Written by James Killen
“What’s your Name? Who’s your Daddy?” I guess that it really doesn’t matter because most folks over forty know The Zombies for their hit “Time of the Season” and some of the older folks remember 1964’s “She’s not There”. The Zombies are probably best remembered as one of the British invasion bands that took the American airwaves by storm with their rocking pop ditties in the same path as The Beatles. Yes, they are all of that, but people don’t remember them for their vocal harmonies that rivaled the Beach Boys or their mellotron orchestration that was contemporary and comparable to that of the Moody Blues. The Zombies even tiptoed along that psychedelic jazz ledge that the Soft Machine careened over.
With their induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame scheduled for 2019, the band is getting a resurgence of attention and have been doing a bit of touring as well. In its most recognizable line up, the Zombies were Rod Argent on keys, Colin Blunstone on vocals, Chris White on bass with Paul Atkinson on guitar and Hugh Grundy on drums. It was Argent’s soaring structured piano and organ solos with Blunstone’s wide ranging vocals that made the band’s style distinctive. Chris White was also a central figure to the band, writing many of their songs.
Ironically, the bands biggest hit, “Time of the Season”, didn’t hit the charts until the band had broken up. It was the last track on the famously misspelled, “Odessey and Oracle” LP, which was the culmination of Argent’s and White’s most creative writing and arranging period during the life of the Zombies. Argent and White teamed up again later in the 1970’s band, Argent, producing hits like “Hold Your Head Up” and “It’s Only Money”, while Blunstone pursued a solo career that saw a good deal of success in the UK. The Zombies reunited several times in different incarnations in the last couple of decades. In 2015, Argent and Blunstone teamed up for a fiftieth anniversary record titled “Still Got that Hunger”.
For this year’s tour, the core team of Argent and Blunstone added Tom Toomey on guitar, Steve Rodford on drums and most recently Soren Koch on bass. The band opened up the show with Jr. Walker’s classic blues number, “I’m a Road Runner”, followed quickly by 2015’s “I Want You Back Again”. They then performed “I Love You” that had been a Zombies “B” side that was taken to the charts by the Canadian band, People. They then moved on to two more from “Still Got That Hunger”, “Moving On” and “Edge of the Rainbow”.
Next,the Zombies struck out on a tour through the history of their career, starting with their pop hit, “Tell Her No” following with a cover of The Beatles, “You Really Got a Hold on Me”. The band then performed four numbers from “Odessey and Oracle”, starting with “Care of Cell 44”, followed by “This Will be Our Year” and “I Want Her, She Wants Me” and culminating in “Time of the Season”.
Colin Blunstone showed off his vocal tone and range on a version of “Old and Wise” which had originally been Colin’s contribution to the Alan Parsons Project’s “Eye in the Sky” LP. The band then took on Argent’s “Hold Your Head Up” from Rod’s and Chris’ lucrative post Zombie band. The Zombies took the show to a jamming crescendo with a very rocking version of “She’s Not There”.
When Colin asked the audience if they wanted more, the band put one more of Argent’s hits out there, “God Gave Rock and Roll to You”. The audience participation in the refrain was so strong that the band silenced their vocals while the audience sang the lines several rounds without faltering.
The show’s feel was a fantastic combination of a sixties British invasion concert and an all-out seventies rock extravaganza. Colin still has his range and Rod can still put together a fantastic keyboard run. The remainder of the band was professional hired guns and delivered when the time was right. The audience was predominantly over fifty, but still rocking and fun to be around.
Full disclosure, Rod Argent has been my favorite rock keyboardist for close to fifty years. His knowledge of classical structure and jazz phrasing added to that early rock and roll born from the blues was very influential in the evolution of prog-rock. Colin Blunstone’s prominent vocals focus on tone and range, paved the way for later vocalists like Robert Plant and Freddy Mercury to reach the next levels. It is providential that the band’s remaining members have lived long enough to see the appreciation of being inducted to the Hall of Fame after years of feeling that they had just missed the mark. I’ll look for them at the presentation ceremony on TV and wish them well.