David Anthony Zee – Can’t Sit Still

 David Anthony Zee – Can’t Sit Still

David Anthony Zee – Can’t Sit Still – Album Review

Borrowing from the classics on more than one front, David Anthony Zee gets his remastered album Can’t Sit Still moving and grooving with the opening track “Absolutely Baby,” which essentially owes just about as much to Jerry Lee Lewis as it would his own creativity.  No objections here – that’s a sound I grew up on myself too, though admittedly, I had to seek it out.  For whatever reason, in a household that I’ve mentioned many times could go from playing Beethoven in one minute and Nine Inch Nails in the next…somehow we skipped right past the Jerry Lee section, and I had to retroactively fill that in for myself.  I was pleasantly surprised and remained a fan ever since.  As for Elvis…I got my education on his music from an upstairs neighbor blasting his tunes at around five o’clock in the morning every day as they were getting ready for work…which is another story for another time.  But yeah – I can get behind “Absolutely Baby” as being a solid tune…it’s got an undeniable throwback vibe that’s rooted in the golden age of Rock’N’Roll & whatnot, but that’s a fairly timeless vibe that’s still got plenty of appeal to it.

I don’t wanna get too political on ya, but WHERE are the dog ADVOCATES in this world we’re living in right now?  Man’s best friend has been pulling the short straw lately…so…NO I’m not gonna just sit here and tell ya that I love “Leave Your Dog” while my own is snoring away only feet away from me!  Alright – this might not be so simple of a story that we can judge it by its title alone.  To be fair, I think we know David is proven to write about some imaginative topics to say the least, given our experiences with his music in Zanilonia…and to be fair, much like “Absolutely Baby,” you’ll find that everything checks out when it comes to the level of skill you’ll find in the music and vocals.  Dude knows what he’s doing, and he does a good job of it.  I’ll be real with ya in the sense that Zee’s got a style and sound that is likely a tough sell in today’s world to an extent…but of course, the stranger corners of the internet are there to help assist guys like this and bring the audience to him.  “Leave Your Dog” is a clever tune built on the concept of a relationship breakdown being a certainty, and the hero of this story realizes he’s gonna be lonely without his former other half, but since that’s not what he wants anymore, I guess the dog will do instead?  I think many of us can relate to that.  People suck, but dogs are forever – so kick out the bad news and don’t ever look back, but keep your best furry friend if your relationship implodes – I dig it.

“Can’t Sit Still” goes for a more Blues-Rock type of vibe…still rooted in the past in the sense that it’s more of the showmanship-style take on the sound…think along the lines of something like Brian Setzer & whatnot…that kind of thing…the traditionally flashy spin on the genre.  Unfortunately, that boxes me in a bit personally…I respect the skill in stuff like Setzer does, but I am long past finding a way to enjoy the sound and well documented on the record about that in previous things I’ve written.  Ultimately, it’s just a matter of there being next to nothing new that can be done with the sound itself.  It’s hard to innovate something that’s been explored from every angle…and it’s gone past the point of being so overdone to becoming parodied all too often, which makes it even harder to take seriously.  Do I love the musicianship and instrumentation that David’s got goin’ on throughout “Can’t Sit Still?”  Of course I do!  Who wouldn’t?  Zee’s nailing the style and sound to a tee.  Does that make me wanna hear it any more than I did before I started listening to this particular record?  Heck no!  But that’s on me – that’s not on him.  As far as his execution is concerned, he’s rockin’ it right.  The guitars are stellar, the piano subbing in as the bass is superb, and the drums are crushin’ it too…everything is where it should be, it’s just not my thing.  If it’s YOUR thing, then heck yeah!  Know that I support ya…it’ll have to be enough.

