Private Shangri-La review by mlwz.pl
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...Zip Tang, as a trio (apart from Merritt including Fred Faller (dr) and Ruda Wolfe (bg)), ...presents a new album of eleven songs.
The personnel change did not bring the essential stylistic volt. Well, maybe apart from the lack of saxophones in the instrumentarium. So it's more of a correction, not a revolution. This fact will probably please listeners who are afraid of change. Music Zip Tang is still quite an eclectic (prog) rock with numerous sound breaks and frequent changes in tempo and signatures. Perry Merritt is more than a competent singer who has a natural gift to sense where to put accents, when to sing louder, when quieter ... In a word, he knows how to use his voice. He introduced in a rather chaotic sounding band music a bit more harmony, refreshing and ordering the structure of individual songs. He gave some of them the character of good rock songs that can quickly be memorable. In this respect, Zip Tang's music has been simplified on "Private Shangri-La." Less Zappa, more of Pain of Salvation or Symphony X, less improvisation, more harmony, less fusion, more precision and order.
It's all just subtle changes. So those who, years ago, have liked the previous achievements of this Chicago-based band, certainly will not be disappointed. "Private Shangri-La" is a good, reliable and, most importantly, convincing album.
Private Shangri-La review by Joachim 'Joe' Brookes rocktimes.de
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There were only three musicians left. Zip Tang's keyboarder and saxophonist Marcus Padgett has left the band stage. The sounds of the woodwind instrument are missing, but not the keys. Is the Chicago-based progressive rock trio now limited in its abilities?
...If you think that just because a saxophonist is not on the starting line, Zip Tang would have removed the jazzy digressions from his offer. The guitar by Perry Merritt can also be this genre. In addition to many breathtaking, musical-winding serpentine journeys into ever-thinning air layers, there are also moments of contemplation and inner peace. Down-to-earth rock of the imaginative kind and with a lot of drive phases of the sound world of an acoustic guitar almost inevitably provide an obvious breeding ground and special spotlight.
Perry Merritt is busy. He serves guitars as well as synthesizers and sings. Exceptions also confirm on "Private Shangri-La" the rule. In "Plastique Hey-Zeus" bassist Rick Wolfe raises his voice. Hard beat and pumping bass open up a rocking happening. With a change of rhythm, Perry puts Meritus guitar in scene and following the trio builds up a scenario of tempo variations. ...From the bed of the Blues develops in "Phantasmagoric Haze" Zip Tangs Progressive Rock. The bass drum initially offers a taste of the upcoming groove. The guitar lends itself to a few runs from the blues genre and in the midst of it comes to a wonderful quiet-melodic part, which is called later as a kind of flash more often. The lively Progessive Rock of "Phantasmagoric Haze" is in the sign of the 12-stroke.
"Cigarette Burns" has more of the musical dimension of a cigar. Gentle-energetic bass tones are superimposed by dust-dry guitar riffs and already shows how effectively Perry Merritt can handle the synthesizer. Impressive!
Zip Tang in 2015 still rocks in a complex way and finally the use of the acoustic guitar, which already makes itself useful in the opener, should not be missing. The wonderful song interlude "Lines" is only proof of that.
First, "Big Crunch" floats in higher spheres. From the space-glider ambience develops gradually a downright psychedelic mood. So the formation from Chicago with their crazy style mixes is a real alternative to many other bands of the genre. The fan of the style shows open-mindedness, because this melange is challenging.
"Private Shangri La" ends with another short track. "Iterum" is a coherent kind of sound collage with vocals and choir. Almost two minutes of synthesizer use without drums and bass. A great ending to an album...
Private Shangri-La review by Siggy Zielinski babyblaue-seiten.de
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...The change to a classical rock trio consisting of guitar, bass and drums has of course meant that the music is a bit more direct and that all three musicians act on an equal footing. Zip Tang's main inspirations now include The Who, Rush, Cream, Pink Floyd, Porcupine Tree and King Crimson. Maybe I would take Echolyn, Neal Morse and The Beatles. I can not hear Pink Floyd here, and the rather subtle and occasional influence of King Crimson may not be realized until you read it on the band's website. So on "Private Shangri-La" are melodic elements (which one would expect from US-Prog) alongside rocking passages that really seem to lie between The Who and Rush.
