ZEN ROCK AND ROLL – Undone (2011)
“Undone” is the third album from Zen Rock And Roll, the solo project of multi-instrumentalist and part-time musician Jonathan Saunders, who supports his music with a daytime job as a software engineer.
Saunders has a lengthy musical background, although much of it consists of playing in a variety of Top-40 and cover bands, including a Led Zeppelin tribute band that spent much of the late nineties touring the United States.
Since then, Saunders abandoned the touring life following this experience, preferring to focus on solo efforts in his own home studio in Tennessee, and releasing the material under the pseudonym Zen Rock And Roll.
Jonathan Saunders is a classic prog devotee, his music is steeped heavily in keyboards and mellotron, with complex arrangements and layers of percussion and digital sound effects.
But on this new album, he is exploring his more commercial side.
“Undone” has early light sympho Prog elements for sure, but a strong Melodic Rock essence blended with American Classic Rock. At times it reminds of Yes merged with Styx, a little Queen here, a bit of Ambrosia there, even some more obscure favorites like City Boy or Gentle Giant.
Saunders has a voice that sounds close to Dennis De Young of Styx and some on the music on this album brings back memories of early Styx albums without the power of a strong group supporting.
The music is definitely keyboard driven like early Styx, and the vocal harmony helps to re-enforce the similarities.
“All In The Dark” offers an interesting vocal arrangement and some odd keyboards, with some late seventies AOR touches.
“At The First Glance” is more up tempo, it has some retro prog sounds but also a vintage melodic rock feel with similarities to City Boy, particularly on the vocals.
Title track “Undone” has a light melody, somehow like Genesis meets Journey without the heavy guitars. Interesting.
“Antiquated Love Song” is one of the tracks on the album that truly captures the early Styx sound, mixed with an early Queen piano-songs influence as well. The addition of a flute gives this song a magical touch. Truly a great tune.
On “Concerto For The Original Sinners” is where Jonathan embarks himself into pure prog. This is a cinematic composition, full of wonderful keyboards and dramatic movements. Also has great Mellotron getting in, it then does a bit of a turnaround after seven minutes and drives a pulsating electronic beat when suddenly the synthesizers wash over you in symphonic glory at the end of its almost 15 minutes. Electrifying experience.
“Undone” offers really good moments of music, from light prog, sometimes symphonic, blended with retro melodic rock and some nice vocal arrangements.
There’s also some food for the most pure progressive listeners on the long (and interesting) instrumental suite.
Zen Rock and Roll it’s one man project but you almost cannot recognize the ‘one-man-ism’ here, as all sounds really integral and well played / mixed.
Creative and captivating, “Undone” is a disc that anyone with musical curiosity will want to hear.
1. All In The Dark (4:16)
2. At the First Glance (6:03)
3. Undone (3:30)
4. Antiquated Love Song (4:19)
5. Strange (4:15)
6. Concerto for the Original Sinners (14:41)
7. Lament (2:14)
Jonathan Saunders: Vocals, All instruments
BUY IT !