Mark Burgess / Mark Burgess & The Sons Of God

Zima Junction

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Thankfully having nothing to do with the clear malt beverage marketed around the same time of the album's release -- Zima Junction instead refers to a poem by Yevgeny Yevtushenko -- Burgess' solo debut is the most stripped-down he's ever been. Without the awesome guitar power of the Chameleons or the slightly lesser but still fine abilities of the Sun and the Moon to support him, he instead created a series of mostly acoustic-performed, folk-tinged songs with the help of a variety of other musicians -- the then studio-only Sons of God. The sessions for Zima Junction were, in fact, actually demos for a more fleshed-out project that was planned but could not be recorded. As the songs stand, though, they're still quite fine, showing Burgess' singing and lyrical abilities especially remain unchanged. One ringer appears from a tribute album to close out the collection -- a lovely version of the Nancy Sinatra-sung theme for the James Bond film You Only Live Twice, with appropriate sample snippets from the movie dialogue. Another cover crops up at the end -- intriguingly, a version of Philip Glass' "Facades," with lyrics taken by Burgess from a Scottish poet. Otherwise this is all Burgess' work or, on a couple of songs, that of his then-collaborator Brian Glancy, a British singer/songwriter who takes lead on his own "Beat the Boat" and duets with Burgess on the comparatively more rocking "When Harmony Comes." "World on Fire" makes a fine start for Zima, brisk and passionate, and not a little dramatic, very much among his finest qualities. The delicate "Refugees," with only Burgess on guitar and vocals, is another good effort with a sharp chorus. No question, though, as to the total winner -- "Happy New Life," which has the sweep and passion of prime Chameleons without sounding like a clone of that band. Samples from Twin Peaks and Burgess' final passionate vocal are part of its many charms.

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