Nothin' Lasts Forever
First Appeared at The Music Box, March 1999, Volume 6, #3
Written by John Metzger
Zero, who just released its third major label album Nothin’ Lasts Forever, has been around a lot longer than most people realize. Founded in 1984 by drummer Greg Anton and guitarist Steve Kimock, the group has managed to skirt the outer edges of the Bay Area/Grateful Dead/jam band scene, and it really wasn’t until a decade later that it began to tour and develop a national audience. Consequently, it remained a well-kept secret — that is until last summer’s Furthur Festival thrust Kimock into the limelight as a last-minute addition to The Other Ones.
Prior to the formation of Zero, Anton and Kimock had worked together in the short-lived Heart of Gold Band (Keith and Donna Godchaux’s group). This outfit later mutated into The Ghosts, and it was here that the seeds for Zero were first laid, although Anton and Kimock are the only remaining original members of the band.
In 1985, saxophonist Martin Fierro, an alumnus of both the Grateful Dead’s 1973 Fall Tour and Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders’ Legion of Mary, joined Zero and helped to cement its unique blend of jazz and blues. Currently rounding out the band are bassist Bobby Vega, keyboardist Chip Roland, and singer Judge Murphy.
In 1995, Zero released Chance in a Million, its major label debut. This was also the first disc to feature Murphy, and it contained the band's first collaborations with renowned Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter. Recorded live at the Great American Music Hall in 1992, the album featured soaring jams that were built around infectious melodies, and included guest appearances by Vince Welnick, Nicky Hopkins, and John Kahn.
In 1997, Zero followed Chance in a Million with an outstanding self-titled studio release — the first to feature Roland who replaced Pete Sears. Recorded live in the studio with no overdubs, the album downplayed the lengthy jams inherent in the group’s concert sound in favor of showcasing its amazing songwriting abilities.
Zero’s latest effort Nothin’ Lasts Forever once again returns to capturing the band in a live setting. Recorded at San Francisco’s Maritime Hall, the album features five original compositions, three cover songs, and more than 60 minutes of mind-bending music.
As with Zero’s past efforts, there really isn’t a weak point here, which is no surprise considering it's an exceptional live band. The group knows how to build its songs into monumental, transcendental jams, but most importantly, it begins with expertly-crafted material. Ermaline explores a blues-funk groove and is highlighted by the soulful vocals of Murphy and a pair of majestic solos from Fierro and Kimock. The band also delivers a stunning interpretation of Jimi Hendrix’s Little Wing that perfectly captures the beauty and splendor of the original recording.
However, the single defining track for Zero is the Kimock-penned Cole’s Law. Because it is such an attention-grabbing tune, the band routinely opens its concerts with it. The song begins with the sound of Vega’s bass, which creates an ebb tide that gently draws the listener into the freely flowing rhythm of Anton’s drum beat. Slowly, but surely, Kimock’s guitar and then Fierro’s saxophone roll in, playing off the tension of the rhythm and slowly building the momentum. Each musical strain follows the initial pattern of Vega’s bass as the band slowly builds to crescendo after crescendo, much like waves crashing on a beach. The result is a radiant, captivating, and truly mesmerizing ensemble performance. One listen to Cole’s Law (or really any of the tracks on this disc), and it’s clear that Zero is where Kimock belongs. The band seems to get better with each tour, and clearly it deserves more attention than it has received.
Nothin' Lasts Forever is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 1999 The Music Box