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Zaine Griff

Collectors Premium

Review by Gary Hill

I've not heard of this artist before, but apparently he was a big part of the Europop, new wave, new romantic movement. That sound is well tied to the 80s. It definitely feels a bit dated in retrospective, but it makes it sort of a slice of nostalgia. This new set features two albums, one from 1980 and the other from '82. Each has a slew of bonus tracks added to the end. I have to say that while the sound is dated, this is an entertaining and effective set.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2018  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
CD 1: Ashes And Diamonds
             
Tonight

Starting with bouncy electronics, this works out to a very 80s styled pop rock sound. This is catchy and quite effective. There is a bit of a Cars vibe to this in some ways. Yet there are also hints of progressive rock here.

Run
I'm reminded of David Bowie quite a bit on this tune. It's a bouncy number with a real 80s vibe to it. I really love the keyboard solo section.
Ashes And Diamonds
The title track is another with a lot of Bowie in the mix. This is very much a classy 80s pop number. It is quite accessible and rather meaty.
Secret Pleasures
The opening segment is based on a weird, electronic movement that's quite artsy. It fires out from there into another bouncy pop rocker. This isn't a big change, but it is different. It's also quite effective.
She's My Man
There is a lot of energy on this cut. It's a driving, fun piece. The 80s elements lean toward the weird punky end of things, but in a good way. This is a nice bit of a variety and a classy cut. The instrumental break on this takes it into a weird jazz kind of thing.
Things You Say
Another bouncy and fun number, this has a cool quirky angle to it. There is also a killer funky bass line in the backdrop of this thing.
The Scandinavian
Keyboard sounds are the heart of the intro. It comes out gradually from there. It's not a huge surprise, but the bombastic section later in the track is a real powerhouse of brilliance.
Orient
This is an intriguing 80s pop song. It's dramatic, entertaining and rather lushly arranged.
The Iron Curtain
While not a big change of any kind, the layers of chorale vocals and other touches lend something special here. This is another effective cut. The vocal performance gets particularly impassioned on this song.
Ta Cigarette Apres L'Amour
There is a bit of a punky edge here. The mellower drop-back segment is cool. The instrumental section that takes it from there leans toward progressive rock.
The Sentimentalists

I like the balance between the mellower movement and the more rocking one on this cut. It's a dramatic and effective tune.

Bonustracks:
          
This Could Mean Everything

Bouncy, with a punky edge, this is another that makes me think of The Cars a bit.

The Haunt
Another that comes in pretty rocking. I dig the driving beat on this.
Tonight (early version)
This is the first time this song has been released on CD. I almost think that I like this better than the finished version. There are some cool guitar bits that make me think of Queen. It has a real charm to it.
Here Today Gone Tomorrow
A song that was previously unreleased, There is almost a bluesy element on the guitar that starts this. In fact, this cut has a bit of a Dire Straits vibe merged with the 80s pop music element. This is actually one of my favorites of the set.
Molly Molloy (demo)
While this definitely has a bit of an unproduced vibe, that's almost a charm. There is a definite funk element here. I like this one quite a bit. It's a lot of fun. It almost makes me think of what you might get if you combined Prince with ABC.
This Day And Age (demo)
I'm a big fan of this, too. It has a great hard rock element at play. Yet the 80s music vibe is still on hand.
In The Dark (demo)
Bouncy and a bit mellower, this is good, but not one of my favorites. It still has a decent energy. There are some hints of reggae on this number.
Horizontal Hold (demo)
There is a lot of funk built into this thing. It's a lot of fun. It is quite effective, really.
Tokyo (demo)
Previously unreleased, this is pretty cool, but not one of the better pieces on show here. It has a lot of the electronic 80s sound in the mix.
Casino (demo)
This cut is the final previously unreleased piece in this set. The saxophone brings a cool jazzy element to this piece. There is definitely an unfinished sheen to the production here. The cut has a cool funky vibe to it, though. That saxophone really dominates the ending movement, and in a good way.
The Kids (demo)

There is a bit of a soulful element to this cut. It's perhaps closer to a mainstream rock approach than the 80s based stuff that makes up a lot of this. I like the more involved segment later with the cool layers of instrumental work.

Back To The Heart (demo)
There is a lot of funk in this cut. It has a great soulful element to it, too. This is an effective piece.
CD 2: Figvres
         
The Proud Ones

While this continues the 80s vibe, it's based even more thoroughly on the electronic end of the spectrum. The powerhouse jam later takes it into some seriously powerful and crazed jazz jamming.

The Vanishing Men
I dig the energetic electronic vibe on this. It's a classy cut that works really well.
Flowers
Electronic concepts are the order of business here. Slower and more understated, this is passionate and effective. It shifts to a completely different section at the end. It's electronic, dramatic and symphonic. That serves more or less as the introduction to the next piece.
Hot
The fast paced electronic sounds of this catchy cut make me think of ABC to a large degree.
Fahrenheit 451

Now, this might be my favorite cut on the whole set. It really makes me think of The Buggles in a lot of ways. It's energized and quite tasty.

Figvres
We're back into more of that traditional European electronic musical direction. This is bouncy and effective.
The Stranger
This is no big change, but it's another effective electronic pop styled cut. In some ways it reminds me of "Tokyo" from the first CD.
Time Stands Still
I love the bouncing kind of electronic vibe on this piece. It has some catchy hooks, too. This is just a lot of fun. It's one of the stronger pieces here. The little stuttered "still" at the end is annoying, though.
83rd and 4th
I love the funky bass work on this cut. This is another that definitely makes me think of ABC. This is a fun one, too. This cut segues into the next one via some electronics.
Chance of a Dance
Feeling a lot more organic, there is a cool rubbery bass line on this. This is a cut that definitely makes me think of Bowie. It provides some variety.
The Beating of Wings
The closing track of the album proper is opened by a powerful flourish of symphonic styled sounds. It grows out from there in dramatic ways before shifting to the electronic elements that serve as the backdrop to the song proper. This gets quite powerful before it ends. The arrangement really turns lush as the extended instrumental movement pushes forward.
Bonustracks:
    
Mental Pictures (Extended version, B - side 12" of "Figvres")

While this is nothing surprising, it's another effective piece. This is one that makes me think of ABC a bit.

Swing (Extended version, 12")
Starting with percussive elements, the bass line that joins is funky and so cool. They work out to a funky jam that's again a lot like something ABC would have done. I really like this one a lot. I'd consider it one of the standouts here. It gets very powerful as it evolves.
Passionate Reply (extended version from "Swing" 12")
There is a really rubbery kind of rocking vibe to this cut. It's another that's among the standouts on this set.
83rd and 4th (demo 1980)
The rhythm section brings this into being. The cut works out from there into a bouncy kind of pop rock number. This is fun, but not anything all that special. It does have some cool rocking guitar in the mix.
Flowers (demo)
There is a real mellow, European cafe vibe to this. It is mellower and quite folk music based. While it brings some variety, it's not a standout. The again, it's both a bonus cut and a demo.
The Vanishing Men (demo)
I like the final version of this tune, but I think I like this one just as well as that one. It has a more organic vibe to it.
Sincerely
I dig the bits of funky bass on this number. I like this one quite a bit. Those funky bass fills really sell it.
Don't Sleep In The Subway
There is some crunchy guitar built into this. The cut works out from there into another Europop kind of number. It is slow moving and mellower. It has some bouncy elements in the mix. It's also quite catchy. It has some good contrast between the more upbeat sections and the subtler ones.
This Strange Obsession
I love this song, too. It comes from an album by Yukihiro Takahashi album. It has a cool duet and a lot of energy.
 
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