KamerTunesBlog

Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time

Thirty Year Thursday – ZEBRA “3.V”

[Welcome to Thirty Year Thursday, the weekly series on my favorite albums of 1986]

Artist: ZEBRA
Album: 3.V

Zebra - 3.VFor a brief but wonderful time in 1983, melodic hard rock trio Zebra appeared to be the “next big thing,” delivering what was at that time the fastest selling debut album in the history of Atlantic Records. As I mentioned in my Great Out Of The Gate series, lead singer/guitarist/songwriter Randy Jackson’s multi-octave vocal range was “one of the key aspects to Zebra’s sound that separated them from their contemporaries,” and his instrumental prowess was matched by Felix Hanemann on bass & keyboards and Guy Gelso on drums. After the following year’s commercially disappointing sophomore album, No Tellin’ Lies, which had some excellent songs but lacked its predecessor’s consistency, it would be another two years before 3.V appeared. By that point all momentum had vanished and only their most passionate fans were excited about a new Zebra album. Without the aid of legendary producer Jack Douglas, who helped shape the first two records, the self-produced 3.V lacked the punch that fans & radio programmers were probably hoping for. Instead, the songs seem to exist behind a soft haze and, combined with a heavier use of mid-‘80s synth sounds, the album was likely too slick for metalheads yet not commercial enough for pop/rock fans.

All of this explains why 3.V didn’t make an impact on radio or at record stores, but they’re also the reasons why I love this album so much. It simply doesn’t sound like anything else before or since, and just about every song is a winner. Leadoff track “Can’t Live Without” is the only song I remember hearing on the radio and it’s as catchy as anything in their discography. Acoustic Zebra (promo photo)guitars are featured in the thematically-linked “Time” and “About To Make The Time.” The former has more than a hint of Led Zeppelin, especially with its soft-to-loud dynamics, which has always made it the centerpiece of the album for me. Several driving rockers alternate between crunchy guitars and splashy synths: “Your Mind’s Open,” “Better Not Call,” “You’ll Never Know” and “You’re Only Losing Your Heart.” All of these could have been rock radio hits, and the ballad “He’s Making You The Fool” might have even crossed over to the pop charts. For a couple of years in the early-‘90s, following the release of their spectacular Live album, I became friendly with Randy & Felix after being introduced by a co-worker at Atlantic Records who knew I was a longtime fan. They & their wives were always very welcoming to me and my fellow Zebra-loving friend whenever we saw them at various venues in New York and New Jersey. Prior to one show I asked Randy if they could play one of my favorite tracks from 3.V, “Hard Living Without You,” which I had never seen them perform. An hour later I was grinning ear to ear as they played a note-perfect version. We eventually lost touch but I never lost interest in their music, and even though I haven’t seen them in years it makes me happy knowing the original trio is still out there playing this music 30+ years after their debut album and more than four decades after forming in New Orleans. I’m not sure how 3.V, with its date-stamped sonic touches, will sound to anyone hearing it for the first time, but I think the songs speak for themselves and the album somehow sounds timeless to me.

Advertisements

24 comments on “Thirty Year Thursday – ZEBRA “3.V”

  1. J.
    May 19, 2016

    This sounds really interesting, Rich. Wasn’t aware of Zebra or the fact that they had Atlantic’s fastest selling debut! That’s quite the feat given the roster over the years up to that point!

    Like

    • I’ve always been a little skeptical about that “fastest selling debut” credit since that’s a vague term, but it was incredibly popular and they got a lot of airplay with a couple of songs from that album. It’s a shame they couldn’t live up to that hype, at least commercially. Their brief discography is very solid.

      Like

      • J.
        May 20, 2016

        Yeah, it’s the most curious of the hype tags. Suggests there was a fair bit of a buzz around the band, but could also define a band as nothing more than a commercial exercise. This lot sound like they have some chops, though. Definitely some substance.

        Like

      • I’ve seen Zebra multiple times and I can confirm that they have serious chops. It’s not easy being a hybrid of Zeppelin and Yes with just three guys but they pull it off.

        Liked by 1 person

      • J.
        May 20, 2016

        Yeah, I’m seriously gonna have to check out more stuff from these folks. Cheers for throwing them on my radar!

        Like

      • I’m really glad you like what you’ve heard from Zebra. They have a pretty small discography…four studio albums, one live album and a good compilation with a handful of rarities…so it’ll be easy to check them out.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Vinyl Connection
    May 19, 2016

    Didn’t last long on that clip, Rich, but always enjoy reading about a hitherto unknown band. Interestingly, I have an album by ZZebra that I quite like. It’s not a lot like Zebra, tho.

    Like

    • I didn’t think Zebra would be in your musical wheelhouse, Bruce, but thanks for giving them a chance. What’s Zzebra like?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Vinyl Connection
        May 20, 2016

        They are a little known but interesting 70s outfit. Rather like the band If. Brass driven jazz-rock-slightly-prog songs delivered with rock energy. Quite good, if you like that sort of thing!

        Like

      • I love brass-driven jazz-rock (Chicago, BS&T, Chase). Mix in some slightly prog songs and that sounds like something I need to hear. Will seek out some Zzebra soon. Thanks for the info, Bruce.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Currently playing the first two Zzebra albums courtesy of Spotify. As a fan of Afrobeat I’m pleased to hear that style included in their musical stew. Thanks again for the recommendation.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. deKE
    May 19, 2016

    These guys I remember got good coverage in Hit Parader Magazine. Randy Jackson is in the new Twisted Sister Documentary…
    Nice Flashback Rich…

    Like

    • Didn’t realize there was a connection between Randy Jackson/Zebra and Twisted Sister. Maybe they toured together at some point?

      Like

      • deKE
        May 19, 2016

        They all played around in the same areas of New York. You should check it out …

        Like

      • That makes sense. I was never more than a casual Twisted Sister fan but I would probably enjoy a documentary about them. What is it called and where can I find it? Any chance it’s on Netflix?

        Like

      • deKE
        May 20, 2016

        Yes it’s on Netflix …it’s called
        We Are Twisted F’in Sister!

        Like

      • Awesome. I’ll add it to my queue tonight. Thanks for letting me know about it.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. 80smetalman
    May 20, 2016

    They sound good but I think their problem would have been the fact that back in the mid 80s, they didn’t sound unique enough. I got the impression that I heard this somewhere before. Still, they were a good tight band.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good point about them possibly not sounding unique enough by the mid-’80s. That wasn’t the case when they burst onto the scene in ’83. Their music sounded great on the radio and thrilled people like me who wanted a blend of Zeppelin & Yes mixed with some straight-up rock ‘n roll.

      Liked by 1 person

      • 80smetalman
        May 22, 2016

        What was their first album in 1983? I’ll have to listen to it and maybe feature it on my own blog since I’m touring that year right now.

        Like

      • It’s simply titled “Zebra” and includes the FM radio hits “Tell Me What You Want” and “Who’s Behind The Door.” To me it’s a classic.

        Like

  5. 1537
    May 20, 2016

    You’re so right about their sound being date-stamped, I reckon I could have aged this music with a year’s margin of error either side. I really liked the tracks here.

    Like

    • So you’re some kind of musical archaeologist with those incredible date-stamping abilities, eh? 😀 This is the one album in their catalog that’s a product of its time, sonically speaking. I’m pleased that you enjoyed the songs I highlighted. In the end that’s really all that matters, right?

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to subscribe to KamerTunesBlog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 242 other followers

Archives

%d bloggers like this: