XYZ: Letter To God

XYZ – 2003 – Letter To God

Band:

  • Vocals – Terry Illous
  • Guitar – JK Northrup
  • Bass – Sean McNabb
  • Drums – Paul Monroe (also Vinnie Appice (2))
  • Keyboards – Nir Averbuch

Tracklist:

  1. What’s On Your Mind
  2. Letter To God
  3. Deny
  4. Touch The Sky
  5. Rainy Day
  6. Tango
  7. All I’m Asking
  8. Burn It Up
  9. Inside Out (2003)
  10. What Keeps Me Loving You
  11. Tell Me
  12. United

I loved XYZ from the moment I heard them, bar their rather uncool look (and that’s something coming from a glam and sleaze fan.) Their 1989 debut album was produced by Don Dokken and contained great hits such as Maggy and Inside Out, a version of which is featured on this album and despite not charting well, I have always held that the music was of a brilliant quality. Sadly, Ilous and Monroe are the only remaining members from the original band to play on this album, but ex-guitarist Mark Diglio co-wrote several songs and you can definitely hear his style pushing through. What’s great is that you also have Northrup pushing his own sound and the result is really very interesting. The album is also dedicated to Ilous’ son, who passed away in 2002.

I was disappointed that this album wasn’t as good as the other XYZ works. There is no doubt that it is a solid performance but the writing lacks the imagination present on the other albums. As I have always found, the ballads are executed with infalliable emotion by Ilous, especially All I’m Asking. Opener What’s On Your Mind kicks off with a great energy, introducing Northrup’s heavy guitar sound and Ilous’ vocals that are always rough around the edges but also technically very good. Burn It Up continues with this energy but is a little predictable, while earlier tracks Rainy Day and Letter To God are slower and less memorable but work much better in terms of the instruments’ layering and the simplicity of the sound. I loved the 2003 version of Inside Out which let Ilous loose throughout the introduction with a unaffected guitar before the bass slides you into the chorus; the whole thing felt more jaunty, more impulsive, than the original, though it doesn’t beat it. The 1989 version of What Keeps Me Loving You is one of my favourite songs on the album but I am glad to say that this album does it justice too; it has been toned down in guitar and vocals but the drum accompanient really drives it forward without being too heavy. Tell Me is back to what XYZ do so well on this album; the slow paced, ballad type material. This one’s a little too slow though and just isn’t innovative enough to keep you interested. The closing track United drags you back into the heavy, gutsy territory that the debut album loved to dabble in. McNabb’s bass is really prominent here which works well, though you get the feeling at times that it’s a bit over-produced. Not the worst but I’ve heard better from them too.

If I was trying to sell you XYZ, put it this way, I wouldn’t give you this album. It’s musically good but just not as impressive or as timeless as their debut or the Forbidden Demos album which really sheds light on just how professional these guys are. Letter To God is also a little preachy, something that I feel clouds the writing.

Soon I’ll be checking out their 2005 Rainy Days album so keep your eyes peeled. Even with this album, I will never understand why XYZ didn’t make it big. If you’re liking what you hear, especially from the 2012 video, you can catch the original line-up of XYZ at Firefest 2012 (Nottingham Rock City 19th-21st October)

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