Fireworks

CD Reviews

Zebra - '3.V' Hot

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Written by Central Electronic Brain     April 13, 2018    
 
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This new version of Zebra's most consistent album sounds absolutely pristine.

Often described as a mixture of Led Zeppelin and Rush (that's Triumph surely?), New Orleans trio Zebra had a chequered career in their major label days, '3.V' being the last and least successful of their three Atlantic studio albums. The 1983 debut sold well but was written over a period of many years, so stylistically it was all over the place, and the following year's 'No Tellin' Lies' was the difficult second release that the busy touring band were forced into making at short notice, and as such was a little rushed and short on quality songs. With '3.V' they delivered a great record packed with memorable songs, and while it lacked the true genius of debut classics 'Tell Me What You Want', 'Take Your Fingers From My Hair' or the stunning 'Who's Behind The Door', there was nothing as ordinary as 'Slow Down' either.

The smaller budget afforded by the label made the band step up to the plate and produce the album themselves, which turned out to be a good thing as sonically it's their best. Guitarist Randy Jackson and bassist Felix Hannemann both played a multitude of synthesizers to fill the sound out, with Guy Gelso's powerful and technically dazzling drums anchoring a big sounding album that mirrored the increased keyboard use by their heroes Rush over the same mid-eighties period.

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With nary a substandard tune in sight, Rocking opener 'Can't Live Without', the Zeppelin-ish acoustic-based 'Time' and the stunning 'Isn't That The Way' are all perfect slabs of Pompy Hard Rock with Jackson effortlessly switching between his tuneful mid-range and his Geddy Lee-like Falsetto. The mellower 'Your Mind's Open', the pacey 'Better Not Call' and the commercial choruses of 'You'll Never Know', 'Hard Living Without You' and 'You're Only Losing Your Heart' are also highlights on an album that was criminally ignored when it came out in 1986.

The fact that the band have had the same line-up since they formed in the mid-seventies suggests a great friendship, so very little conflict between the members can be gleaned from Malcolm Dome's sleeve essay, and apart from a brief period where Gelso was recovering from a serious illness, the same trio continue to play US shows to this day. This new version of Zebra's most consistent album sounds absolutely pristine, so thanks once again to Jon Astley for working his magic and Rock Candy for releasing it.

Phil Ashcroft

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