Earl Slick – Zigzag

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Album Review by EDF

Rock instrumental albums are usually predictable. ZIG ZAG by the acclaimed guitarist Earl Slick does not fall into this trap. For someone who has played with two music legends, the late great John Lennon and the still very much alive and kicking David Bowie, it seems that Slick has learned a lot along the way. So why is this album any different from say the likes of Satriani and Vai? Put it this way, Slick does not rely on moving his fingers up and down the fret board like a demented axe-handler who has only got two minutes left to live. In fact, his playing is much more down to earth and accessible than most semi-instrumental albums.

Why is this a semi-instrumental album? That is because there are guest vocalists that appear on half the album. More about who they are later. The first track is the instrumental DANCING WITH ELEANOR, an upbeat track that would be the perfect accompaniment driving along on the Californian coastal road, Route 1. The first of the guest vocalist comes in the form of The Cure’s Robert Smith on the achingly beautiful BELIEVE, which successfully finds a mournful middle ground between Smith’s voice and Slick’s playing. You just then don’t get any bigger than having David Bowie providing vocals on ISN’T IT EVENING. This is not the first time these two have performed with each other; Slick was part of Bowie’s band for a couple of years back in the mid 1970’s.

As far as the other instrumental tracks go, 1735 is a track in three parts that might catch some listeners off guard. PIKE ST. finds Slick and collaborator Mark Plati switching rolls; Slick on keyboards and Plati on guitar. This is the equivalent of someone playing a joke right back at you. You just don’t know what to expect with this roll reversal and it stops the album from becoming predictable. THE CAT is, as Slick describes it, a “dark and slinkly” track, inspired by constantly spotting a black cat at his engineer’s house, who revealed to Slick that he did not own a cat. From that point in time, the mysterious cat was never seen again. Spooky.

The other guest vocalists who appear are Royston Langdon from Spacehog on the bluesy title track. The aptly named Summer Rose features on CRUNCHED and The Motels’ Martha Davis on the travelogue ST MARK’S PLACE give the proceedings a breathe of fresh air. Even the rocking PSYCHO TWANG from Def Leppard’s Joe Elliot sounds very un-Leppard like. It would seem that Slick brings out the best from his vocalists, who also wrote their own lyrics.

One thing that is evident listening to this album is the maturity of the guitar playing and how fresh old ideas can sound. Not going along the route of certain rock groups who love to indulge themselves with bucketfuls of retro, this is more a forward, positive thinking album that treats the listener with intelligence. That is why this album will be on repeat play on my stereo. Class.

5 stars