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Zzebra - Panic CD (album) cover

PANIC

Zzebra

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.63 | 11 ratings

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Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars ZZebra play a varied blend of progressive rock, jazz, African rhythms and fusion, performed by an outstanding line-up of musicians. The intensity and passion with which the band plays is inspiring, and while I may not totally love every bit of it, generally the music is extremely high quality, so I hope this review might encourage some others to look into tracking a copy down. I find this album far superior to the debut album, which has a much higher profile and seems to be considered the better of the two.

I was lucky enough to come across this album in a dusty and dirty crate at a garage sale, in amongst a whole lot of dross records! The cover was not in the best condition, but the record itself played pretty well. Strange enough, my copy of this album comes with the illustration of the animals that was from a later LP cover. Not sure what the story is there!

The album has an equal amount of instrumental and vocal tracks, so there's a good chance many listeners would find something to interest them. There's Santana-like rockers, long jazz workouts and funk/soul jams. Some more forgiving mid-period Soft Machine fans would probably find much to enjoy here. There's also a somewhat murky, dirty mix in the production that gives the album that bit of extra grit.

Listen to that furious drumming, dirty sax, pumping bass and energized electric piano playing on the lead title track! It's got a really relentless kick to it. Nice shimmering synths in the middle, good soulful vocals, too. Great way to set the tone of the album!

Next up is a wonderful and highly inventive instrumental interpretation of `You've Lost That Loving Feeling', quite unrecognizable in some parts! Wonderful sax playing that doesn't sound schmaltzy at all, and some beautiful lead guitar work that alternates between fuzzy electric stabs and quick, tasteful melodic runs. Then there's the jammy ending where the track falls away into spectral synths, commanding bass, jazzy drumming, and glistening electric piano! Outstanding!

A hard edged noisy and furious jazz-funk blowout, the instrumental `Karrola' reminds me a little of Soft Machine with the murky production, wild electric piano and fluid bass. The very brief Afro-beat moments don't intrude at all! Another killer track.

`Liamo' slows the pace down for a more atmospheric jazz-funk piece. Terrific sax playing on this one, with the bass mixed up nice and prominent. There's almost chanted vocals, but I can't quite make out what they're saying! This track is a real exercise in restraint, and all of the musicians compliment eachother perfectly.

Side two opens with a short unsettling instrumental called `Death By Drowning'. Dream-like electric piano, harsh electronic effects, dingy bass, with a lonely sax gently wailing away. Strangely hypnotic, it then segues into `Tree', a superb funky track that has great sax playing, charming vocals and sleek synths. But the real treat is an absolute knockout keyboard solo in the middle! Pretty sure it's a minimoog, it goes absolutely ballistic, with the rapid-fire drumming and pumping bass tearing the track completely apart! The mixing seems to pump these three right up!

`Put A Light On Me', a playful Santana band styled rocking funk stomper, has commanding and forceful vocals with some very groovy bass playing. Tight and concise, there's not much room on this one for extended flashy solos, and it's probably the most vocal-prominent track on the album, with a very catchy chorus.

The album ends with a rapid-fire `Return To Forever' kicking instrumental blow-out `La Si Si-La So So', roaring sax, driving electric piano, and a killer snarly electric guitar solo that absolutely loses the plot! Every band members gives each other space to shine on this one, and it ends the album on a very upbeat and exciting manner, really takes it out with a bang.

The album truly belongs to keyboard player Tommy Eyre, who's keyboard sound is a very dominant factor on this recording. He's all over the place, with a number of long noisy solos, tasteful playing and endless variety throughout the entire album.

Special mention must go to young self-taught 17 year old guitarist Steve Byrd, who is exceptional throughout his few standout moments. Apparently Byrd was brought into the band well after recording of this album had begun, so it's a shame he's not used more often. Especially listen to his lovely acoustic solo on the second track!

Many may consider the wide variety of styles and ideas as being unfocused and not knowing what direction to head in, and the vocals are certainly a little dated. I'm sure some listeners will be turned off by them, I found them usually very honest. But overall this is a very thrilling and eclectic album full of outstanding musicianship and colourful players. `Panic' was a real favourite of mine a few years back, I played it all the time! Now I'm happy to spread the word to other listeners, so please don't hesitate to snap it up if you're lucky enough to come across a copy!

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |

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