Y&T 'Acoustic Classix' Vol.1 - Album Review
The summer before my junior year of high school, I saw Y&T for the first time on MTV's Headbanger's Ball via their new video for their forthcoming release Contagious. The video was for the song of the same title. I was immediately drawn into Dave's guitar playing and singing. It reminded me of my favorite artist at the time, Sammy Hagar.
In a few months, after the album was released, I ordered a copy from Columbia House. The first copy I received had a defect, so I returned it and finally received a copy of the cassette in November or December of that year. I was immediately taken with the band. From that point forward, I had a new favorite band.
Flash forward to 2002, and the band had broken up, reformed and had an appearance on a San Francisco bay area radio station, 107.7 The Bone, performing a number of their songs acoustically, which was also streamed via the radio station's website. Someone had the presence of mind to capture the audio from this performance and share it online. This showcased the band's music's versatility.
In December of 2017, a photo appeared on the Y&T Facebook page of the current lineup inside a recording studio, with Dave holding an acoustic guitar. It turns out that the band had entered the studio to cut acoustic versions of several of their songs, which were recently released via http://www.yandtrocks.com as an EP titled Acoustic Classix Vol. 1.
The tracklisting is as follows:
2. Rock & Roll's Gonna Save The World
3. Summertime Girls
4. Black Tiger
5. Barroom Boogie
6. Rescue Me
The record opens with the title track from the band's 1987 release I mentioned earlier. Unplugged, this song still has the power of the original studio recording. Dave's vocals are more powerful than ever. Few singers from the 1980s can still pull off their songs from their heyday. Dave is not only an exception, but his voice has continued to improve over the years. This song actually translates well acoustically. Normally, I'm not keen on guitar solos played on an acoustic guitar that were originally performed on an electric, but Dave's solos have always been so melodic that removal of distortion has no ill effects on the vibe. And vocally, the band recreates the vibe of the original recording with vocal harmonies. And thanks to Aaron Leigh's bass playing, the full audio spectrum of the original recording is recreated here.
Rock & Roll's Gonna Save The World
This song, originally released on the band's 1984 record, In Rock We Trust also translates well to acoustic instruments, again, thanks to Aaron Leigh holding down the low end of the spectrum. Also like the previous track, the vocal harmonies help to recreate the vibe of the original recording, but the band might as well be sitting in your living room. Dave's licks become tasty fills without distortion. I am loathe to call this "stripped down", because, as I've stated, all of the power of the original recording is still there.
People seem to either love or hate this song. I'm not sure why. I fall in the former camp. There's nothing wrong at all with a song that makes you feel happy. Thank 90's grunge for pushing that narrative.
Again, the vocal harmonies are spot on. John Nymann has a beautiful voice that fills in the space that was previously held by Phil Kennemore. And Dave's guitar solo, while slightly altered, kind of evokes a feeling that Peter Frampton would be proud of.
Normally, I wouldn't expect a song like Black Tiger to translate well to an acoustic version, but this is Y&T. There's really nothing this band can't do. I am nothing short of ecstatic about the low end these songs have. Phil may be gone, but, I think he would appreciate the fact that Aaron has stepped in. Aaron claims that "he's just playing bass lines", but I contend that he brings something special to the band. Yes, Phil is still missed. He always will be, but I can't deny the power of the bass in these recordings.
This is a fan favorite and it translates well to an acoustic version. After all these years, Dave is still able to add a little flavor to the lyrics while remaining true to the original version of the song. Even including "Unless you a star or got a PHD" from the original studio recording (in live versions, "got a PHD" becomes "into Y&T"), something that was a little unexpected, but welcome.
This is another guitar solo that is ever so slightly modified from its original version to sound right on an acoustic guitar. And Dave nails it.
Probably one of Y&T's most loved ballads, "Rescue Me" appears in this collection. And, translates acoustically as well, if not better, than all of the other tracks. But, ballads often do. The way the song was arranged for acoustic makes it almost better than the original version fans have come to know and love.
In the end Acoustic Classix puts the band's talent for writing and arranging and performing on display. Having recently seen the band perform for myself, I can tell you that if you attend a Y&T show, that's what you have in store. Sure, I'm a fan, and you'd expect to hear that, but, in this case, I honestly haven't seen a better live performing band.
Because of the band's somewhat limited notoriety compared to other acts from the era, we can't all see them live. But we can all pick up a copy of this record and enjoy their music. If you like powerful rock music, you should consider getting yourself a copy of Acoustic Classix Vol. 1.