board with the guys but here Howard Stern (at his career apex, mind you) waxes
poetic in the liner notes. "Fingers On It", which was used for a soundtrack
album before the band even hit, is included here and it's an absolute monster.
The sparse sound works well, and you can see why they got signed off some of
these demos. "Marie" and "Catholic Girls" are strong power pop, while "Day By
Day" even sounds a little like Elvis Costello. And although the song is listed
as "I'll B The 1 2 Luv U", it's not a Prince cover; it's just another classic
slice of pop that The Rubinoos, The Raspberries or any of a hundred other bands
would have killed for.
TWEAKED (1995) - Derek Frigo is gone (sniff!) and the band plugs
Gino Martino in on lead guitar. With only a distribution deal for the US, the
record barely causes a ripple on the airwaves. Most fans have this one lower on
their lists, possibly because the production shies away from the clean and crisp
punch of the prior records. Or maybe it's the predominantly somber tone of the
songs; "Bullet From A Gun" and "Without Your Love" are remorseful, and "Life Is
Strange" sounds more like Fred Durst than Robin Zander. It's the sound of a band
in transition, although "We're All Alright" and "If I Can't Have You" prove that
there's still gas in the tank. Most bands would have folded right here, but
thankfully the boys press ahead.
PEACH FUZZ (1996) - Just to prove that fate intertwines the band
licenses some outtakes from their third album to new pop label Big Deal Records,
who present it as a new release. Three years later, Big Deal dissolves in a pool
of its own mistakes. But it's a placeholder for Enuff Z'nuff, who all of a
sudden look mighty prolific to those who don't know better. Because we have some
Derek Frigo and Vikki Foxx moments here, there are salvageable tracks like "Let
It Go", yet another shoulda-been-a-smash hit from the pens of Vie and Z'nuff.
When you consider that these were the tracks that didn't make Animals With Human
Intelligence, one wonders what a different collection of tracks could have done
for the band at that point. With songs like "Message Of Love" and "So Long" (and
the hidden bonus track "Kitty" to choose from, something like ANIMALS WITH PEACH
FUZZ would make a great record.
SEVEN (1997) - The boys have their own label now, and new
guitarist Monaco is now on board, although Frigo makes a reappearance on five
tracks. "Wheels", the leadoff track, might be the most accomplished track
they've done as far as production goes, sounding like "I Am The Walrus" filtered
through the band's brain. Odd moments abound, from fistfight noises that start
off the juke joint weeper "Clown On The Town" (Hank Williams pop?) to the
ambience for the riot-inspired "LA Burning". Much of the music evolved from the
acoustic Vie/Z'nuff efforts of the past few years, leaving the listener with a
pretty wide bandwidth of styles. Not the fan's favorite record, but I think it's
gotten a bad rap. "New Kind Of Motion" and "Down Hill" lean on the classic big
guitar/big vocal sound they're famous for. The reissue contains a stellar cover
of Lennon's "Jealous Guy" (see, I told you Vie's vocals are as much Lennon as
LIVE (1998) - Well, it's about time! Great recording from the
House Of Blues that flat out kicks ass! And Frigo and Foxx are also on board
along with the current lineup! "Kiss The Clown" is an ideal kickoff track,
spotlighting the power, the vocals, and especially the fiery guitar that puts
the power in "power pop". Not much to say here, as you either love live albums
or you don't, but the cover of "Revolution" is worth the price of the record all
by itself. More soundtrack tie ins, too "Bring It On Home" was featured in
Jerry Maguire. Interesting side note - the record was recorded for Westwood One
by Dale Peters, who you may remember from the great James Gang. I also love the
cover, their version of Sgt. Pepper.
PARAPHERNALIA (1999) - Once they missed out on an offer for Robin
Zander to sing lead on a track, but this time they nailed Rick Nielsen down for
lead guitar on "Freak". James Young and Billy Corgan also make appearances,
making this a Chicagoland homage to the band that remains a cult item despite
everyone seemingly loving them to death. Who said math and logic worked in the
music industry? Way different production tricks on this one, as the songs sprout
from a solid acoustic core. "Invisible" is borderline funky, "Habit" and "Loser
Of The World" are delicate and sweet sounding, and "Ain't It Funny" and "Believe
In Love" mine the midtempo vein they've been dabbling in for years. For the
requisite cover track, "Everything Works If You Let It" survives from an
abandoned Cheap Trick tribute project. A transitional record as the century
draws to a close.
TEN (2000) - Kicks off with "There Goes My
which was not only one of my favorite songs of the year, but also possibly the
best song the band has ever done. Play this for an ELO fan and watch them snap
to attention, as the Jeff Lynne sound rockets this killer track into the
stratosphere. "Your Heart's No Good...But I Love Your Face" is a horrible title
for a great song; "Suicide" is not much better but is (ahem) a killer track. The
cover this time is Bowie's "Jean Genie", but for some reason, this record also
included "Everything Works If You Let It" but does also add a video for "There
Goes My Heart". Other highlights include the bouncy, counterpoint vocal "All
Right" and the screamer "Bang On". Ten was one of the best records of the year,
and solid proof that Enuff Z'nuff has positioned itself to make yet another run
at bigger and better things. The big question is whether a band that writes pop
rock hits can survive in this boy band and teenie girlie pop world.
Now, in 2002, Enuff Z'nuff is finishing up the newest release for
Stoney/Spitfire, and there's even talk that former members Derek Frigo and Vikki
Foxx are working together on another project. Spitfire Records has re-released
most of the early catalogue, some with bonus tracks, and several of the
originals can (sadly, but lucky for you) be found in your local bargain bin.
While grabbing the ten-pack might be out of your league, grabbing the bookends
(Ten and the self-titled debut) would be an excellent start. As a bonus, of
course, you'd have two green peace signs to look at as you rock your brains out.
[Almost all Enuff Z'Nuff CDs are available at