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Zzebra - Panic CD (album) cover

PANIC

Zzebra

Jazz Rock/Fusion


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Sean Trane
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Prog Folk
3 stars Second album from Zzebra being now a septet, having hired a full-time vocalist Alan Marshall, despite having four instrumentals on the present album. Musically the group sounds more or less the same than on the debut album, as Marshall doesn't sound that different to Yeadon. As Yeadon had done (pun not intended, but left in the text), guitarist Terry Smith will leave in the course of the album's recording. This recording occurred in summer 75 and the album received a all black artwork with the silver group lodo and red album title, and most tracks seem to melt into one another, or the transition is particularly smooth.

Right from the brassy opening title track, right through the gentle but slowly crescendoing Lost That Loving Feeling (a Spector cover, transformed into an instrumental), the album seems tamer than its predecessor, but the wild upbeat Karela (with its African scats) changes things a little, but the Liamo goes back to the slower tempos, while the song title sounds like chants, while the musicians show perfect capacities in listening to what the others are doing. The only Eyre-penned track Death By Drowning is a gloomy track where his electric piano takes the front row, but the peak of the album is coming in the form of Tree, which starts out smoothly enough, but going through a series of change and even peaking once or twice, before the vocals take over. Light on Me sounds a bit as if Chris Farlowe and joined the group. The second blast in this album is the outstanding closing La-Si-Si, a red hot fusion track where the group now decides tu let it rip and the musician can let loose their respective virtuosity.

In some ways, Panic is a better album than the debut, but the surprise is gone. Overall the number of instrumentals obviously leaves more space for the musicians to express themselves and interplay between each other. If you're looking for hysteric singer and guitar histrionics, you'd better move away, Zzebra is not such an animal, but if you're looking for tight funky brass rock and plenty of arrangements, please step up to the plate... but you'd better start with the debut.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#195623)
Posted Sunday, December 28, 2008 | Review Permalink
Aussie-Byrd-Brother
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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!

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Send comments to Aussie-Byrd-Brother (BETA) | Report this review (#808142)
Posted Tuesday, August 21, 2012 | Review Permalink

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