German blues rock sensations Zodiac have amassed three excellent studio albums in their short career, plus toured with an impressive who's who of the current hard rock & metal scene, so it's rather timely that the band unleash their first live album, titled Road Tapes Vol. 1 on Napalm Records. Many of the classic '70s bands that Zodiac obviously worship had seminal live albums during their heyday, so it's no surprise that this scorching set is a great homage to some of those legendary concert records.
For those unfamiliar, Zodiac are comprised of Nick van Delft (Vocals / Guitar), Stephan Gall (Guitar),
Ruben Claro (Bass, organ), and Janosch Rathmer (Drums). They take their influence from classic acts such as ZZ Top, Free, Thin Lizzy, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Cactus, Deep Purple, Grand Funk Railroad, and Humble Pie, as well as modern acts such as Joe Bonamassa, Howlin' Rain and Rival Sons. Van Delft's smooth melodic vocals mingle well with scorching blues rock licks from he and Gall, with steady rhythms pushing things to the limit every step of the way. Plenty of strong selections from their previous three studio albums are represented here, like the muscular "Swinging On the Run", an emotional take on "Free", and the dramatic "Holding On", the latter containing some blistering lead guitar solos that will please any fan of Govt Mule's Warren Haynes. Speaking of the Mule, some might remember their live version of the Neil Young & Crazy Horse classic "Cortez the Killer" from a decade or so ago, well, Zodiac churn out a red hot, 9-minute example of their own here that sees the two guitar slingers delivering some scalding shards of molten guitar. "A Bit of Devil" is a heavy slice of '70s hard rock, complete with powerful vocals, thick grooves and booming riffs, while the lengthy slow blues of "Rock Bottom Blues" allows for Hammond organ and extended emotional guitar solos. The band launches into some upbeat boogie on the raucous "Diamond Shoes", whiskey drenched Southern rock on the slide guitar dominated "A Penny and a Dead Horse", blistering & heavy blues rock on the hard rocking "Moonshine", and epic prog & blues on a lengthy 15-minute run through "Coming Home", one of their most endearing songs. Jam fans will love the extended instrumental workouts on this version, the guitar solos especially mesmerizing from van Delft, who lives up to his status as guitar hero in waiting.
After digesting Road Tapes Vol. 1, my first thought was that it's a damn shame that this band doesn't tour here in North America, as it sounds like we are really missing out here on some sensational live music from this great young band. Hopefully that will change in the near future, but in the meantime, if you love '70s styled bluesy hard rock, this is a live album you'll need to hear.
- SWINGING ON THE RUN
- HOLDING ON
- CORTEZ THE KILLER
- A BIT OF DEVIL
- ROCK BOTTOM BLUES
- DIAMOND SHOES
- A PENNY AND A DEAD HORSE
- COMING HOME