I guess for many rockers out there – especially rockers outside of Sweden – the name Bo Stagman might not ring that many bells. But if I write Zinny Zan instead, said bells might just toll. For those with quiet bells, Bo Stagman is the birth name of Zinny Zan, the singing glam rocker that once started the band Easy Action in 1983 with the now ex- Europe gun slinger Kee Marcello and who later joined Kingpin, the band that became Shotgun Messiah that sold half a million copies of their 1989 self titled debut album in the U.S. alone. After leaving / got sacked from the band, he went home to his native Sweden and formed Grand Slam (who had Jacob Samuel, the lead singer from The Poodles on drums) that didn’t work, formed his own band Zan Clan whose debut album Citizen Of Wasteland (1994) blew dog – and therefore didn’t sell that many copies. Zinny split the band and recorded a criminally underrated (and very hard to get) solo album, City Boy Blues in 2002 only to resurrect Zan Clan two years later, now together with guitarist and producer Chris Laney (Pretty Maids, Shotgun, Laney’s Legion, Randy Piper’s Animal), guitarist Pontus Norgren (Hammerfall, The Poodles, Great King Rat, Talisman) (later replaced by Love Magnusson of Dynazty), bass player Pontus Egberg (Treat, King Diamond, The Poodles, Lion’s Share) (later replaced by Nalley Påhlsson of Royal Mess, Therion, Last Autumn’s Dream, Treat, Randy Piper’s Animal) and drummer J. Koleberg (Hammerfall, Therion, Randy Piper’s Animal) and they released the brilliant We Are Zan Clan, Who The F**k Are You? (2004) and the live album Kickz The Livin Shit Outta Stockholm City (2006). Last year, Zan celebrated the 25th anniversary of Shotgun Messiah’s debut album together with original drummer Stixx, having Laney, now on bass and guitarist Rob Marcello (Danger Danger, The Defiants, Laney’s Legion) to take the place of Tim Skold and Harry K Cody, who didn’t wanna know about it, touring as Shotgun. A great live album, Live Down Decadencia Drive (2016) came out of that. Zinny and Kee also tried a short-lived Easy Action reunion in 2006, but that project went nowhere.
So when the news of a new solo record from the Zin-man himself, I was enamoured. But then I found out that he was about change direction musically pretty drastically, something I was fine with, but also that he should be singing in Swedish this time. Let me explain, Swedish lyrics just doesn’t sit well with me, I just don’t think that Swedish is a very good language to sing in and few – very few – are the artists that gets away with it, in my book. Oh my! And it turned out that Zan would go all in and put his stage name into the vaults and go by his real name, Bo Stagman. Now, not only is Zinny / Stagman someone I admire musically, I grew up on his music, but he is also a very sweet guy with a big heart – I really didn’t want to slag this record off just because of the language he’s singing in. But that’s how I roll, good music can turn mediocre to me if the singing language is wrong and a big heart won’t make for a high rating. With him on this trip, Stagman has brought drummer – and in this case also producer – Björn Höglund and guitarist Simon Roxx who played with him in the 2006 version of Easy Action – that also featured Kee Marcello – and bass player Nalle Påhlsson along with a few other musicians and back-up singers.
The album opens with the self-explanatory “Vykort Från Hollywood” (Postcard From Hollywood), a laid back and dark, but still very positive singer-song writer-ish tune. The song tells the story of Stagman’s Shotgun Messiah adventure. The Swedish lyrics? Well, I’m just as surprised as the next guy, but they fits both the music and lyrics like a glove. The following tuneand the first single – “Fasader” (Facades) comes in a slow pace and is dark and melancholic – heavy balladry – but with a really memorable melody. I smell a hit here even though the tune isn’t commercial at all – brilliant! With “Förlorarnas Parad” (Loser’s Parade) comes with a big groove and is more uptempo – and this one actually kicks butt. It’s somewhat close to Stagman’s glam rock past and the chorus sticks right off the bat – a future live killer when / if Stagman tours this album, believe me you. “Valen Som Du Gör” (The Choices You Make) is more of a classic rocker – I’m thinking a fine mix of 70’s Alice Cooper and Rolling Stones here – with a big chunk of pop as the icing on the cake and that chorus is just to die for – superb! “Alltid På Väg” (Always On The Way) is a ballad with chunky groove – fact is, it actually moves into power ballad territory. Think singer-song writer music mixed with the melodic American hard rock that was hip back in 1991 and you’re pretty close. The song is nothing short of fantastic, no matter the genre you wanna put it in.
“Innan Vi Dör” (Before We Die) is a dark ballad but also a bringer of light if you can get that equation right. It holds a heavy riff but it’s not heavy metal – not even close. For you who have heard Easy Action’s ballad “In The Middle Of Nowhere” (That Makes One, 1986), a song that Stagman sang on right before he quit that band but released with vocalist Tommy Nilsson, might get the idea the road this song walks upon. However, this song is deeper and more authentic – and it is amazingly good. “Kommer Jag Till Himlen?” (Will I Go To Heaven) is heavy, dark and even somewhat gothic. It reminds me of Swedish rocker Thåström (foreign readers are probably clueless of who he is) on his better days. It’s melodic enough to stick and there is some heavy riffing and a wicked and chaotic guitar solo – awesome! “Kärlekens Triumf” (The Triumph Of Love) comes in a more traditional melodic / arena rock style and is probably the closest to Stagman’s musical past style wise on the album. Very rootsy, rocking and so catchy it’s ridiculous – this is some really hot stuff. “Gå Din Väg” (Walk Away) on the other hand is pure pop where synthesizers and electronica shows up – and it also sends a nod towards old 80’s pop chart music. It’s catchy, memorable and will work like a charm on the radio – it must be a single at some point. Gotta love it! The album ends with the title track (Are You Still Out There) and with that one, Stagman and his friends goes out with a bang! It’s a blistering rocker that brings out the Stones, Aerosmith, Hanoi Rocks and Slade – fun music, positive and groovy, a song you can bring to the party anytime – exactly the right way to end an album like this.
Yes, folks, despite my Swedish lyrics issue, Stagman’s debut under his birth name is a slap shot right in the net and you know what? The Swedish lyrics doesn’t bother me one bit – quite the contrary, it’s actually really invigorating and Stagman hits the target with a stupendous aplomb, like he has done this kind of music all his life. The Swedish lyrics – at least for us Swedes – makes the album even more personal, honest and direct. Speaking of the lyrics, they are all very well-written and I guess it cannot have been an easy task to make them work – a splendid job. Also, Stagman’s voice is very well-suited for singing in his native tongue and it fits him super well. Musically this album is sometimes raw, hard, dishevelled and raunchy and sometimes melancholy, soft and even brittle and taciturn but on all occasions it’s dynamic, stripped, emotional with lots of heart and soul. Hopefully he will record an English version of this album as well because these songs would work great with English lyrics and it’s too good to not get an international release. Highly – as in HIGHLY – recommended!
1. Vykort Från Hollywood
3. Förlorarnas Parad
4. Valen Som Du Gör
5. Alltid På Väg
6. Innan Vi Dör
7. Kommer Jag Till Himlen
8. Kärlekens Triumf
9. Gå Din Väg
10. Är Ni Kvar Där Ute?