Independent release, 2007
REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/09/2007
Zagoras is no Satriani, but he's a solid blues/rocker who probably puts on a hell of a live show. Founder of the band Rollover, Zagoras tore up the Chicago area for a while and then went on tour with Satriani, Sheryl Crow, Blues Traveler, Cheap Trick and of course Hot Tuna (the benchmark in any band's career). The band also toured with Jimmie Vaughan, and bits and pieces of his brother Stevie Ray's work are evident throughout Twenty Fingers.
Nominally, the disc is blues rock, although a strong alternative vibe runs through it, almost like Zagoras wrote songs with the Gin Blossoms in one ear and Clapton in the other. The pop sensibility tempers the raw vibe that a true blues rocker can bring, but that doesn't mean the music is bad -- just aimed at a different audience.
The only appearance of Zagoras' old band is a re-recording of "Waiting For The Sun" from the eponymous 1996 Rollover album. Coming near the beginning, it's a joyful slice of power pop blues, if there could be such a thing. Much like Satriani, Zagoras knows that guitar heroics can add to a song instead of define it, and his fills throughout the disc and "Sun" bring home the point that a guitar hero need not take center stage to be the hero.
Conversely, this is where the disc suffers. Zagoras has an impressive touring pedigree, as do his players on this disc, but many of the influences are classic rockers and this sounds a little bit like a classic rock disc as filtered through 1994. The sound is at once familiar -- check out the acoustic strums and gentle drums of "Loveland," the harmonica intro to "Last Time Trouble's Gonna Be," as close to a Dylan song as has been recorded this year, or the Dire Straits-esque "Never Sounded Better," had Mark Knopfler been part of Toad the Wet Sprocket. And if "New Day" isn't paying homage to John Lennon, I don't know what is -- straight off the White Album, this one is.
I realize that's a lot of musical reference, but it's necessary because Zagoras never really stakes out his own sound here, nor do many of his songs have enough solid hooks to remain truly memorable. But this is still a good CD, a solid journeyman effort by session musicians and touring veterans that would play well in any bar or movie soundtrack (some of Louie's songs have been used on TV shows and movies, actually).
For a self-produced solo outing, Twenty Fingers is pretty impressive. Certainly, the strong Beatle overtones of "New Day" (complete with organ work, harmonized vocals and barely-audible church bells) make it a very good song. The highlight would be the title track, a plethora of blues riffs, solos and controlled intensity that merits hearing a lot. "Coming Home" is another tune from the playbook of 1993-era alternative radio and is better than many singles to actually come out of that era, while the deceptively simple "Here We Go Again" is the emotional high point of the disc.
Things close with a pair of covers, a beefy take on Hendrix's "Spanish Castle Magic" with some fantastic, Satriani-like solos but slightly too-loud vocals, and an electrified "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" with a snippet of "America The Beautiful" opening it up. The reverb-drenched, amped-up piece is played and presented very much like Hendrix's "Star-Spangled Banner" at Woodstock -- that is, a welcome deconstruction of a classic -- and it's both bracing and revealing.
I don't feel any different having heard this disc, but the rewards are enough to make it interesting for anyone who cares to venture. Meant for classic rockers and alternative rockers, or those who wonder what a power pop band like Switchfoot could do with guitar pyrotechnics, Twenty Fingers is rarely original but sublimely entertaining and, like Satch says, a joy to listen to.