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REVIEW by Ben Garcia
American Zen combines the best elements of
the Doors, Talking Heads, 80s British rock, Rocky Horror, Barenaked
Ladies, and Meatloaf. Which is not to say that the music is derivative.
It is clearly his own thing, but the (perceived) influences come
through nicely. Like looking at a painting, and seeing both the
artist and the history of art in it.
My favorite tracks are:
1. Peace of Mind #2:
I really like this track. Reminds me a little of the Doors.
I just love the lyrics and the music on this one. My favorite stoner
track as I just get into a trance with the music!
3. Free the
I get lost in it and rock out. Awesome playing.
4. Trust Me:
Fun, fun, fun! Who wouldn't love this?
Really nice contrast to the other songs. I totally love this sad
and mellow song. I get lost in it. Probably my favorite of all.
6. All Screwed
Solid, good song. Great hook.
Even on the cuts where I do not respond as
strongly to the lyrics, the music is awesome, like the guitar solo
on "Black of Night," and all the guitar on "Whose
Heaven is This?" As for the poems, well, I always prefer to
read poetry so they were not quite my cup of tea....
REVIEW by Crow & Wolf:
As of this writing, this is Crow & Wolf's
hardest rocking bit of folk-rock yet! Spot the influences in this
one--power pop, surf music, Jethro Tull-style folk rock, searing
guitar licks...not to mention the fact that this is a Buddhist band!
One half songs, the other half Jim Morrison-influenced
(but less dark) poems. (Got all that? Give it a listen!)
REVIEW by for Magazine
We're all familiar with Christian
rock bands, but American Zen is most likely the first Buddhist rock
band you've ever heard. They may well be the only one in existence.
Now that we've got that out of the way, what
kind of music do they play? Well, this is a unique disc in many
ways. Well get to the biggest part later, but for now, let's focus
on the music. American Zen's sound is really pretty hard to classify.
There are songs here that probably fit loosely into progressive
rock, but most of the music is in a folk rock based alternative
style. A lot of times these guys sound a lot like They Might Be
Giants and Violent Femmes, but you can even hear a little Jethro
Tull on this disc at times.
The music is overall pretty darn good, ...
"so what is the biggest way that this CD is unique?" Well,
there are 22 tracks on the CD, but those of you who are perceptive
will notice there are only 11 tracks listed in the track by track
review. The reason for this is that the last 11 slots on the disc
are unaccompanied poetry readings. So, this aspect truly sets this
disc apart. It is also why I didn't do a track by track of all the
"songs". Track by Track Review
Peace of Mind #2:
This one starts off feeling like Jethro Tull. Then as the verse
enters it's in an alternative rock take on folk rock approach. The
chorus has a cool retro rock texture. A midsection features a flute
solo and feels like a cross between folky prog rock and spaghetti
western music. This is very cool, and I would count it as prog rock,
really. It is very dynamic.
Black of Night:
This is a retro textured alternative garage like type number. This
one is just slightly off of mainstream, almost poppy, but just off
by a hair. It gets heavier later, feeling almost '70's arena rockish.
This has a killer instrumental break with an awesome classic rock
guitar dominated structure.
Whose Heaven Is This?:
A lightning fast take on an acoustic ballad like arrangement of
a surf song start this. This weird sounding cut is fun, feeling
a bit like They Might Be Giants or even The Violent Femmes.
In The Darkness:
This has a dark and dramatic ballad like texture and is the most
impressive and effective segment so far. It runs though several
prog like segments, then bursts upward for a moment before returning
to the earlier melody, this time reenergized and intensified. They
power up the speed after a time, then take it into a staccato segment
that is very prog like and quite cool. After this runs through,
they drop it back to the ballad like section to carry on, then jump
back up into more energized territory all over again. This one is
quite a dynamic and very cool instrumental. It includes some purely
awesome bass work. This is one of my favorite tracks on the disc.
You've Been Sold:
A very classic sounding riff creates the intro here. They drop back
to an alternarock verse section. This is folky and fun, if a bit
weird. This has some rather country like guitar solos, but that's
also quite bluesy and very potent, making the outro on this one
of the coolest points on the disc.
Free The Change:
Another very dramatic alternative rock statement starts this and
the arrangement on this, with it partially folk rock, partially
classic arena rock, partially somewhat weird alternative rock ala
They Might Be Giants is an awesome texture. They turn it into a
very powerful and lush treatment that is one of the more solid on
the disc. This features another smoking instrumental segment. This
one has some killer guitar work and a very potent hard rocking structure.
It drops back to a mellower movement for the outro. I love this
A '50's rock structure starts this, then it drops to a bouncy punky
rocker that is fun. This gets more fully arranged on the chorus.
It's bouncy, a bit quirky and very amusing. This has a bit too much
of a '50's rock texture for my tastes, but I can still appreciate
The flute and acoustic guitar arrangement lend a Tull like texture
to the intro. This song turns into a folk ballad mode for the verse
(just acoustic guitar and voice). The flute returns on the bridge,
but the cut doesn't do much else for quite some time. Eventually
it ramps up in intensity a bit and the flute returns to fill out
the arrangement. This is pretty and quite effective, getting quite
proggy at times.
All Screwed Up:
The bouncy folky, They Might Be Giants sound is back on this one.
This one is all right and definitely entertaining, but not one of
the best cuts on the CD.
A Long Way Home:
This one comes in again feeling like Tull. It has a decidedly psychedelic
texture on the verse arrangement. This quirky cut is another that
feels a bit like TMBG. It has its moments, but never really gels
all that well.
This comes in as a traditional bluesy stomp, but as the verse enters
it becomes cool quirky alternative pop rock. This one doesn't differ
much from the last one, but works much better.