Everything Tom Petty touched turned to platinum during the ’90s, starting with the sales carryover from his 1989 solo debut Full Moon Fever, so when during 1999, Petty and the Heartbreakers announced the release of their 10th studio LP, Echo, expectations were understandably high. The new LP also boasted the involvement of producer Rick Rubin, who’d helped give Petty’s work a slightly rougher, more no-nonsense sound while working to maintain the focus on songwriting that had made the band such reliable hit-makers. But Echo presented a different Petty. He sounded broken, resigned, and defeated. In an interview later, Petty would explain that he had suffered severe periods of depression, and took some hard knocks in life during that time. The hard time, as fans were aware, stemmed mainly from Petty’s divorce. Ultimately, Tom Petty himself found a way to love that album which represented a painful snapshot from a dark personal period.
All of which brings us to Izzie’s Caravan, who took inspiration from this particular melancholic Tom Petty album, when composing the tracks that would make up his “Zephyrs” EP. A recording that is totally different from his blues-rich guitar swinging “Leo’s Guitar” EP. However it is no less impacting nor less eloquent.
On the contrary, Izzie shows us a completely different side to his artistic mindset. The introspective songwriting that Izzie’s Caravan embraces on “Zephyrs” merges head-on with the force of his instrumentation and arranging, igniting a slow burning, but explosive urgency that steadily pushes this EP onward.
For every tentative note of spirited buoyancy, there’s an equal, pervasive sense of sorrow and melancholy. This occurs right from the start with the jangly shimmering guitars on “Holy in Your Smile”, accompanied by the beautifully understated melody, where the male-female vocal chemistry is nothing less than alluring.
By the time Izzie’s wailing guitar solo materializes, the song is ready to reached in and touch you deeply. The passion, the feeling, the soul, in just this one track alone, is enough to compete with multiple albums of many other bands. The moments of harmonic bliss and tight musicianship are distinctly tangible here.
“South of Yesterday” is less intense, with a smoother, easy listening veneer. All perfectly balanced on the jangle of Izzie’s perpetual strumming guitar and his mellifluous croon. It is the artist’s ability to write sophisticated and personal music, while making it sound so simple and accessible to the most common of ears that ultimately attracts the listener.
In fact, the level of intricate and melodious songwriting demonstrated throughout this EP is instantly striking. “Tracii’s Ballad” again draws you in with its highly entrancing and nostalgic guitar motifs, sustained by a seemingly carefree rhythm and the warmth of dancing strings.
The masterpiece arrives right at the end, with the title track “Zephyrs”, which joins “Holy in Your Smile” as the EP’s two most outstanding songs. The voices here have an uncanny ability to bend with each other, creating a truly emotive experience.
The overall effect provides substantial drama. A haunting, touching and reflective drama. The addictive, slightly drawn out vocals, create a sweet, resonant sound. The male-female voices together are truly special. The final articulate touch to the song, is provided by Izzie’s closing guitar solo.
In the end “Zephyrs” is an intoxicating EP that makes me want to set off on some much needed travels, feeling safe in the knowledge that I have now already dealt with my emotions at home. Of course I’ll have to wait until we’ve defeated the Covid-19 virus.
So in the meantime these songs by Izzie’s Caravan will continue to keep me company, treading delicately, but significantly around the tensions of desolation, heartache and longing.