First Appeared at The Music Box, October 2001, Volume 8, #10
Written by T.J. Simon
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Trey Anastasio and his former Phish bandmates ought to be highly complimented by the work of Foxtrot Zulu. Anyone who ever wished Phish had a permanent kick-ass horn section with saxophone, trumpet, and flugelhorn will find Foxtrot Zulu's Burn Slow much to their liking.
Based in Rhode Island, Foxtrot Zulu is a seven-piece band led by rhythm guitarist and singer Nate Edmunds. On Burn Slow, he is supported by harmony vocalists, a fantastic percussionist, and a horn section — all of which collectively overshadow everything else the group tries to accomplish on this groovy release. Though there is a lot of music happening throughout the disc, each of the dozen tracks tends to meander as long instrumental interludes are peppered with punchy horn blasts, and bongo solos bounce over funky guitar riffs.
Burn Slow begins with Ryders, which has an immediately danceable groove reminiscent of the early horn-based music of Chicago (the group, not the city) before it became a lite-rock radio staple. The strongest cut on the album is Moe's Diner, a number with several soulful tempo changes and sax interludes that climax in a powerful tower of beautiful brassy sound. While this is undoubtedly a great song, it would have been better served as a four-minute tour-de-force rather than a seven-minute opus.
Therein lies the problem with the guys in Foxtrot Zulu: they don't know when to quit. On recent recordings, Phish learned the secret formula to jam band success. Studio albums should focus on catchy, tightly-produced songs. Extended jams and guitar improvisation should be saved for concerts and live recordings. This is the page from the Phish handbook that Foxtrot Zulu forgot to copy. For example, Ecuador is a fantastic Latin-tempo tune that sounds like the soundtrack to a South American bullfight. However, at nearly seven minutes, it's way too much of a good thing.
Nevertheless, Foxtrot Zulu is a group of adept musicians, and not a note is missed on this fine studio recording. And, the songs on Burn Slow paint lyrically clever pictures from rural New England where the band's loyal fan base ("The Zulu Warriors") is concentrated. Phish fans hungry for a variation on the theme will probably be quite pleased by Burn Slow, but others might wish to look elsewhere to spend their hard-earned cash. ½
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2001 The Music Box