Michael Zentner: Playtime Label: Warped Records. P.O. Box 3084, Hollywood, CA 90078. © Warped Records, 1995. Michael Zentner is one oddball dude. Or at least he has fun playing at being a deep-space cadet. On Playtime Zentner navigates his way through a lyrical landscape that will appear familiar to fans of Brian Eno's early solo albums, Peter Murphy and John Palumbo. On this strange journey Zentner is aided and abetted by a cast of stellar musicians, many of whom are internationally recognized names. Because of the number of players on the record, the album careens around stylistically, covering an enormous amount of ground. Perhaps too much ground for one CD. The thing that one must come to grips with on Playtime is Zentner's voice. If you're okay with Eno, David Byrne, Murphy and the more odd stylings of Adrian Belew then he won't bug you. But if these guys grate on your nerves then Zentner will be hard to digest, and his excellent violin playing will get overlooked. This isn't what one typically thinks of as progressive rock. More along the lines of extremely quirky art-rock growing out of Peter Gabriel III and Thin-White-Duke Bowie. When I'm in the right mood this is a perfect album to put on, something so strange and whacked that I can revel in its warped-mirror images. If I'm in the wrong mood though, it's an instant candidate for the F-FWD button on the CD remote. For me, track three of Playtime is where the album starts to show its depth of character. Fluid guitar work and Gabriel III-ish drums (by Jerry Marotta) propel along Zentner's odd tale of obsession and persecution. I can't recall the last time I heard a tune with three (count 'em) world class bass players on it (Anthony Jackson, Percy Jones & Tony Levin). Fabulous stuff! From here we move through dark Peter Murphy territory on "The Watcher" (with some agile stick work by Levin) to the strange space-dirge "Take Me To Your Leader". By now listeners are either totally mesmerized by how odd Zentner's voice is, and will let the album play through to the end, or will rip it out of the CD player, being ready to push him up against a wall and shoot him. Like him or loathe him, Zentner is a unique voice and a terrific instrumentalist, one that I'd love to hear in a live setting. Not afraid to take chances with his music, and not willing to back off from all his full range of quirky vocal nuances, he has delivered an album that suggests Peter Gabriel's early work to me more than anything else I've heard in a long time. Who might like it? Fans of the quirky world inhabited by Peter Murphy and some of the more rock oriented 80s King Crimson material. Definitely fans of Eno's Here Come The Warm Jets will get something out of this bizarre offering. Who might dislike it? Symphonic prog fans and most prog-metallers will probably barf at this. King Crimson fans who wish that Belew would just shut up might make Playtime into an instant frisbee. The best tracks: "By Myself", "The Watcher", and "High Bridge". The track that best represents Michael Zenter's deranged style: "Clean Machine". Star rating: 2 1/2 out of 5. This is a keeper..maybe. Ask me again next week. Personnel: Michael Zentner - voices, electric and acoustic violins, guitar synthesizer, keyboards. Drums by: Omar Hakim, Jerry Marotta & Simon Phillips. Bass by: Jeff Berlin, Anthony Jackson, Percy Jones, Billy S & Tony Levin. Stick by: Tony Levin. Guitar by: Jon Catler, Steve Caton, Ray Gomes, Robby Krieger, Michael Lawrence & Vernon Reid. Piano by: Dizzy Reed. Backing vocals by: Adele Bertei, Ty Parr, Otta Warrick & Susan Willett. Produced by Michael Zentner. Engineered by Jeff Lord-Alge, Michael Finlayson, Dave Jenkins, Morgan Winters, Matt Hathaway, Tony Smallos & Mark Wolfson. Mixed by Jon Mathias & Mike Rorick. The Tunes: 1. It Flows [5:30] 2. Clean Machine [3:28] 3. By Myself [4:24] 4. The Watcher [5:09] 5. Take Me To Your Leader [3:44] 6. Playtime [6:36] 7. The Whole Truth [4:44] 8. High Bridge [5:05] 9. Why Do People? [3:31] 10. Clean Machine (alternate mix) [3:21] Steven Davies-Morris (SDM) -- A 21st Century Schizoid Man firstname.lastname@example.org
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