A two-disc set repackages the first two albums by one of the most inventive Afro-funk prog bands of mid-'70s Britain -- a group that was best regarded at the time, perhaps, as a spin-off from the headlining glories of If (saxophonist Dave Quincy) and Osibisa (percussionist Loughty Amoa), but is now best-known for uniting future Gillan mainstays John McCoy, Steve Byrd, and Liam Genockey. Firmly cast within the shadows of Osibisa, with extra added punch, the band never really escaped from the pub and small club circuit in their homeland, which is a shame -- their debut album, in particular, is a delightfully varied set, throwing in everything from seething rhythms to gentle harmonies, and every mood in between. Certainly they caused a stir when they toured the U.K. with Chick Corea's Return to Forever, at the height of his dalliance with the prog movement, and good as these albums are, it would be even better to unearth a live recording of the band at its peak. For now, the last of six bonus tracks, especially "Liamo," meet that need. Elsewhere, two unreleased alternative mixes include a guest appearance from Jeff Beck, while we also find single mixes of the first album's "Mr J" and "Amuso Fi," plus the preposterously pompous (but irresistible all the same) "Zardoz (Beethoven Opus 92)," a funk groove that really should last longer than its allotted two-and-a-bit minute lifespan. Ultimately, Zzebra were doomed to obscurity, with their third album not even seeing release during the group's lifetime. This two-fer, however, reminds us just how great they were, and how big they should have been.
AllMusic Review by Dave Thompson