HAILING FROM BROOKLYN ZAN ZONE HAVE RELEASED THEIR 4TH STUDIO ALBUM IN 25 YEARS and like the well respected jam band, Umphrey’s McGee make good use of blending a lot of musical styles including rock, folk, blues, jazz, and instrumentals together, which really favours them as a good outfit for Proggers to investigate and explore their catalogue starting with the band titled “Zan Zone” released in 1995. They performed extensively in New York in such places as CBGBs, The New Music Cafe, Kenny’s Castaways, The Lone Star Roadhouse, Fat Tuesdays, The Bitter End, Arlene’s Grocery, The Pyramid Club, The Village Gate,and the list goes on. Then after a couple of EP’s and having to install a turnstile to cope with all the artists coming and going, in and out of the band they were down to a trio and released an all-acoustic CD, “Time And Materials” in 2009. for their next album in 2013, Zan Zone released a double-album humorously titled, “Shorts” The 73 minute CD with thirteen songs recorded over a three year period made good use of nineteen musicians and singers.
Which brings us to their latest album, “It’s Only Natural” (released 2018). The album was recorded at Atlantic Sounds Studio and Zanland Studios in Brookland with Grammys award winner, Diko Shoturma engineering. Zan explained in an interview almost all the tracks started with a live trio to give it a “real” feel. The album features three lead singers with Zan himself (as well as guitars), and Sabrina Clery and Phillip Dessinger. Zan’s daughter, Arianna Burnham also provided backing vocals. On drums, Kurt Bergland; Bill Ware on vibes, and Saadi Zain on bass.
Eleven tracks showcasing a good number of tastes and styles throughout starting with an instrumental titled “For the Rising Sun.” A quick and tasteful crescendo of building guitar that had me wondering for a second there what Utopia’s “Ra” would sound like if Steely Dan covered it. It has that kind of intro vibe. This is very much a guitar driven album in which band leader, Zan Burnham makes good use of his 12 guitars.
What follows is a good mix of rock and sometimes ballad pieces changing the mood. The album title track, “It’s Only Natural” is the second song which to these ears had a Bryan Adams/Neil Young feel to it with the vocals and melody. It’s catchy and uplifting and sets the tone for a good time to the end of the album.
One of the tracks I really enjoy listening to is the gentle down home and folksy number female vocal driven, “Things That Make Me Cry.” A track which also featured on their previous album, “Shorts” with a main male vocal. If you’re looking for an acoustic guitar, Joni Mitchell/Fleetwood Mac ballad song then this one is right up there. Same with “Mystery” with Zan, Sabrina, and Phil on vocals.
As said, they like to mix it up and the longest track is very much blues as the title of the song, “Dem Blues Is Bad” suggests. That’s followed by a fast pace hard rocking in your face, “Let It Go” and then notched down a few pegs to something more slower and sombre with “”These Dreams.”
Yeah, it’s not prog, but if you like artists such as Umphrey’s McGee and maybe even Phish then you’ll probably like what Zan Zone are doing here. It’s an easy album to have playing in the background and enjoy over a good meal and coffee.