Thursday, April 14, 2011

Neil ZAZA: "212"

Rating: 212/100

Label: Melodik Records 2011

Review by Endre 'Bandi' Hübner

When I first heard Neil's music more than 15 years ago, I immediately got interested; it was the kind of melodic instrumental guitar music that my "gods" had done so exceptionally well. So I started following Neil's career, kept buying his albums and it was always the same melodic, memorable, both fiery and moody playing that never failed to satisfy. Years have gone and when people kept asking about my favorite players I started mentioning him along with Satriani and Vai. Basically that means he made an unlikely metamorphosis from a human to a god. How come? Honestly, I don't know. He did nothing special along the way, he didn't reinvent or revolutionize the way guitar is being played, didn't invent new techniques, new effects, not even new sounds, he has never been the fastest (or the slowest) hand. Neil Zaza simply kept writing great songs that consequently made great albums. Consistently, with continuous passion and obvious joy that shines from his albums. Regardless if you listen to "The Joof" which is (OMG!) almost 2 decades old now or "Go!" from the new record, the attitude and the passion is obvious there. That's how you rise to the gods. Simple, ain't it? :)

The new album starts out with an intro "Magnus 212" which is an integral part of the first "real" track, the above-mentioned "Go!", the typical Zaza stomper with catchy hooks and cool licks. If you don't like this song, you won't like any of his albums. "King of the World" follows in the same vein, its main melodies stick in your ear and won't get out for a couple of days. "Is This Wonderland?" is the typical moody Zaza ballad with a 2011 sound. My personal favorite was the ultramelodic "If this is Goodbye" yet many will love the cover versions: "Message in the Bottle" by Police and "Take on Me" by A-ha. Honestly I enjoyed Neil's take on Price's "Purple Rain" a lot more than any of these and the A-ha track does nothing for me musically except for its slowly climaxing crescendo part towards the 2/3 of the song yet it will most definitely be a concert favorite due to its uptempo jumping nature and its widely known main melody.

Now that Neil Zaza is in the same league as Joe Satriani, it's safe to say that the 15 bucks investment you need to make to get these 45 minutes of high-profile instrumental guitar playing is a safe one, you will keep playing the album for the next 30-50 years.

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