Zebra - In Black And White

Zebra – In Black And White: Best Of


Although they never reached the sustained commercial peaks of such AOR legends as Foreigner, Boston, Journey etc, this career retrospective proves Zebra’s rightful place in the highest echelons of the genre.

Written by: Lee South Africa

ALBUM: In Black And White (Best Of)
LABEL: Mayhem Records
YEAR: 1998
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List

LINEUP: Randy Jackson – vocals, guitars * Felix Hanemann – keyboards, bass * Guy Gelso – drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Tell Me What You Want * 02 But No More * 03 Better Not Call * 04 Bears * 05 The La La Song * 06 Lullaby * 07 Hard Livin’ Without You * 08 One More Chance (1978 Workshoppe Demo) * 09 Children At Heart (Unreleased from 3.V sessions) * 10 Time * 11 Take Your Fingers From My Hair (1978 Workshoppe Demo) * 12 Wait Until Summers Gone * 13 Riverside (3.V Pre-production demo) * 14 As I Said Before * 15 Who’s Behind The Door? * 15 Who’s Behind The Door? * 16 Your Mind’s Open



Although they never reached the sustained commercial peaks of such AOR legends as Foreigner, Boston, Journey etc, this career retrospective proves Zebra’s rightful place in the highest echelons of the genre.

And it’s via the only thing that really counts – a never ending stream of quality songs that you just can’t tire of, regardless of how hard you work them. Another vital aspect on display is the pair of demo tracks from the 1978 Workshoppe sessions, rooting Zebra’s recording origins firmly in the late 70’s where all the bands that really count first made their mark. We’ll forego the exact tracklisting and deal with them by era.

The Songs

1978: ‘One More Chance’ and ‘Take Your Fingers From My Hair ‘both featured on the Atlantic debut in 1983. Here they sound like Led Zeppelin gone AOR, certainly not a bad recipe, and the production is staggering considering these are demos.

Some would say they’re not as polished as the finished product versions, but they retain an irreplaceable charm and the listener is treated to the 80’s Zebra melodic structure evolving way before it’s time.

1983: Four tracks from the seminal debut album are present, including the intense AOR classic ‘Tell Me What You Want’ and the ethereal ballad (with a sting in the tail) ‘Who’s Behind The Door’, both top 40 hits which helped to propel the album well beyond gold status.

‘As I Said Before’ revisits the Led Zeppelin influence although considerably more melodic, and ‘The La La Song’ makes up for it’s ridiculous title by fusing progressive and AOR elements to deliver a melodic treat as different as it is classic.

1984: The underrated and unfairly maligned second full album ‘No Tellin’ Lies’ also yields four tracks to this compilation.

‘Wait Until The Summer’s Gone’ just screams AOR despite the omission of keys, an unforgettable Zeppelinesque hook combined with a lush if simple chorus provides sufficient magic 1984 style.

‘But No More’ brings out the pomp keys and tempo changes, but still manages to sound coherent and focused, something like ‘Up’ era Le Roux.

‘Bears’, despite it’s semi-acoustic leanings, comes across with assured power and genuine grasp of subtle melody – this is not one of those instant chorus songs, so it was probably not the wisest choice for a second single, despite it’s obvious qualities.

‘Lullaby’ tugs out their love for The Beatles, having been written in tribute to the tragically slain John Lennon. It’s sheer class is obvious from the effortless vocal performance and unhurried restraint on the instrumental side, in a better world it would have been a deserved top ten AOR smash.

1986: Yet again, four tracks are culled from the seminal AOR classic ‘3.V’ album, along with two pre-production demos.

‘Hard Livin’ Without You’ brings on the JourneyNew England stylings, although in a much higher vocal pitch, once again alerting us to what Led Zeppelin could’ve sounded like in the mid 80’s had they carried on and possessed as much melodic grasp as Zebra.

‘Better Not Call’ also inhabits the uptempo side, fusing lush keys with a great guitar hook and building from there, see a theme developing? This one has an extra surprise in the form of a magical second bridge, the kind where you don’t think it can get any better but it does anyway. This song comes personally recommended for long distance highway driving.

‘Time’ is a more complex animal, working through a myriad of melodic textures and tempo changes – enough to keep things interesting without ever becoming overbearing.

‘Your Mind’s Open’ combines acoustic tendencies with another ethereal melody similar to the tracks from the second 1984 album, more midtempo than ballad and thoroughly rewarding. Of the two 1986 demo’s, ‘Riverside’ takes an acoustic ride back to the band’s New Orleans roots, while ‘Children Of The Heart’ proves to be a strong AOR contender, unfortunate to have been omitted from the final album.

In Summary

The reliable word on the street is that the fourth full length studio album is now recorded and mixed, more than enough to get AOR fanatics very excited indeed. Expect news on a release date fairly soon, and possibly an interview with Randy Jackson. In the meantime, why not add this essential AOR retrospective to your collection?

(Footnote: yes, the album was released in 2003, entitled ‘IV’).


Entire Album (Select Tracks)

Playlist: The Best of Zebra: In Black and White
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