The Zombies on ‘Time of the Season,’ Borrowing Beatles’ Gear, New LP
Imagine: you are in a band that has entered Abbey Road just after the Beatles recorded Sgt. Pepper, to cut your own classic album which will be released after you cease to exist, with very little in the way of promotion. The album will garner favorable reviews and few sales, but you will return, nearly 50 years later, to perform it in its entirety and release a new LP in one of the strangest, most stirring comebacks in the history of rock and roll.
Of course, were this happening to you, you’d likely be keyboardist Rod Argent or singer Colin Blunstone, founding members of the British group the Zombies, and musicians who know something about bouncing back from the dead, a process abetted by having a masterwork like 1968’s Odessey and Oracle in your back catalog. Argent and Blunstone will reunite with the other surviving members, drummer Hugh Grundy and bassist Chris White, to perform Odessey on a North American tour starting September 30th. The shows will also feature the band’s current lineup, sans Grundy and White, performing music from a brand-new Zombies LP, Still Got That Hunger — the band’s first since 2011’s Breathe Out, Breathe In — out October 9th.
“I didn’t know [Odessey and Oracle] was going to be the Zombies’ last album,” Blunstone says now, looking back at the band’s defining record. “Well, the last album for that phase. I think I would have found it very difficult to commit to the album if I knew that was the end. The single format was so dominant at the time. Albums were just becoming the thing.”
And what a thing Odessey and Oracle is: a rock and roll LP that makes inroads into baroque music, with rich vocal polyphonies, luminous, deep-textured bass lines bolstered by the engineering of Beatles stalwart Geoff Emerick, and a song, in “Time of the Season,” that is now ubiquitous, thanks to Blunstone’s vocal.
“That was the last song to be written for the album,” says the frontman. “It was written in the morning and then recorded that afternoon in Studio Three at Abbey Road. I wasn’t really totally confident in singing it. Rod was in the control room encouraging me in my headphones. I still wasn’t getting it right. I always have to smile because he was sort of saying, ‘That’s not quite it, Colin,’ and it ended up with us shouting at each other. Funny. And there I am singing ‘It’s the time of the season for loving…'”
“[Odessey and Oracle] has its own sound,” says Argent. “At the same time that that phase for the band was coming to an end, we were opportunists. We wandered into the studio just as the Beatles were coming out, having recorded Sgt. Pepper. There were things left around like John Lennon’s mellotron. Which I used, just because it was there. Didn’t ask anybody. And things that were also kind of in the mind. Beatles things. Like, ‘The Beach Boys just did Pet Sounds with an 8-track; there are no 8-tracks in England — what are we going to do?’ And the boffins at Abbey Road found ways to combine 4-track machines and we leapt on that, that Beatles way of thinking. We were very natural as well, getting excited about music and ideas, and that’s something that’s never left Colin and me. That’s why we’re still doing what we’re doing together.”