The compositions still remain varied enough to playfully switch between progressive rock and the elements of mainstream rock. "Big Crunch" surprises in addition by the lush arrangements, which - rather untypical for this album - go in the space-psychedelic direction. "Phantasmagoric Haze" starts out as a boogie-rock track, then comes up with complex transitions and surprising twists. Nice to hear how this is playfully put together, what does not really belong together. "Plastique Hey-Zeus" combines exciting rocking grooves with imaginative arrangements. "Delete the Hole" shows the listener how sophisticated rock compositions can be both blues-rocky and progressive-demanding at the same time.
To broaden the Spartan sound palette, guitarist and singer Perry Merritt uses acoustic guitars and accompanying keyboard instruments, as well as multi-track recording techniques. He also likes to elicit unusual sounds from his guitars.
"Private Shangri-La" offers a fresh and well-made mix of US prog and spirited mainstream rock that fans of such combinations should not miss.
Private Shangri-La review by Christian Rode babyblaue-seiten.de
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The reduced to a trio band still plays a melodic, American, modern prog, but rocking heaviness is more in the foreground, even if the music is already pretty playful proggig. Right on the opening track "Cigarette Burns", the Americans make one on "Punk Floyd." The closeness to the rock dinosaurs is not only evident in this piece, but also in the electric guitar solo, while the alternative rock scene lulls it The Prog of Zip Tang sometimes comes closer to the late King Crimson, while the harmony vocals can evoke associations with CSN ("Knowing"). Here and there are some beautiful crimsoid bumpy riffs and some psychedelic palpable ("Maniacal Calliope" Sometimes it rocks more straightforward ("Phantasmagoric Haze"), sometimes alternative-proggiger ("Plastique Hey-Zeus"), but these are just influences that enrich the bands already quite unique sound-cosmos.
In the big picture, rocking hardness in all its variations, harmonious vocals and intelligent arrangements nicely balance each other out. The songs are kept rather short, which supports the power rock impression. Those who appreciate the combination of intelligent hard rock and melodic alternative skirt should check in to this "Private Shangri-La".
Private Shangri-La review by Phillipp Roettgers betreutesproggen.de
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One year ago Zip Tang from Chicago released their fifth studio album "Private Shangri-La" in their own distribution. The band has become a trio ( Perry Merritt on vocals, guitar, synths / Rick Wolfe on bass and vocals / Fred Faller on drums) and blends their rock roots with progressive bonds, taking the album one step further than previous releases.
'Cigarette Burns' starts with spacey sounds and robot voice. The song creates a dark, threatening atmosphere that has a little bit of Dio s Black Sabbath . However, the acoustic guitar and the voice are more reminiscent of Roger Waters, the following hard part has something tricky about Porcupine Tree -like. The song lays the foundation for the rest of the album. A mix of progressive, rocking, jazzy elements. 'Knowing' is complex and rhythmically interesting, as something King Crimson.
The beginning of 'Big Crunch' is fantastic, one of the highlights of the album. If you want to compare, then maybe a little too Pink Floyd . But only maybe. The fact that the band has shrunk to a trio is - as often in the history of music - no evil. On the contrary! She acts so creative and virtuoso that one can already look forward to the successor of "Private Shangri-La".
Private Shangri-La Review by Rivertree @ Progarchives.com
Knowing ... what?
Due to their ambitious approach I once was pleased with the 2008 'Pank' album, though lost connection after that for what reason ever. Just right now in August 2015 the Chicago based band have a new album ready that shows them reduced to a trio - yet for the first time missing former keyboardist and saxophone player Marcus Padgett. Okay, where does the new ZIP TANG 2.0 expedition take us now? Hah! Easily to imagine really, when you're going to consider the album title. So much for the obvious knowing, or what?
Eleven songs are offered, provided with a lot of twists and turns. They are extending a quite unpredictable workout - yes, that stays even after several listening sessions. So I had to rewrite this a few times, since I occasionally faced problems to pin down the album for some mysterious reason. In any case they don't take it too seriously overall, well, this is not lacking of subtle humor ... just taking the album cover into account for example. Don't have the lyrics at hand, but in between I can hear them searching for the Plastic Jesus, oh yeah.
