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Zzebra - Panic CD (album) cover

PANIC

Zzebra

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.56 | 25 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
3 stars ZZEBRA was one of many fusion bands that emerged in the 70s however this band was not only a blend of the usual jazz and rock aspects but also incorporated many other styles, most notably Nigerian folk, Latin flavors, blues rock and funk. Despite the team of seven musicians playing a steady circuit scene with the likes of Return To Forever and Soft Machine after the self-titled debut in 1974, the album sold poorly but failed to dampen the spirits of this hard working band that crafted catchy tunes fortified with amazing progressive jazz-rock workouts. ZZEBRA headed back to Escape Studios in Kent, England to record a followup which would emerge with the title PANIC.

The band's indefatigable work ethic turned out to be too much for guitarist Terry Smith and in the middle of recording departed and was replaced by the 17-year old Steve Byrd. Likewise vocalist Alan Marshall replacing former vocalist Gus Yeadon who also played piano and guitar. Due to the lack of success of the debut, PANIC takes a noticeably more commercial approach with less adventurous and calmer compositions than its predecessor. While the title track begins the album with the expected jazz-rock with funk and African rhythms, starting with the cover song of "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" the album takes a turn towards the mellower sounds that evoke a more funkier version of Weather Report, a stark contrast to the Santana driven rhythms of the debut. As luck would have it the band also recorded a few tracks with Jeff Beck.

While the keyboard workouts, guitar solos and driving funk bass are present especially on "Panic," "Karrola," "Tree" and "Put A Light On Me" the general atmosphere is more subdued and dreamy with lengthy passages devoted to intricate melodic developments that result in an airy fairy sort of jazzed up rock. Add the change of vocalist duties and PANIC often sounds like a completely different band than what appeared on the self-titled ZZEBRA debut. Likewise the diversity of the debut had disappeared as the band was trying to grasp a definitive sound of its own but i don't think they quite succeeded as the band simply traded one set of influences for another which leaves me preferring the incredible technical workouts of the debut over the more pop influenced funk rock styles of PANIC.

Overall PANIC is not a bad album at all but fails to really standout amongst the plethora of fusion albums that were emerging around the same time. Despite the ambitious live circuit the band failed to fully coalesce into something that truly stood out in the crowded halls of fusion bands of the era and like most prog bands of the day who assumed the technical infused styles that dominated the early 70s would last forever, ZZEBRA was yet another band that was swept away by the turning of the tides with the punk, new wave and glam rock scenes taking over the music scene. Despite the less engaging tracks on PANIC, much of the material here is quite beautifully designed and there are no bad tracks per se as all the instrumentalists have honed their chops and deliver stellar workouts, it's just that the tracks aren't quite as interesting as what appeared on the debut. The spontaneous passion had been replaced by a more calculated attempt to fit in.

Despite remaining a 70s obscurity, the interest in such artifacts from the past has been rediscovered and bands such as ZZEBRA are finding new life with their old recordings. Although the band folded after this release, there was plenty of material recorded intended for a third album but wouldn't see the light of day until the second coming of the prog revolution. The archival releases "Take It Or Leave It" (1999) and "Lost World" (2001) would see those tracks finding a release after years in the vault and the first two ZZEBRA albums including "Panic" would find a new remastered release as a two-fer in 2010 which is the best way to acquire the early albums because of the excellent remastering job as well as a number of bonus live tracks and alternative mixes.

3.5 rounded down

siLLy puPPy | 3/5 |

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