I FIRST BECAME aware of Zaine Griff by seeing his name on the wonderful 1982 album by Yukihiro Takahashi of Yellow Magic Orchestra, What? Me Worry? – Griff was a guest vocalist, along with some other dubious characters.
I remembered seeing the debut ZG album in the $1 bin – Ashes & Diamonds (on Automatic Records via WEA UK). A Tony Visconti production, there is a slight sound of David Bowie to his inauspicious debut. Still, it’s recorded well, the songs are reasonably good – he’s in good voice – definitely a “keeper”. Nice that the CD of it exists, but where’s the B-Side of his debut 45, ‘The Haunt’? Bonus points: he worked with Hans Zimmer, the film music composer (and producer). ZG looks a bit like Alastair Riddell on the cover, too!
In a different category, the sophomore ZG album Figures is a delightful singer/songwriter work from 1982, with all the bells and whistles of the era – nifty synth production! Plenty of guest stars! A good one for fans of Y.M.O. or Ultravox (circa ’82). This was the title that had been on my “CD Want List” ever since I first had a CD want list, about ’87 or so! Some really excellent songs here. This album was released in both England and Japan (probably because of the Y.T. connection).
The new NZ CDs by Mr. Zaine Griff are packaged nicely, mastered very decently, though there are no liner notes, to speak of. How’d he hook up with Yukihiro Takahashi? Or attract those famous guest stars? I see that they’re both being issued in Japan as little paper album cover CDs (known as kami sleeve CDs); the NZ CDs will do nicely, for me!
How many other hidden Kiwis are there – say, in the British music industry? There might be a few, but Zaine Griff made two of the better albums of the genre (circa ’80 – ’82). RON KANE
Note: Zaine Griff was a member of NZ group the Human Instinct in the mid-’70s, before heading off to England and releasing his two albums admidst the New Romantic boom. Rumour has it he later returned to NZ and ran nightclubs here. He has recently released his first new album in donkey’s years, Child Who Wants The Moon (reviewed here) and is actively promoting it with concerts here and abroad this month).
* Ron Kane is a Los Angeles-based music connoisseur and member of the most unusual ensemble, The Decayes. He has a large and extraordinary collection of NZ music.