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Start Where You Stand -  PR   review  -  2023

By Robert Stevens
RockRose Music PR

2022 will be remembered for a lot of things – unfortunately a lot of it bad including the increasing polarization in American culture and its political system, a proxy war in Ukraine, threats of new mandates as well as an uptick in senseless violence at home and abroad. Amidst the chaos of so many atrocious things happening, the release of the 2022 Zan Zone album Start Where You Stand is a Godsend and is up there at the top of the feel good events of 2022. As remarkable as the 2018 Zan Zone album, It’s Only Natural was and still is, the release of Start Where You Stand takes the band’s sound and supercharges everything good about the band puts it all together on an album that is a musical game-changer.

New to the Zan Zone fold following the departure of vocalist Sabrina Cleary, and fitting right into the 2022 Zan ZoneStart Where You Stand line-up, Angela Watson Modeste joins group creator Zan Burnham (songwriter / guitarist /vocalist),Philip Dessinger (vocals / songwriter), Arianna Burnham (vocals) and the powerhouse rhythm section of Saadi Zain (electric / acoustic bass) and Marko Djordjevic (drums / percussion). Praising the new vocalist, Zan says, “Angela Watson is an answer to a dream and a prayer. We needed not just a new female lead singer, but an awesome one, and we surely found it in Angela. While she sings on most of the songs, she only has 2 & 1/2 leads and we hope to get her to sing more and more as time goes on.”

To say Start Where You Stand features some of the most inventive and insightful rock music compositions and dynamic musical interplay of the 2020’s would be a gross understatement.Start Where You Stand reveals and stresses the panic that gripped the entire planet during 2020–2022 and that distress is totally mirrored in the lead off track “Bad Dreams”.Musically,“Bad Dreams” introduces Start Where You Stand with an innocent, low-key guitar into lick that quickly sets the scene for a solid rock arrangement. Lyrics suggest fear and loathing of the last two and a half years with haunting verses.

I see signs everywhere
There’s more and m
ore and I am frightened
Such terrible scenes, brought to bear
It’s so surreal and such a bad dream...

The title track “Start Where You Stand” was written by Phil Dessinger and it’s clearly among the best songs on the album. Ostensibly, it’s an anti-war song and the emotional bridge, sang in moving 4-part vocal harmony, is a plea for sanity in the world where the threat of nuclear war is becoming more real with every day that passes.With Phil’s lyrics laced with peace-nik truisms we’ve heard for the past 50 years, the song strikes a chord for those lucky enough to be born in the 1950’s and that lived through the Vietnam era up until when John Lennon was gunned down on West 72nd Street. Looking for an anthem for the millennium?


Then this song is the one.
World please - hear me,
There’s no master plan,
Start where you stand

Zan takes the vocal mic for a fresh remake of his chestnut track “Watching The World Go By”. This new version on Start Where You Stand is a noticeable sonic improvement on the original, recorded on the 2004, 5-track Zan Zone CD Ep release of Watching The World. Laying down a series incredible electric guitar riffs and solos, Zan duets with Angela Watson on a track that borrows from both The Beatles and Frank Zappa. A classic song to begin, “Watching The World Go By” sets a new standard of intensity in the world of modern rock. The middle section speaks about the concerns of the environment, laughing with the Buddha and manages to tie it all together with roundabout suggestions about reincarnation. Only native New Yorker Zan Burnham could produce a rock anthem with lyrics filled with as much rage and relevance and with a guitar solo that rivals the best of them to boot.
Got my promises to keep
And I’ve got roads to fit my feet
It all goes by in the wink of an eye
In the best line of the week - yeah yeah yeah!

That Zan Zone chemistry is in full force on “I Won’t Live A Lie” with Zan and Phil trading off lyrical barbs and lances. In this track’s lyrical onslaught, Zan takes on the political establishment and lays down some blistering assaults on the propaganda we’re being forced to swallow in the 2020’s while communicating about one being prepared to die before he even tries to be a slave to fake news. For the record Zan states, “The mainstream news is generally filtered through various corporate and political ideologies, and is essentially completely untrustworthy. My song is quite at odds with their whole philosophy.”


Oh I! I won’t live a lie
Die! Gonna die before I try

The 2018 Zan Zone album, It’s Only Natural opened with an instrumental track, “For The Rising Sun”, while Start Where You Stand features not one but two new Zan Zone rock guitar instrumentals. Never let it be said that Zan Burnham will ever pass up an opportunity to record at least one instrumental per album. On Start Where You Stand, Zan has sculpted a 2-track sonic meeting in his mind’s eye filled with sonic soundscapes called “Extinction: Rebellion” and “Extinction: Romp”. With the former a solid track highlighting Zan laying down some mind-blowing hard-rock guitar grooves. The track benefits from interplay with the Zan Zone rhythm section of Saadi Zain (electric / acoustic bass) and Marko Djordjevic (drums / percussion). This trio of musicians was also central to “For The Rising Sun” and on the two ‘Extinction’ tracks Zan proves that a rock band can also write and record astonishing, super melodic rock instrumentals that will appeal to fans of David Gilmour and Jimmy Page.

