Zebra (Atlantic) 1983
1. "Tell Me What
You Want" (3:51)
Great album with a definite Zeppelin vibe. Zebra was formerly a Zeppelin cover band, and that is quite obvious from this disc. However, Zebra's debut is not a Led Zeppelin copy, it has it's own flavor. Two hits on this one, "Tell Me What You Want" and "Who's Behind the Door?" and one semi-hit "Slow Down." I use to own this on vinyl and had forgotten about it after I sold it, but one day "Tell Me What You Want" came on the radio and I raked my brain trying to remember who the song was by. When I snapped, I added it to my want list immediately and soon aquired a copy for relatively cheap.
Zebra - No Tellin' Lies/3.V (One Way) 1984/1986
No Tellin' Lies
At one time these two discs were quite rare to find on cd, but with this 2001 double album, single disc re-issue, Zebra's last two studio albums are finally readily available. Both of these albums are slightly different than the band's debut. The songs are more straight forward 1980's "Zep-clone" heavy metal, whereas the first disc contained more progressive song writing that combined the Zep influences with Yes. Still, I find Jackson's songwriting and vocals quite infectious, being much better than others who were part of the whole Zep-clone trend in the 80's. To be quite honest, however, I really don't see how Zebra got lumped into that whole 'Zep-clone' category. While Zebra did start off life as a Led Zeppelin cover band, and certainly Zeppelin were a large influence on Zebra, they certainly didn't sound like a clone, in my opinion. If anything, I hear more in common with Angel's 70's glam metal sound. Songs like "He's Makin' You the Fool", "Lulliby" and title track "No Tellin' Lies" really have that Angel sound and could easily have been included on Angel's "White Hot." Of course the high pitch vocals have a lot to do with this, but the Punky Meadows-like 70's guitar sound and the Greg Guiffria inspired keys are also very prevalent. I'm not so sure that the band was actually big fans of Angel or not, but this is the comparison I hear, more so than Led Zeppelin. Of the two albums contained herein, Zebra is at the best on the shedding, unappreciated and uncelebrated 3.V., although both discs are quite good.
Zebra - Live (Atlantic) 1990
1. "Said Before"
Excellent live disc from this obscure band. I'll bet had these guys been around in the mid to early 70's they would have broke down doors. Somehow the band was just forgotten, after their first release (which went Gold in the U.S.). I actually was not even aware this band had a live disc until a friend of mine stumbled across it and asked me if I was interested in it. Zebra's live disc reminds me of what an incredible band Zebra were. They had all the pomp of the greats of the 1970's, which is probably why I like them so much. Of course the vocals have always been compared to Robert Plant, but I really think that he has just as much in common with Angel's Frank DiMino. Actually the music has some similarities to Angel as well, mixing a bit of glam rock in with equal amounts of prog-rock and Led Zeppelin-ish heavy metal. Zebra's live disc offers up songs from all three of their Atlantic releases as well as a cover of Led Zeppelin's "The Ocean," that stays pretty faithful to the original.
Zebra - IV (Mayhem) 2003
1. "Arabian Nights"
Zebra IV is the band's first studio recording in 17 years. For a band that has been on hiatas for as long as Zebra have, they certainly have returned with a strong CD. Without sounding dated, Zebra have retained their signature sound yet without climbing aboard any modern trends. In place are the falsetto vocals, strong songwriting, shredding guitar solos, and the progressive, Zeppelin-inspired rock 'n' roll that made Zebra's debut so strong in '83. Zebra have always retained an awesome sense of infectious melody, something that I though was most apparent on singles like "Who's Behind the Door", but is just as apparent here on songs like "Arabian Nights", "Light of My Love" and the slightly more laid back "Why". The entire CD is actually solid. Never once while playing this disc did I consider turning it off or pushing the skip button.
As with their 80's outputs, the bands lyrics sometimes ponder on deep questions and avoid the typical clichés associated with this brand of post-pop AOR. "Who Am I" for example, is a bizarre twist on the Bible and animal rights sentiments that would make the chaps in Boston applaud, while sending Ted Nugent into fits of outrage. In actuality, Zebra are trying to discount the Bible with lines like "you get a book explaining 10,000 years, but there are 5,000,000,000 more that remain" and "thou shalt not kill but the animal's dead because he doesn't count is what the good book says." I understand the point they are trying to make, but I can't say that I agree with Zebra's take on the Bible. Likewise "Why" seems to ponder similar questions about "why we are here." Not all is so serious though, "So I Dance" is a humourous look at romance.
Overall, despite my disagreements with some of Randy Jackson's philisophical and world views, this is a thorougly enjoyable disc. Zebra IV is a welcome addition to my collection. Here is hoping that Zebra V won't be another ten years coming.
1. "I Don't Care" (3:21)
2. "I Don't Like It" (4:08)
3. "La La Song" (8:19)
4. "Tell Me What You Want" (4:02)
5. "Slow Down" (3:50)
6. "Who's Behind The Door" (7:36)
7. "As I Said Before" (3:04)
8. "Bears" (4:36)
"Slow Down" is a live album made up of two different King Biscuit Flower Hour broadcasts from 1983 and 1985. The portions recorded in '83 were performed in Houston, TX, while the 1985 performance was from Long Island, NY. This short live album is probably more for collector's and hardcore fans than any one else, as it is short on songs and the sound isn't quite as good as the official "Live" release. Having said that, it's still a good listen. Randy Jackson's Page-like guitar licks and Geddy Lee-like vocals have always appealed to me. He sounds as good live as he ever did in the studio. As well, I think the live tracks manage to capture a raw energy that cannot be reproduced in the studio. There also exists a similar compilation of live tracks titled "The King Biscuit Flour Hour Presents... " that also includes an interview at the end of the disc.