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ZION-ZION Frontiers (2006)

One of melodic rock's great vocal talents, Freddy Curci, is back after several years in the wilderness with an eagerly-awaited new project. It really is a travesty that the man who sang on an American No 1 (Sheriff's When I'm with You) and a No 2 (Alias' More than Words can Say) has released so little product over the past 25 years.

However this will inevitably be a controversial release. Melodic rock and AOR relies on a polished production more than most other musical genres, but this is the latest and possibly worst in a line of horribly sub-standard productions (Two Fires second album, Blue Tears' comeback etc). Freddy's vocals, though a little rougher around the edges, still captivate, but the rest of the music sounds as if it has been recorded in an adjacent room, with a tinny rhythm section and occasionally guitar solos in the background that bear no resemblance to the song (the credits list a cast of several musicians but also Freddy playing nearly every instrument). It took me at least two listens to get over finding fault with the recording and concentrating on the songs.

The material is actually first-rate, although I sense many of the songs were written several years ago for other projects. All it Takes is a Minute is a great opening statement along the lines of Signal's Eyes of a Stranger, with how Much Longer is Forever not far behind. The diversity of styles is pleasing, ranging from Joe Lynn Turner-era Rainbow (Dangerous; Everybody's Watching) to laid-back, almost country sounding songs like the gorgeous I'm Coming Home and The Devil's Dance.

I'm not sure whether the quality of the songs is the saving grace for this release, or whether it adds to my frustration that they are spoiled by such a demo-quality production.


Review by Andy Nathan

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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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