The Zombies

The Zombies Invade The City Winery (And Even Get A Wine Named After Them)!

 
By Anne M. Raso, Mac Wire Contributing Editor

We could be cheesy and say that it’s “the time of the season” for The Zombies but it’s actually more accurate to say it’s “the time of the New Millennium” if you think about it since they are celebrating their 50th anniversary with a tour that includes original members Colin Blunstone (lead vocals) and Rod Argent (keyboard and vocals). The lineup is rounded out by Argent’s older cousin Jim Rodford on bass (who played on several monumental Kinks albums, by the way), his son Steve Rodford on drums and Tom Toomey on guitar. At last night’s mesmerizing performance at the City Winery in New York City’s trendy Tribeca neighborhood, the guys received the ultimate tribute when a special batch of Sauvignon Blanc was made in their name (yes, right on the premises in the wine cellars downstairs)!


But what everyone came for was the music (although City Winery is a favorite “vinomaniac” hang in Manhattan and some singles come to “mingle”). It was touching how lead singer Colin Blunstone–famous for his mysterious, somewhat whispery vocals on such original British invasion hits as “She’s Not There,” “Tell Her No” and “Time Of The Season” which all reached the Top Ten Stateside circa 1964 to 1968–spoke about his first trip across the pond back in 1964. The Zombies came here to do one of those giant package shows at the Brooklyn Fox that Murray The K used to promote and MC, and CB actually asked members of the audience who were at any of those shows to raise their hands. Indeed, a few hands were raised!


Not only did the band do heart-warming renditions of the five most popular tracks off their legendary Odessey And Oracle album (which holds the #80 spot on the Rolling Stone Top 500 Albums Of All Time list), but they did a few tracks off their wonderful new Breathe Out, Breathe In CD, and sprinkled the hits hear and there. In case you are curious, “She’s Not There” is saved for the last spot in Zombies shows…and last night’s encore was “God Gave Rock And Roll To You.” We wrongly always assumed that was a KISS original, but it was actually a European hit for Argent (Rod Argent’s OTHER famous band) back in 1973 and only heated up in Philly despite it being such a great rock anthem. KISS rocked it up a bit and had a hit with it in the 80s, as you probably know. 

Rod Argent, who, in our opinion, has one of the most unique keyboard styles in all of classic rock, also got the audience rocking along for “Hold Your Head Up”–but since this was the City Winery, everyone held their wine glasses up! Another little known hit Stateside was Colin Blunstone’s version of “What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted” (originally a Motown hit for Jimmy Ruffin) and his performance of this soul classic was definitely a highlight of the Zombies set. (CB’s version, performed as a duet with Dave Stewart–not the guy from the Eurythmics–was a huge hit in Europe back in 1980.)

Photo info: Anne Raso of The Mac Wire with Colin Blunstone by Gail Worley, concert and wine photos by Anne Raso.

We here at The Mac Wire strongly recommend picking up Breathe Out, Breathe In since it brings all the classic elements of the Zombies including Colin’s breathy vocals and Rod’s punchy keyboards in with some timeless material that is reminiscent of the original British Invasion from which the band came…but also throws in some modern elements and production which add a lot of spice to the whole musical package. 

Happy 50th to The Zombies–so happy they are doing a tour, have a new disc out and seem to have endless energy. We were lucky enough to meet them after the show, get the inside scoop on the tour as well as talk to Rod Argent about “God Gave Rock And Roll To You.” He probably hears from dozens a fans a night that they thought it was a KISS song, but he told us the whole story about how it seemed to only “hit” in certain musical communities around the world but not with the mainstream American public. We’ll catch up with you again next time you are in the Big Apple, lads!

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The Mac Wire’s Hot Concert Pick–THE ZOMBIES ON TOUR! New Yorkers–Be Sure To Check Them Out At City Winery 9-26 and 9-27!

Photos Courtesy Plan A Media

Reported by Anne M. Raso, Contributing Editor


The Zombies are celebrating their 50th anniversary with a national concert tour and you’d be a fool to miss it–even if you were a real zombie, LOL!  The band, which includes founding members Rod Argent and singer Colin Blunstone, are also marking the group’s half century with a new album – Breathe Out, Breathe In and a U.S. tour in September and October, 2011. Back in the ’60s, the band provided the rock world with such signature works as the singles “She’s Not There,” “Tell Her No” and “Time Of The Season” and the album Odyssey And Oracle, their 1968 Brit psych masterpiece.