As David himself will tell ya, “you got to use what you got.”  What he’s got is a plethora of influences that take his music all over the map of what we’ve experienced throughout the length of its history – but what’s really kind of interesting about Zee is that we don’t actually know much about him beyond his own eclectic taste.  He’d be in a category of the least likely to be identified in the music he makes – and one would have to assume at this point in his career that he’s quite comfortable with that being the case.  So instead of his own signature sound, he’s made a lifetime out of being a musical chameleon instead.  Who knows how that ended up being the direction he chose to take, but as he’ll also tell ya – “I know what the people like” – and I highly suspect that’s true.  I tend to obsess over artists and bands reaching that point where they can finally claim an identity of their own, but maybe David’s gone the right route by simply supplying the people with what they really wanna hear and keeping the focus on the entertainment factor.  I listen to a track like “What You Got” and can easily recognize the skill it would take to make such a song, but I can also hear the level of infectious FUN a track like this would carry along with it too.  Like, if David was to bust this out live from the stage, people would love it – I KNOW they would love it, full stop.  A track like “What You Got” would naturally brighten up any mood.

Does his chameleon-esque nature mean I’m gonna be onboard with something like “Moonlight Cruise?”  Heck no!  I can appreciate the skill it takes to do what he does with the same breath I’d use to say that just because we can doesn’t always mean that we SHOULD, you feel me?  I’ll be real with ya – my concern is that I’ve watched so many of those talent shows on TV to know that Zee’s gonna get himself cut off by the judges before he has a chance to finish.  That doesn’t mean the dude doesn’t have enough talent – he’s clearly got PLENTY – but I am not so convinced that he’s using his powers for good.  Okay – I sound like I’m being too harsh, so let me lighten things up – all I’m saying is that I’d probably be more for the zany oddities he creates in something like Zanilonia, because at the very least, that’s something that I would feel like I haven’t experienced before, even if that project of Zee’s is not quite my jam either.  I value uniqueness, and this dude is capable of it in audible metric tonnes…we’re just not hearing a whole bunch of that in this particular lineup of songs on Can’t Sit Still.  For as skilled as he is, I kind of have to assume that a song like “Moonlight Cruise” is something he could practically play in his sleep – I guess that’s what I’m getting at.  So..sure…the quality in the execution is there…the music is good, the vocals are good, the details are all in the right places…beyond its relentlessly familiar sound, he leaves you with nothing else to complain about.  I’ve still got SOME love for a song that’s well played, of course.

In terms of how harsh I might appear in discussing this kind of familiarity…trust me, I’m not pulling my punches, but I’ve certainly provided more cutting feedback than I am right now – just ask No Serial Killer, who took the sound you’ll hear on “Bonnie On A Bike” and beat it right into the goddamn ground.  I feel similarly towards this track though…I can feel the hairs standing up on the back of my neck and that fight or flight response trying to kick in, because this is a LOT like what I experienced with No Serial Killer and I still have nightmares about having to listen to that never-ending album they made.  That being said – I can tell ya wholeheartedly that No Serial Killer did what they did with next to no discernable passion and not nearly enough skill – which is where an artist like David Anthony Zee at least has the clear advantage.  I might not ever be the target market for a song like “Bonnie On A Bike,” but I can certainly appreciate that Zee puts a heck of a lot into everything that he does, and readily acknowledge that SOMEONE out there, perhaps SEVERAL SOMEONES, will love what the guy creates.  To me, tracks like “Bonnie On A Bike” clearly belong in a musical of some sort…but short of that kind of placement, I’m not too sure of where else they’d fit.  I really do love the piano solo in this song though.

