ZEBRA – 3.V [Rock Candy remaster] (2016)
Rock Candy records reissued some time ago the first two ZEBRA albums, and now it’s time for their obliquely titled third record “3.V“(a reference to how long it had taken to record it), ‘Remastered & Reloaded’ with a brilliant sound.
By 1986, the Zebra was facing pressure from Atlantic Records to produce a hit album. The self-titled debut went Gold certified, but follower No Tellin’ Lies had weaker sales although the quality of material was just as impressive. For their third release, the band made a concerted effort to create a more widely-accepted commercial album and to this end, Zebra succeeded.
ZEBRA 3.V is wonderful Melodic Rock album – at times AOR, at times light progressive – with a lush production typical of the era (1986) criminally ignored fundamentally by the fans of the genre itself, which is a shame.
The album is rarely mentioned in any favorite list, but the fact is that few Melodic Rock aficionados (old and new) simply never have listened 3.V!
There were many reasons for this to happen: by the time “3.V” was put on sale, the record company had all but pulled support for the project, dooming it to obscurity despite the fact that includes some of the band’s finest work.
Another point (although now may look irrelevant) was the confusing title, using mixed media to resolve a nonsensical phrase: ‘3.V but read three point five’. In the mid-eighties you needed a high-impact title, instantly recognizable and a more ‘glammy’ front cover to seduce.
Anyway, always the important thing is the good music, and 3.V packs a lot inside.
“3.V” was the first produced album by the band (in fact Randy Jackson) and the most songs are strongly keyboard-infused by Felix Hanemann’s synths, with catchy melodies and the radio oriented choruses that ruled the 1985-86 period in the genre.
You have kicking rockers with a full-fledged, super processed ’80s sound such as “Can’t Live Without”, the AOR bliss of “He’s Making You The Fool” and “You’ll Never Know” or the melodic rock bounce of “You’re Only Losing Your Heart”.
And of course, there’s the highlight “Hard Living Without You” mixing the best of both worlds with a stupendous musicality, a song that should be considered a Melodic Rock / AOR classic by now.
However, Zebra never would be the ‘typical’ band in the genre, always aiming to offer the listener more substance; “Time” is a pleasant 12-string acoustic affair with a little progressive scent, perhaps the best piece the band has ever recorded. Even with a heavier chorus, the song maintains a melancholy mood throughout and it contains a brilliant ending addendum section which really brings the whole track home.
Then there’s the inspiring and uplifting “Your Mind’s Open”, a great composition based on a really original keyboard arrangement (also played by Hanemann), but not in the frenzy stabbing way, just much more in an orchestrated build providing an excellent aural melody.
And later, we find some kind of a buried diamond; “About to Make the Time”, a genial acoustic / electric driven song with a steady riff and good bass presence throughout. It is a philosophical song which establishes a long pattern that works very well with repetition and should have been placed as the last song on the album – it would have been a gem of a closer.
This could be another mistake in “3.V”, a wrong song sequence. But as said, always the important thing is the good music and this album is plenty of it.
“3.V” would be Zebra’s last studio album for 16 years, a swan song of sorts as they spent their last creative energy on this final run at fame, and certainly delivered a great recording.
This very good three-piece band did not spend a long time on the US national scene, nor did they have tremendous success while they were on that scene. But there is no doubt that Zebra made some unique and original music while they were there.
They are, in a sense, a rare and secret gem of a band which fewer have enjoyed than legitimately should have, especially this “3.V”, a quite brilliant album which deserves to be discovered not only by the new generations, also by ol’ time Melodic Rock / AOR fans that ignored it at the time.
Compared with the last Japanese remaster, this Rock Candy treatment comes a bit more bright at the low end, really well balanced and punchy.
01 – Can’t Live Without
02 – He’s Making You The Fool
03 – Time
04 – Your Mind’s Open
05 – Better Not Call
06 – You’ll Never Know
07 – About to Make The Time
08 – You’re Only Losing Your Heart
09 – Hard Living Without You
10 – Isn’t That The Way
Randy Jackson – Lead Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards
Felix Hanemann – Bass, Keyboards, Synths, Vocals
Guy Gelso – Drums, Percussion, Vocals
BUY IT !