The Zombies Revive ‘Odessey and Oracle’ at Triumphant NYC Show
Halfway through Side Two, during the Zombies‘ first complete New York concert rendition of their 1968 studio masterpiece, Odessey and Oracle, singer Colin Blunstone summed up the gently enchanting durability of that record and his band’s gift for resurrection in the bright, marching glow of “This Will Be Our Year.” In an improbably feathery tenor for a man who recently turned 70, Blunstone crooned the title chorus with the other surviving, original members of the group to his right: keyboard player Rod Argent, bassist Chris White and drummer Hugh Grundy. “This will be our year,” Blunstone sang, “took a long time to come.”
The Zombies’ absolutely triumphant Friday concert at the New York Society for Ethical Culture was part of their current U.S. tour honoring a pair of milestones: the release of a fine new album, Still Got That Hunger (The End Records), by the lineup of Argent, Blunstone, Argent’s cousin and bassist Jim Rodford — who played in the Seventies band Argent and the Kinks — drummer Steve Rodford and guitarist Tom Toomey; and the first American shows by the 1961–68 band in 50 years. (Original guitarist Paul Atkinson died in 2004.)
In the first set, the current group covered that half century with fluid aplomb, showcasing more than half of Hunger amid a sharp whirl through the Zombies’ pre-Odessey history, including 1964’s “She’s Not There” and “Tell Her No” and a 1965 medley of the Miracles’ “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me” and Sam Cooke’s “Bring It on Home to Me” (actually cribbed from a Miracles live album). There was a solo detour for Blunstone, his 1971 single “Caroline Goodbye,” and an arena-spirit revival of the 1972 Argent hit “Hold Your Head Up.” The dynamic, connective tissue was Rod Argent’s pop-art spin on American R&B piano and hard-bop organ — unprecedented during the British Invasion’s jangling rain of guitars — and Blunstone’s ability to hit, and hold, the stratospheric peaks in “I Love You,” a 1965 U.K. B-side, and the chorus of “I Want You Back Again,” a ’65 waltz-time modal-jazz single recut and recharged for Still Got That Hunger.
The torch ballad “Edge of the Rainbow,” a fresh original on Hunger, was vintage in every other way, a bracing reprise of the way the Zombies — like so many British beat groups — found LP material and club-set ammo in American standards like the Gershwins’ “Summertime” (featured on the Zombies’ 1965 debut LP). Another new song, “Maybe Tomorrow,” came with a Beatles quote — a closing flourish from Paul McCartney’s “Yesterday” — and a story: Argent recalled how the Beatles’ publishers ordered the Zombies to pull the track from Hunger right before pressing, until McCartney intervened with a personal reprieve. And in “New York,” Blunstone’s eternally-boyish brio underscored the buoyance in the music and wonder in the lyrics, a memoir of the Zombies’ ’64 landing in that city, onto an all-star bill at the Brooklyn Fox Theatre. “City of a million dreams,” Blunstone sang, “you gave one up to me.”
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