By JAY ROBERTS
The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.
Y&T – Ten (1990)
As we mark the 30th anniversary of the release of Y&T’s ninth album, the possibly somewhat confusingly titled Ten, I had to look back at my own scant personal history with the band. It was a weird little journey to be sure.
Like most people I’m very well-versed with the song “Summertime Girls”. It remains the best known song for people who might not necessarily know much else about the band. I’d also heard other songs hear and there I’m sure, though I couldn’t guess which ones they might’ve been with any degree of certainty. When I used to write for another site, I got the chance to review a reissue of the band’s 1982 album Black Tiger. Somewhat controversially for Y&T fans who read that review, I didn’t really care for the album. It just didn’t grab me despite the band being what I would’ve previously though had all the things I usually look for in a rock band. I’m going to have to revisit that album at a future time.
For a lot of years, that was pretty much it for me with the band. Then came 2019 and Y&T was playing a show (promoted by the people behind this very website) in New Bedford, MA. I wanted to get the full experience of their well-regarded live shows so I planned to attend. In advance, I bought a compilation of greatest hits and was kind of blown away by how many songs struck a chord with me. Now I was psyched up immensely to see the show. And then the show itself surpassed my expectations and suddenly, I found myself thinking about the band in such a way that could only be termed “as a fan”. I started slowly acquiring their albums which now brings me full circle to talking about the Ten album.
What can I say? I just really loved this album. Other than the song “Come In From The Rain” which I saw the band perform live, I don’t recall ever hearing any of the other songs on the release, so I got to approach the remaining eleven tracks as a completely brand new experience.
What I learned was that Dave Meniketti, Stef Burns, Phil Kennemore and Jimmy Degrasso crafted an exceptionally entertaining rock and roll album. For more behind Degrasso’s contributions to the album see the “Notes Of Interest” at the end of this article.
I was immediately taken by the opening number on the album. “Hard Times” had a solidly rocking pace to it and the overall sound grabs your ear from the get-go.
While the uptempo nature of “Lucy” was nice, I will say that I didn’t quite connect to the song like I did with the rest of the album.
The rest of Side One was pretty impressive. There are two songs that would probably be what you’d call power ballads. While the looking back nature of this series can sometimes mean I discover tracks like “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” and the aforementioned “Come in from the Rain” and feel like I’m listening to fingernails on a chalkboard, I have to say I was pretty impressed by both songs. “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” has all the traditional underpinnings of balladry but the chorus is decidely more rocking than one might expect. As for “Come in from the Rain”, the tempo changes and singularly effective performances really clue the listener in to why it is in the band’s setlist to this day.
“Girl Crazy” might seem like it is a relic of a bygone time with its unapologetic lustful enthusiam but the song kicked my ass and I don’t feel the least little bit sorry for enjoying this powerful rocker.
The most intriguing song on the first side of the album for me was “City”. It opens with a slyly affecting bluesy guitar and a slightly understated gravelly vocal take from Meniketti before the full band kicks into high gear. The far more in-your-face rocking sound takes over and the big backing vocals on the song’s chorus put the song into the stratosphere for me.
The album’s second side doesn’t feature much of a letdown for the listener either. It starts off with “Red Hot & Ready”, which is simply a kinetic burst of rock and roll energy. The blood races and you are whisked away on a fast paced romp. You can probably say the very same thing about “She’s Gone” as well.
The song “Let It Out” starts out in a fast and furious style but midway through the song, the band slows it down a little before unleashing a really tasty guitar solo and finishing up in a fiery blaze.
Any hopes of a low-key finish to the album is quickly dispelled by the last three tracks. “Ten Lovers” and “Surrender” are just killer songs. However, if you want to hear what the band really can do when they completely take the brakes off, the song “Goin’ Off The Deep End” is an especially electrifying experience. It’s an frenzied no-holes-barred collaboration of the band’s talents that is sure to leave you with a feeling of exhaustion with it’s relentlessly unforgiving pace and pure rock fury.
I’m not aware of how the Ten album is viewed by the band’s long established fans but what I know is that I not only just freaking love this album! It also serves as a catalyst for me in a way. I have three other Y&T albums that I can write about in this series and Ten kind of makes me want to just dive into those albums as soon as possible so I can become an even more enthusiastic supporter of Y&T’s music!
NOTES OF INTEREST – Drummer Jimmy Degrasso had two stints with Y&T, recording a total of four studio albums and one live release. However, on Ten he’s only featured on three songs. The rest of the album’s drum tracks were performed by Journey’s Steve Smith. Degrasso has played with a host of other notable acts in his career including Alice Cooper, Megadeth, Black Star Riders and Ratt.
The song “City” was co-written by guitarist Al Pitrelli. He’s played with Megadeth, Alice Cooper and most importantly from my viewpoint, both Savatage and Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
After the release of Ten and a live album called Yesterday & Today Live, Y&T split up for about four years before reuniting in 1995 with the same lineup that recorded Ten.
The album was produced by Mike Stone. Before his death in 2002, his career as a producer, engineer and mixer included six albums working with Queen, my favorite Journey album Frontiers, and Whitesnake’s smash 1987 self-titled album. He also worked with April Wine, Asia, Ratt and the band Ten among others. Interestingly enough, he was the co-producer of the Helix album Wild in the Streets, which was the first article in The Cassette Chronicles series.