Nearly seven years after the release of The Birthright Circle (2004), Zen Rock And Roll is back with the new album Undone. This project is the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Saunders, who recorded his debut album End Of The Age in 2002. On both albums he played all the instruments and he did the vocals as well. He also wrote most of the songs that are generally of a high calibre. These songs contain many influences from the seventies mainly due to the use of Mellotrons and analog synthesizers. Thus it was easy for me to compare his music to bands as Genesis, King Crimson, Pink Floyd and Yes, bands that were responsible for many great albums in the seventies.
However, while listening to Undone I noticed that most of the mentioned influences were gone. It seemed that during his years of absence - probably caused by health problems - he got in touch with other musical influences, but still with a progressive rock touch. This time no Genesis, King Crimson or Yes on the seven tracks of Undone, but Todd Rundgren seems to be the biggest influence. Rundgren is an American musician, singer-songwriter and record producer, who released fantastic solo albums in the past like Something, Anything (1972), A Wizard, A True Star (1973), The Hermit Of Mink Hollow (1978) and Healing (1981) alongside albums he recorded with his band Utopia of which Ra (1977) and Oops! Wrong Planet (1977) are probably the best. Just as Jonathan Saunders Mr. Rundgren recorded most of his albums on his own. Especially Saunders' singing resembles the voice of Rundgren a lot, but also his way of writing songs is quite similar!
Accordingly I had to judge the forty minutes of music on Undone in a rather different way compared to his former releases. After listening to the album a couple of times I discovered that the music cannot be compared to his previous work. I also determined that Saunders again released an amazing album whereby he had become an all-round singer-songwriter and musician. The songs seem to be emotionally stronger than on his earlier work. In my opinion the highlight on the album is the epic piece Concerto For The Original Sinners which contains some elements of classical music, but also experimental guitar parts that reminded me of King Crimson and Pink Floyd.
If you expect the same kind of music on the third album of Zen Rock And Roll as he recorded on his previous two releases than you might be either a bit disappointed or rather surprised. That depends of course on you personal taste. However, for me Undone is a very enjoyable album that certainly contains more than enough elements to call it great progressive rock music.
*** + Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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