"Classic double cheeseburger rock'n'roll, its mission is to bring the party and it succeeds": Y&T sum up the early 80s rock sound on Black Tiger

After the all-important breakthrough with Earthshaker, Y&T's follow-up Black Tiger was a defining statement

Y&T: Black Tiger cover art
(Image: © A&M)

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Y&T: Black Tiger

Y&T: Black Tiger cover art

(Image credit: A&M)

From the Moon
Open Fire
Don't Wanna Lose
Hell Or High Water
Black Tiger
Barroom Boogie
My Way Or The Highway
Winds Of Change

As loveable as Anvil and arguably as unlucky, 2019's On With The Show documentary showed that San Francisco’s Y&T were another band for whom a middling level of stardom often seemed at hand but remained out of reach. 

Rambunctious, uncomplicated and resolute in their vision, their era occupied that uncertain ground between the end of the 70s and the hair-metal late 80s, a time of Quiet Riot and Ozzy Osbourne going solo, of Twisted Sister and Night Ranger, of nascent formats like MTV and CD. 

After the all-important breakthrough with Earthshaker, Y&T's follow-up was a defining statement. As Dave Meniketti said: “Black Tiger is our signature album.” Produced in the UK by Max Norman, who had engineered Ozzy's post-Black Sabbath comeback records, Black Tiger sounded a little slicker than Earthshaker

But while the single Don’t Wanna Lose was made for radio, the meat of the album was heavy rock, with hard-and-fast head-bangers in Open Fire and the title track, boozy rowdiness in Barroom Boogie and high drama in the euphoric anthem Forever. In 1982, with this album and a triumphant Reading Festival performance, Y&T were flying.

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Other albums released in August 1982

  • Art of Control - Peter Frampton
  • I Can't Stand Still - Don Henley
  • Chronic Town - R.E.M.
  • Zipper Catches Skin - Alice Cooper
  • Bad To The Bone – George Thorogood & the Destroyers
  • The Cage - Tygers of Pan Tang
  • Fiction - The Comsat Angels
  • If That's What It Takes - Michael McDonald
  • Music For A New Society - John Cale
  • Rock In A Hard Place - Aerosmith
  • Rough Diamonds - Bad Company
  • Shango - Santana
  • Talking Back to the Night - Steve Winwood
  • The Unexpected Guest - Demon
  • Hughes/Thrall - Hughes/Thrall

What they said...

"One can almost sense the band's sphincters clenching up when the red light goes on in the recording booth, such is the stale, uncomfortable vibe captured on Black Tiger. Not even the furious attack of Open Fire (later to become an explosive monster of a song in their live show) can save the day, and the dramatic closer Winds of Change simply pales in comparison to Earthshaker's piece de resistance, I Believe in You. (AllMusic

"The title track is a slick affair, showing Dave Meniketti’s confident – almost Sammy Hagar-ish – vocals, while Barroom Boogie is a more self-explanatory tale of chasing some late-night love down at your local... Black Tiger is full of great songs that are tailor-made to be sung loudly while motorin’ down the highway with the wind in your hair, but unfairly, they would have to wait a while longer for a taste of mainstream commercial success." (100% Rock)

"If you – for some reason – have never heard of Y&T Black Tiger is the album to start out with. This is everything the band has been past and present but do not stop here though. Check out Yesterday & Today, Struck Down, Earthshaker, Mean Streak and In Rock We Trust. These, including Black Tiger, are essential albums in any rock collection so go out and get them. (The Ripple Effect)

What you said...

Keith Gallian: Black Tiger contains some of Y&T’s best moments – Open Fire, Forever (and its intro/outro From the Moon), the title track, Barroom Boogie, Winds Of Change. That’s 6/9 right there. Don’t sleep on the other three songs, though. They are better-than-filler rockers that show just how good this band really was/is.

The album is solid from front to back – much like most of Y&T’s output (especially in the early 80s). There are very few “wow” moments, but one cannot deny the craftsmanship they possess. From a time when “over-the-top” was most recognized (and perhaps most rewarded), Y&T carved out a place as a classy and dependable band that is still listenable and discoverable all these years later. If only they could’ve beefed up that studio sound... The songs, melodies, riffs, and choruses are all there. There’s just something missing in their studio mixes that should have propelled them to stardom.

Speaking of... Dave Meniketti has been one of the most reliable and consistent frontmen in the business for decades now – not to mention one of the most tasteful hard rock guitar players around. How this guy was not considered one of the 80s best and is not on rock’s Mt. Rushmore is beyond me.

Keane Phillips: Great album!

David Cowan: Brilliant album. I'm looking forward to seeing and hearing it in its entirety later this year in Glasgow.

Bob Woolner: Great album, and it still sounds as good today as it did back then. An awesome live band, too.

Brian Carr: I’m not sure if there’s a more apt example of the underrated nature of Y&T than when I went to listen to the album this afternoon and found out that the majority of their classic A&M output is not currently streaming on Apple Music or Spotify in the US. Not sure if that is band or label-driven, but definitely a bummer. I do love the band enough to where I listened on YouTube, though (before I realized that I actually have this on cassette!).

I’ve loved Y&T long enough to where I have releases on CD, cassette and vinyl, the latter of which I still have the live release of Open Fire, which contains four tracks from the Black Tiger record. What excellent hard rock music from a band that I never got to see live because I don’t recall them ever coming close to my neck of the Midwest during their heyday. It’s a shame they didn’t hit bigger as I think they were every bit as good as more successful 80s bands, and in some cases were better.

