I’ve said it before and I will say it again – 1989 was one of the greatest, most prolific years when it comes to hard rock and this album right here is yet another fine example, backing up my statement. We witnessed some great rock debuts during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s – XYZ, Giant, Danger Danger, Slaughter, Heavens Edge, Firehouse and so many countless others; and I never understood why all of a sudden every major music media outlet and label turned their back on those immensely talented musicians in favor of the grunge wave…Anyhow, what’s in the past is in the past. All we can do right now is to keep on discovering music that is worth discovering and appreciate talent when we see/hear it! That’s the reason why I wanted to talk about one of the forgotten but deserving late-‘80s-bands – XYZ and specifically their self-titled debut album. Not only it showcases an excellent playlist of feel-good rockers but it’s a great collection piece for all hard rock fans out there who love to recall the good old days!
I discovered XYZ rather recently, as I was taking one of my routine walks on the endless paths of old-school hard rock. There was something highly captivating about their sound which puzzled me as I rarely have this instant connection. I fell for the album, without knowing the reason why it felt so cozy and so familiar. Later on I discovered the reason why I was so easily hooked up… Their debut was produced by none other than Don Dokken! I am a huge Don Dokken fan and this should come as no surprise, especially to the people who follow my postings. Of course, everyone knows who Don Dokken is and is well-aware of all the beautiful things he did as a frontman and co-songwriter of the hard rock band, Dokken. If you love Dokken as much as I do, there is no way you won’t fall for XYZ and that first album of theirs!
By the time XYZ’s debut album was released, Dokken had already split due to the turbulent relationship between Don Dokken and George Lynch. Before Don wrapped things up with his first solo album “Up from the Ashes” (1990), he jumped in as the skillful producer of the French-American band, XYZ’s coming-out party. Unfortunately, the household name Don Dokken printed on the back of the album under “produced by” didn’t really help that much. XYZ’s debut album barely got into the Billboard charts, under #99.
Despite the moderate success, three singles and two music videos were released. The MVs for “Inside Out” and “What Keeps Me Loving You” got a little bit of that MTV spotlight. The third single, “Maggy” didn’t get a MV, however found its way to the big screen, as a soundtrack piece for the 1990 Dolph Lundgren movie, “Come in Peace”.
All in all, “XYZ” is an album that can easily blow out any other hard rock album of that era, even the multi-platinum ones. It’s such a shame when talent remains behind the shadows due to unreasonable circumstances. The four guys – Terry Ilous (vocals), Marc Richard Diglio (guitar), Paul Monroe (drums) and Patrick Fontaine (bass) crafted a steady piece of rock music that is suitable for any music-fanatic out there who is ready to have a great time! Don Dokken’s producer touch could easily be felt as we proceed from one song to another. Yes, the album does sound like a little bit like Dokken, but the sound is rougher, edgier and possesses that young and hungry spirit.
Where do I even begin? “Inside Out” is a satisfying rock masterpiece which can only be enjoyed if played as loud as possible. Glorious guitar work and don’t even get me started on the vocals – Terry is simply fantastic! “What Keeps Me Loving You” is the turning point – a power ballad ready to knock your socks off with its soul-grabbing melody and tender lyrics! “Take What You Can” impresses with its mind-blowing, thunderous guitar intro, which introduces us to a world, dominated by Terry Ilous’ violent screams. “Follow the Night” is yet another praiseworthy ballad I grew an attachment to. The second half of the album is as intriguing as the first – “Come On N’ Love Me”, “Souvenirs” and “After the Rain” are all offering one memorable sonic experience! The strong power ballad presence on the album makes things so interesting for me!
Final verdict: XYZ is another underrated killer band with a superb debut album that should’ve been way bigger! Tons of talent and full of character – I can’t recommend it enough!