Beautiful Things is the latest solo album from former Enuff Z’Nuff singer and chief songwriter Donnie Vie. The album was released on July 5th via Deko Music, distributed by Warner music Group.
I feel like I am always explaining to people who Donnie Vie is. It's such a shame that more people do not know him. I've penned a few Pencil Storm articles in the past about Enuff Z’Nuff in an effort to spread the word about one of Chicago's best kept power- pop secrets. If you missed my previous ramblings about Donnie and Enuff Z’Nuff, I will give you a quick recap and then move on to Donnie's latest album.
Most people first heard of Enuff Z’Nuff in 1989 when their self-titled debut album hit record shelves and their videos "New Thing" and "Fly High Michelle" were being played in heavy rotation on MTV. The band was formed in 1984 by bassist Chip Z’Nuff, who eventually recruited a young Donnie Vie to front the band. Chip said in an recent interview about Vie, "If it wasn't for Donnie, no one would even know who I am." After years of playing clubs and writing hundreds of songs the duo landed their first major label record deal in 1988. After the success of their debut album the band released another 12 studio albums, as well as a few live records. Donnie took an extended hiatus from the band in 2002 to focus on his solo work. He would eventually return to the band in 2006 for another album, but left again in 2013.
That brings us to present day and the release of Donnie Vie's latest album Beautiful Things.
Beautiful Things is Donnie's fourth official full-length solo album and the follow up to 2014's The White Album.
Beautiful Things began as a crowd-funding project through Pledge Music. Donnie was able to fund the project in record time and he kept the fans updated on a regular basis on the album’s progress. Donnie loves interacting with his fans and getting their input. He even asked fans to submit photos of things that they thought were "beautiful" and he would include those images on the album’s cover art.
Things seemed to going along smoothly but then Pledge Music abruptly folded and ran off with all the money that had been pledged by fans to make Beautiful Things, along with many other crowd-funded projects as well.
The Pledge Music disaster delayed the release of Beautiful Things but Donnie quickly found a label and distribution for the record and it was worth the wait.
Beautiful Things is full of all the elements that you would expect from Donnie: amazing singing and well-crafted pop songs. Donnie has always had a knack for writing perfect power-pop melodies, that at times sound like Elvis Costello or Squeeze with a healthy dose of Lennon & McCartney thrown in for good measure.
Side one of the album opens with some tasteful guitar noodling from Mr. Big Guitarist Paul Gilbert. This guitar intro serves as a soundscape that leads us into the album’s title track: “Beautiful Things" is a perfect mid-tempo opening for the album that finds Donnie in top form vocally.
"Plain Jane" follows and has a more rocked-up vibe that may sound more familiar to fans of Donnie's work with Enuff Z’Nuff. A power-pop gem that will instantly have you humming along.
"Breaking Me Down" features great Beatle-sounding harmonies and some sweet-sounding 12-string electric guitar that brings to mind The Byrds. This is definitely a standout track that falls into the "should be a hit" category.
"I Could Save The World" was the first single released from Beautiful Things. The theme of this song is reminiscing about the days when things were cool and wishing they would return. This track features some beautiful orchestration from former Jellyfish keyboardist Roger Joseph Manning Jr. "I Could Save The World" was the first song Donnie had penned in nearly three years and it gave him the confidence to do another record.
Side one wraps up with an introspective piano and vocal piece called "Fly."
Time to flip the record over kids. Yes, there is a vinyl release of Donnie's new record.
"Tender Lights" opens side two with a bit of a country influence but the power-pop hooks and great lyrics shine through brightly.
"I'll Surrender" follows and for me is the album’s highlight. Another perfect Beatle-influenced song. Add this one to Donnie's long list of songs that should be hits.
"Whatever" is a fun upbeat tune that tells the story of Donnie's musical evolution. The jangly guitars bring to mind Revolver/Rubber Soul era Beatles.
"Falling Through The Pages" is my second favorite track from the album, right behind "I'll Surrender." This is probably the most Enuff Z’Nuff sounding track on the record and that's not a bad thing.
The album closes with a piano ballad called "Back From The Blue."
Beautiful Things is a triumph for Donnie Vie and an album that he thought he would not be able to make. It had been four years since his last studio album and he felt like the well had run dry after 30 years of writing songs. Luckily he found the inspiration he needed and delivered an album that is as strong as any of his previous work.
In an interview with Ultimate Classic Rock Donnie explains the moment when his extended writer's block came to an end: “The gods left a basket of really cool ideas on my doorstep, and then it was like a build-your-own sundae out of melodies and sounds.”
You can order Beautiful Things here.
Donnie recorded a cover of John Lennon’s “Instant Karma” and it is featured as a bonus track on the Japanese edition of Beautiful Things. Check out the video for that and a few other things below…..
Scott Carr is a guitarist who plays in the Columbus, OH bands Radio Tramps andReturning April. Scott is also an avid collector of vinyl records and works at Lost Weekend Records. So...if you are looking for Scott....you'll either find him in a dimly-lit bar playing his guitar or in a record store digging for the holy grail.