Sunday, February 14, 2021

Mandy Zone & Ozone-Live At Max's Kansas City 1981; ugexplode Records, 2019


Often times, fate just is not fair to musicians. The story of Rock 'n Roll is especially strewn with unacknowledged real artists that toiled in total or relative obscurity before flaming out completely. Thankfully, the Age of the Reissue continues, and Disaster Amnesiac gets turned on to great, seemingly forgotten, sounds from the past pretty often, sounds such as those from Mandy Zone & Ozone. Ugexplode Records has done a great job with Live At Max's Kansas City 1981, which features killer live sets and several equally killer demos from this undeservedly obscure New York City Rock 'n Roll band. 

Vocalist Mandy Zone gave the Ozone not only their name, but also their sonic calling card, with his powerful singing voice. Mandy was clearly not afraid to emote with his incredible pipes. He hits high notes with ease, and seems to love doing that. Dig on Emergency for ample proof of that. His ripped heart emotionalism looms large over songs like Shotgun and Baby It's You. This is the kind of convincing singing, singing which goes wildly past "cool" and into the sort of "hot" emotion that needs to give no further convincing than its own action. Mandy meant it, and if you have ears to hear, you will. His banter on the live tracks seems to show an engaging, affable stage persona as well. Why did this guy not become a huge star? Hell, Disaster Amnesiac has felt while listening that most Hair Bands own him a debt of gratitude for inventing the 1980's strain of power ballad on The Chain. Listen to it and just try to tell me that I'm wrong! Along with his great vocals, Zone plays really great funhouse style keyboards that drive the tunes; try the demo version of Broken Toy or the live version of 19 Teleporter to hear how well his playing did this. They're equal to any of Ozone's contemporaries who were dealing in the same aesthetics, and the latter song rivals just about any Hawkwind for Space Rock prowess. 

Guitarist Jon Pilkington proves to be equally versatile. Disaster Amnesiac has noted many different spices within his six string stew, from early Rock 'n Roll to Glitter to the then current Hardcore Punk. His rhythm playing is chunky and full on songs like Dawn and Born To Raise Hell, swaggerin' along with the songs' changes. His solo voice is simultaneously eloquent and ripped. Pilkington is a great player that clearly deserves more accolades.That's what guitarists generally desire, right?

The rhythm section of Tommie Moonie and Tedd Dolhon stomps and churns with rocking authority that keeps the songs moving with lightning grace. Dig on the cut time swing on Rockie Fever and Shotgun and try not to bop your head in sync with them.  The demo versions of Ozone's tunes have them a bit more restrained, but, man, the live stuff swings like crazy. If Rock 'n Roll is about setting forth a runaway train, Moonie and Dolhorn are damn fine conductors. Check out Lay Away Plan to hear what I'm talking about! 

Mandy Zone & Ozone sound to Disaster Amnesiac like a band that was rooted in past forms but also looking forward to the future within their sound. Live At Max's Kansas City 1981 shows a band  that could have and really should have gained a wider audience. Their sound is creative and catchy, and it's a real head scratcher as to how and why they did not get past their local circuit and out into the mainstream. The tunes on this album are of a high enough caliber to have done so. That said, it's great that we can hear them now or in any other time going forward, for they seem pretty timeless to me.

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