The four surviving members of the British Invasion group, famous for a string of 1960s psychedelic-pop hits like “She’s Not There,” “Tell Her No,” and “Time of the Season,” reunited a few years ago for a fresh touring career, and on their new album they do sound pretty hungry. An active and vibrant creative spark dances over a colorful variety of songs, from the straight-ahead pop-rock of “Now I Know I’ll Never Get Over You” to the ballad “Little One” and the bluesy and jazzy touches sprinkled through many of the tracks.
“I won’t cry for the past / For I’ve re-found my freedom at last,” sings Colin Blunstone in the opening track, “Movin’ On.” Like many of the songs, it has unexpected but perfectly musical rhythm and chord changes, and Blunstone still has that strong, piping voice, now mellowed but not sapped by age, as the soul ballad “Edge of the Rainbow” especially attests. Some songs like the ace “Chasing the Past” and the ’70s-style soft rocker “And We Were Young Again” feature Steely Dan-esque vocal harmonies.
Meanwhile Rod Argent’s fiery keyboard work has expanded and deepened, evident most notably on “Edge of the Rainbow,” on the splashy progressive pop of “Maybe Tomorrow,” and on “Little One,” the gently rocking piano ballad with the melody from another time that feels so long ago it might as well be an alternate universe.
The flavor of reminiscence gets icky only in the lyrics of the tuneful and otherwise tight pop number “New York,” whose sincerity comes across as too heavy-handed. Mostly the look-backs are much more rewarding, as in the reworking of the pop-jazz waltz “I Want You Back Again,” whose original hyperactive two-minute version the band has eased up and stretched out into a richly swinging little anthem of bluesy eccentricity.
“Just like the Beatles Used to Say / ‘I believe in yesterday,'” Blunstone sings at the end of “Maybe Tomorrow.” But how much can “tomorrow” mean for this old-fashioned kind of pop made by an old-fashioned kind of band? I’m filled with mixed feelings reviewing a worthy effort like this, from a group whose time is long past not only because of the style of music, but because they remind us of when bands could come up with a few hits and sell enough records to stay in business for awhile. Tastes and public excitement have always been fickle, but never, it seems, as much as today.
The Zombies were short-lived hitmakers in the ’60s, but their big hits became classics we still hear on the radio. Today, as boomers become oldsters, songs from The Zombies’ era are all over TV commercials. But hits that can cut across today’s fragmented listening audience are very hard to come by these days. So hearing energetic, well-crafted new music from a group like The Zombies, I can’t help but think about how not only the music but the business of music was so different in their day.
We aren’t likely to see their like again. So it’s nice The Zombies with us again, at least for those who are tapped in to the music scene enough to find this fine new album (available for pre-order at the link below the video) or catch the band on the road. Their U.S. tour kicks off September 30. See Facebook or their website for details.