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Zen Rock and Roll: The Birthright Circle

On his second album, composer and multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Saunders performing under the name Zen Rock and Roll evokes elements of old-school (mainly British) progressive rock, world music and even 19th and 20th century art music. Featuring only four songs (three of them shorter than any track that appeared on Zen Rock and Roll's 2002 debut, End of the Age), The Birthright Circle runs the gamut from majestic symphonic rock on opener "Thanatos" to melancholy exploration a la classic Genesis and Yes on the 23-minute closing epic "Circle." In between, there are the lyrically sad yet musically bright-and-bouncy "Richard," based at least in part on the poem "Richard Cory" by Edwin Arlington Robinson, and the vintage-Kansas-tinged ballad "Anthem," which despite its agnostic tone is easily the closest Zen Rock and Roll comes to a traditionally structured song. The Birthright Circle boasts demanding material that challenges listeners. But then again, isn't that what progressive rock is all about?

Track Listing:
1) Thanatos (7:16)
2) Anthem (5:48)
3) Richard (9:14)
4) Circle (23:06)
Total Time: 45:23

Added: November 27th 2004
Reviewer: Michael Popke
Related Link: ProgRock Records
Hits: 4310
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Zen Rock and Roll: The Birthright Circle
Posted by Greg Cummins, SoT Staff Writer on 2004-11-25 19:46:49
My Score:

I have to confirm Mike's comments on this albums appeal as it certainly opens with a flourish on the track, "Thanatos" with plenty of bounce-to-the melody and singalong style of arrangements.

"Anthem" is straight out of Kansas school with its rich vocals and catchy melody while "Richard" opens with some engaging church styled organ leading into some rather clean cut guitar lines that remind of bands like Camel, Saga, Supertramp but more probably, Kayak. The song is very accessible as are all the songs on the album but it is the 23 minute epic that engages the listener with a lot more dynamics and versatility. With plenty of ideas that flow and ebb, this epic is really well conceived and proves admirably that one mans talent can often be enough to compose a minor classic. Rich keyboards accompanied by some very melodic vocals, appropriate strings and flute give this song plenty of depth and breadth.

Although I have not heard the first album, you can certainly do no wrong with this follow up if you prefer your music on the softer side of the fence. Recommended!

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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