Zaza, Neil - Staring At The Sun

Year of Release: 2004
Label: Mascot Records
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 57:09:00

Neil who? No, this is not a spelling error, the man is called Neil Zaza and the guitar is his instrument. And despite that he may not be so known (here), he has shared the stage with the likes of Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen, Vinnie Moore, Steve Lukather and, of course, Joe Satriani. Zaza's first album was released in 1992, and he has built up in impressive back catalogue, showing his versatility. Now he teamed up with the former Journey rhythm section, Steve Smith (drums) and Ross Valory (bass), but is also working with Stu Hamm (bass, Joe Stariani), Timothy M. Bradford (keys) and Robin DiMaggio (drums), so he's in good company.

The press release describes Zaza's style as "singy melodic style of guitar playing," which is a good description of the man's music. The songs are good to listen to, no shredding, although he can make his guitar sound really crunchy, and yet his compositions are close to having a poppy sound. At times I hear some flashes of Satriani in his music, as I find his music close to the work of "Satch." High quality music, with ditto production, which will appeal to the fans of Satriani and melodic instrumental guitar music. That he is good can be heard in songs like "Rain," where he gives you goosebumps with his laid-back play, or "Angel," with piano accompanying him. But he has also some more up-tempo songs, like the opener "I Spy" or "New, New Math." Still, I prefer his laid-back play, which shows his incredible skills on the guitar. OK, he might have included one kick ass solo, but Staring At The Sun does not give out the impression Zaza is some great ego, who loves to lick on his own solos, but he seems to be a more modest guy, who both writes and plays fantastic melodies and shows true guitar craftsmanship. The album ends with an odd song: "Purple Rain," by Prince, with some orchestration and Stu Hamm on bass and Robin DiMaggio on drums here. You can say what you want, but his version is really good, despite the fact it adds nothing new to the song. But, it shows that he can play awesome solos, if he wants to!

Staring At The Sun is a very good album, with great compositions, all written by Mr. Zaza and performed with great skill. The cover of the Prince song shows he can shred and play cool solos, but even without that, he can make a very interesting album. So all fans of Satriani, Morse or Vai: check out Neil Zaza, the new guitar hero for the next generation...

Originally released 1999 by Nuerra Records (3953-2)

[This review originally appeared April 2004 at the ProgPower Online review site -ed.]

I Spy / Lift / Lost in your Dream / Zen, Karma and other Good Things / The Wonder of You / New, New Math / Rain / Every Thought / Baking @ 350 Degrees / Fargo / Angel / Definition / Purple Rain

Neil Zaza - guitars
Steve Smith - drums
Ross Valory - bass
Stu Hamm - bass
Timothy M. Bradford - keyboards
Robin DiMaggio - drums

Ten Zen Men - Ten Zen Men
Two Hands, One Heart (1992)
Thrills & Chills (1993)
Snap, Crackle, & Pop-Live! (1997)
Sing (1997)
Staring At The Sun (1999/2004)
One Silent Night Vol. 1 (2002)
One Silent Night Vol. 2 (2002)
Melodica (2004)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: January 1st 2005
Reviewer: Marcel Haster
Artist website:
Hits: 1330
Language: english


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