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Zygote

John Popper

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Album Review

In one sense, it is fair to ask why John Popper needed to make a solo album while Blues Traveler was still active, and still one of the more popular touring bands in America. The answer is Zygote itself. Popper is undeniably a strong presence in Blues Traveler, contributing not only the lead vocals, but co-writing songs and often putting his considerable harmonica prowess at center stage. Still, Blues Traveler is a genuine band, with each member providing specific individual contributions to the overall sound. Popper's debut album, Zygote, is clearly a solo album, emphasizing everything that he contributes to the band — his supple singing, elongated phrasing, affection for blues-rock, and astounding harmonica playing. That said, it also has the excesses of a solo record — studio chatter, instrumental indulgences, songs that sound a little too similar to each other — but it has a different character than a Blues Traveler record: it's laid-back and song-oriented, and it often seems introspective. Popper's lyrics wind around themselves so much it's hard to tell if they're actually introspective, but in this case, the appearance counts for more than the reality, since the feeling is more important than the details. And that feeling on Zygote is warm and mellow, helping distinguish it as a Popper album, not a Traveler side-project. True, it's unlikely to win fans outside of the group's hardcore following — there are catchy songs here, but few outright pop songs on the level of "Run Around" — but it does make a case that Popper is a worthwhile solo artist in his own right.

Customer Reviews

Zygote

If you like Blues Traveler for their mild side then this album is for you. I have all the albums in the BT catalogue, and I find myself preferring the mellow songs that are usually written by John Popper alone. Home, Love for Free, and Growing in dirt will appeal to you if you know and love BT songs like 100 Years, The Mountain Wins Again, Just Wait, and Sweet Pain. In other words, if you like John Popper for his rowdy live show and his hard core harmonica jamming, then this album is not really for you. But if you appreciate his melodic and soulful slow side, then you should get it, because you will get it.

Good, not great

I bought this album new when it debuted. I was not disappointed, but I was not thrilled. My opinion of the album is that it is very solid, if somewhat unremarkable. The songs are eclectic, jumping from melodic and mellow (Once You Wake Up, Growing in Dirt, How About Now) to strangely discordant and jangling (Tip the Domino, Evil in My Chair). Casual Blues Traveler fans will recognize Fledgling from the band's 1993 release "Save His Soul", while Growing in Dirt debuted as an unrecorded live jam earlier in the band's history and was later released on "Zygote". Numerous guest musicians appear on this album, lending some of their own flavor, including Carter Beauford of Dave Matthews Band fame. Popper reveals much of his nature in this album, appearing at times to be self-loathing and hopeless, at other times, longing for love and happiness that he knows is out there. Popper demonstrates that he is less concerned with popularity with his music than he is with his own sense of artistic purity, staying well clear of formulaic and derivative sounds and writing things that are more characteristic of independent-label music. Buy this album if you are a true fan of John Popper and Blues Traveler, rather than the casual radio-release fan.

Biography

Born: March 29, 1967 in Cleveland, OH

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

The harmonica virtuoso and rotund frontman for jam band favorites Blues Traveler, singer/harpist John Popper was born in Cleveland, OH, on March 29, 1967. While attending high school in Princeton, NJ, he befriended drummer Brendan Hill; together, the two — in combination with guitarist Chan Kinchla and bassist Bobby Sheehan — would go on to form Blues Traveler, earning a fervent grassroots following during the early '90s on the basis of their relentless touring schedule and a sprawling...
Full Bio
Zygote, John Popper
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Customer Ratings

Contemporaries