If you like melodic hard rock with excellent lead guitar playing, Y&T fits the bill. If you find that style of music derivative and dumb, you probably won’t dig Black Tiger. I’m all about it, though, and appreciate this week’s choice, especially since it reminds me that I still haven’t checked out the documentary on the band that was released five years ago.

Mike Canoe: Classic double cheeseburger rock'n'roll. Black Tiger's mission is to bring the party and it succeeds.

Dave Meniketti is ridiculously talented, the leader of a version of Montrose in which he plays not only namesake guitarist Ronnie Montrose, but singer Sammy Hagar as well. You could drive yourself mad trying to decide whether Meniketti's a better lead singer or lead guitarist so why even try?

While the lyrics aren't particularly deep, none of the songs are stinkers. Current favorite is Barroom Boogie, a silly (mis)adventure story reminiscent of Bon Scott (or Tone Lōc). Other highlights include rockers Don't Wanna Lose, Hell Or High Water, power ballad fake out Forever, and the surprisingly thoughtful actual power ballad, Winds of Change.

A great example of early ‘80's hard rock.

John Davidson: Blending the rockier side of UFO with the naive charm of early Def Leopard, Y&T serve up a solid slice of early 80s hard rock. It's not going to win awards for subtlety but it's good sing-along fun.

Greg Schwepe: I’m guessing that I’m not the only reviewer who was only familiar with Y&T through their anthemic Summertime Girls song.

And that’s a pity because Black Tiger was the first Y&T album I’d heard in its entirety and found it to be a fun group of nine songs (I’ll create my own new genre; “Fun Rock.”) that are totally listenable all the way through that required no skipping, no wincing at cheesy lyrics, plenty of air guitar opportunities, and provided plenty of “Steering Wheel Smacking” if you were listening while driving with this one cranked up.

Standout tracks include Barroom Boogie and My Way Or The Highway, your basic 4/4 rockers that seem to be a fair example of what Y&T is all about. And the closing track, Winds Of Change, is kind of their epic six-minute song that cycles through various moods. Good way to end the album.

Overall, Y&T are a likeable band with a style that will keep most hard rock aficionados sticking around for an entire listening of Black Tiger. This was a band that probably never headlined 15-20,000 seat arenas, but if you saw them anywhere, you most likely left with a smile on your face. 7 out of 10 for me on this one and already found myself checking out more of their releases.

Nigel Mawdsley: I must admit that Y&T are a band who've passed me by over the decades. I've heard a few tracks by them, but haven't listened to a full album so I guess I'm coming at this review with 'fresh' ears.

On first hearing Black Tiger if someone had asked me who this band/artist reminded me of, without knowing that it was Y&T, I would have said Van Halen or Sammy Hagar, with a smattering of AC/DC.

I thought that the riffs, licks and lead breaks were excellent melodically, more original than the chorus melodies, which were good but had me thinking, 'I can see why Y&T didn't break into the UK market'. A decent, rifftastic album.

Richard Jones: Just an amazing album, although it was Earthshaker that started it for me . But Mean Streak is my favourite. Black Tiger paved the way to that album. Powerful throughout and Meniketti is just on another level again, as a vocalist and lead guitarist. One of the great American heavy rock bands and looking forward to seeing Dave in Cardiff in October. 

Philip Qvist: This is one band that flew well below my radar throughout the 80s and much of the 90s. It was only as we started moving towards the new century that the odd song started to appear on my radar - while it was only in the past decade that I found out that Y&T stood for Yesterday and Tomorrow (the Beatles album they were listening to at the time). So in short, Y&T almost totally passed me by and that Black Tiger is their first album that I have listened to.

The funny thing is that if the band had more publicity down here in South Africa, I probably would have bought a couple of their albums. That said, the cover definitely screams early to mid-80s, while the production does sound muted.

A quick look at the critics' responses indicated that many hated this album, which means that either their other albums are beyond fantastic - or, more likely the case, they know less than nothing about music.

It is a pretty decent effort, with great guitar riffs from band leader Dave Meniketti (who, despite the whole band being credited, probably wrote the bulk of the songs, along with bassist Phil Kennemore) and Joey Alves. The songs are pretty good, despite the muted production - even if this album was not exactly establishing new boundaries.

My favourite tracks were Open Fire and Winds of Change, with the album getting a score of around 6.5 - 7/10 from me. A nice one this week.

Welmu W Vesanen: One of the best albums of the early eighties. Every song is so powerful. Had to give it a spin once again.

Kaa Gee Walsh: I actually got into this band with their first album from the mid-70s, the self-titled Yesterday And Today. I had found it in a delete bin. I liked it. This is a good album.

Tom DeMonte: We metal heads in Connecticut USA didn't miss these guys. They had a three-album run with Earthshaker, Black Tiger and Mean Streak (81, 82 and 83) that were absolutely excellent. We played them and they got the same respect/play from us that the Sabbath, Priest, Maiden, Scorpions, etc received. I remember they were pretty well respected by the critics over here. I picked up Earthshaker just on a whim, we were all blown away by the production, songs vocals, everything. Excellent pacing, All three albums were like that. Many good times/memories from spinning those records!

Final score: 8.03 (86 votes cast, total score 691)

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