Launched two years before his return Loudness in 2001, vocalist Minoru Niihara’s XYZ-A is his hammer-and-nails outlet for material not exactly suited for Akira Takasaki and the boys. Known for a sound that flirts generously with classic Deep Purple and UFO while keeping things on the metal side, XYZ-A has rebounded from two consecutive uninspired records (I.V. and Wings) with an album very similar to their stellar second outing, Metalization (2001). Lead-off song ‘Z To A’ and the title track, ‘Learn From Yesterday! Live For Today! Hope For Tomorrow!’, are signature up-tempo scorchers in the spirit of the band’s previous album opening crowd pleasers ‘Labyrinth’ and ‘Miracle’, drummer Funky Sueyoshi leading the charge with his Alex Van Halen skinbashing and guitarist Fumihiko Kitsutaka laying down his much needed pissed off Michael Schenker shred. With the tone set XYZ-A are off at a run, something that hasn’t been the case since their Life album from 2002. The ballad-esque ‘Angela’ recalls early ‘80s Loudness right down to the Takasaki guitar tones, although Niihara’s voice is far superior now compared to his younger self. Playing a completely different card, ‘Never Too Late’ features Niihara spitting the verses to a crushing groove and gang vocals, while the acoustic-based ‘Dedicate My Life’ could pass for a tune from American Fool-era John Mellencamp. When the band finally gets back up to speed they hit all the necessary points, with ‘Shining Star’ being the one-per-album synchopated prog piece followed by the ‘No Money, No Fame’ gang bang and ‘The Great Wasada’ leading out on a high speed tear into the blues rock goof of ‘Banzai Birthday’.
Oddly enough, many of the songs features simple background orchestration, adding an effective ‘70s dynamic without destroying the band’s raw garage band appeal. Not necessarily the save XYZ-A needed, but certainly a plus. Additionally, the album is an example of the production Niihara needs and deserves, as he sounds far superior to a lot of his recent work with Loudness.
It’s worth noting that Learn From Yesterday! Live For Today! Hope For Tomorrow! was put together in the wake of Loudness drummer Munetaka Higuchi’s passing (a victim of liver cancer) yet the vibe and energy of the album is remarkably positive. Not something that can be faked, surely, and a testament to Niihara’s strength as an artist and a person.
A job very well done.
Go to this location to purchase the album. Seriously, buy it. Now 😉