Zephyr are not particularly remarkable or innovative, but they have taken the trouble to work out among themselves a diverse, well-arranged succession of songs reminiscent… Read More
of some of the good second-string albums of a couple of years ago, with just enough eclecticism for seasoning.
Candy Givens (what a name!), mainly remembered for a somewhat too impeccable Joplin style is beginning to come through with a looser, more personal delivery, even if those echoes do flash a bit disconcertingly close at certain moments, as on the pleasingly mawkish "revolooshun" march "See My People Come Together." She can still give "At This Very Moment" a smooth flow, with clear soprano bridge, reminiscent in the very best way of Barbra Streisand and the non-blues-based pop tradition in general. And "I'll Be Right Here," the album's pinnacle in terms of song, is given a beautiful hymnlike reading that enhances its great lyrics: "The crops this year have been uncommonly poor/And next year the fields will surely be idle North of this place they let the red dust pour/Through their palms and shake their heads/But I'll be right here/Till I lay down and die."
The rest of the band, in composition and performances, functions at much the same level of solid, understated invention. The title tune has all the churning looseness of a plains bar-band on Friday night. "Night Fades Softly" is fine for some simple but beautifully modulated soprano sax that echoes down through the filters of restrained electronic gimmickry like beams of light in a deep forest. The album was recorded at Electric Lady Studios in New York, and whether that has anything to do with it or not the distortions applied to several songs are truly appropriate and enhancing and show that the electronic arsenal still has much to offer even the most lyrical music.
There are songs here that don't work, too, like the shrill, banal Joplin-and-metal-guitar "Show-bizzy," and "The Radio Song," which is almost as dumb a milking of the obvious cliches and nostalgias as Dave Edmunds' "I Hear You Knocking." But even that is well-played, and along with a couple of other well-behaved but unspectacular numbers, it grows on you. The main thing about Zephyr is that they write interesting songs and know how to record them with polish and professionalism and those little extra touches that make arrangements intriguing. As a result their second album is unusually substantial. That's saying something these days. (RS 79)