So let me pick Big Crunch to start with - maybe ambiguous, maybe freaky - musically the opposite of a crisis because my favourite excerpt - though possibly has a cosmological meaning too. There's certainly a psychedelic flavour to state on this occasion. Surprisingly I could detect a few references to other bands here at the very start - placed with intent or not - like Fates Warning's 'Still Remains' or 'Zoombiance' by Rinse, Repeat. And other diffuse reminders which I can't name until now. Food for thought, still. On top of it this just is part of a declared song couple.
Which means the acoustic guitar driven Lines comes prior. An excerpt provided with nice polyphonic vocals and yep ... inviting to sing along. You might sense it in the meanwhile - this album instantly won't be that accessible, like a pop oriented album would come along of course. A jazzy component takes a backseat (no sax, lesser keys) to the benefit of a more hard & heavy rocking attitude. It's Perry Merritt who has an important impact more than ever, due to the lead vocal and keyboard/synthesizer task, plus the whole guitar dominance, the latter often double- or even multi-tracked (rhythm and solo), also taking the acoustic part into account.
Rick Wolfe (punchy bass) and Fred Faller (lively drums) are suitable companions moreover, and this altogether - based on many overdubs - will guarantee a really lush and vibrant sound. Not a 'live in the studio' result with other words, I'm quite sure concerning the mix it took a bunch of hours to come to a final solution. Is it my pure imagination, or are they provoking a lot of references and relations? Some more examples needed? When the Cigarette Burns Perry counters with siren alike guitar. And they will offer us the opportunity to Delete The Hole via head banging. Or alternatively, is there anybody out there to stop the Maniacal Calliope?
Bang! Brilliant! Their private Shangri-La is a well thought out curiosity, which needed some time getting used to. Based on my experiences gradually the wonderful melodic contours come to the fore more and more, weirdness turns into trickiness. Shortened to a three-piece affair ... so what, this does not imply limited opportunities quite naturally - no, not necessarily. They compensate this with virtuosity and creativeness, and last but not least they are definitely able to rrrrrock the house! 4.5 stars so far!
ROCKTIMES - CD-Review / Zip Tang – Das Reboot (English Translation)
July 20, 2013
Chicago-based Zip Tang have stayed true to themselves, at least as concerns their independence. "Das Reboot" is their 4th album, and the quartet is continuing to stay clear of record labels and contracts. This self-determination also lies at the root of their unconventional and partially obscurity-free music.
In my view, Zip Tang is the other progressive band whose freaky Frank Zappa references allows them to score points for their remarkable constancy. The twelve songs specified in the track list of "Das Reboot" vary from Zappaesk music to a parallel field remotely evoking Pink Floyd. Zip Tang not only features gorgeous layers of keyboards, but also different types of saxophones performed by Marcus Padgett. Originality is the keyword on this album.
Three of the four musicians employ their vocals remarkable effect. Adding to the exquisite lead vocals, the choirs help building dream castles of another kind. Even excursions into a cathedral are allowed, such as in middle section of "I'm Still Here". Brilliant! This interlude creates a vocal bridge between the dreamy, floating beginning, crunching rock featuring noisy guitar riffing and a massively arranged final section that threatens to rip the entire act from its moorings. Especially the guitars and the saxophone work out on a weighty level.
What happens in-between the opening track "Grain of Sand", featuring experimental approaches, and the above-mentioned final track "I'm Still Here" features numerous highlights. If you’re not familiar with Zip Tang, be warned that this album too delivers once again a ticket for a frantic roller coaster ride. And as is well known, once you’re in, there’s no going back during the ride, and during Zip Tang’s "Das Reboot", you will be taken through many unforgettable moments. But be warned... the quartet can be quite demanding on the listener. Open-mindedness is a basic assumption.
Seven and a half minutes is how long "Butterfly Tattoos" takes. And if you think this is going to be something dreamy, you’re wrong. There’s hardly time to breathe or calm down. The band also uses powerful dynamics and double leads to create violently rocking music. Using distorted vocals, Zip Tang serves "10,000 Nachos", featuring a naughty-sounding saxophone playing by Marcus Padgett. But rather than satiating you, ingesting this track will make you seek out a liquid capable of alleviating its musical heat. Hasta la vista! And here they go again, tickling our auditive tubes.
