7 Deadly Zens
by Chuck Spurgeon
Like a kid who found a long lost toy that unleashes new, more creative games
than ever before, Tommy Shaw, the blond, rock Ďn roll veteran of Styx, Damn Yankees and Shaw/Blades, releases a new solo effort, 7Deadly Zens. 7DZ is the first solo effort from Shaw since Ambition debuted over a decade ago. Although
Shaw has plans for more work with both Damn Yankees and Styx, 7DZ is Tommy
When listening to 7DZ for the first time, I listened expecting to hear the influence Styx and Damn Yankees had on Shawís music. What I discovered, however, is the influence Shaw had on them. This CD is Tommy Shaw. It is not the carbon copy of the aforementioned bands, which many expected and some even feared.
Yes, Shaw had help (the credits sound like a whoís who in Rock music) on 7DZ, including Ted Nugent who played lead guitar on two songs, Todd Sucherman (Styx) and Michael Cartellone (Damn Yankees) shared drumwork, Jack Blades (DY and Night Ranger) bass guitar, and vocals by Kevin Cronin (REO Speedwagon), Ed Roland (Collective Soul), and Allison Krouse (Union Station). Adding the voice talents of Marina Sirtis (Star Trek Next Generation) and Angie Dickinson. But 7DZís concept is all Tommy Shaw. He oversaw the entire production from writing, to recording (in his home studio in southern California), to the CD artwork, to the enhanced portion of the CD.
Upon first listen, direction seemed to be lacking. But this initial impression soon vanished upon additional plays. The CD is indeed very eclectic. There are cuts that are hard driving guitar rockers that fade to softer power ballads then to a blues based cut. Intertwined is what seems to be a few short digital sample experiments which surprisingly fit right in, including a hidden track 13 with Sirtis reading a poem written by Shaw, with digital techno funk in the background. There is even a cut, "Diamond," that has a country sound.
"A Place to Call My Own" is a poignant portrayal of homelessness and the dreams in the heart of those on the streets, telling a story of one who still believes in a place to call his own. "A Place to Call My Own" and "Ocean," a single released to radio stations nationwide, have the guitar riffs that are classic Nugent, who, in the enhanced portion of the CD speaks of his work on "A Place to Call My Own," calling the it "The most blood and guts wonderful thing youíve ever seen". "Ocean" was the first single released, but in this writerís opinion, is one of many that could be considered for a single release. I would have a tough time deciding what to release next. Shaw certainly knew who to ask for assistance on 7DZ, calling in some of the best, biggest, and brightest in the business. If you are looking for rock music, rock with power, feeling, and raw emotion, pick up 7Deadly Zens. This CD is neither Styx nor Damn Yankees, but start to finish, 7Deadly Zens is Tommy Shaw at his best.
|For all the latest Robbie Robertson news and to listen to a clip of "Unbound," go to Capitol Records Robbie page.|
If youíre here reading this by way of Robbieís old stomping grounds, "The Band", you have taken a wrong turn. Go back to the sign you passed which read "Now Leaving the Land of Rock and Roll". The next sign in (the title of the album) will tell you that your are now entering Native American ground, the home of "RedBoy".
As a reviewer of the album with no contact with the artist, I would be way off base to suggest what Robbieís intent was in producing this album beyond expressing his musical talents the way he wished. I can only offer one personís comment on the outcome of his latest effort.
Anyone who would buy this album in anticipation of more of that Dixie-rock-jazz-blues sound, almost unique to The Band, would probably be disappointed. The first track suggested that to me that Mr. Spock was sent to Earth by Captain Kirk to produce an album with Paul Simonís soulful entourage. I thought (hoped) that the next track (well, maybe the next track) would meet my expectations - some foot-stomping music, maybe a flashback to "Up on Cripple Creek". Instead, this unique rendering of the former "Band" member transported me to Africa ,Arizona, or NYC, kicking back with the "Home Boys" - no "Red Boys" anywhere sight.
Actually, I am lost for words to describe this very different sound that obviously talented artists and other music professionals worked hard to produce. Sorry, but Iím a hard-core rock and roll junkie. Maybe this music is along the lines of "Techno", but donít know if Iíve ever heard "Techno" music, soÖ
Iíd be committing reviewerís heresy to give this album a thumbs up, only because someone would write in and rightful ask: "Excuse me, Bob, but what part of "RockSpot" donít you understand?."
One last parting shot. This was not a poor musical effort. This album would be enjoyed by those who appreciate relaxing music with a Native American and African flavor. And high marks on the sound production, including the mixing.
(Now where did I put my "Best of the Band" tape?)
