File Next to: The Left Banke, Argent, The Kinks
Call them late bloomers if you will. Compared to their fellow British invaders, The Zombies scored relatively few hits in the USA. And by the time their masterpiece, 1968’s Odessey and Oracle (sic) started to gain any traction, the group’s members had gone their own ways. But mainstays Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone remained on good terms, and reunited under the Zombies banner in the 21st century. From their (re-)start they were determined not to be simply an oldies act, dutifully trotting out the classics. Still Got that Hunger is strong start to finish, somehow evoking the group’s old sound without explicitly aping it. The Zombies’ most winning qualities – Argent’s skilled and hooky keyboard work and Blunstone’s assertive-yet-vulnerable vocals – are on impressive display.
“Chasing the Past” is a lovely example of Argent’s consummate songwriting skills and expressive, crystalline playing. And Blunstone’s voice – already a thing of heart-rending beauty – has actually improved over the years. “Edge of the Rainbow” shows that The Zombies – then as now – absorbed, assimilated and recast in their own way a myriad of influences from popular music (not simply rock). The musical fingerprints of George Gershwin and Ray Charles are all over the track.
The heartfelt musical love letter “New York” is a tribute that never feels like pandering. And Argent’s Wurlitzer electric piano on the tune illustrates that he need not be playing a complicated keyboard figure to impress.
The only instance of the group retracing their musical steps is on an updated reading of their own “I Want You Back Again (2015),” and it’s a fine example of what the group sounds like onstage these days. Thanks to Argent’s facile work on the Rhodes, “And We Were Young Again” features strong echoes of Stevie Wonder and Steely Dan; it’s also the only track on Still Got That Hunger that overtly sounds like another act.
“Maybe Tomorrow” finds the group firing on all cylinders, with delightful stacked vocals and Argent banging out a fleet-fingered barrelhouse-style piano. The rest of the group (including Jim Rodford on bass) sit out “Little One,” a showcase for the solo piano of Rod Argent, and Colin Blunstone’s single-tracked vocals. The soaring “Beyond the Borderline” closes the album in a lump-in-the-throat fashion, and also features a relatively rare vocal from Argent. And in fact there’s not a single subpar tune on Still Got That Hunger; Lucky concertgoers should find that these new tunes fit in nicely between note-perfect readings of “Time of the Season” and “She’s Not There.”
With Still Got That Hunger, The Zombies have crafted an album that’s sure to please anyone who appreciates Odessey and Oracle. It’s timeless music, and while one would be hard pressed to classify it as rock ‘n’ roll, whatever it is, it’s simply wonderful. It’s also a strong contender for Musoscribe’s best of 2015 list, coming in late December.
You may also enjoy: my 2014 conversation with Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone of The Zombies.
A shorter, edited version of this review was published previously in the Colorado Springs Independent.
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