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The Best, Most Prolific Rock & Roll Band from Illinois Not Named Cheap Trick - by JCE

editor’s note: I fully realize that most readers perceive that the Pencilstorm writers & editorial staff all reside together in a communal household like the 1968 Grateful Dead, but that is only partially accurate: everybody lives together three weeks out of every month, and the fourth week we all go home to our wives & families.  (Mostly because we need a break from Big $ going on & on & frickin’ ON about the Cleveland Browns.)  Occasionally this leads to problems: just before the September break Scott Carr and JCE were listening non-stop to Enuff Z’nuff, and when JCE went home to Virginia, we wound up with double E/Z blogs. Since this is roughly the four-year anniversary of Watershed opening for Cheap Trick in Myrtle Beach, it would be a good time to post the second. (After all, since Pensilstorm has run approximately 1100 KISS entries, we didn’t think two Enuff Z’nuff were too many.) 


Our fearless Pencil Storm leader Colin might ban me for writing this blasphemous piece suggesting that I might love Chicago rockers Enuff Z’Nuff as much as I love Cheap Trick, but I’ll take a chance.  Let me start with this very accurate introduction to the band as found on ALLMusic.com: Chicago’s Enuff Z’Nuff emerged in the late 1980’s during the waning days of the glam metal scene, but their sugary melodies and keen power pop smarts hewed more closely to artists like Cheap Trick and Badfinger.  Despite their obvious pop leanings, Atco (their record company) pushed hard to market the group as a glam metal act, much to their detriment.

Enuff Z’Nuff released what I believe is their fifteenth studio album on August 10, 2018.  They have at least two live records, and a couple of greatest hits compilations, but I am not including those here.  Upon release of the latest, “Diamond Boy,” I decided that I should follow in Colin’s footsteps and rank every Enuff Z’Nuff song, the same way he did for Cheap Trick.

After thinking about it for a day or two, I concluded that the task was too daunting for me, so I decided to rank their albums instead.  

Before I rank the albums and name the best songs on each, let me say that this band is one of the most underrated and misunderstood bands of all time.  As alluded to above, the reputation as a hair metal band that these guys got saddled with is absurd.  I have often considered Cheap Trick to be the perfect definition of a rock and roll band.  I always thought “power pop” was not the right description for them.  Enuff Z’Nuff is very similar—they are not really power pop, but they  certainly are not metal.  They are a rock and roll band.  Period.  They have other similarities to Cheap Trick as well.  Both are from Illinois, both record a ton of records, both have been around a long time and are still making excellent, relevant rock and roll music (I love “Summertime Looks Good On You,” the new Cheap Trick single by the way).  If you only know a handful of Enuff Z’Nuff songs, and you are a Cheap Trick fan, you owe it to yourself to dig deeper.  Much deeper.  The band has had a ton of personnel changes over the years, with the only absolute constant being Chip Z’Nuff.  His writing partner and co-founder of the band, Donnie Vie, has had a hand in almost everything up until the most recent 2018 release. 

Here Is My Ranking of 15 Great Records by ENUFF Z’NUFF,  ranked from one (best, awesome!) to fifteen (not the very best, but still really good):   

1 Enuff Z'Nuff - (Released 1989).jpg

1.  Enuff Z’Nuff  -  (Released 1989)

This is the one of my favorite records of all time.  It is the record that launched the band, it is the closest thing to a hit record they ever made, and unfortunately, it is the record that landed them in the hair metal conversation.  I still don’t know why, other than the look they had, which was clearly pushed by their record company in hopes of selling more records.  The best songs here are “For Now,” “I Could Never Be Without You,” “Fly High Michelle” and “New Thing” but every song on this record is excellent.  

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  2.  Strength  -  (Released 1991)

Strength was the follow up to the successful debut.  The band tried mightily to downplay the glam rock, make-up wearing reputation they had been saddled with and made a great rock and roll record which was critically acclaimed.  Unfortunately, it did not sell well.  The highlights here are “Hollywood Ya,” “Something For Free” and “Baby Loves You.”  It’s really good all the way through though.

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3.  Clown’s Lounge  -  (Released 2016)

This record is only two years old, but it is made up mostly of material written and recorded back in 1988 and 1989.  It is vintage Enuff Z’Nuff and does not sound at all like a bunch of B-sides or demos.  My favorite track is “Dog On A Bone” which interestingly is the only new track on the record.  Another excellent song here is “The Devil of Shakespeare” which features guest vocals by the late Jani Lane from the metal band Warrant.  That song is circa 2004.

