Recorded live in 2006 at the House of Blues in New Orleans and at The Downtown in Farmingdale, New York, Zebra: The DVD is part concert disc, part drama-free band autobiography. It offers up choice, meat-and-potatoes rock ‘n’ roll cuts from a group that’s been around more than 30 years, nicely interspersed with a chronological recounting of the band’s formation in Louisiana all the way through its big break in New York City.
Comprised of lead singer Randy Jackson (no, not the American Idol guy), bass guitarist Felix Hanemann and drummer Guy Gelso, Zebra got together in the mid-1970s in New Orleans, as a Led Zeppelin cover band. They sprinkled in a few of their own tunes as well, and had soon won over a legion of local fans. Initially selling their own musical craftsmanship and technical talents over any pretense of artistry worked well for the local scene, but it left them on the outside looking in when it came to easily landing a record deal. A couple abortive meet-the-labels trips to New York made for some frazzled nerves, but a New Year’s Eve show opening for Rat Race Choir in 1976 helped pave the way for bigger things. WBAB 104.3 deejay Bob Buchman eventually started spinning their demo, anchored by “Who’s Behind the Door,” and talked up the group to Jason Thom, current chairman and CEO of Atlantic Records, but then a fresh-faced, 22-year-old A&R underling just set up by his big-shot lawyer daddy.
Engrossing stories like these stud Zebra: The DVD, and help contextualize the songs, which include the aforementioned single, “As I Said Before,” “Wait Until the Summer’s Gone,” “Light of My Love,” “But No More,” “One More Chance,” “No Tellin’ Lies,” “Tell Me What You Want,” “The La La Song,” “Bears” and “My Life Has Changed,” among others. A nice 25-minute set-up gives the history of the band, and the concert cuts play out over the course of another 90 minutes and change. Between tunes the band offers brief words about the history of the song and its inception, or a celebrity fan (The Tonight Show‘s John Melendez, say) pops up to introduce it. On the surface this might seem to rob the disc of momentum, but it actually worked well, in my opinion. Some of the interview claims herein (a six-hour send-off gig in New Orleans?) stretch credulity, but Jackson and all the guys are so affable and down-to-Earth that you don’t begrudge them a momentary exaggeration.
Housed in a regular Amray case, Zebra: The DVD is presented in 1.33:1 full screen, with crisp picture and a solid, Dolby digital 5.1 surround sound audio track. A seven-minute, stand-alone promo on the DVD itself is included, as well as 15 additional minutes of extra interview material. There’s also six-plus minutes of cool behind-the-scenes material with Hanemann, as he hosts a mini-garage walk through, showing off old T-shirts and other memorabilia from the band’s early days. To purchase the disc via Amazon, click here. For more on Zebra, click here, says the DVD. B (Movie) A- (Disc)