Dude’s also got a gift with words too.  David has taught me a few throughout my time spent listening to his tunes (See: MacGuffins Of The Mind), and it’s genuinely been something I appreciate.  Like, “Luray Day” for example…I had to look that up as well.  Ultimately, it seems like it refers directly to a place in Virginia, which you’ll hear referenced directly towards the end of the song – but what I thought was neat is that “Luray” is also associated with “picturesque” too.  Why is that cool?  Well…I suppose you could put that in the whole realm of double-meanings in a way, but I thought what made it noteworthy was the fact that “Luray Day” basically puts out this mellow, calm, vividly picturesque type of melody too – so it’s like, yeah I looked it up, but I could FEEL what this song was all about long before I did that – make sense?  A lot of me still feels like this song and the majority of the lineup of tunes throughout Can’t Sit Still would make for a great soundtrack to some kind of musical out there…but yeah – outside of that, it’s actually a bit tough to imagine this being the go-to record on someone’s playlist in the world that we’re living in right now.  I don’t know if that says more about this album or more about the world, but it says something, even if I don’t know exactly what.  “Luray Day” is pleasant…I mean…how could there not be a market out there somewhere for ‘pleasant’ – right?  Zee’s obviously just fine not being in lockstep with whatever the heck is happening out there on your radio right now, and I’d imagine he always has been.  He provides a clear alternative for those looking for something different AND familiar at the same time…say what you wanna about the results – an accomplishment like that deserves credit.

I mean, it ALWAYS depends on what the goals truly are, don’t it?  If David set out specifically to recreate the past & bring back some classic sounds that we’ve long forgotten, then mission accomplished, right?  If he’s making the music that HE wants to make, then who are any of us to tell him to do anything otherwise, right?  If he just decided he wanted to jam some piano-based cuts for the sake of having fun, who could blame a guy for feeling that way either if they were so inclined & had the skill, right?  So take everything I’ve had to say with the ol’ proverbial grain of salt…it’s really only Zee that’s going to know whether or not he’s completely missed the mark with Can’t Sit Still, or been right on target with his aim.  Do I need another beach-based tune like we get in “By The Water?”  Not personally…but again, you might, and if that’s the case, high freakin’ five from me y’all – go hang loose and hang ten, or whatever.  My main concern is that I’m still not convinced I’ve heard David do all that much to challenge himself so much as do things that he completely knows he can…which makes Can’t Sit Still seem a little bit on the safe side to me.  It’s very respectful to the roots of music and tributary in its own way, but I suppose I feel like a mind and musical talent as noticeably gifted as what Zee possesses should be pushed harder towards demonstrating its uniqueness.  A good solo is a good solo, and I’d never take anything away from him in that respect – it’s not like David’s just phoning all this in…he’s still present and accounted for when it comes time to push record, but I feel like I know him to have more imagination than we’re hearing in this particular set of songs.  Which is why I’m saying it’s all about whatever the goals were to begin with…I don’t think Can’t Sit Still was the time & place for him to flex the creativity inherent to him.

Which brings us to the inevitable conclusion, which I’m quite positive David is expecting to read by this point in the review.  For my money, “See You Soon (For Ashley)” is this album’s best song, and it’s not even a close competition, to me, in what’s apparently my own not-so-humble, know-it-all opinion.  I’m forever the guy that’s just gonna call things how I hear’em…I ain’t the sugarcoating type I guess, but by that same token, it’s also how people know that I’m being real with them in comparison to the rest of the feedback they tend to get from an endless sea of rubber stamps.  The songwriting on “See You Soon (For Ashley)” is authentic, sincere, and truly beautiful if you ask me…strong enough that it could likely even dislodge a tear or two whilst you’re listening, so keep that Kleenex of yours handy.  If you know the history of David’s story, it becomes even more bittersweet – Ashley is the guy’s ex-wife – so there’s the context for ya…and honestly, I think it speaks volumes about the level of maturity it would take to write such an incredibly sweet song.  With this being a remastered album, it’s hard to know just when in his timeline a track like this would have been written…they could have very well been together, but maybe not…in any event, it’s insightfully sweet in a variety of ways no matter when it would have been created.  Think of it this way – the fact that he’s putting it out again here as the finale of Can’t Sit Still is a true testament to how he still admires and loves her now…it might have taken a different form, but it’s still love at its purest & most recognizable to all of us listening.  So you betcha…I’m all about songs that are this earnest, tangible, and genuine…David Anthony Zee finishes this off with a Billy Joel level of heart, and if he ever feels like going in this direction for a full album, you better believe I’d be there to listen.

Find out more about David Anthony Zee from his main website at:  https://www.daz-music.com

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