"Extinction: Rebellion" - A great build-up to an explosion of action, activity, and combustion, leading to a climax, and then destruction, followed by a nightmarish, other-worldly afterworld, and even that too, collapses… The other number, “Extinction: Romp” is more about how we’re all full of frolic and jolly, ‘romping’, as we gallop headlong towards the edge of the cliff…" - Zan Burnham

The story behind “Baby Cried” goes way back to the mid 1990s when Zan featured vocalist Donna Bersch in the band. As many will soon hear, Donna was also a fine songwriter too and wisely Zan has chosen to dig into the vaults and use the track to showcase new Zan Zone singer Angela Watson and she does a great job highlighting the soulful, bluesy vibe here. Of course, this song is very poignant considering Zan’s wife Marilyn passed away last year and while listening, you can daydream in a tearful, sense of longing and reminiscing. A song of hope and regrets at the same time, “Baby Cried” would have made a great Temptations or Stevie Wonder song back in the late 60s, only Zan Zone got it first.
Baby cried herself to sleep last night
She wasn't counting the sheep oh no
She wasn't counting the stars so bright
She was counting all the dead and gone
She'd known in her short, short life

The humorously titled “THAT” is a Zappa-esque track filled with a myriad of lyrical concepts. As much jazz as rock, the track is a tour-de-force featuring the intertwining vocals of Phil Dessinger and Angela Watson. Filled with sensual come-on lyrics, Zan says this 3-part song is about betrayal, lust and life. The track is a brilliant showcase for Zan’s dazzling acoustic guitar work and studio sound effects and the celebrated 4-part Zan Zone harmonies. The essence of generative human existence is given the face-to-face Zan Zone treatment on “THAT”.
In time, it all gets twisted in vines and old wines
Wounds of my restlessness, my consciousness
My heart and soul laying there in these lines

One of Zan Zone’s most unnerving songs can be heard on, “One Step Ahead Of The Red”. Written together by Philip and Zan, the song reveals just how fertile the songwriting interplay is between these two gifted musicians. Zan says it’s about the futility of just barely surviving the costs of a world of unchecked inflation, pure greed and incompetence. A song filled with piercing, emphatic lyrics, “One Step Ahead Of The Red” also features another killer guitar solo that Zan says is inspired by Eric Clapton during the Derek & The Dominos era.

The bells they toll
Pipe organ playing
Frankincense in the air
Muffled cries
Solemn procession
Hands rise up in prayer
The centerpiece of Start Where You Stand, “Survival” is a true ode to humanity and another cry for the environment. The best example of Zan’s cynical yet simultaneous optimistic call for society to slow down and smell the roses. Anti-war yes, but in a way that brings the endangered existence of the planet into a keen focus. A good example of Zan Zone’s multi-layered vocals, “Survival” was a favorite of Zan’s late wife Marilyn and the lyrics page in the CD features her notes. Zan says the song is influenced by The Who and that the four part harmonies are also influenced by Brian Wilson’s layered vocal arrangements.

Survival - we really ain’t got it easier
Then every other living thing

“Hot And Cold” follows “Survival” and it’s also a track filled with Zappa-like lyrical pivots and turns. Relationships, growing old, the quest for fame and fortune once again put under the Zan Zone psychoscope. “How And Cold” is another great example of how Zan and Phil trade off lyrics like a relay team moving with concentrative swiftness. With the chorus ringing in your ears, Zan’s guitar soloing is once again truly astounding. Zan says that “Hot And Cold” has kind of a Little Feat sound to it and lyrically, the song is about discovering the truth in life, even if the lessons are hard.

Ev’rybody’s lookin’ for the good life
I’m just lookin’ for a place to run
Ev’rybody’s lookin’ for the good wife
I’m just looking’ for a little shade in the sun
It’s so hot - and cold

The lessons we all face and learn about life can be heard in all its glory on “Holdin’ You Tight”, the soulful R&B/reggae ballad that closes Start Where You Stand. A fine showcase for Zan Zone vocalist Angela Watson, the song has a sense of longing in the lyrics that speaks of the memories we all have about love and life and how we need to preserve whatever is good in life, even if it’s just a memory. Zan says that Angela’s vocal performance of the song is among his favorites on Start Where You Stand and he also says that Saadi Zain’s bass work doesn’t get much better than this.
Holdin’ you tight - memories live on in some strange way
Holdin’ you tight - and I wouldn’t trade our last night for any other day

With the CD currently praised and acclaimed by noted music reviewers globally, the question is: will mainstream FM rock radio in the 2020’s be bold enough to play an album filled with thought-provoking songs and rarely heard lyrical ideas. Not since the heyday of the 1960s and early ‘70s, and such writers like John Lennon and Phil Ochs, have such steadfast lyrics been recorded and released on an album filled with so much acuity and unbounded perception. In the decade before Start Where You Stand, Zan Zone released Shorts in 2013 and then It’s Only Natural in 2018. As great as those two albums are, Start Where You Stand eclipses state-of-the-art rock music and in doing so, takes us back to the essence of unforgettable musical heights.

Written 2023 by: Rob Stevens @ Rock Rose Music PR
Total album time (58 minutes)
1. Bad Dreams 4:51 2. Start Where You Stand 4:53 3. Watchin' The World Go By 5:58
4. I Won't Live A Lie 4:37 5. Extinction: Rebellion 4:42 6. Baby Cried 3:41 7. THAT 5:32 8. One Step Ahead Of The Red 5:05
9. Extinction: Romp 4:04 10. Survival 5:29 11. Hot & Cold 5:14 12. Holdin' You Tight 3:13

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