4 Animals With Human Intelligence  -  (Released 1993).jpg

  4.  Animals With Human Intelligence  -  (Released 1993)

The boys just kept rolling along, churning out masterpieces for record number three.  “These Daze” is my personal favorite, but “One Step Closer To You” and “Bring It On Home” are other standouts on another great record.

5 1985  -  (Released 1994).jpg

5. 1985  -  (Released 1994)

This record came out in 1994, but as the title implies, the songs were recorded much earlier.  If there is one Enuff Z’Nuff record that truly is power pop, this is it.  “Hollywood Squares,” “Aroused” and “Fingers On It” are the standout tracks.  “Fingers On It” also appeared on a Yellow Pills Power Pop compilation record.  The liner notes were written by shock jock Howard Stern.

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6.  Question  -  (Released 2004)

This record simply titled “?” includes some new material and some outtakes from prior recording sessions.  The best tracks on the record include “Home Tonight” which is just a beautiful song, as well as “Help” and “Man With A Woman.”

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7.  Dissonance  -  (Released 2010)

Donnie Vie rejoined the band for this release.  It is a solid effort.  My favorite track is “Lazy Dazy” along with the title track and “High.”

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8.  Diamond Boy  -  (Released 2018)

This is the first and only record that Chip Z’Nuff delivered with no Donnie Vie assistance and himself as lead vocalist.  The record is solid all the way through.  Frankly, it’s better than I expected.  The tracks “Metalheart” and “Faith Hope & Luv” are particularly good, and are definitely the rockers on this effort.  There is also plenty of softer power pop sounds here too.

9 Tweaked  -  (Released  1995).jpg

9.  Tweaked  -  (Released  1995)

This was the first independent release after the initial four records by the band.  The lead guitar is toned way down as they continued to fight the glam metal reputation they had been saddled with.  “We’re All Alright,” “Has Jesus Closed His Eyes,” “Mr. Jones” and “How Am I Supposed To Write A Love Song” are my favorite tracks.

10 Welcome to Blue Island  -  (Released 2003).jpg

10.  Welcome to Blue Island  -  (Released 2003)

This record was the last with Donnie Vie fully involved in the band.  The record features the excellent “Saturday.”  Another favorite track from this one is “Roll Me.”

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11.  Paraphernalia  -  (Released 1999)

This record has guest appearances by Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins) and Rick Nielson (Cheap Trick, Duh!).  It includes a cover of “Everything Works If You Let It” by Cheap Trick.  The best tracks are “Ain’t It Funny” and “Believe In Love.”

12 Ten  -  (Released 2000).jpg

12.  Ten  -  (Released 2000)

This would be the 10th release by the band (but only the ninth studio album).  It is on the pop side of the spectrum.  “There Goes My Heart” and “Holiday” are fine songs.

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13.  Peach Fuzz  -  (Released 1996)

This record, like 1985, was made up of older songs and B-sides of singles.  The songs were mostly recorded around the time of the Animals With Human Intelligence record, but these songs are much more pop oriented than that album, which is likely why they were left unreleased until Peach Fuzz.  The best tracks are “Let It Go” and “Make Believe.”

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14.  Seven  -  (Released 1997)

This, as the name implies, was release number seven by the band.  It was originally released in Japan under the title “Brothers” as a record by Chip Z’Nuff and Donnie Vie, rather than by Enuff Z’Nuff.  It is one of the most mellow releases, which causes it to be near the bottom of my list.  The best track is “On My Way Back Home.”

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15.  Covered In Gold – (Released 2014)

There’s a little bit of everything here.  “Everything Works If You Let It” is a Cheap Trick cover that appeared on an earlier record.  “She Sells Sanctuary” is a very well done cover of The Cult.  The Beatles are covered here, too.  It’s a mish mash.  There’s a version of Nirvana’s “All Apologies” and even David Lee Roth’s “Yankee Rose.”  It is my least favorite record by one of my favorite bands.


              
That concludes my list.  If there are any Enuff Z’Nuff fans out there that read this, please tell me what your favorite record is.  

 

Click here for Scott's entry: August 1989 / Enuff Z'Nuff Release Their Debut Album.

 

Ricki and JCE (John, to his friends & family) first bonded over their shared mutual love of Boston's Finest Sons - The Neighborhoods - and everything extended out from that rock & roll ripple.  JCE lives in Culpeper, Virginia with his wife & daughter, and thinks a long-rumored new Neighborhoods record being released in 2018 would make this a perfect year.