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Articles Home » 1985 Articles » Van Zant - 1985 Van Zant
Van Zant - 1985 Van Zant

ARTIST: Van Zant
ALBUM: Van Zant
LABEL: Geffen
YEAR: 1985
CD REISSUE: 1998, Unidisc (Canada), AGEK-2066


LINEUP: Johnny Van Zant - vocals * Robbie Gay - guitars * Erik Lundgren - guitars * Danny Clausman - bass * Robbie Morris - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Midnight Sensation * 02 She's Out With A Gun * 03 I'm A Fighter * 04 You've Got To Believe In Love * 05 Two Strangers * 06 2 + 2 * 07 Heart To The Flame * 08 Does A Fool Ever Learn * 09 Right On Time * 10 Lonely Girls

Perhaps they were sick of being stereo-typed as a typical southern rock band a la Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet etc. Van Zant the band had up until this point been a reasonable radio friendly southern band, with more than a foot in the AOR/melodic rock camp. Their previous efforts were OK, and I own a few of them myself, but with this self titled effort on a new label Geffen, we see a complete move into the pure ranks of AOR, and they bust the door down with both feet this time, to release a lovely melodic rock album, lauded by critics and fans alike. I suspect a couple of reasons behind the move. Firstly, the success of .38 Special as a radio oriented band. Secondly, having Rodney Mills at the production helm (.38 Special's principal producer), and thirdly a new label Geffen, riding high on the success of label mates Aerosmith, Asia, Wang Chung and Sammy Hagar. The band have also taken a new look, this time getting the AOR image and clothes just right, and not looking like down-home southern rockers as they were previously.

The Songs
The album is a mixture of self penned tracks, plus covers/co-writes, though the ratio is 7-3 in favour of covers/co-writes. A bit of a worry really, but perhaps another reason for the drastic change in precedings? However, the best track on the album is a Van Zant written one, and it's the opener 'Midnight Sensation' an all-out southern fried rocker with keyboards buzzing in from all quarters. Glorious stuff. Meanwhile we get '2+2' an RPM track, 'A Fool Never Learns' which is an Eddie Schwartz song also covered by Helix, 'I'm A Fighter' written by Jimi Jamison and Mandy Meyer for the Cobra session which never made it onto the 'First Strike' album. This one was also done by Ray Roper (Stonebolt). 'Heart To The Flame' is another well known track, featuring on Jeff Paris' 'Wired Up' opus, while 'You've Got To Believe In Love' is a Bill LaBounty (West Coast muso) co-write..

In Summary
Not withstanding the covers, this is an excellent sounding album, and is full-on in the traditional AOR style. Initially a very hard album to track down, but now available via Unidisc (Canada). Check them out.

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#1 | jeffrey343 on January 01 1970 01:00:00
Johnny has recorded several CDs with brother Donnie since this one under the same Van Zant name. It is not AOR but rather a cross between southern rock and country. If you like that sort of music, there is really some good stuff there.

