Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time
From the “They Should Have Been Huge” file comes Zebra, the mighty trio from New Orleans that formed in 1975 as a hard/prog rock cover band and finally released their eponymous debut album 8 years later, along the way finding a second home base in Long Island, New York (which is probably why New York rock stations were so supportive of them). As I wrote in the fifth Great Out Of The Gate post (which you can read below), at the time it was one of the fastest-selling debuts in the history of Atlantic Records, achieving Gold status and cracking the Top 30. They weren’t able to sustain that commercial success in spite of two more excellent studio albums in the ’80s, both of which I’ve mentioned in my Wait Until The Summer’s Gone and Thirty Year Thursday posts. They may not be a household name but the original trio of Randy Jackson, Felix Hanemann & Guy Gelso continues to blow away enthusiastic crowds, showing no signs of slowing down, with set lists featuring most of the songs from Zebra.
For more information on this series, please read the opening paragraph of the first post, which featured the debut album from Led Zeppelin.
From GREAT OUT OF THE GATE Part 5:
In the years following the 1980 demise of Led Zeppelin, any artist treading similar musical ground would get airplay on rock radio stations. Billy Squier was an early beneficiary but Zebra had the best shot at becoming huge. The incredibly gifted trio of singer/guitarist/songwriter Randy Jackson, bassist Felix Hanemann and drummer Guy Gelso delivered one of the fastest-selling debut albums in the history of Atlantic Records, combining Zeppelin’s dynamic hard rock with the keyboard & synth textures of progressive rock, ticking all of my musical boxes at the time. Opening track “Tell Me What You Want” is straight-up hard rock, and “Who’s Behind The Door,” a Top 10 hit on the Rock chart, blended the mysticism of Yes’ Jon Anderson with Zeppelin-inspired music. “One More Chance” and “As I Said Before” are killer tracks that might have been more successful a few years later during the “hair metal” era, but it’s the two epics that really make this a special record: “Take Your Fingers From My Hair” and “The La La Song” are showcases for their instrumental abilities and knack for clever arrangements. They never overstay their welcome over the course of the 6- or 7-minute running times. Throughout it all, Jackson’s multi-octave range is one of the key aspects to Zebra’s sound that separates them from their contemporaries. There are three other studio albums in their discography, as well as an excellent live album, but as much as I love just about everything they’ve released, their debut is a classic that still sounds fresh to my ears all these years later.
I realize that Zebra might be one of those bands where “you had to be there,” but I think the music on their debut is timeless & holds up extremely well all these years later. If this is your first exposure to them, please let me know what you think. And if you were a fan back in the ’80s do you still love their music?