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ZEN ROCK AND ROLL

Symphonic Prog • United States


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Zen Rock And Roll biography
ZEN ROCK & ROLL is a solo project of the multi-instrumentalist and part-time musician Jonathan Saunders, who supports his music with a daytime job as a software engineer.

Saunders has a lengthy musical background, although much of it consists of playing in a variety of Top-40 and cover bands, including a LED ZEPPELIN tribute band that spent much of the late nineties touring the United States. Saunders abandoned the touring life following this experience, preferring to focus on solo efforts in his own home studio in Tennessee. It was from this studio he has released both ZEN ROCK & ROLL albums.

Saunders' music is steeped heavily in keyboards and mellotron, with complex arrangements and layers of percussion and digital sound effects. His all-instrumental music is clearly influenced by early YES, as well as having some of the same characteristics as other solo artists such as PHILIP GLASS and CLEARLIGHT (although lacking the consistency in theme of the latter). His compositions range widely, from shorter vignettes to rather lengthy epics. As with many one-man bands, the arrangements are clearly heavily mixed with overdubs and digital manipulation, and have an overall 'electronic' feel to them. At times his second release even shows hints of the blended electronic/symphonic sounds of the TANGENT.

While Saunders has to-date largely shunned live performances, he has not ruled out the idea of a tour at some point in his career. He is reportedly working on a new release, and samples of his recent works can occasionally be found on his MySpace site.

ZEN ROCK & ROLL belongs in the Archives because of its symphonic and creative sound, and in recognition of the attempt by its sole member Saunders in keeping the traditional symphonic sound alive.

Bob Moore (ClemofNazareth)

Zen Rock And Roll official website

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Buy ZEN ROCK AND ROLL Music


End of the AgeEnd of the Age
PROGROCK 2002
Audio CD$9.99
$5.04 (used)
The Birthright CircleThe Birthright Circle
PROGROCK 2001
Audio CD$12.25
$9.99 (used)
UndoneUndone
PROGROCK RECORDS 2011
Audio CD$9.71
$13.33 (used)
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ZEN ROCK AND ROLL discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

ZEN ROCK AND ROLL top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.64 | 9 ratings
End Of The Age
2002
3.68 | 6 ratings
The Birthright Circle
2004
3.24 | 12 ratings
Undone
2011

ZEN ROCK AND ROLL Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

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ZEN ROCK AND ROLL Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

ZEN ROCK AND ROLL Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 The Birthright Circle  by ZEN ROCK AND ROLL album cover Studio Album, 2004
3.68 | 6 ratings

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The Birthright Circle
Zen Rock And Roll Symphonic Prog

Review by b_olariu
Prog Reviewer

3 stars 3.5 stars really

Zen Rock & Roll is a solo project of mult instrumentalist Jonathan Saunders from 2001. Under this name he released so far 3 albums. The second offer was released in 2004 at Progrock records and was very well recived even the band is quite unknown in prog circles. I like what I've heared here, the music is symphonic prog based on keyboards and long instrumental sections, complicated passages, very well puted on portative. Also there are lots of effects that give to the listner a pleasent atmophere all over. Only 4 pieces but is not a problem, there is an epic clocking around 22 min named Circles, very nice, like the rest 3. The music is sometimes similar with Yes, sometimes with The Tangent, but with Saunders special manner of composing, a quite underrated musician I might say. Maybe to some listners the problems are with overdubs and electronical effects present here, but to me was quite enjoyble mixed in the symphonic prog amalgamation. I can say definetly Zen Rock & Roll needs a far more recognition then has today , all three albums worth to be discovered for sure. Good album towards great.3.5 stars.

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 The Birthright Circle  by ZEN ROCK AND ROLL album cover Studio Album, 2004
3.68 | 6 ratings

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The Birthright Circle
Zen Rock And Roll Symphonic Prog

Review by mbzr48

5 stars Unlike most of the reviews on the 1st "Zen R&R" album that were kind of down on the artist, I gave it 5 stars and a great review, I liked it so much I had to get this one too, and I was happily surprised again, why there are only 4 rating and zero reviews for this album I have no idea. If you like Genesis, Yes & Camel there is a chance you would like this one too!

On his second album, composer and multi instrumentalist Jonathan Saunders as "Zen Rock and Roll" evokes elements of old-school (mainly British) progressive rock, world music and even 19th and 20th century art music. Featuring only four songs (three of them shorter than any track that appeared on Zen Rock and Roll's 2002 debut, End of the Age), "The Birthright Circle" runs the gamut from majestic symphonic rock on opener "Thanatos" to melancholy exploration a la classic Genesis and Yes on the 23-minute closing epic "Circle." In between, there are the lyrically sad yet musically bright-and-bouncy "Richard," based at least in part on the poem "Richard Cory" by Edwin Arlington Robinson, and the vintage-Kansas-tinged ballad "Anthem," which despite its agnostic tone is easily the closest Zen Rock and Roll comes to a traditionally structured song. The Birthright Circle boasts demanding material that challenges listeners. But then again, isn't that what progressive rock is all about?

The psychedelic artwork enhances the atmosphere the music creates and you can almost picture yourself in the 70s... The booklet artwork is also exceptionally good, the sleeve opening out to form a single large picture (like the halcyon days of gatefold LP sleeves!). This again like the 1st album "End of the Age" is a 4.5 stars for me!

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 End Of The Age by ZEN ROCK AND ROLL album cover Studio Album, 2002
2.64 | 9 ratings

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End Of The Age
Zen Rock And Roll Symphonic Prog

Review by mbzr48

5 stars I bought the album used on Amazon for $1 plus shipping, I thought to myself, A Symphonic prog with 3 long songs and nice album cover for a $1 what the hell... I was into the biggest surprise of the year!

Firmly in the 70s context of things, End Of The Age has but three tracks'long tracks: "Copernican Principle" (18:23); "From Melting Made" (10:30); and "End Of The Age" (16:20). Zen's influences range from Pink Floyd, Genesis and Camel, to Billy Thorpe, Tangerine Dream and Ashra. Melodic quality is not compromised by track length, with shifting meters, stylistic swings, and plenty of Mellotron.

Long instrumental stretches dominate the second half of "Copernican Principle" with wonderful solos on analog-y patches beginning around 10:15, and requisite interplay between keys, guitar and [emulated] flute. The percussion is not organic, and minimally mechanical'it is programmed and well done. Drum patterns vary ad infinitum and invoke a very live feel'in some instances, there could be live drumming. Toward the end of this first, longest track, the keyboard melodies emulate Peter Bardens much more than Rick Wright.

Like progressive bands of the past, each of the three songs on "End of the Age" takes you on a journey for both your ears and mind. Once the CD ends, you find yourself hitting the repeat button to restart the journey. With many epic songs, I always tend to look at the time or the clock and wonder when this song will be over but not here.

"From Melting Made". It begins with the immortal Mellotron strings (in tune, so they're samples) and sweet Latimeresque guitar leading us in. This 2nd track sounds almost like it could have been recorded 3 decades ago, except for the production. It has a somnolent (dreamy, not dragging) conviction, and the vocals are sung with enough conviction to not overtake the tune's vibe. Yes, the 'Tron strings are heard throughout the entire track, for the most part, and dashes of e-piano skip across the waves. The sixteen-minute title track could have been fused onto the end of "Melting" (perhaps it was one long track, separated), though it is thematically different by way of the lyrics. Speaking of the lyrics, they seem more impromptu, or stream-of-consciousness, than those of the first two tracks'I definitely prefer the lyrics of "Copernican Principle" over the other two.

The single most startling thing about Zen Rock and Roll is that it's not a band at all, it's the product of one man: Jonathan Saunders. Rob Higginbotham and Eric Gentry are credited with "thematic ideas" on "From Melting Made" and "End Of The Age," respectively. Still, the band is one Jon Saunders, which makes this all the more impressive. An impressive pastiche of modern & retro values!

If you can get past the name, you are truly in for a BIG treat here. Highly recommended! 4.5 Stars

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 Undone by ZEN ROCK AND ROLL album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.24 | 12 ratings

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Undone
Zen Rock And Roll Symphonic Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator 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. www.zenrockandroll.com

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 Undone by ZEN ROCK AND ROLL album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.24 | 12 ratings

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Undone
Zen Rock And Roll Symphonic Prog

Review by Windhawk
Special Collaborator 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.

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 Undone by ZEN ROCK AND ROLL album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.24 | 12 ratings

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Undone
Zen Rock And Roll Symphonic Prog

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

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.

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 Undone by ZEN ROCK AND ROLL album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.24 | 12 ratings

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Undone
Zen Rock And Roll Symphonic Prog

Review by Marty McFly
Special Collaborator Crossover and E&O Teams

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.

4(-)

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 End Of The Age by ZEN ROCK AND ROLL album cover Studio Album, 2002
2.64 | 9 ratings

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End Of The Age
Zen Rock And Roll Symphonic Prog

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

2 stars This album boasts a number of interesting symphonic experiments that may bode well for future efforts. All 3 long tracks have intriguing sections, with the middle one being the most likable, thanks to a mellotron-laden early Barclay James Harvest feel. As regards the quavering 'tron, comparisons to Hostsonaten have some validity there as well. We find sections that sound almost minimalistic, others schizophrenic, and still others somewhat AOR. Sometimes a true solo effort such as this would benefit from other band members off whom to bounce musical ideas both literally and figuratively. But all in all, a decent album that warrants 2.5 stars, rounded down because there is nothing I really feel the need to come back to very often.

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 End Of The Age by ZEN ROCK AND ROLL album cover Studio Album, 2002
2.64 | 9 ratings

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End Of The Age
Zen Rock And Roll Symphonic Prog

Review by Dan Bobrowski
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

2 stars After many repeated listenings, I can only say that this appears to be a "slightly tongue in cheek" nod to the pro-masters of old. Some beautiful solo work with strong clear vocals. Interesting arrangements. The only drawbacks are the canned percussion and weak lyrics. This is one to watch for in the future, once Mr. Saunders fleshes out a whole band. Fans of Glass Hammer may enjoy this style of Symphonic Prog.

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Thanks to Ivan_Melgar_M for the artist addition.

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