Whenever you’re ready to come face to face with the Zombies
The most influential ’60s pop-psychedelic band that you’ve probably only heard fleetingly, the Zombies’ tantalizing discography unequivocally transcends any time of the season. Led by two founding members — singer-songwriter Colin Blunstone and keyboardist-songwriter Rod Argent —in the ’60s the Zombies never experienced the accolades befitting their massive talent. That would come much later, particularly in America.
Blunstone possessed an ethereal vocal instrument capable of articulating why he couldn’t declare his undying devotion to a sunny girlfriend on the hypnotic “I Love You.” Conversely, Blunstone could summon a soul shattering cry on the group’s effective rendition of Little Anthony and the Imperials’ “Goin’ Out of My Head.” The song interpreter’s voice is unmistakable and wholly original, and he has experienced a plethora of imitators during the ensuing years. Progressive rockers the Alan Parsons Project shrewdly featured Blunstone on various albums in the 1980s.
Apprenticing in a cathedral choir as a child, Argent served as the wizard behind the curtain — anchoring the foundation of every band performance on a vast array of classically-inspired Hammond B-3 organ solos, penning all their major hits, and supplying Hollies-esque harmonies and occasional lead vocals [“She Loves the Way They Love Her” is one of his finest moments in that department]. Argent later decisively proved his commercial potential when his eponymous band scored a Top Five single with “Hold Your Head Up.” The Who even seized the pianist’s prodigious talent on the ubiquitous “Who Are You.”
Three singles, bolstered by Hugh Grundy’s underrated broken drum patterns and Chris White’s fluid bass lines, reached Billboard’s Top Six in a five-year period — their debut, the spellbinding, slightly eerie “She’s Not There,” “Tell Her No,” and “Time of the Season.”
The latter became their biggest hit record while the accompanying album, the psychedelically diverse Odessey and Oracle, was an underground critical darling…inexplicably months after the group called it quits. Odessey is ranked No. 100 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. AMC’s Mad Men spotlighted Odessey’s “This Will Be Our Year” in a pivotal scene during the “A Day’s Work” episode.
Diverse artists including Billy Joel, Tom Petty, Beck, Dave Grohl, and Arctic Monkeys have sung the praises of the Zombies. The quintet was finally nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013, some 25 years after they became eligible. Nominated twice more, they have yet to enter the hallowed hall.
Subsequently the group validated the 50th anniversary of the British Invasion and Odessey and Oracle with worldwide tours where White and Grundy reunited with their old comrades after 48 years apart as special tour guests. Jim Rodford, who played bass on the group’s unheralded final single sessions in 1968 and later joined the Kinks and his cousin’s self-titled band Argent, suddenly died after falling down a flight of stairs in his St. Albans, England, home on January 20, 2018. The 76-year-old stalwart musician had been a mainstay of the Zombies since Argent and Blunstone reformed the band in 2004 for both studio and live work. Son Steve Rodford still keeps the beat swingin’ on drums. Definitely catch the Zombies’ electrifying road show if they happen to appear in an intimate venue near you.
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