John Popper - Zygote

Solo Blues Popper

Zygote (A&M Records)
John Popper

By Robert Gruber

To call John Popper a "harmonica virtuoso" is an accurate, albeit somewhat humorous assessment. After all, this is not an instrument that lends itself easily to the radical extremes of composition (like, say, the electric guitar). And yet, for what it's worth, Popper plays a mean harmonica (which is why he is frequently invited to sit in with Paul Schaffer's CBS Orchestra on the Letterman show). Oddly enough, Zygote, Popper's first solo outing away from Blues Traveler, Is not a harmonica record. And while Blues Traveler is known for full-on jam-band blooz-rock, on Zygote, Popper takes a surprisingly subtle turn as a tunesmith, singer and guitarist.

Popper makes like Cat Stevens on the acoustic-driven "How About Now," busts a bossa nova move on "Evil In My Chair" and displays an impressive Aaron Neville-style vocal touch on "Fledgling." Although there are plenty of grooves to be found (and a few songs that exceed five minutes in length), Popper does a good job of distancing himself stylistically from the Traveler. It's a safe distance, though, so long-time fans shouldn't feel too alienated.