Zip Tang are unpredictable. "Das Reboot" is like a powerfully stretched bow, but these four artists never go so far as to stretch things beyond the breaking point. The band never seems to leave its own, ample universe. Apart from down-to-earth music, the listener is taken into worlds of sound whose existence one didn’t know of. On the whole, the band stays off beaten paths, walking a tightrope over a deep chasm. Don‘t ever look down! Zip Tang possess the equilibrium it takes to cross the abyss. Even after their 4th album, the band shows no faltering in fitness. "Das Reboot" is a melting pot. Stunning! We’d love to see them play in our country ... or at least experience through an equivalent sound medium.
Joachim 'Joe' Brookes
The North American band Zip Tang was founded in 2003 in Chicago, by Perry Merritt (guitar, vocals) and Rick Wolfe (bass, vocals). The line-up was completed with Fred Faller (drums) and Marcus Padgett (saxophones, keyboards, synthesizers and vocals). Under the name of "RPM", the band started out playing covers of "Steely Dan", "Santana", "The Allman Brothers", "Jeff Beck", and "Yes" - influences that are still present in their work. They changed the name for Zip Tang and released a debut album “Luminiferous Ether” (2007), which received excellent reviews from the specialized press.
The second album - “Pank” (2008) - was nominated for the “Just Plain Folks 2009 Awards” in the categories of “Best Prog Rock Album” and “Best Prog Songs” (with “Footprints” and “Katy”). A righteous nomination, indeed, for “Pank” rises above the level of excellence. It represents a step farther in the evolution of this talented quartet that must be reckoned for their high-quality musicianship. Although this album seems more “jammed” than the first work, the band is by no means retreating, but refining their style and originality.
The ever-changing rhythmic base is supported by drums that go from ethnical beats to Jazz and Experimental, and bass lines that may do strange mixtures of Heavy Metal, Jazz, Rock and Latino – remembering bands like "Frank Zappa", "King Crimson", "Traffic", "Steely Dan", "Yes", "Santana', "Return To Forever" and even "Primus". Guitars go from Jazz-Rock to Blues, including some heavier riffs, adding influences of "Cream", "Jeff Beck", "Allman Brothers", and "John Lee Hooker". Unusual passages of sax lead to inevitable comparisons with "Van der Graaf Generator", but genuine jazzy moods are also present in sophisticated passages, remembering the work of "Miles Davis" and even "Burt Bacharach". Different textures of keyboards cover the songs with a progressive air. Vocals by Marcus are mainly ironic, in the manner of "Zappa", or melancholic like "Pink Floyd".
“Pank” brings 11 tracks. The sound of inverted guitars and ethnical beats in the introduction of the opening track - “Footprints” - is a sign that Zip Tang is still warming up and great things are yet to come. In fact, many Pink Floydian melancholic vocals, psychedelic instrumental sections, and jazzy saxophones will be heard on tracks like “It’s in my Head“ and “One Last Beautiful Motion“ - the later brings a fantastic guitar solo – hovering, nostalgic and beautiful. One of the nominated songs - “Katy“ - is one of the best tracks. It is built over a heavy and tense bass line, ending on long passages of jazz and blues. The creative talent of "Robert Fripp" and the musical irreverence of "Frank Zappa" are ever present, celebrated on tracks like “Leaving Nothing“ and “Cicada Jam“ – both stuffed with experimental sounds and percussion, bringing that mysterious feeling of entering an exotic jungle. Zappa‘s irreverence is still present on the craziness of “Deitrich Crashed my Enzo“ and “You Call This Art?“, the later is trespassed by Hard Rock riffs and Blues solos – influence of "Jeff Back". Differing a bit from the rest of the album, “The Years“ is a kind of ballad that joins the acoustic guitars of "Allman Brothers" with the sax of "Van der Graaf". The remaining songs, “Pank“ and “Goodbye“, bring back the seventies in that jazzy-funky-Latin fashion of "Steely Dan", "Santana", and "Return to Forever", featuring many improvisations of bass, guitars, drums and sax. Particularly on “Goodbye”, the closing sax solo sounds like a farewell melody.
