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Non-Prog CD Reviews

The Zen Tricksters

A Love Surreal

Review by Gary Hill

Picture a Grateful Dead that is a bit more tight and a lot more jazz oriented, and you have the Zen Tricksters. The vocals and music on this disc is very much in the mode of The Grateful Dead, but with a very precise approach and a lot of jazz oriented instrumental breaks.

The Zen Tricksters are Jeff Mattson, Rob Barraco, Klyph Black and Joe Chirco. They are joined on the disc by Barry Sless and Jennifer McCallister. For info on purchasing this disc, drop by the Zen Tricksters website at http://www.zentricksters.com.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: The Early Years Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Eilat
A very Dead oriented song, this one features a funky bass line, wonderful vocal harmonies and some great piano work. The piano solo is especially strong. The instrumental break on this fast paced piece wanders between prog and jazz territory.
Warm Heart
Again very Grateful Deadlike, this one is more slow and bluesy. As with much of this disc, it is rather jazz oriented in texture. The track features a very tasty guitar solo.
Where You Want To Be
Playful and jazzy, this one feels like the Dead rhythmically and vocally, but really seems a lot more like a good jazz cut in overall tones than it does the Dead. "I travel onward and never look back, Leaving you sittin' in my tracks, I'm no leader, but if you follow me, I'll take you where you want to be." The piano solo is especially jazz oriented and considerably strong. After that solo, a jam ensues that is very much in a modern jazz mode with strong work from all the musicians. This jam really makes the cut one of the best on the disc. Other than the aforementioned instrumental break, it also includes a couple of others, including the outro.
Who You Are
Another cut that is very much in the vein of the Grateful Dead, this one features an intriguing vocal arrangement.
Goin' Down Slow
Starting in a nice acoustic guitar mode, the vocals here are very Dead oriented, but the overall tone is a vaguely countrified jazz ballad. Actually, one section of the number is quite progish, feeling a lot like the proggier of Steve Howe's solo work. Another instrumental break on this composition has a killer tone. It is somewhat dramatic, a bit mysterious, and definitely jazzy. That break features some considerably potent guitar work. It is not possible to rave enough about that particular jam. Add in the track's epic length (11:48) and it is certainly the strongest number on the disc.
That's All
The lyrics on this one are great. "Reeling from three non-stop months on the road, she caught me off guard with no warning at all, I had sailed home triumphant my army behind me, Just to lose footing on her threshold and fall, Stunned into silence by the flash and the fury, as she paints me a picture of a love left alone." Musically this is essentially a somewhat country oriented Dead number.
Dpwn The Road
This is a fun and energetic little rocker with some strong country music leanings.
Calliope
Based on more of the solid Grateful Dead modes, this one features a tasty guitar solo segment.
Call of the Wild
Beginning with a wonderful piano based intro, this one is essentially a rather odd Dead based cut.
Say That I Am
With a quirky, progish sort of texture to the intro, this is a potent Dead styled cut that includes jazzy leanings. Much of this number is progish with a definite jazz oriented instrumental jam.
 
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