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Zen Rock And Roll - Undone CD (album) cover


Zen Rock And Roll

Symphonic Prog

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Marty McFly
Errors and Omissions Team
4 stars Description best suited for this album is melodic nostalgia. It's one man project and for these, I always had a soft spot. This is of course also a bad thing, as it usually is of lower quality/budget than normal bands.

Not entirely true in this case. While you get melodic first "side" of the album, with experimental (and the most "Prog" piece here) Concerto for the Original Sinners on the other side which reminds a mix between The Enid's ambientism and King Crimson's second album instrumentals. Very atmospheric piece is this one. Of course, final (bonus) piece lifts the performance into epic heights.

While you almost cannot recognize one-man-ism here, there are some cliques thrown in. If it's not your cup of tea, you may be disappointed, but this album can still offer worthy music. It's a little bit above average, which is still great.


Report this review (#533523)
Posted Monday, September 26, 2011 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
3 stars 'Undone' - Zen Rock And Roll (5/10)

With a mission statement similar to many in the modern progressive community, Zen Rock And Roll is a project driven by love of the music of the 70s, and old progressive legends. A one- man outing, this record does pay a fitting tribute in style to the music of that age, but in a different way than many others in prog today. Zen Rock And Roll skirts technical composition and complexity for a fairly pop-oriented style of prog that is reminiscent of some of the more commercially successful bands in the style. To a fair extent, it works.

Zen Rock And Roll is clearly influenced by a few different groups, being some of the typical draws (Yes, King Crimson) but also bands from a more classic rock base, such as The Who, and Journey. The love of The Who shines through on the first track, with power chords flailing under arena-style vocals. The songwriting is quite strong, and diverse at that- the project ranges from an AOR rocker to a handful of piano ballads and even a classically-based synth piece. Especially on the epic piece here, 'Concerto For The Original Sinners', there is a very tasteful sense of composition. Through the contrast in style on these tracks, Zen Rock And Roll manages to give a few different impressions within one course, although the most memorable aspect of the project is its retro arena rock.

The songwriting is quite good at reflecting the style it is imitating, but one thing that somewhat lacks is the performance itself. The instrumentation is solid and functional, but the vocals of Jonathan Saunders are best described as intermittent in their effectiveness. His vocals on the first two tracks (being the more rock oriented ones) are weak and sound quite thin, whereas on the mandatory piano ballad here ('Antiquated Love Song'), his Elton John-esque delivery is powerful. Zen Rock And Roll leaves a somewhat scattered impression, with some things sounding great, and others leaving me fairly underwhelmed. I would suggest that the project find a more focused sense of direction, but at that, the diversity here is one of the best things about 'Undone'. Here, the cheesy pop-rock and saccharine ballads may wear thin, but it is not long before something new comes up. It's just a little disappointing that not one of these styles is done particularly well.

Report this review (#534329)
Posted Monday, September 26, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars The US one-man band ZEN ROCK AND ROLL is the creative vehicle of composer and multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Saunders. He made his debut in 2002 with "End of the Age, issued on the then-fledgling label Progrock Records, a label affiliation maintained by the artist ever since. Two years later "The Birthright Circle" followed, and in 2011, following a seven-year lean spell, his third full-length production "Undone" is available.

"Undone" represents a well-made album reflecting inspirations from the 70's school of symphonic progressive rock set within an accessible framework, emphasizing melody and harmony over challenging instrumental and compositional features, with an epic-length creation sporting a closer tie to classical symphonic music as a side dish. Well-made and well-performed, but without managing to impress me on a higher level. Those fond of late 70's Genesis will most likely be a key audience, and I suspect many of those will regard this disc as a nice addition to their collection.

Report this review (#551192)
Posted Sunday, October 16, 2011 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Crossover Team
3 stars This 2011 release was the third from one man band Jonathan Saunders, who had previously been in the Led Zeppelin tribute band Dazed and Confuzed, who layed a lot in Memphis and around the Southeast and even played at an outdoor festival in Winnipeg, Canada in 2003 along with Peter Frampton, Paul Rogers and Joan Jett. He decided that he would never find anyone who wanted to play the music that he wanted to create, so released his debut as a one man project in 2002 'End of an Age', following it with 'The Birthright Circle' two years later. He has attempted to recreate the lighter forms of symphonic prog, bringing together Genesis and Yes, but from 1978 through the early Eighties as opposed to the soaring prog epics of the early Seventies. Strangely, although I am referencing two British bands, this does have a very American feel about it, with an almost power pop AOR sensibility coming in as well.

The result is an album that is interesting while being played, but not really strong enough in terms of songs or vocal performance to really enthral the listener and make them want to seek it out. But, as I said it is pleasant enough but feels much more of being a starter as opposed to the main course. That being said, this isn't an album to be dismissed out of hand, and does contain some nice passages.

Report this review (#1042406)
Posted Monday, September 23, 2013 | Review Permalink

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