Also, does anyone out there have lyrics for this album? Neither my vinyl nor my CD came with lyrics. Even though the production is quite good and the vocals are mixed just fine, there are a couple of spots where I never really have been able to figure out what Johnny is saying. I can't seem to find the lyrics online anywhere either.
#2 | Vincenzo on November 24 2007 23:16:55
George this absolute AOR masterpiece isn't hard to find. In fact existst he excellent reissue by canadian label Unidisc Records.
#3 | gdazegod on November 25 2007 00:45:22
It was at the time of writing. Perhaps not so now.
#4 | Vincenzo on November 25 2007 19:06:40
It's still available by Unidisc, i just have controlled.
#5 | jeffduran on January 04 2008 04:53:11
Even though its made up of many covers it is an amazing release that no self respecting AOR fan should be without.
#6 | george_the_jack on June 01 2008 16:23:55
A friend of mine has it on vinyl! despite of the name of Van Zant, here we have to do with pure mid-80s AOR. Very good stuff indeed but imo not outstanding. I'd rate it 9/10. ''She's out with the gun'' is worthy of this grade alone.
#7 | rostoned on June 01 2008 17:27:17
I believe this was more an A&R job - where I mean that legendary A&R John Kalodner hand picked the songs around for them - than a real band effort, this in order to have some chart material. In reality no song crossed or charted into the HOT 100 hence the commercial disaster nonetheless the results and songs featured here are simply oustanding! Bravo John (who officially retired two years ago). AFAIK this was reissued on CD only in Canada by Unidisc, but never in Europe. Now a question: who the hell was this italoamerican Nick DiStefano who wrote the FANTASTIC second track 'She's Out With A Gun'??? I simply love the melodic pen of this human being....oddly enough the song is credited solely to him on the LP but to DiStefano/Ron Miller on the CD reissue. What the heck!?
#8 | reyno-roxx on June 01 2008 21:04:57
I think Nick DiStefano is the same guy who wrote 'Shelter Me' for Joe Cocker. He also briefly played drums in Bob Halligan Jr's celtic influenced group Ceili Rain along with Rick Cua. More amusingly, he also played drums for Marie Osmond!
#9 | rostoned on June 01 2008 22:07:53
Fantastic detective work Mr. Reynolds! clap I'm so much greener in this field....
#10 | dangerzone on June 01 2008 23:26:31
Fantastic album regardless of the covers. Played this to death and 'Lonely Girls' is an AOR masterpiece.
#11 | jeffrey343 on June 03 2008 05:29:50
I got this on vinyl when I wandered into a record store back in 1985 and this was the 'now playing' album. I found it on CD back in 2001 at a good price. Definitely a nice piece of southern AOR and one of the better albums in my collection.
#12 | gdazegod on June 03 2008 06:30:57
'Midnight Sensation' is for me absolute primo stuff!
#13 | rostoned on June 03 2008 22:19:35
Did you notice that the clip of 'I'm A Fighter' embedded below features none other than Marvelous Marvin Hagler, one of the greatest middleweights of all time? I am pretty sure the 'smart' big wigs at Geffen (JD Kalodner? Al Coury? Marko Babineau?) thought that Van Zant could easily compete in the same ring, ehm field as Survivor, hence the boxing/Rocky theme to this video (and song), which featured a clip cheesier than camembert IMHO and where the band members, not exactly the most good looking hunks on earth, are truly unwatchable! If ony the label fools had chosen the gargantuan 'Midnight Sensation' or 'She's Out With A Gun' as a first video/single instead....who knows!
#14 | Jez on June 13 2008 11:01:59
Great cd throughout, with a good cover of the Jeff Paris 'Heart To The Flame' track. Gone is the southern rock and in with the AOR which works really well with JVZ's voice. A solid live band aswell, as can be heard on the 'King Biscuit' cd. This was the only studio cd 'Van Zant' made which is a shame. Johnny's next release(Brickyard Road) was excellent also, then off to Skynyrd he went.
#15 | gdazegod on March 22 2011 21:22:57
YouTube Video:
#16 | gdazegod on March 22 2011 21:29:07
YouTube Video:
#17 | trillion1999 on October 19 2011 16:17:49
My favorite-track is the one penned by Nick DiStefano.TYVM to rostoned and reyno-roxx for the info.
I bought a CD-boot of this at some record-fair.Glad it is released officially on CD.It truly deserves it.Smashing cover by the way.
#18 | gdazegod on April 08 2012 10:37:58
This would be good as a Rock Candy special!
#19 | swazi on April 11 2012 18:22:11
Agreed! An AOR classic for sure!
#20 | Schonschenker on June 25 2012 13:16:47
Only Rock Candy could do the historical justice
and tribute a fine AOR artifact like this deserves.
It may not be on everyone's top 10 AOR albums, but
JVZ was a pretty decent singer and songwriter.
#21 | Dance Nation on December 05 2012 20:17:45
This is one of those CD's that flows from the first song to the last and I never had to think about any favourites as every track hits home. Hence it would easily make my top 10 albums ever. Opener 'Midnight Sensation' grabs the listener immediately and the fantastic closer 'Lonely Girls' cruises to the finish line like a performance sports car on it's first outing. An absolute timepiece! 10/10 (easily!). score 10
#22 | gdazegod on December 05 2012 21:08:08
I am hopeful that this still remains on Rock Candy's radar. worthy
#23 | gdazegod on May 18 2013 03:53:18
After seeing a picture on Facebook (Cassandra Pamachena's CD collection, or part of at least), I now am going to try and obtain the Unidisc version of this album.
#24 | englandashes on August 17 2015 08:52:29
On the Bill Bounty anthology, time starts now, the fourth cd of demos, include his demo of you're got to believe in love, and it's worth tracking down. As mentioned in the article is was cowritten by bill, but also a guy called Craig Bickhardt, on the demo cd, includes two other tunes, that showed alot of promise, being heart set on loving you and technique, be interested if these have been covered.
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