Band members Related acts
- Anita -- bass, accordion, keyboards, guitar
- Jesus -- drums, guitar, keyboards
- Kim -- lead vocals
- Kitty -- keyboards
- Marino -- guitar, keyboards, sax
- Toto -- lead vocals
- none known
Rating: 3 stars ***
Title: The Zara's Way
Grade (cover/record): VG / VG+
Comments: German pressing; minor hiss on a couple of the tracks
Catalog ID: 5864
Here's a group that time and the internet have apparently forgotten. Good luck finding any kind of biographical information on The Zara's (don't ask me about the apostrophe - blame it on a poor translator). If you do find something, drop me a note.
As a military brat I can identify with The Zara's. As a child I lived in Germany for some 15 years and it was very common for my family to spend time at local NCO and Officers Clubs which routinely brought in local cover bands to entertain troops and their families. The bands tended to be clean cut, normally had one or two young and attractive female members, and had a repertoire that was heavily geared to American and English pop and soul hits. The Zara's seem to perfectly exemplify that type of act.
left to right: Anita - Jesus - Marino - Kim - Toto - Kitty
A self-contained six piece outfit ranging in age from 17 to 24, the liner notes listed the band as bass player Anita, drummer Jesus, lead singer Kim, keyboard player Kitty, lead guitarist Marino, and lead singer/front man Toto (no last names were provided).
The few online references I've seen have tagged The Zara's as a German outfit, but a quick look at the liner notes and their accented vocals make it clear these folks were probably Spanish. So in the absence of any real information, here's what the liner notes on 1965's "The Zara's Way" have to say:
"Versatile is the adjective to best describe the Zara's. These young musicians are many sided in abilities, instruments, hobbies, showmanship, and skills of the entertainment world. Their music is contagious to all that gather to hear them, causing their audiences to come back again and again for the exciting sounds of their arrangements of the beat music. The Zara's have successfully toured throughout Europe entertaining the US Forces yearly, at many clubs and the G.I.'s and their sweethearts warmly welcome the sound of The Zara's. The sounds of a new Generation."
Success touring American military bases throughout Europe seems to have attracted the attention of the German Kerston label which signed them to a recording contract, the band debuting with a 1965 single:
- 'Ride Your Pony' b/w 'Maria' (Kerston catalog number 60 003).
That was followed by an EP on the Spanish Fonogram label - "Night Train" (Fonogram catalog number T 20 006 Z)
"Night Train' track listing:
1.) Night Train
2.) Johnny B. Goode (Chuck Berry) -
While neither the single, not the EP were massive sellers, Kerston elected to release an LP - 1965's "The Zara's Way". I'm guessing the target audience were American servicemen and the twelve tracks were probably a good indication of what their live repertoire sounded like - a heavy mix of early and mid-1960s pop, rock, and soul covers. Musically they weren't band, turning in decent, if rather rote covers of the source material. Lead singers Toto and Kim were a different story. Neither had much of a voice and the fact they were singing in a non-native language occasionally gave the performances an unintentionally funny edge. A couple of their musical choices were also puzzling - hard to image G.I.'s going wild when they heard the organ-propelled 'Maria'. Well, maybe they really liked 'West Side Story' ...
- Musically their cover of 'Ride Your Pony' bore a mild resemblance to Lee Dorsey's version, though I'm not sure you would have been able to recognize the song without the liner notes. Toto's lead vocals were pretty lame, though Marino turned out to be a pretty decent guitarist. rating: ** stars
- The instrumental 'Happy Organ' was a hysterical timepiece. Imagine a circus performer trying to show soul and you'd get a feel for this one ... So bad it was actually kind of cool. rating: *** stars
- Kicked along by some nice jangle guitar, 'What Now My Love' could have been a decent cover were it not for the lead vocals from Toto and Kim ... The funny thing is that when they sang the solo parts both of them pretty much sucked, but their harmony vocals were actually pretty good. Apparently singing phonetically, the results were pretty funny. 'Course I wouldn't be able to do any better if I had to sing in Spanish. rating: ** stars
- As a straightforward cover of Alvin Cash's hit 'Twine Time' this one wasn't bad. Marino again turned in nice solo. 'Course why would you bother with a cover when you could hear the original. The enthusiastic female scream was odd since it sounded like she'd just been stabbed with a kitchen knife. rating: *** stars
- The performance of 'Maria' was actually okay with Toto turning in one of his better vocals, but it was an odd choice for the album. rating: * star
- Ah, back to a Spanish band trying to cover another classic soul song ...
Kind of hard to mess up a classic like 'Land of 1000 Dances', but they managed to turn in what's easily the dullest cover of this one I've every heard. Nobody would have been upset if this was played at a funeral. rating: *** stars
- Maybe they had more chemistry onstage, but as exemplified by this dirge-like cove of Buck Owen's 'Crying Time', on vinyl Toto and Kim were about as exciting as flat soda. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz rating: * star
- One of the better songs on the album, 'La Bamba' allowing the band to sing a tune in Spanish actually seems to have made a difference. For his part Toto actually sounded pretty good on this one, while Martino's acoustic guitar solo was great. rating: *** star
- To my ears 'I Heard About Him' was the standout performance. Backed by a spare R&B arrangement, the song turned the spotlight on the ladies. The result was a performance that actually showed a bit of soul. Yeah the vocals were a little strained, but they actually turned in a song I wanted to hear more than once. rating: **** star
- Their cover of The Surfaris was competent and probably served as a nice live solo spot for guitarist Marino and drummer Jesus. rating: ** star
- Crap, Toto's back with another Ritchie Valens tune and this time out the lyric was in English. Dull, dull, dull ... if you were in the audience it was time to go hit the slot machines. rating: ** star
- And once again the highlight to their cover of Joe South's 'Down In the Boondocks' was Marino's solo.
Wonder if anyone out there in internet land remembers seeing these guys. Guess they'd be in their 60s now - probably not a prime audience for this website ...
Zara's Way" track listing:
1.) Ride Your Pony (Noami Neville) -
2.) Happy Organ (instrumental) (Cortez) -
3.) What Now My Love (Becaud - Delano - Sigman) -
4.) Twine Time (instrumental) (Alvin Cash) -
5.) Maria (Bernstein - Sondheim) -
6.) Land of 1000 Dances (Chris Kenner) -
2.) La Bamba (Ritchie Valens - Lopez - Reynolds - Shane - Stewart) -
3.) I Heard About Him (Chris Andrews) -
4.) Wipe Out (instrumental) (The Surfaris) -
5.) Donna (Ritchie Valens) -
6.) Down In the Boondocks (Joe South) -
The group continued to tour through at least the early-1970s, eventually selling their souls for a gig in Las Vegas. I've never been able to track down copies (not that I've looked all that hard), but there are at least three more Zara's LPs:
- 1966's "The Zara's Hits" (Kerston catalog number FKLP 65 003)
- 1971's "The Sahara Presents Zaras S.R.O. In Las Vegas" (ATA catalog number PM1080)
- 1972's "The Fabulous Zaras" (Parnaso catalog number P-LPS-1108)
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