Ten years after their short-lived 1994 comeback effort, Akhenaton, Zao were suddenly back on tour in 2004, with founding members and co-leaders Faton Cahen and Yochk'o Seffer both on board, along with former Zao bassist Gérard Prévost, drummer François Causse, and Electro Deluxe singer Cynthia Saint-Ville handling the group's trademark zeuhl-esque vocals. With two dates lined up in Tokyo for June 2004, Zao recruited violinist extraordinaire Akihisa Tsuboy (of KBB fame) as a guest for both shows and went on to record those evenings. Two and half years later, Zao in Tokyo, Zao's first professionally recorded live album in 35 years of existence, came out. Question: was it too late? Answer: no. Of course, the band captured on Zao in Tokyo is a mature one, i.e., more technically proficient but a bit less driven or daring. Nevertheless, there is plenty of excitement here, and loads of strong solos from both Cahen and Seffer. The set list pulls out key tracks from the group's first four LPs, ignoring the Seffer-less 1977 opus Typhareth and 1994's Akhenaton. "Free Folk" and "Ronach" still have that early Magma charm, while "Zohar" is turned into a showcase for every single member of the band. Saint-Ville is a very warm and soulful singer; she brings a stronger human element against the complexity of the pieces than her predecessors. As for Tsuboy, he pulls off a commanding solo in "Zohar," but fails to really assert his presence elsewhere. Comparisons to former Zao violinist Didier Lockwood will work against him, but his subpar performance might be attributed to a lack of familiarity with the material. Although it has no new tunes to offer, Zao in Tokyo will make a nice addition to your Zao collection.
AllMusic Review by François Couture