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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars After Zao's reissue of their early album on CD format met a certain success in the early 90's (almost two decades after their initial releases), Cahen and Sheffer decided to give it another go with Zao and jumped on the phone with Truong, their usual drummer, whom was only to happy to say yes. The last two spots however did not fall onto the other historical members, but the people chosen (Bertram and Tilleman) had played a few concerts in replacement of Dugrenot and Lockwood back in the 70's, so they were already familiar with Zao's zeuhl-infected jazz-rock. This crazy idea to record a studio album was obviously a great gamble and much less safer than a live reunion. Under the Musea patronage and with a few subsidies, the recording of the album took place in summer of 94 over six days.

Musically Zao's propos hasn't changed much, outside the usual modernization techniques, be it instrumental or recording-wise. The 9 tracks range from just under 4 mins to just above 8 mins and most carry ancient Egyptian mythological names or strongly related. Each of the two masters of Zao wrote 4 four tracks and the ninth was shared by the two. Actually Seffer's tracks don't seem as Egyptian or mid-eastern related as Cahen's pieces; sonically it's hard to tell who wrote what track anyway. On the whole Zao's music on this album is staying faithful to its original spirit, but let's say that they lowered their Zeuhl amp to level 9 from level 11, and the drumming sound is not quite the same, although Truong's technique is as always infallible. It's always hard to describe Zeuhl-driven music, outside the fact that the all-important bass thumping, but in this case, while it's there, the bass is not all that prominent.

Coming with the usual Zao logo representation, this album can figure easily without shame alongside their earlier discography, even if it doesn't have the sacred fire of early Zao, but it matches the later 70's albums without Seffer. But it's not likely that it will overshadow its predecessors either, and in all likelihood nobody would recommend Akhenaton as the ideal introduction, leaving it to the first few albums for that.

Report this review (#30652)
Posted Thursday, January 6, 2005 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars 17 years is a long time between albums but Cahen and Seffer wanted to get back on the horse after their earlier albums were reissued on cd in the early nineties. Jean-My Truong was the first to be informed about this and agreed right away to be part of it. Bertram (bass) and Tilleman (violin) also agreed so the lineup was set. The latter two were both temporary substitutes for Prevost and Lockwood in 1976, so they had played with ZAO. Interesting that Dominique Bertram's brother Gerard was part of the original MOVING GELATINE PLATES band playing guitar. Perhaps even more interesting is that Didier Thibault the leader of MOVING GELATINE PLATES used Dominique's bass until he could afford his own.

"Eloith" opens with mournful sax and piano until a full sound suddenly arrives 2 minutes in. It gets lighter with bass 3 minutes in as the contrast continues. Check out the bass 5 minutes in ! "Thebes" is really light Jazz. Cahen takes the lead 2 minutes in. Some interesting violin 4 minutes in with the sax taking a turn 5 1/2 minutes in. "Baityare" is fairly light as well with the violin leading the way for the most part. The bass is prominant though. A fuller sound 3 minutes in. The sax lights it up before 5 1/2 minutes. "Cobra" has a groovy sound to it. It's laid back with the Seffer taking the lead.

"YZZO" is led by drums, bass and violin. Piano then sax 3 1/2 minutes in. Sax and violin take turns. "Sable" has a good tempo to it with lots of violin. Not really a fan though. "Ozz" might be my favourite. Some great interplay in this one that for me recalls the past a little. Everyone shines on this one. "Sakkarah" has some good contrasts and is also one of the better songs on here. "Des Fleurs Pour Nefertiti" is mellow with piano and sax melodies. It's really a showcase for Cahen and Seffer who co-wrote the song.

Good record, but in my opinion it doesn't reach the heights of their seventies albums.

Report this review (#189331)
Posted Friday, November 14, 2008 | Review Permalink
Andy Webb
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.

Report this review (#376124)
Posted Friday, January 7, 2011 | Review Permalink

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