This is a strange one, even by schlock-rock stan­dards – imag­ine a cross between Rush and Led Zeppelin (plus a dash of Yes), com­plete with a lead singer who has absorbed the styl­is­tic tics of the singers from each band.  Then, imag­ine said band play­ing a radio-slick fusion of hard rock, prog and AOR, deft­ly jux­ta­pos­ing FM rock moves with AM pop hooks.  Zebra’s debut album offers this kinet­ic bundle of moods and styles  — and then some.

Zebra start­ed in the mid-1970’s as a club band that spent years build­ing up fol­low­ings in New Orleans and New York, divid­ing their stage set between cov­ers and orig­i­nals.  By the time they got their record con­tract in 1983, they had cre­at­ed a schlock-rock fusion they could tru­ly call their own.  Some of the songs on here were as much as five years old by the time they were record­ed so each tune is high­ly pol­ished, with every hook neat­ly arranged in its prop­er place.  The pun­ters liked it, result­ing in album that was Atlantic’s fastest-sell­ing debut record of that era.

The big radio hits were “Tell Me What You Want,” a swag­ger­ing tune that has singer Randy Jackson doing his best Robert Plant ban­shee-wail over a stomp­ing melody that pits cock-rock gui­tar riffs again­st sleek, Rush-style synths, and “Who’s Behind The Door?,” a tru­ly bizarre mini-epic about alien encoun­ters that starts off like Zep’s “Over The Hills And Far Away” but ends with a syn­th extrav­a­gan­za that recalls the end of Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.  Amongst the album tracks, the good­ies include “As I Said Before,” a tidy speed-rock­er that could fit in on an ear­ly Rush album, and “The La La Song,” a tune that ris­es above its goofy title with a wild prog-rock arrange­ment full of head-spin­ning time changes.

The album fur­ther ben­e­fits from sleek yet mus­cu­lar pro­duc­tion by Jack Douglas (Aerosmith, Cheap Trick), so the whole thing sounds as con­fi­dent and radio-ready as a great­est hits album.  Needless to say, this is not for those who can’t dig the influ­ences name-checked in the first para­graph but fans of clas­sic-rock radio will feel like they have dis­cov­ered a trans­mis­sion from the Classic Rock sta­tion on Bizarro World.