Sunday, May 31, 2009
VINYL DESTINATION 2: Yesterday & Today
So I'm digging through a pile of vinyl the other day and stumble across Y&T's "Mean Streak". They had their hayday in the mid 80's with that LP as well as a hit single in "Summertime Girls". (Terrible song, by the by). But I'm reminded of a better time, long before the "hair era", circa 1976 when Y&T went by their original moniker, Yesterday and Today. Their self-titled debut came out that year, and to me, I think it's far superior to what came after.
The best thing about the debut is the lack of production. Unlike a lot of hard rock bands of this era which seemed overproduced and uber-polished, this LP has a raw edge that makes it more enjoyable, especially compared to Y&T's later glossy efforts. Dave Meniketti's strong voice still packs some pop, but it sounds rougher and more urgent than what most are used to from the band, and that adds to the almost demo-style charm of the record.
The album starts off with "Animal Woman" a strange choice to kick off the record being one of it's weaker cuts, and featuring rhythm guitarist Joe Alves on vocals. Not a real attention grabber. The record remedies that faux pas with the second cut, "25 Hours a Day", an anthemic rocker that much like "Beautiful Dreamer", the pretty love ballad that closes the record, is still played by the band to this day.
To me, the strongest offering on the record is "Fast Ladies (Very Slow Gin), a song that begins misleadingly with a flowing lead run backed by a jogging bass line from Phil Kennemore, before kicking into a nasty galloping riff rock chord jam. It leads to a nice verse and catchy chorus. Almost as good is "Game Playing Woman", a song with a start and stop riff structure, that folds into a jazzy bass-backed bridge, before launching into a Zeppelin style chord jam behind a nasty lead by Meniketti.
This record holds up against the best of the era along with Nugent, Aerosmith, and the rest of the sweaty arena rockers, but it will never gain that notoriety.
Another plus is Leonard Haze's drumming which is a double kick style slightly ahead of it's time. Sadly in the late 80's, Haze was ejected from the band for not fitting it's aesthetic. In the "Summertime Girls" video, a comedy disaster still seen on VH1 Classic, Haze is the guy popping up out of the trash can at the very beginning. A very good drummer as well as a founding member, he deserved better. Although the only other weak cut on the record is "Alcohol", a paean to drinking that made the rounds in the midwest in the late 70's as a juke box regular, is sung poorly by Haze himself, and he doesn't come off well.
"Yesterday & Today" was released on the very small London label out of New York in '76, and I think it's only available on cd as a japanese import, which is a shame. It's a very good album and deserved a better fate.