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Tom Ozric
4 stars Zao started out as an exciting Jazz-Rock ensemble featuring Yochk'o Seffer and Francois Cahen, Sax and Keyboards respectively, both from an early line-up of French Zeuhl band Magma (during their '1001 Degrees Centigrades' release). The music of their debut album, Z=7L, wasn't a far cry from the early Magma idealism - obscure jazz-rock with that 'other worldly' twist to it and weird vocalizings. This 1977 release, Typhareth, is quite a good album (contrary to popular belief), but its Zeuhl stylings are completely absent, and it has a slightly 'mainstream' sound that is closer to Weather Report (circa Mysterious Traveller) than their own previous album. Another loss is Yochk'o, which is sad, as he was the stronger composer IMO. Typhareth sees Cahen joined by Trombonist Hamid Belhocine, Francois Debricon (sax/flute), Michel Seguin (perc.) bassist Gerard Prevost (since their 3rd release, Shekina) and obviously a young Manu Katche on the Drumkit. This is the earliest recording of Manu I know of... Onto the music ; album opener 'Merci Jacky' is superb, with a laid-back groove of drums and perc. with some tasty flanged-bass playing from Prevost, the ever-present Rhodes Electric piano, and then the horn section kicks in. About midway the tempo changes with some great riffing and a really good Trombone lead steals the show, then the band just jams out until the 7 min+ mark. Title track, all 12 and a half minutes of it, is a beautiful, slow, relaxing groove that just oozes along with ease, maybe too slow for some, but it's all over too soon for me. Side 2, now this is a bit confusing as the song timings on the record label (RCA) don't match up with the tracks on the vinyl, therefore, do the titles correspond correctly with the track being played and it's incorrect timing ??? Anyway, judging by the song names, I'd say the first track is 'Le Temps Changent', and it's a weaker, shorter track, which is funky, but tries too hard to sound 'hip', and almost is a commercially viable venture. 'Binah' is another mellow, jazzy tune, similar in mood to the title track, very tastefully played for sure. The last track, the lengthy 'Troupeau de Bisons sous Un Crane' is a jammy track full of brass and e-piano, funky at times but has a kind of 'lounge' vibe to it. Overall, I rate it as 4 (all other Zao releases I say are masterpieces, but in all fairness, I am no authority of what is a brilliant release or not, due to my bias), as it is an excellent addition to your collection if can obtain a copy, and that's also if you 'do jazz' , if you don't, then it's a waste of your time.
Report this review (#96713)
Posted Thursday, November 2, 2006 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars This is the only ZAO record not to have the dynamic duo of Cahen and Seffer on it, as Seffer left to go solo after the very successful "Kawana" album. Lockwood and Truong would also leave meaning that only Cahen and Prevost are left from the "Kawana" lineup. Cahen would be responsible for all the music and arrangements on this album. All traces of Zeuhl are gone, in fact this is a fairly light Jazz record. It's so much more though as I found out. There are so many intricate sounds to enjoy and lots of variety as well.This was just a pleasure to listen to.

"Merci Jacky" opens with percussion and keys as bass comes in. The bass becomes quite prominant with Prevost offering up some flanged-bass playing as Tom Ozric already mentioned in his review. The keys start to stand out after 2 minutes. Sax before 3 minutes and guitar a minute after that. I love the sound 3 minutes in and later at 5 1/2 minutes in.The sax is blasting away before 5 minutes. So many intricate sounds and the band interplay is pretty amazing. "Typhareth(Beaute)" opens with some atmosphere until we start to get a reserved melody of drums, keys and bass. Flute arrives before 2 minutes as we get such a beautiful melody. The sound is building slowly. Sax and trombone after 4 minutes. Just a gorgeous song that is as smooth as glass.

"Troupeau De Bisons Sous Un Crane" opens with percussion and clapping as drums, bass and horns come in. This is a fun, uplifting song to brighten your day. So many intricate sounds flood the soundscape. "Binah(Comprehension Feminine)" is a heavenly song featuring piano and flute. Sax after 3 minutes. "Les Temps Changent" opens with the sounds of a party going on as percussion and keys play. Sax comes in as the party sounds leave. Check out the piano as bass and drums play on. Amazing sound ! These guys are cooking. I just realized i'm head banging to a Jazz tune. Whoa ! Some screaming sax 6 1/2 minutes in.

Like Tom Ozric, I love this band and feel that this is a solid 4 star record. A must for Jazz fans out there.

Report this review (#161227)
Posted Friday, February 8, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars Typhareth is the logical conclusion to Zao's experiments in continuing the more fusion-influenced strands of Magma's music, in that by this point in the band's development their previous Zeuhl sound has been replaced with slick fusion chops - and then they go further than that, and for most of the album play in a classic jazz style. This is not actually a bad thing - the years spent working on Zeuhl and fusion playing honed the band's skills markedly, and leaves them more than capable of performing traditional jazz to a high standard - but at the same time it feels rather overpolished and safe. Yes, it's a regression to their musical routes rather than a progression forwards into new territory, but sometimes it's a good thing to revisit your routes and try out the new tricks you've learned in your explorations in a traditional framework, but at the same time Typhareth falls into an awkward gap where neither jazz fans nor zeuhl maniacs will go crazy about it.
Report this review (#555810)
Posted Sunday, October 23, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars After Kawana, the trio that stood out most (Seffer, Truong, Lockwood) departed, leaving just Cahen and Prevost from that lineup. Replacing the sax talents of Seffer and the drumming of Truong is nigh on impossible, but they did it as best they could by drifting further into a standard Jazz style than ever before. The Zeuhl influence is completely gone really (although it might not be out of place on Magma's debut album).

It feels a little bit "safe" and so probably doesn't either wow or offend fans of Zeuhl and/or Jazz. But the highlight is definitely the opener 'Merci Jacky'. The 12 minute title track is slow and atmospheric and to be honest I found it a bit boring. They probably knew some people would think that as Troupeau De Bisons Sous Un Crane is a short happy clappy bit of classic funky jazz music. Binah is back to more atmospheric, a nice track but little more than that, and Les Temps Changent is a synth heavy lounge track.

It was encouraging after the first track, then I got a bit bored and it never quite picked up again. A shame for a group that to me delivered a few great tracks but surrounded by filler.

Report this review (#2572383)
Posted Monday, June 21, 2021 | Review Permalink

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