But please, Zip Tangers, don’t say goodbye – come back with a third! Zip Tang is highly recommended for lovers of Rock of the 70’s and fans of modern Progressive bands like "Flower Kings", "Neal Morse", "Spock’s Beard", "Black Bonzo", "Tiles" and so on…
(Comments by Marcelo Trotta - Progressive Rock Brazil E-zine)
Nowadays, the best expressions and attitudes of progressive rock are able to form eclectic mixtures, yet they mostly embrace independent striking values, being either classic, new-waved, drenched, alternative, powerful or sensible, underground or mainstreamed, artistically rooted or experimentally diluted. Up this kind of a scale, ZIP TANG, a four-piece band from Chicago, prefers to play something from the classic influences, the nice modern art and the bit of indispensable jam and "new music" - in a manner that, currently, gets optimistic praises, plus in a musically attractive empathy that can score, further on, more and more important progressive qualities.
The band is made of four musicians, all with both old-school and new-manner rock qualities. Marcus Padgett is vocalist and keyboardist, but most impressively he plays the sax. He mainly perfected, over years, a music of New-Age, Rock and Jazz wind-ups. Rick Wolfe, bassist and vocalist, played instead in a lot of bands, finding a good edge in hard rock. Perry Merritt is the third vocalist in ZIP TANG, but he essentially plays the guitar, under a style of moods and grips. Fred Faller is "only" a drummer, yet his bigger passions (culminating in soft Avant-Garde or pure Fusion) do reflect the essential precision.
Thanks to a powerful debut, called "Luminiferous Ether", which was heavily worked, produced and refined in 2006 and finally released in 2007, their music seems to approach "the irreverence of Frank ZAPPA with the majesty of KING CRIMSON and the vocal harmonies of YES". The band members also like to believe in the influences of artists like Steely DAN, PORCUPINE TREE, Kevin GILBERT or PHISH. The character of some pieces tend to be of an independent style and flash - thus, one or two such compositions work on a space rock tendency (or deep fantasy), PINK FLOYD being commonly referenced, others on fusion sound - and so. Finally, there is a clear sense of classic prog rock, since the band covers curiously, but strongly, EMERSON, LAKE & PALMER's "Tarkus", as a bonus treat to the entire album.
The modern rock air of ZIP TANG is essentially fresh, interesting to hear and slippery as art. Their great jam reminds, occasionally, of pure rock and new art. The firm classic influences are nice and beloved, but also rapid, carving ZIP TANG as both original and alternative in progressive rock's deep stream.
:::Victor "Philip" Parau:::(Ricochet) - ProgArchives.com
Some band sent me a link to their CD on CD Baby and it's classified as alt/prog. I listen to a few samples and it sucks. Big surprise yeah? Let me remind you,… I'm a prog snob. I don't like neo-prog or prog-metal, so I'm certainly not going to like alt/prog. I don't even like alternative rock that doesn't have progressive pretensions. Well, now that this is established, I feel much better and I can go on now. For some reason I keep looking at other listings from alt/prog bands and I see this listing for a Chicago band called Zip Tang. That's an amusing name I think, and I click on their disc Luminiferous Ether. I check out the song titles and their lengths. Only nine tunes mostly about six minutes long, here's one that's ten minutes long and………aaahh! I see those six little letters. Take my glasses off and stick my nose real close to the monitor, yes, it does say "Tarkus." I start listening to a few samples and it's good, it's all good, not just "Tarkus," but all of it. Wasting no time, I send them a message, get the disc and… here we are.
I tend to fall head over heels in love with a band every now and then, and I also tend to go a bit far with the hyperbole and usually regret it later. I'm going to try to limit my hyperbolic ranting this time, but if anything I've heard recently deserves to be raved about, it's Zip Tang.
If anything, Zip Tang is a
fun band (and the lyrics are occasionally funny, too)
and that is something that is very unusual in the
music I listen to. In caps now……FUN! Zip Tang is also
cerebral enough to satisfy any real prog fan as well.
Their cover of "Tarkus" alone should demonstrate that
well enough. Think Red Hot Chili Peppers and Ben Folds
meets Echolyn, Izz, King Crimson and Pink Floyd.