Dylan is proud of his new album Time Out of Mind, and rightfully so. The album, released September 30th, is far and away his best sustained work since the mid-70's; it reaches the exalted level of Blood on the Tracks. His new songs -- his first set of them since 1990 -- are embittered, heartsick and weary: "When you think that you've lost everything, you find out you can always lose a little more," he sings in a rasping voice whose familiar cracks have become potholes. It's the voice of a 56-year-old man who's not hiding any of his bruises. Yet the character who runs through all the songs on the album seems nothing like the relaxed, buoyant songwriter who's talking about them. Asked who the woman was who broke his heart in song after song, he laughs and asks, "Which one? Which song?"
I caught Neil Young and Crazy Horse when they played the E-Center in Camden, N.J. during the 1996 summer tour. It was an awesome two hours plus show that featured a few of Neilís newer songs from Broken Arrow, seemed to completely ignore Mirror Ball, and favored selections picked from quite a few of Neilís collaborations with Crazy Horse. The groupís concert delivered powerful versions of songs like "Like A Hurricane" and "Cortez the Killer."
Wanting to get that concert feeling again, I was really looking forward to listening to Year of the Horse. In most respects, this two-CD set did not disappoint. The first thing I noticed is that the sound was really true to the concert. It really captured the bandís dense, guitar-powered wall of noise, and Neilís voice sounds pretty good throughout. For those, like me, who just like listening to any of Neilís long jamming with Crazy Horse, youíll get an earful of the stuff on this one. I think a good example is "Big Time" which was one of my favorites at the concert. It sounded just as great on the CD.
While I canít think of too many songs offered here that I didnít like, I still found myself questioning the choice of tunes. How could the folks who put this album together pass up on so many of the great songs Neil played during the tour. I already mentioned "Hurricane" and ĎCortez," and could probably come up with a bunch more. For example, this would have been a great opportunity to give us fans a kick-ass version of Rocking In The Free World," which blew me away at the concert. And what about some of the selections from Neilís acoustic breaks. The closest they get to that on Year of the Horse is a real bluesy version of "Mr. Soul" that sounded like it could be Buffalo Springfield. What about the amazing version of "Heart of Gold" that Neil did solo that night I saw him. That was great. Why include "Pocahontus", which was already on the unplugged album.
Well, if you are a Neil fan you know he is an eclectic, unpredictable performer, and I guess the choice of songs offered here are true to form. If you havenít bought a Neil Young album lately, you should consider adding this one to your collection. I think it will appeal to those folks who liked Live Rust, but will probably be of less interest to those who prefer the quieter, really different versions of songs on the Unplugged album. Year of the Horse will definitely give you the good Neil sound you crave, and will turn you on to a few tunes you probably havenít listened to much. Iíd hardly ever heard "When Your Lonely Heart Breaks," and it quickly became a must-listen-to song for me. And this is from a guy who has pretty much worn out the "Southern Man" track on his Four Way Street cd (never heard the "Loner/Cinnamon Girl/Down by the River" acoustic medley bonus track on the cd? Go out and get it today. A must for any Neil fan).Back To New Releases
Paul McCartney's latest album isn't what I expected at all. I heard that it was said to sound a lot like the Beatles, which it didn't really. It does sound a little like a track that could have been from the White Album or maybe Let it Be, but not enough to say it really sounds like the Beatles.
Flaming Pie was an inspiration of Paul's after he finished making the Anthology with George and Ringo. He even teamed up with Ringo on a couple of songs, which Paul claimed to be really great because there was still a connection between them, leftover from their Beatle days. You can see that's one thing Paul was trying to achieve when creating this album. He even mentions how he kept some lyrics because John would have kept them. It's also blatantly obvious the influence of Linda, his family and his home though.
There is a fairly wide variety of songs in this album, but they all seem to have a common thread in them. Paul has definitely kept that charm he's always had. That same enchantment that attracted the droves of girls during the sixties. Paul has definitely done a good job with this one. It's a great album.
Not much original here. Sounds like the romp in the swamp that we expect from Fogerty. Sounds like Creedence. Some cynics might say it sounds like Creedence outtakes. Or Pretenders outtakes, because the bass riff on "Rattlesnake Highway" is stolen from Chrissie Hynde's "My City Was Gone." So let her try a "My Sweet Lord / He's So Fine" suit.
Blue Moon Swamp is derivative, and it might fall on the short end of quite a few comparisons. There's no way it's a masterpiece like Cosmo's Factory. Nothing on it rocks as hard as "Fortunate Son" or "Travelin' Band." There are no great hooks like on those fantastic Creedence singles. For those of us too young to remember WW2 but old enough to remember JFK, there are no poignant lyrics to make us cry like "I Saw It On T.V." There's not as much variety as on Centerfield. But it's still mighty fine country funk. Steve Earle's fans might even like it.None of it is really memorable -- but you can dance to it. It rocks! Consistently. Every cut is solid hard-hitting swamp rock. You will enjoy it a lot more if you forget its history and just listen to it.