by Paul Landkamer
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Since I last wrote, I've heard at least a dozen new artists (new to me, anyway), added over twenty CDs to my collection, and struggled to try to keep something decent going on at our coffeehouse. The bands have been great, but the crowds have been, well, not really interested in live bands. But hey, I still love music and I'm going to share it one way or another. I'll be letting you know of my findings over the past months, but first, this article introduces a band from New Zealand: Z Amigos!
Right before leaving for my son's good friend's wedding, I checked the mail and found a CD in the box. "Great," I thought, "Here's those Cracka Jack Crew CDs I'd been expecting!" "Wait a minute, that's Air Mail markings on the box! That'd be stupid for them to have done that! New Zealand! Wow, that got here lots faster than I expected!" (It took 5 days, according to the lady who sent the CD.) I figured I'd listen to the CD on the way to the wedding. I got dressed, and into the car. On the way down the driveway, I popped the CD into the player and the music began to play. Nice. Upbeat, acoustic, slight Latin American beat, then the vocals kicked in. I smiled, grinned, then laughed out loud. Imagine Mickey and Minnie Mouse singing a duet, with a rapper coming in from time to time. These guys are nuts!
Here's a quote from their website:
The music we deliver is an innovative mixture we like to class as "Trainwreck". It is a new genre comprised of elements from Pop-rock, folk, rap, heavy metal, heavy rock, country, reggae and more. With catchy tunes, silly humour, or serious messages of hope and justice, our music reflects our spirituality. We are Christians.
Yes, Z Amigos are in a class of their own. I am, however, trying to let you know what they sound like, so I'll try some comparisons. Mix the uninhibited weirdness of the Danielson Famile with the neat blends of musical styles of Sackcloth Fashion. Then stir in a little of Jethro Tull's flute magic. There's not a dud on that CD! All the tracks are great. Their Christian message is right up front, so they might have trouble reaching those who get scared at the mention of "Jesus," "Christ," or other words and ideas associated with Christianity and not merely generic spiritualism. I wrote down describers that came to mind as I listened. I came up with: acoustic, bizarre, eclectic, fun, creative, artsy, humorous, rock, latin, folk, rap, hip-hop, VERY pleasant praise and worship.
Now for the critical look. I'm listening to the CD again, in an attempt to pick it apart. I'll try not to be taken in by their charm. OK, the first track is pure fun. Perhaps a bit silly, but then again, they say they're in charge of fun, so what can I say about it. Track two, the hardest rocking on the CD, starts a slight bit off somewhere, but they pull it together in a few notes. On the vocals, maybe the rapper could simply increase his volume, rather than try the volume-increase along with a growl. They transition nicely into hard rock for the chorus, and back to slow mellow verses. Nice flute! Too bad the flutist will be leaving the band. Note to the band: When you replace the flutist, stick with a similar instrument. It just wouldn't work to have those parts played with a bagpipe, tuba or bongos. Now back to the review. Track three is a minor-keyed praise and worship song. I can't help but wonder what the rap would sound like without the "attitude". The song poses the very valid question, "How could Jesus love us after all we put Him through?" Track four explores the creative genius of a drummer with song-writing. It's a brilliant piece --particularly the drum solo at the beginning and the precise guitar work at the end. Track five is the token ballad which every band must have. Track six deals with failure. It's slow mellow spots give it a ballady feel, but it's also got touches of heavier rock. Track seven is an up-beat and fun song on distractions.
My wife is usually a skeptic when I say, "You've gotta hear this!" I hit her with those words and "We're in Charge of Fun" when she got home from work, but instead of an eye-roll, she gave me a "Wow! I've gotta have this as my office theme song!" Then she proceeded to ponder how to make her computer play on a motion-activated switch. She danced her way through the CD, and then the last song came on and she said, "Ooo! This one's good, too!" as she danced her way through dinner preparation. (I had mine already. It's not like I sat and waited for my slave to get home to fix me dinner.) If you need a way to brighten your day (and who doesn't?), check into Z Amigos. I can't wait to see 'em in concert! ("Can't wait," what a weird phrase --more like "don't want to wait.")
Christian rock is great, but Jesus is The Rock!
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