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Zao - Akhenaton CD (album) cover





3.05 | 21 ratings

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Andy Webb
Special Collaborator
Retired Admin
3 stars Pleasantly surprised.

I searched for Zao when I was on my quest to discover Zuehl that wasn't Magma (which I never thought existed). Zao was the first one I encountered, and I found Akhenaton soon after, and here I am now. I haven't heard any other Zao or very much any other Zeuhl either, but this album presented a fantastic Jazz Fusion effort, and I can barely really see this as Zeuhl (which I thought was really just jazz fusion with Kobaian lyrics). The whole album is fantastic when the fusion is there and great when it's just straight jazz, which at many points it is. The songs are energetic and quick, keeping a nice steady beat going for the whole album.

Elioth starts off as a slow and steady jazz track with some nice piano and horn. As a jazz track, this intro is spectacular and really jazzy. To add to the affect, it breaks out into a funky fusion riff soon after this. The whole song keeps a funky jazzy beat and feel to it the whole way through, making it a really fantastic opener. One thing I was surprised to see is the lack of any guitar (except a bass). I'm used to at least some guitar, even with the guitarless Emerson Lake and Palmer, so this gave a nice breathe of fresh instruments!

Thebes starts off with a steady polyrhythmic fusion beat, something that I can see influencing future metalers Planet X. The song has a really cool drum beat with a steady melody line and a great bass line going. Some nice free jazz keys solos are heard, which add to the overall polyrythmic feel to the song as the drums back it. Another great song on this album.

Baityare is a more Bossa feeling track with a more steady "jazz" beat. The strings on this song are a little more prevalent, giving more of a dynamic to the music. It has a slower more steady feel and a "lower to the ground" feel with some variation. This dynamic changes becomes for the most part the norm for this album, just some creative jazz fusion with varying drum beats.

Cobra has a more funky feel to it with a fretless bass backing the horn, keys and strings. The melody is a little more avant sounding, following that precedent set by the extremely avant Magma that I was looking for variations on. The more obvious jazz influence is nice, but the obvious Magma influence is also very prevalent.

Yzzo is one of my favorite tracks on the album. The song has a quicker beat to it and again brings in that polyrhythmic feel to it, almost sounding Arabic in its sound. The solos, as always are very funky and noodle around the polyrhythmic beats very well. All the different instruments, just like in jazz, get their turn to make the song special and at the same time very similar to the other songs.

Sable also features a quicker beat and more polyrythmic feels. This is really the one "bad" thing about this very funky album, that most of the songs have essentially the same bones, and just different skin covering it. The only separating this from Yzzo or Thebes is the somewhat different keyboard melody and the differences in solos from keys to horn to strings or strings to keys to horn or whatever. The song is still good, but often they sound a little too similar to the other tracks.

Ozz has again a quicker beat, but is more recognizable in its structure by its more traditional funk instrumentation rather than proto- jazz metal polyrhythmic structure. The fretless bass solo is a real treat with that real funky underlying instrument coming out into the forefront to wow us all.

Sakkarah is another polyrhythmic song, but has a slower beat! Well, it speeds up soon enough into the quickly boring structure of melody, solo, solo, solo, solo, solo, end. By now, I've gotten rather bored with the album and am rather glad it's over soon. Can you see by my decreasing amount of interest in my writing?

Des Fleurs Pour Nefertit is a really nice soft jazz ballad to end the album, rather than the long stretch of continuity we were getting for the past few songs. Similar to the first track, the album ends with a beautiful duet between piano and horn, showing an emotional show of compassion in their music and spicing up the music which was quickly going bland. The song ends the album spectacularly, although I would have liked it so much more if the horn was replaced with either a trumpet or a more compassionate genuine alto saxophone rather than the horn they used.

ALBUM OVERALL: As a Zeuhl album, not so much at all. As a jazz fusion album, spectacular, with an extremely boring patch in the middle. All together, the album is good, but non-essential. Some very great and compassionate moments of music can be found within this album, but a lot of the music sounds practically the same. The production was slacking a little as the music could almost sound watered down or fuzzy at times. It certainly is a good album and I recommended it if you're looking for some fun jazz fusion, but overall the album really isn't a necessity. 3+ stars.

Andy Webb | 3/5 |


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