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Record Review Tuesday: Zadra Guiding Star

The first and only time I met August Zadra Music was at the very first Ultimate Jam Night when it was being held at a bowling alley in Hollywood. I did a record, for me, 32 interviews in one night!! There were some big stars there that night. August Zadra stood out among them. Just a genuine good human being and very talented. I’d been happy to sit and talk music and such with him all night. Over the next few years, I’ve spoken to people in his circle like Dennis DeYoung and Jeff Scott Soto and their take on the guy is the same. Now he’s released his first “solo” record. I’ve been looking forward to this. I think Dave‘s going to like it…..

Zadra is a new band featuring singer/guitarist August Zadra. You may know Zadra from Waiting 4 Monday and Dennis DeYoung’s band where he plays the role of Tommy Shaw. “Guiding Star” is their debut album and features many artists including Dennis DeYoung and Jeff Scott Soto.

The album starts with a short track “Come Together”. It sounds a lot like the way a Styx record would start with layered vocals and what sounds like an intro into an epic journey. It’s actually a lot what I was expecting given his work with DeYoung.

But that’s where the Styx comparisons mostly end. Yes, he does sound a lot like Tommy Shaw, but the album takes a more modern hard rock turn. I hear a lot more Eclipse and JSS solo stuff than I do Styx on the rest of the record.

“Nothing More To Say” clocks in at nearly six minutes of melodic rock. Zadra’s soaring vocals fit the style so well and we get our first taste of Soto’s backing vocals.

“Ship of Fools” sounds a lot like something you’d hear off an Eclipse record. It’s both heavy and melodic and everything I love about this genre. It’s not what I was expecting but it’s fantastic. Soto’s backing vocals add so much as well.

“Come Back To Me” sounds like a Waiting 4 Monday track. It’s a little less heavy with a little more keyboard and a noticeable bass line.

“Escape The Rain” is back to the hard rock. Zadra’s guitar playing gets overshadowed by his impressive vocals, but he certainly can play. Another melodic rock gem.

I’m not sure if I’d call “A Matter of Yesterday” a ballad but it’s certainly slower. We get a lot of Soto vocals on this one as well which adds a nice layer.

“I’ll Meet You In Heaven” is another catchy rocker. Soto’s vocals give just the right punch at just the right time. And have I mentioned that Zadra can really sing?

“Take My Hand” sees Soto get a songwriting credit and DeYoung on keyboards. As expected, we get a lot of Soto even in the verses which really works. His voice compliments Zadra’s without taking over, which is really saying something given Soto’s strong vocals. The song builds and actually is the one other song that has that Styx feeling to it. Cool track.

“Dream Of You” brings things down a little and settles into a mid-tempo catchy track. It has a very 80s feel to it, almost like something you’d hear on a Survivor record.

Things get rocking again with “Won’t Let Your Love Take Me Down”. Another track that reminds me of Eclipse which is a great thing. Some really strong guitar work here as well.

The album closes with one last rocker called “Rise From The Fire”. This one feels like a combination of progressive Styx and modern Eclipse. A strong finish to the record.

So this was a surprise. This record wasn’t even on my radar and now it’s the leader in the clubhouse, albeit fairly early in the year. August Zadra is truly talented and I’m excited to see him finally be featured and he should be a star.

Any fan of the newer rock bands that I’ve been reviewing and loving over the last few years should really like this record. But really any fan of melodic hard rock should dig this record. ~ The RIFF with Jack Trash