Vocals are handled by sax/keys player Marcus Padgett
(whose voice sounds to me like Echolyn's Ray Watson)
with brief appearances from bassist Rick Wolfe and
guitarist Perry Merritt. The songs are all group
efforts and the musicianship is top notch all
throughout the album. Next to Padgett's great sax
playing and his all too brief keyboard work, the real
musical star of Luminiferous Ether is
drummer Fred Faller who plays much like a cross
between the Chili Peppers Jack Irons and Dream
Theater's Mike Portnoy…. well, what Portnoy would
sound like if he could keep his ego under control and
if he had any taste (I must mock DT and Portnoy at
every opportunity). The liner notes say the disc was
recorded at ZT (Zip Tang?) Studios which is probably
one of the band members garage, yet it is the best
sounding self-released album I can ever remember
hearing. If they told me that this was recorded at the
Record Plant or Electric Ladyland studios with Jack
Douglas behind the board I would totally believe it.
Suffice it to say the sound is incredibly good. The
lyrics are clever and well written and some show a
healthy concern for food and drink. If you (like me)
spend a lot of time listening to bands whose lyrics
delve into karma, life before, during and after death,
ragging about religion and exploring the various
adventures of Orpheous, Salmacis or Odysseus you might
even find them a refreshing change of pace.
Tom Karr - ProgressiveWorld.net
Zip Tang is yet another Chicago area band that is treading new ground. By fusing elements of vintage progressive ie:(King Crimson/Pink Floyd/Camel) with a hint of Frank Zappa's humor, perhaps a bit of the old Canterbury scene, as well as modern rock sounds giving them a hip and modern sound. They consist of a four piece, of bass, guitars, drums and a multi-musician that does saxes, keys and vocals. The band plays a variety of styles as indicated, and more with an attitude of edginess and fun. While the band features a strong musical backing, the songs are vocal based, yet the backdrop of instruments beckons to be heard. Much in the way Zappa's vocals were merely another addition to the instrumentations that were constructed.
The sax of Marcus Padgett plays a prominent role in the band, in a way the older progfans may remember hearing from Ian MaDonald of Crimson, or even with Mel Collins on his contributions to progressive music, and of course Dick Parry's contributions with Pink Floyd. So the sax doesn't flavor the music overtly in a jazzy way, but simply adds a unique voice to the music, making for some memorable moments. Perry Merritt is the bands' guitarist, he has a retro feel about his playing, squarely cut from the hard rock sounds from the golden era, he provides many of the bands moods, with hard rock leanings and melodic sensibilities, the band never strays too far from their harder edged style, but will offer up some moments of mellowness. Merritts is not a fusion or metallized style whatsoever, he will remind you of the days where speed and articulate fretboard navigation were not in vogue for guitarists, but bends, hammer ons and offs, and squeezing a good sustain were important parts of a guitarists repertoire.
Is Zip Tang an important newcomer to the progressive scene? This is a question that many progressive rock fans ponder with many new artists, but in the end, it's always a matter of tastes, and a few matters of fact, one being, is the band doing something new? The answer here is, yes. Zip Tang is doing something new, by having an ear for the past and an eye on the modern attitudes of alternative music. They have managed to be both accessible and radio unfriendly, while most of the reflective glances in the sake of referencing the band's roots for inspiration are that of older bands, they certainly do not sound like a retro band whatsoever, they are very contemporary sounding. And are only bringing elements and hints of the retro vibe into their sound. MJ Brady - Proggnosis.com
Zip Tang is a Chicago-based
band playing an extremely tight progressive jazz-rock.
Their debut CD, Luminiferous Ether is incredible,
especially considering this is their first recording.
It's pretty obvious these guys are seasoned musicians,
their playing is precise and perfect, and they trade
melodies from one to another as if they are all part
of a mentally-linked hive mind (or as if they've
listened to some Gentle Giant before). Luminiferous
Ether is a collection of fine songs, with some
Zappa-jazz feel, a fair bit of hard-edged Fusion, an
occasional dash of blues and a whole lot of classic
rock'n'roll in the mix. There's not a song on the
album that's not really good, and several are just
plain spectacular, including the Zappa-influenced
album opener "Tower of Tuna".
Fred Trafton - GEPR.net