*Printed with permission from John Sellers (email@example.com).
First printed January 13, 2000 for CMML.
If I Left the Zoo -- Jars of Clay
I must really be out of the loop in regard to "If I Left The Zoo" according to all I've heard and read about it.
Because I think, at long last, we have an album coming out of CCM that hangs with the "big boys".
Earlier, I wrote that I gave it a quick run-through, and caught a few Beatlesque sound bytes; this time I gave it a thorough listen, driving in my car from Orlando to Atlanta.
That's a lot of times through the CD!!
First off, the production and engineering is simply superb. And if you're going to have a world class band, the most critical ingredient is a world class drummer. That is amply provided through the talent of Ben Mize, can't say enough about how his presence enhanced this project.
What amazes me is the progress JOC has made over the course of three albums. On the first one, "Liquid" and "Flood" towered over the other cuts, thanks to Adrian Belew. "Much Afraid" brought a much more consistent project, and you could see JOC further exploring a "sound" while showing great lyrical growth. With "Zoo", they've added intensity and technical values and the result is a huge step forward.
Although they've had tendencies in the past to do things like lift entire phrases from "I Am The Walrus", "Zoo" borrows liberally from classic artists without infringement, creating something uniquely their own from the influence of others. This is the hallmark of a great band. "Goodbye" would fit nicely on The Beatles' White Album. If you go back as far as I do, you can't listen to "Unforgetful You" without singing J.
Geils Band's "Angel in a Centerfold" during the chorus. (-:
BTW, *great* "room" drums on this track.
The intro to "Collide" could have easily been mistaken for Queen; then it kicks into kind of a speeded-up Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want"; same chords, same drums, but different melody, very nice; On the chorus, they rock out with the best of them, and Dan Haseltine's vocals are astounding through this section, particularly on the phrase, "something's killing me....." (Going back to the Stones song, through the rock out ending of the chorus, listen closely and you'll hear those high strings doing the same line as the choir in "You Can't Always Get What You Want"). And then during the same section, at the end of each phrase, they do this half-step-up-bend kind of thing that is very effective. Then as it finishes, the line "Love is something else it's supposed to be" might as well be McCartney singing the last line of Sgt. Pepper: go ahead, sing with it: "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band". Cut away to the *exact* ending of "Helter Skelter". I halfway expected to hear "I've got blisters on my fingers". Great cut, possibly my favorite.
Next comes a lovely little worshipful pop tune, "No One Loves Me Like You". This one was a pleasant surprise, as the first time I heard it, I thought, here we go with another one of those sound-alike songs they digress into all the time. But no, the verse sets up a very hooky, tasty chorus and the song always has direction. I really like this song, it leads me into a worshipful state of mind.
"Famous Last Words" has lots of little bits from all kinds of songs, if I sat here long enough, I'm sure I can find them all! But right off, it sounds a lot like Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's "Ohio", picking up a little of Richard Marx's "Wherever I Am" in the chorus and a remarkable George Harrison vocal resemblance through the section where Dan sings "When I was in love" through the bridge. And also a lot of Wallflowers going on, especially with the organ. Wonderful song.
"Sad Clown" sounds familiar, I would love to hear Leon Russell
do this tune.
"Hand": Great lyrics, very expressive
"I'm Alright": Listen to this and then listen to Billy Joel's "A Minor Variation" off the "River of Dreams" album. Almost the same song, but again, JOC does something unique with it. Again, maybe my favorite cut. (-:
"Grace": intro sounds like you are listening to any number of tunes from Edie Brickell's "Shooting Rubber Bands At The Stars" album. Great Eagle's groove in the chorus.
"Can't Erase It" pulls off an astounding mix of Stones, Beatles, Yes and The Who and actually gets away with it. Even with a direct lift of the most familiar riff in history, the Keith Richard's guitar riff from "Satisfaction". Amazing! Listen to the acappella part of the chorus; a beautiful blending of Yes ending in Beatles harmonies, in the space of 3 lines; that, my friends is a stroke of genius!
"River Constantine": I don't like this song. Sorry. (-:
Look for the next album to be a killer. Sure wish they would pick up another vocalist and swap off the leads from time to time; as much as I like Dan's voice, if he had a counterpart, ala Lennon/McCartney, this band would go into the
stratosphere, in my opinion........ as always.