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.
XYZ – HUNGRY (1991)
Like many, I first became aware of XYZ when their self-titled debut album was released in 1989. I remember seeing a magazine trade ad for the album and I was intrigued. After all in 1989, I was 18 and in my glory as a rock and metal fan.
That magazine ad stuck with me because I could swear that I remember seeing not only that Don Dokken had produced the album but that Survivor guitarist Frankie Sullivan being credited in the ad as having a hand in the production as well. But that appears not to be the case since it is just Dokken that got the credits. I’m guessing that it must be my faulty memory playing another trick on me.
I guess that I liked the album well enough, but the band didn’t really stick with me that much and they kind of faded from my playlist at the time. I know that the album disappeared from my collection as well. So it probably isn’t much of a surprise that I never bought the Hungry album.
I don’t even remember hearing the single release “Face Down In The Gutter” when the album got its 1991 release. I know now that there is a video for the song but I didn’t see that either. Apparently it didn’t get a lot of play on MTV at the time because of some controversy about the way women in the video were dressed.
When I pulled the Hungry album out of The Big Box of Cassettes, I was intrigued that I’d now discover what the band had to offer me in the album’s 30th anniversary year. And I’ve got to say that I came away pretty darn pleased!
The single is the opening song on the album and it’s got a fast paced rocking style. Overall, it is just a great sounding track and has a pretty catchy and memorable chorus. I liked it immediately.
Even more impressive to me was “Don’t Say No”. Like most of the songs on Hungry, it’s got an in your face aggressively rocking feel to it, but at the same time has a fantastic hook and great melodies. I’ve got to say that I really loved the guitar work from guitarist Marc Diglio. And though I’m sure it’s well established that Terry Ilous is a damn good singer, it is here that I really came to appreciate that fact for myself.
When it comes to cover songs, I’m both picky and fickle about what makes a good cover. And there are some bands that I don’t feel should be covered by anyone because you simply can’t do the original songs justice no matter how hard you try. One of those bands is Free. There’s just something about their music that defies replication in my mind. I don’t know why I feel that way but it also extends to Bad Company and I’m guessing part of the reason may be that I’m so loyal to the vocals of Paul Rodgers. However, I came away highly impressed with XYZ’s cover of “Fire And Water”, the title track of Free’s third album. It may not be exactly like the original but I thought this version really worked well.
The rest of Side One of the album is just as impressive with the songs “When The Night Comes Down”, “Off To The Sun” and the side closing “Feels Good”. That last song pretty much sums up how I felt after listening to the first side and spoiler alert…the album as a whole.
Side Two breaks through from the start with “Shake Down The Walls”. It’s got a rocking immediacy to it and I can just imagine being in the audience at a show and just pumping my fist in the air to this track.
You’ll note that as yet I’ve not described any song with the dreaded “power ballad” term. That ends quickly on Side Two with the song “When I Find Love”. While I’ve found some ballads in recent albums that I’ve actually enjoyed, this song will not be joining the list. While it checks all the expected boxes for a power ballad to be successful, it just seemed to set my teeth on edge.
The song “H.H. Boogie” is flat out awesome and a great showcase for Marc Diglio. There’s a swinging feel to the song’s tempo and everything about this song made me want to hear it over and over again. The band gets even more aggressively paced on the song “The Sun Also Rises In Hell”. The song really got my blood pumping as the band as a whole combined to put on a fantastic performance with this track. I love just how hard-edged the song sounds and along with “H.H. Boogie”, is among my favorite cuts on the album.
Hungry closes out on a continued roll with the songs “A Roll Of The Dice” and “Whiskey On A Heartache”. The two tracks are both rockers and continue to demonstrate that while I may have taken until this release marked its 30th anniversary to “discover” it, better late than never is definitely true.
Seriously, this album is a superbly entertaining release and I know that if the band ever returns to my area whenever lives concerts return, I’m going to be in the audience…fists pumping in belated but fervent fandom!
NOTES OF INTEREST: The Hungry album failed to chart when it was released and led to the departure of guitarist Marc Diglio and drummer Paul Monroe. The band recruited new members Tony Marcus and Joey Shapiro for the tour and they are still in the current lineup today.
Personally, I thought the album cover art was a bit cartoonishly silly but I loved the “warning” in the liner notes saying that the recording may contain subliminal messages. The CD release of the album contains the bonus track “Two Wrongs Can Make A Right”. It isn’t on the cassette
Musician Jeff Paris co-wrote three of the songs on the album as well as co-arranged the band’s cover of “Fire And Water”. Over the course of his career he has written songs with and/or for Y&T, Lita Ford, Mr. Big and Vixen and others. He’s sometimes credited as Geoffrey Leib. Paris has released six solo albums as well.