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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Saul Zonana

Love Over Money

Review by Sonya Kukcinovich Hill

Saul Zonana is a NYC product, but he currently resides in Nashville where he has escaped the harsh reality of Northeastern winters. He also remains close to Adrian Belew, who continues to supply mentoring support to this talented act.  Belew produced Saul's 2006 release, 42 Days, and while we would love to provide a written review of the same, we felt it more important to note Zonana's current release, Love Over Money. This CD is self-produced, but plenty of accumulated knowledge from working with Belew went into the project. Supported by a cadre of fine NY musicians, the music is wonderfully melodic, tonal, loaded with unique and interesting bridges and creative resolutions. Zonana remains a story teller par excellence, as well. We think the writing and performance is as good as Maroon 5, and maybe even better. But Zonana doesn't dwell in pop environs so completely. There is a good pop quality to his work, but he is also self described as a prog artist, and his music seems to reflect that. Indeed, he may be the kind of songwriter prog artist we've all been waiting for to break into the radio airwaves that abandoned great music long ago. I am serious when I say this. This music has more hooks in it than a ten year old's fingers on a fishing trip. One can draw lots of interesting comparisons, as you'll see in the track by track review which follows. I give Love Over Money some solid kudos, and think you all would greatly enjoy this fine piece of music in your collection. Your friends will enjoy learning these great songs.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Like Anyone Would
My first impression of this song was the excellent tight band with the cool rockish edge. Zonana's funky lyrical line powers itself through the piece. This is so original that I really have had a difficult time comparing it to anyone else, specifically.  Perhaps, the more I listen, it's that classic Squeeze type of coolness that attracts me.  It's just really good. Zonana works the counterpoint on this one.  I think Todd Rundgren fans would dig this. Actually, I think everyone will dig this!
Mr Blue
What a fantastic tune! When I listen to this song, I actually immediately feel texture, color and warmth.  It penetrates the musical soul.  It's Beatlesque, but at the same time uniquely Saul Zonana. This was Zonana's second number at the concert, as well.  It was those first three words he sang so softly, "Hello, Mr. Blue" that captured my focus, kept me, and made me an instant fan.  My word for it is mesmerizing. The piece is reminiscent of King's X, particularly near the end.  This song should be on every type of rock station.... right now!  It is a universal type of a song for people of all ages to fall in love with.The melody is so catchy and haunting with the psychedelic guitar feel underneath and a wonderful B section. Zonana leads with great legato vocals on this one. This could and should receive heavy airplay. The Beatlesesque harmonies dovetail into the almost ethereal guitar work, which reminds us of Terry Kath in the "Song of the Evergreens" from Chicago VII. I reiterate; this is a great song!
Two Different Things
There is a nice funky rock opening on this one. Like every song he sings, Zonana tells a great story in this song. What a feel good song this is on a feel good album! Another unexpected bridge takes you to a slightly different genre - then right back.  It's so cool, indeed! This is solid songwriting. Why don't we hear music like this on the radio?  Zonana is great at hooks, and that's what makes people's heads turn.  But, if not given the opportunity to hear this and other great music, so many people are missing out on a wonderful thing! 
If I Don't
This is a good, feel happy, simple melody. It's an easy tune to learn and hum along with, and I could imagine this song being set as a background to some trendy commercial selling a high tech product. I certainly wouldn't relegate Zonana's music to jingle status, though. It's simply the kind of song that would work well because the melody line is so easily grasped. People would be heard humming this one if it received airplay. I love it!
Lifting You
What an interesting ballad this is!  The guitar vibe reminds me of both Lenny Kravitz and King's X . I could hear either one of those bands covering this. Wouldn't that be an interesting twist of fate? I also think of Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band when I hear certain parts of this.  I think that fans of the Beatles' great works would truly appreciate an artist like Saul Zonana.
Broken Home
This song has a Crowded House feel, Todd Rundgren, or even Toad The Wet Sprocket vibe reminiscent of the late eighties and early nineties when a lot of really creatively magnificent  bands hit the scene.  This is college radio material, and I know that means a lot of insightful young listeners would really dig this.  Zonana
does not compromise.  He seems to just allow all of his musical influences to simmer and percolate into a balanced blend of what it is,  "feel good" progressive music!  The bridge is classic and the melody is memorable. It even ends like a radio hit!
We'll Sing
Anyone who likes Todd Rundgren and Kasim Sultan should dig this song, and the rest of the CD, in fact.  Zonana's chordal changes can be subtle at times, then all of a sudden  he hits you with the most incredibly mind-blowing harmonic modulation that means you have to keep hitting "rewind."  His voice is incredibly clear and soothing on this track..
Feeling OK
There are some quick, subtle Beatlesque moments spiraling throughout the song. It makes for an effective blend of the Lenny Kravitz sort of vibe on this.  Zonana really sings his heart out on this one and reminds me that he is definitely a vocalist, and one with a true musical spirit , for certain!
Midnight Rain
What a cool beginning melody this has right from the start:  Happy and bright, it just builds right up to a beautiful, harmonious, fat sounding chorus.  This is more "feel good" music!  Zonana is a true songwriter.  And, what a refreshing thing it is to hear such great melodies and bridges that we have been lamenting for years that have been absent on the scene.  This even has a bit of a Squeeze feel to it . Zonana's song endings will continue to keep one either wondering, smiling or perhaps even laughing hysterically.  He has a true gift for being downright funny while writing and performing some truly compelling progressive songs.
Let it Go
How many different voices does this guy have?  Multiple musical comparisons aside, I can say that Zonana's voice imitates no one!  He has a clear, bright and soulful sound - very passionate, indeed! The entire album is just filled with musical endorphins!   Feeling a little blue?  Put on some Saul Zonana.  This song says "sunshine!"
 
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