KamerTunesBlog

Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time

Satur-debut – ZEBRA “ZEBRA”

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?

26 comments on “Satur-debut – ZEBRA “ZEBRA”

  1. Mark Gontar
    December 7, 2019

    Seen Zebra over 50 times since 1981 and 5 times
    just this past year in Baton Rouge and LA and New
    York State. Love Zebra!

    Like

    • Hi Mark. That’s a lot of Zebra shows but you can never overdo it with them. They’re always great live. I heard Guy has needed to miss some shows and Bobby Rondinelli filled in. He’s an excellent drummer but how did he handle their songs?

      Like

      • Mark G
        December 8, 2019

        From the videos I have seen the drummer who
        filled in for Guy did a great job!

        Like

      • The drummer was Bobby Rondinelli, right? The guy’s a hard rock legend so it’s no surprise that he filled in well for Guy.

        Like

      • Phillip Helbig
        December 11, 2019

        Yes, he used to be with Rainbow. Probably the only drummer who has a kettle drum next to his high-hat. 🙂 He is now with Axel Rudi Pell, who is younger than Blackmore and company but his music is quite similar to 70s/80s hard rock. Check him out.

        Like

      • I’ve heard of Mr. Pell but never listened to his music. Will give it a listen next time I’m craving new-to-me 70s/80s-style hard rock. Thanks.

        Like

  2. christiansmusicmusings
    December 8, 2019

    I had never heard of Zebra. Based on my initial impression, they sound solid.

    Their vocalist is pretty strong and reminds me of Greta Van Fleet’s Josh Kiszka and, of course, the man himself, Robert Plant.

    Like

  3. Jim S.
    December 8, 2019

    I have never heard of these guys. I’ll listen to the tunes but boy, completely missed them.

    Like

    • They’re one of those bands that would have easily slipped under your radar if you missed them during the brief period when they were popular, which is a shame since their music holds up extremely well.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mark Gontar
        December 10, 2019

        Brief period when they were popular? WTF…….
        Zebra sells out every show. Trust me, they are still
        VERY popular.

        Like

      • I’m talking about when they were getting radio play, press & selling tons of records. That era ended a long time ago. They’re still amazing but it’s never a surprise to hear that someone isn’t familiar with them. Once they listen, though, they’re usually hooked.

        Like

      • Phillip Helbig
        December 11, 2019

        “Brief period when they were popular? WTF…….
        Zebra sells out every show. Trust me, they are still
        VERY popular.”

        Selling out WHERE? Even I might be able to sell out a tour of clubs which hold 10 people.

        Remember, selling out in itself is nothing special; it means that you either underestimated your following or, for whatever reason, choose not to play for everyone who wants to come.

        Yes, “10 seconds FLAT” is a good time for a hundred-yard dash. When I was about 7 or 8, a fellow pupil was convinced that 15 seconds FLAT is better than 10.8 seconds. 🙂

        Like

      • Phillip, they do still have a very loyal following, especially in their dual hometowns of New York and New Orleans, so their shows are usually packed with fans who have been with them for 35-40 years. But I agree that “selling out” venues isn’t what it used to be, unless those venues end with the words “arena” &/or “stadium.”

        Like

  4. Bill P
    December 12, 2019

    This music is right up my alley. Very early 80s AOR sound. Very commercially friendly music, and I certainly see the LZ comparisons. “Tell Me What You Want” has a similar vibe to early Def Leppard a la “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak.” They definitely have some of the hallmarks of a “hair metal” sound (i.e. big vocal choruses, etc) but then they have this acoustic arpeggiated clean guitar tone in the quieter verses with synths that recall a Kansas or maybe JLT-era Rainbow. Two weeks of new finds…can’t wait to see what you have in store next!

    Like

    • Phillip Helbig
      December 13, 2019

      Based on that description, I’ll be checking them out.

      Like

    • Excellent observations about Zebra, Bill. Glad they seem to be in your musical wheelhouse. I think they were too traditional & not “glam” enough for the hair metal scene, and their debut preceded that era by a couple of years. Who knows how they might have done if the emerged a few years later.

      Like

    • Phillip Helbig
      January 2, 2020

      To be fair, your post got me interested, otherwise I wouldn’t have read the comments. But I thought that they might be some generic 80s band which others like but wouldn’t be my cup of tea. But Kansas-style synth-and-acoustic-guitar music coupled with JLT-era Rainbow sounds great!

      Like

      • Whatever it takes to get people to check out Zebra is a positive thing. They were certainly not generic…that’s for sure.

        Like

  5. Claudia Schlottmann
    December 21, 2019

    All these years later .. Their Music still gives me chills.. The lyrics got me through my teenage years.. Going to see them in nightclubs every 6 months sometimes every 3 months in the mid 80s through the early 90s were some of the funnest memorable times of my life!! Zebra in my opinion didn’t have to make it “big”.. Their following and their Music speaks for itself.

    Like

    • Well stated, Claudia. I saw Zebra numerous times during that same era and the shows were always a blast. Their fans are devoted and we’re all over the world. Long Live Zebra!

      Like

  6. cariboumarkt
    December 29, 2019

    Our local symphony brought Randy Jackson to town a year or so ago. The program was a tribute to Led Zeppelin, with Randy handling the vocals. Very cool show and I managed to get a autograph on my Zebra record!

    Like

    • I’ve never seen those symphony shows featuring Randy but I have no doubt that they’re fantastic. Pleased to hear that you enjoyed it…and got an autograph to boot. Well done.

      Like

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 )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google 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 )

Connecting to %s

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

Join 377 other followers

Archives

%d bloggers like this: