Lenny Zakatek – Zakatek

You may not know the name, but you do know the voice, at least if you’re of a certain age. Lenny Zakatek lent his distinctive, raw vocals to numerous Alan Parsons Project hits in the 1970s, including “I Wouldn’t Want To Be Like You” and “Games People Play”; for Zakatek’s debut solo album, Parsons was on hand to produce, to return the favor. The result is fairly typical late 1970s fare, showcasing a wider range of material than one might expect from Zakatek if one’s only prior exposure was his Project guest shots.

For one thing, Parsons and cohort Eric Woolfson would “cast” new material with certain vocalists in mind, and Zakatek used to wind up with bluesy, throat-thrasing numbers. For his own album, on which he’s singing everything for a change, Zakatek gets a chance to show off some more soulful chops – he’s not screaming every song at you.

With Parsons in the control booth, some of the songs get turned into epics, with female backup singers and orchestral backing aplenty. Only two songs are strong reminders of his roaring vocal work for Parsons’ group, “Doin’ It Right” and the extremely memorable “It’s A Dancer.”

Sadly, this album has faded into obscurity, without even a CD release, then or now. The influences and styles prevalent in 1979 keep it from being mistaken for anything you’d describe as “timeless”; more than a few of the songs are disco-lite. I’d be extremely surprised to see this 3 out of 4album show up on anything other than the original vinyl. A pity, since it’s an album that offers a glimpse into the other side of one of the more distinctive voices dominating the radio in the 1970s. Given how popular his songs for Parsons were, it’s honestly a bit of a surprise that Lenny Zakatek’s solo debut didn’t make a slightly bigger splash.

Order this CD

  1. Do It Right (3:55)
  2. One Is A Lonely Number (4:30)
  3. Was It Easy (3:20)
  4. Keep A Little Sunshine (3:54)
  5. Memories (3:45)
  6. Viens (4:30)
  7. We Will Never Find (5:10)
  8. It’s A Dancer (4:45)
  9. Discuss it!Couldn’t We Try (4:30)

Released by: A&M
Release date: 1979
Total running time: 38:29

Warren Zevon – Warren Zevon

Warren Zevon - Warren ZevonIt wasn’t a concept album, although it just as well could’ve been. 11 songs about the dark, seedy underbelly of Los Angeles and its inhabitants make up this eponymous album by Warren Zevon, his first release for a major label (although he released his first album, 1969’s Wanted Dead Or Alive prior to this). Not only does the album recall California lyrically, but the sidemen and guest vocalists read like a who’s who of the music scene in that area: Jackson Browne, Lindsey Buckingham, Don Henley and Glenn Frey, Bonnie Raitt and Carl Wilson just to name a few.

The album starts off with “Frank And Jesse James”, a song about the various exploits the two brothers ran into and setting up the scene for the rest of the album. “Poor Poor Pitiful Me” notes on Zevon’s wild lifestyle with a keen sense of irony. “The French Inhaler” tells the tale of a woman down on her luck while waiting for that one big break in Hollywood. “Mohammed’s Radio” talks about the impact music can have when there’s nothing else to turn to, with lyrics that eerily hit home even today (“You work all day/you still can’t pay/the price of gasoline and meat/alas, their lives are incomplete”).

The album closes with “Desperados Under The Eaves”, a stark look at the hopelessness that pervaded throughout the rest of the album. Here, Zevon delivers his immortal refrain: “And if California slides into the ocean/like the mystics and statistics say it will/then I predict this motel will be standing/until I pay my bill”. But while multiple harmonies sing “Look away down Gower Avenue…”, one feels that there may be a glimmer of hope, no matter how small, still left to discover in this forlorn urban landscape.

4 out of 4Although not well received upon release (it barely scratched the Top 200), Warren Zevon has since become known as one of Zevon’s finest outings as a songwriter. All the songs here are tightly written with nary a clunker or throwaway, containing copious amounts of Zevon’s trademark wit and humor. It remains catchy without being “radio-friendly”, and set the stage for his career as one of the best songwriters of his day. This album should not be missed.

Order this CD

  1. Frank And Jesse James (4:33)
  2. Mama Couldn’t Be Persuaded (2:53)
  3. Backs Turned Looking Down The Path (2:27)
  4. Hasten Down The Wind (2:58)
  5. Poor Poor Pitiful Me (3:04)
  6. The French Inhaler (3:44)
  7. Mohammed’s Radio (3:40)
  8. I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead (2:56)
  9. Carmelita (3:32)
  10. Join Me In L.A. (3:13)
  11. Desperados Under The Eaves (4:45)

Released by: Asylum
Release date: 1976
Total running time: 37:45

The Zombies – Begin Here

The Zombies - Begin HereOne can be forgiven for sometimes thinking that the post-Beatles British invasion bands were a dime a dozen, but every once in a while one emerged which kept itself afloat on the power of its own prodigious talents. Some, like The Move, spread their wings immediately and mixed deft Fab Four homages with experimenation in other styles. The Zombies, however, stayed a bit closer to home, sticking fast to the beat group parameters and even borrowing some of the Beatles’ trademark maneuvers, such as covering old blues tunes (including “You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me”, a Smokey Robinson classic which had already been appropriated by the Beatles). But it’s sometimes easy to overlook that the Zombies had their own dynamic duo in the form of Rod Argent (later of Argent) and Colin Blunstone (who, among other solo and session work, has done guest lead vocals for the Alan Parsons Project). While some of the Zombies’ material sometimes washes into the background of Beatles imitators, there are some bright gems which singled them out for praise.

Chief among these is jangling lament of “She’s Not There”, a song with a brooding verse, a driving chorus, and great minor key harmonies that distinguished it from the sunnier beat numbers of the mid 60s. The more laid-back “Tell Her No” has also become an oldies radio chestnut. Some of the Zombies’ other early numbers are less familiar (who remembers “I Got My Mojo Working”?), but those two singles paved the way for a career that, while brief, afforded them a more worthy status than just Beatles wanna-bes. Argent later formed a group named after himself and gave us the 70s rock anthem “Hold Your Head Up”, and in the late 1990s reunited as a 3 out of 4duo with Blunstone for a successful UK tour and a subsequent studio album. Not everything on Begin Here will trip your trigger – I’ll admit that I really only listen to it for three or four songs, and the “bonus material” of two demos and two alternate takes are of negligible value to all but the most serious fans. But that’s just it – it was a beginning, and a promising one at that.

Order this CD

  1. Road Runner (2:07)
  2. Summertime (2:18)
  3. I Can’t Make Up My Mind (2:33)
  4. The Way I Feel Inside (1:51)
  5. Work ‘N’ Play (2:09)
  6. You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me / Bring It On Home To Me (3:40)
  7. She’s Not There (2:25)
  8. Sticks And Stones (2:57)
  9. Can’t Nobody Love You (2:16)
  10. Woman (2:28)
  11. I Don’t Want To Know (2:07)
  12. I Remember When I Loved Her (2:01)
  13. What More Can I Do (1:40)
  14. I Got My Mojo Working (3:37)
  15. It’s Alright With Me (1:53)
  16. Sometimes (2:06)
  17. Kind Of Girl (2:11)
  18. Tell Her No (2:08)
  19. Sticks And Stones – alternate take (3:08)
  20. It’s Alright With Me – alternate take (1:56)
  21. I Know She Will – demo (2:28)
  22. I’ll Keep Trying – demo (2:19)

Released by: Ace Records
Release date: 1998
Total running time: 52:18