Who IS Tommy Z? Well, you have definitely heard him before, but it's unlikely you remember his name. Tommy Z has been on a number of other musicians records for years, and what a diverse list it is, too: everyone from Flo & Eddie to Spencer Davis, from Aldo Nova to The Coasters, and more recently as part of the John Entwhistle Foundation Band, alongside Jack Bruce, Joe Lynn Turner, Buck Dharma, and Mark Farner just to name a few. Tommy has also put in some serious time as the keyboardist for Blue Oyster Cult from 1985 to 1988, appearing on Imaginos, and Club Ninja and the supporting tour that followed. It's no surprise then that Buck Dharma (BOC's Lead Guitarist) would contribute to one song on the album. While Tommy Z is primarily a keyboardist (and an extraordinary one at that), he plays almost all the instruments on the album except for the drums which were handled by Keith Crane. The new remaster also features two songs not on the original release: “Piano Improvisation”, and “The Rain In Florida” (about the 2000 Presidential Election in Florida and it's aftermath) featuring Jon Anderson of Yes on vocals.
The album opens up with a strong overture-like piece “Off The Coast”, which adds lay upon layer of synths, until it segues nicely into some storm effects on the second short track, followed by the in-your face song entitled “Storm Chaser”. Crunching metal-like guitars dominate the background and the synths build up to Buck Dharma's incredible guitar solos throughout the composition. Layers of keyboards and orchestral stabs dominate the soundscape as Tommy Z rides the waves of sound with a fantastic solo. This is just an outstanding tune (along with the two pieces that segue into it), and is the perfect introduction to the roller coaster of a ride that is the rest of the album.
“Infratech” is up next, with Tommy handling all the lead and melody pieces to this spritely tune. “Daddy You're The Bomb”, follows and Steve Jankowski rocks the house down with a fantastic introductory solo almost from the very start of the tune, trading licks off with Tommy's very Jan Hammer-like sounding synthesizer solos throughout the piece. This is a great song to have cranking out of the car stereo with the top down, zooming down the freeway.
After the relative chaos of the discs opening songs, the lovely “Indinaja” comes along with it's lush soundscapes and sweet solo; a positively beautiful work that also features some of Tommy's virtuoso piano playing. The title track “ZKG” is next and it's the longest song on the album clocking in at a hair under 7 minutes. A veritable potpourri of keyboards and stylings are on display here, and Tommy really gets not only the most out of his playing, but the fantastic sounds he mustered up on his synths for this one. What an outstanding track this is! Everything is on the table here, from a Hammond that would make Keith Emerson blush with envy, to a killer guitar solo by Tommy, to very-Rush like breaks in the musical structure along the way. Fantastic, fantastic song.
“Quadima” and “The Wizard” continue the fast, frenetic, and virtuoso pace of the album. The new “Piano Improvisation” is a short 2 minute piece that is a beautiful and welcome respite, before heading off to “The Evil That Lurks Within”, a slow majestic piece whose mood conveys what the title says. The grand finale is the new piece “The Rain In Florida”, with Jon Anderson's distinctive vocals and Tommy's fantastic piano playing.
Overall, this is a fantastic album from a musician who may not be a household name, but most assuredly deserves to be. Not a bad song on here, and it doesn't disappoint at all. If you're a keyboardist (or just like listening to lots of synthesizers and the like), you will be in ivory heaven. Highly recommended.
Reviewed by K. Austin Walsh on November 3rd, 2008