Zion Train Live As One

After an absence of nearly five years, Zion Train are back as more or less a solo project of original Train conductor Neil Perch. His Universal Egg imprint has seen an upsurge in activity this year and some of these rhythms were prefigured in the earlier releases, most notably the excellent Abassi All Stars disc from earlier this year. Live As One is a mixed bag of modern roots hybrids; it’s a "vocal dub” album first and foremost, with full lyrics couched in dub production. Zion Train work best when ingredients are at their least complicated. "Audrey and June” is a lovely mid-tempo track with a melodic bass line and electric piano underneath delicate horn parts. But as tempos increase, such as with "Life That I Choose,” the vocals compete with the rhythm and effects, creating an almost uptight urgency. I preferred the horns-first mix on the Abassi All Stars disc. "Tribute To Keng Keng” is at a drum and bass tempo but the rhythm is far too jerky for its pace. With sirens and acidy bass lines, it’s just a mess. "Forward Ever” immediately returns the balance, with burnished and uplifting female vocals from Lua. All the tracks with female vocals are successful on this disc with the half-time pace of the singing adding some much needed space. The disc is definitely worthwhile on the whole but sometimes there’s too much going on for its own good. (Universal Egg)