We will be there with bells on for The Zombies’ City Winery shows in New York City. For more info, go to http://citywinery.com/events/172569 (prices start at $55). Needless to say, they have the best wine in town here and they make their own! Be sure to get recommendations from your waitstaff person if you see The Zombies here!

As for Breathe In, Breathe Out, we will post the official press release courtesy of our longtime friend, publicist Melani Rogers and hope that you will pick up the CD:

The ten songs, which make up Breathe Out, Breathe In are impeccably crafted pieces; the harmonies are rich, the melodies full, the arrangements exquisite, the organ and piano fresh, the production intuitive.  

“There was a clear brief,” says Rod Argent today. “We wanted to use as many two and three part harmonies as possible and lots of Hammond organ, Mellotron and Memotron. We didn’t want to recreate the past, but we wanted to capture The Zombies’ essence and meaning. Our energy and enthusiasm for making music is the same as it was when we first started and the magic and mystery of the whole music making process, we are still thrilled by it all. So we thought it would be great to celebrate when that all began. I first met Colin outside the Pioneer Club in St. Albans for The Zombies’ first rehearsal. We didn’t know each other but Colin turned up with a broken nose and two black eyes. I thought, oh no, what have we got here? But he was a keen rugby player and had got injured during a game.”

 “That first rehearsal went really well because we got to borrow The Bluetones, a local St. Albans band’s equipment. Jim Rodford who now plays bass in The Zombies was in them funnily enough,” says Colin Blunstone. “Our own equipment was dreadful though so when we played on that it brought us down to earth. I would judge how well our gigs went by the amount of blood Rod would lose from his thumb when he played his Jerry Lee Lewis runs on the piano. He’d have to press down really hard. These days he still bleeds for The Zombies of course… spiritually though not literally.” 

Breathe Out, Breathe In was recorded over a year in Argent’s own Red House Studios, the band line-up completed by Colin and Rod’s touring group – guitarist Tom Toomey, bassist Jim Rodford and his son, drummer Steve Rodford. Rod would put down lead voice, piano and some harmonies on a demo, the band would listen and then lay down the bones of the song in a day. “Colin and I have been playing with this band for the last ten years,” explains Rod. “And during those ten years we’ve grown into a very tight and sympathetic musical unit and so going into the studio was a really enjoyable experience, we have a telepathy.”

“We often just know what the other person wants and needs and means without speaking,” says Colin. “There is so much history there, we understand each other and The Zombies are like a cottage industry. We have complete artistic control. We run our own label, we book our own gigs, we provide our own transport and hotels. Rod writes most of the songs, we record in his studio and he produces the record. It keeps it very exciting being at the centre always of everything.”

In his role as producer, Rod wanted to “capture the energy of the performance, that’s what recording is all about, whether you are laying down a lead vocal or a guitar solo, you’ve got to gee yourself up and think this is the only chance you’ve got to do it. It was important to try and get the joy we feel of playing together on the record too. We wanted it to feel very organic, so when you are listening you can imagine us standing there playing and hitting things.”

Musically, the benchmark for Breathe Out, Breathe In is their 1968 album Odessey And Oracle, which the original Zombies – Colin and Rod with drummer Hugh Grundy and bassist Chris White – played from beginning to end in 2008 to celebrate the album’s 40th year.

“Chris and Hugh hadn’t been on a stage playing music for a very long time and for a moment I thought how on earth are they going to cope with this,” says Rod. “I thought they were incredibly brave to do it and just a few bars in I knew it was going to work out fine. Returning to the album, it’s funny, it did subconsciously influence Breathe Out, Breathe In, just in the album’s genesis, we wrote the songs upfront like we used to, and did some of the songs live on the road first. We also used the same ingredients – bass lines being central to the song, lots of harmonies.”

“A Moment In Time” is one of the album’s many highpoints. Written by Rod with Tom Toomey in the last week of recording, it is quintessential Zombies with delicious melodies and harmonies and the perfect balance of emotion and restraint in Colin’s heavenly vocal artistry.

