Start Where You Stand by Zan ZoneRelease date: June 18, 2022
Label: Randomaxe Records
Most of the albums I reviewed have an impact on me. From Rosalie Cunningham, Steven Wilson, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Magma, and Alice Cooper, they write amazing music, amazing compositions, and have powerful arrangements to their resume. But there are some that just didn’t click with me. A few years ago, I did a review of Nick D’Virgilio’s Invisible album. And it was one of the most painful reviews I did. He’s an amazing drummer and an amazing vocalist. You can’t deny his work from Genesis (Calling All Stations-era), Spock’s Beard, and Big Big Train, but I felt that he overdid himself with that album.
This one’s definitely going to be added to that list. The band is Brooklyn’s own Zan Zone. The brain behind Zan Zone is Zan Burnham who has been around since the early ‘90s. When they released their first album, they disbanded and re-formed many times. Cut to 2005 when Watching the World was Burnham’s solo EP, followed by an acoustic release in 2009 called Time and Materials.
Then in the year of our lord 2013, Burnham decided to form a new line-up of Zan Zone with get this, 19 musicians and singers. That’s big, mind you. I mean, very big! With the release of a double album entitled Shorts. Last year Zan Zone unearthed their latest release Start Where You Stand, which was a follow-up to their 2018 release It’s Only Natural.
The themes behind Start Where You Stand deals with people marching to a new beginning, inspiring others to do the same thing. The line-up alongside Zan Burnham considers bassist Saadi Zain, drummer and percussionist Marko Djordjevic, and vocalists Philip Dessinger, Arianna Burnham, and Angela Watson Modeste. Now understand the themes behind their latest album is an amazing idea, but the music itself is a bit of a letdown.
There’s an amount of shredding in this album that’s all over the place. Now I have nothing against shredders, and Burnham is an amazing guitarist, but there is way, way, way, way too much guitar solos. If you want to let it out, just do it on two or three tracks, not the whole thing.
For example, ‘I Won’t Live a Lie’ which has a galloping texture thanks to Marko’s percussion work, Saadi and Zain do a duel between each other, but I felt that it was a little off the rails when Zan was trying to overpower Saadi’s bass work. I wished that he had given Saadi more carte blanche instead of trying to be a combination of Eddie Van Halen and Ottmar Liebert.
When I was listening to ‘Watchin’ the World Go By’ I noticed that they do a bit of a rap section in the song. Let’s not forget that Rush did that on ‘Roll the Bones’ which holds up years later, but the midsection on the third track didn’t need to be there. This was the moment where I needed to do trash patrol, and put my laundry up, right then and there.
Both ‘Extinction: Rebellion’ and ‘Extinction: Romp’ are good tracks. This was where they delve into the mid-to-late ‘60s psychedelic scene and acoustic folky backgrounds that speaks of the TV series The Green Hornet starring Bruce Lee, and Michael Hedges’ arrangements that comes to mind, to watch the sun go up.
Now with ‘I Won’t Live a Lie’, you have this Pete Townshend-sque fret work that speaks of the flamenco textures which is good. But having that solo both in the middle and background at times, again, way too much.
‘Baby Cried’ has a combination between Zeppelin and the Black Crowes, rolled into one. It speaks of the ZOSO sessions, Chris Robinson-sque arrangements, and the southern rock atmosphere that’ll make the Sunday service, hot, exhausted, and enjoying the precious moments that’ll stay with you for the rest of time.
‘One Step Ahead of The Red’ sounds too much like Zappa’s ‘Watermelon in Easter Hay’ at times. It falls into bits and pieces of a dragging step, and looking through an empty living room and staring at it for five minutes to see if its going to do something, but nothing comes about.
‘Survival’ sees Zan Zone going into Journey’s territory during the Frontiers period, driving down the highway on the ride home in the styles of the midsection of ‘Faithfully’. It sees the band going into an ‘80s arena rock approach at times while returning back to the southern rock orientation in the forms of Lynyrd Skynyrd and ZZ Top with ‘Hot and Cold’.
Start Where You Stand is a bit too much for me. Don’t get me wrong Zan Zone have incredible musicians, but just as I felt with Invisible, their latest album was overdone, overloaded, and all over the place. There are some good moments mind you, but this one, they needed to take a breather, and think about which of the songs that will work, and which of the songs that will not.
But with this album, they’ve turned it into a scrambled leftover meal by leaving it in the refrigerator, uneaten, untouched, and making it, a disorientated jumble.