Inspired by Laurie Lee’s book on the Spanish civil war, A Moment Of War, says Rod, “Lee was writing down from the very start everything that happened to him leading up to the Civil War and how all the things that happen from when we are born to this very instance, they take us somewhere but they are all also individual moments in time, that thought just struck me as extraordinary.”

Of the other nine songs, six are penned by Rod solely including the peerless harmony title piece and “Let It Go,” which first aired on the road as a voice and piano piece, but in the studio became a full band work out. “It’s based on an idea I had of weaving the middle movement of Bach’s F minor keyboard concerto in and out of a song, such a ravishing piece of music,” says Rod.

Other influences include The Beatles and Elvis. The former’s “Hey Bulldog” impacts on the psychedelic rocker “Play It For Real” – “there’s no denying what an extraordinary effect The Beatles had, every band has a debt to them really, their music was so fresh and vital, it was like we were winning the world cup every week when they came about,” says Rod.

The latter’s version of “Blue Moon” inspired the Rod Argent sung “Show Me The Way.” “In the falsetto singing, and I wanted that lovely slap back single repeat tape delay on his voice and I went to (drummer) Steve Rodford and asked him if he had some coconuts as I wanted some on the record, sadly though we had to make do with bongos instead!”

Three songs are revisits – two were penned by Rod with Zombies’ original bassist Chris White for their post Zombies outfit Argent back in the ’70s. “Shine On Sunshine” here gets a total reworking and in The Zombies’ hands is expansive, transcendental. “Christmas For The Free,” meanwhile, remains faithful to the Argent version, an intelligent plea for peace and love with a majestic guitar solo.

The third, “Any Other Way,” already a live favorite, was written by Colin and turned up first on his 2009 solo record, The Ghost Of You & Me. Colin and Rod are both enthused by their new record, as they should be. It is a remarkable work. “I think it’s one of the best things we’ve done,” says Rod. “Listening to the finished record, it reflects the good time we had making it.”

Says Colin, “We are still learning, and new discoveries energize us, it’s all part of being an artist, we are very proud of our achievement here. We hope it moves and touches people like it has us. The Zombies have been a fantastic journey, we’ve gone from playing in the back of pubs to headlining festivals and it still feels like it is just the beginning.”

Breathe Out, Breathe In is available for purchase at:
http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/breathe-out-breathe-in-feat/id432331112
http://www.amazon.com/Breathe-Out-Zombies/dp/B004NTVMMO

For More Information:
www.thezombies.net
www.myspace.com/thezombies
http://twitter.com/TheZombiesMusic
http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Zombies/110460172367927

ZOMBIES/STRAWBS TOUR DATES SEPT/OCT 2011

(Note: For September 9-13, lineup is The Zombies only.)

 9-Sep     Fri        Casino Rama, Rama, ON
10-Sep    Sat        Seneca-Niagara Casino, Niagara Falls, NY
11-Sep    Sun       Oneonta Theatre, Oneonta, NY
13-Sep    Tue       Beachland Ballroom, Cleveland, OH
15-Sep    Thu       MusikFest Café @ ArtsQuest Center, Bethlehem, PA
16-Sep    Fri        Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center, Silver Spring, MD
17-Sep    Sat       Keswick Theatre, Glenside, PA
18-Sep    Sun      Tarrytown Music Hall, Tarrytown, NY
19-Sep    Mon     Rams Head On Stage, Annapolis, MD
21-Sep    Wed     Showcase Live, Foxborough, MA
22-Sep    Thu       Tupelo Music Hall, Londonderry, NH
23-Sep    Fri         Infinity Hall, Norfolk, CT
24-Sep    Sat        Wolf Den @ Mohegan Sun Casino, Uncasville, CT
26-Sep    Mon      City Winery, New York, NY
27-Sep    Tue        City Winery, New York, NY
28-Sep    Wed       State Theatre, State College, PA
30-Sep    Fri         Celebrity Theatre, Phoenix, AZ
1-Oct      Sat         Canyon Club, Agoura Hills, CA
2-Oct      Sun        Coach House, San Juan Capistrano, CA
5-Oct      Wed       McPhillips Station Casino, Winnipeg, MB
7-Oct       Fri        Casino Regina, Regina, SK
9-Oct       Sun       Century Casino, Edmonton, AB
12-Oct    Wed       Kamloops Convention Centre, Kamloops, BC
13-Oct     Thu       River Rock Casino Showroom, Richmond, BC