December 23, 2015 The Zombies – Still Got That Hunger (Album Review)
Every time the topic is ’60s Pop/Rock music, many people seem to automatically and ecstatically turn into The Beatles mode and virtually nothing else. Well, maybe that is the usual case with the so-called mainstream-music listeners then and even now, who base their musical knowledge on whatever commercial radio has been churning and who have shaped their musical taste primarily on this and nothing more. However, to the initiated, the ’60s was not only The Beatles. With due respect to Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, and Starr, and to their great music of course, The Beatles is indeed one of the gems of the 1960s. However, the well-adored band was not the only one. The ’60s has produced also other equally laudable groups that collectively defined the ensuing Pop/Rock scenes, from A to Z such as The Animals, The Beach Boys, The Byrds, The Cascades, The Doors, The Hollies, The Kinks, Love, The Monkees, The Rolling Stones, The Who, and The Zombies.
Formed in 1961, in Herts, England, primarily by Rod Argent (piano, organ, vocals) and Colin Blunstone (vocals), The Zombies has been regarded as one of the purveyors of jangly Psychedelic Pop music in the 1960s. The English band’s first and second albums- 1965’s Begin Here and 1968’s Odessey and Oracle- The Zombies’ only releases in that decade, have become mainstays on many lists of “Top Albums of All-Time.” The Zombies rode on the wings of these two albums, especially during their heyday in the late ’60s, and then it disbanded without even seeing the light of the decade that followed. In spite of that, their musical legacy trickled onto the 1970s onwards with the strength of eventual classics like “Summertime,” “The Way I Feel Inside,” “She’s Not There,” “I Don’t Want to Know,” “I Remember When I Loved Her,” “A Care of Cell 44,” “A Rose for Emily,” “Hung Up on a Dream,” “I Want Her, She Wants Me,” “Friends of Mine,” and “Time of the Season.”
After The Zombies bid farewell in 1967, Argent and Blunstone and their bandmates went on their separate ways and each pursued his respective endeavors. Argent formed a band; Blunstone began a solo career; the others worked behind the scenes, working for record companies. In the early ’90s, Blunstone re-formed The Zombies and, in 1991, released the album New World. A long hiatus from recording ensued soon thereafter. Then, in 2004, Argent re-joined the band, resulting in yet another new The Zombies album, As Far as I Can See. It took seven years before Blunstone, Argent, and the rest of the band were able to follow it up with 2011’s Breathe Out, Breathe In. Finally, in 2015, The Zombies – currently consists of Blunstone (vocals), Argent (keyboard/vocals), Tom Toomey (guitars/vocals), Jim Rodford (bass/vocals), and Steve Rodford (drums) – unleashed its latest album, proving that after almost fifty-five years, albeit on and off, its primary progenitors still have the hunger for creating new original materials.
On October 9, 2015, The Zombies released its sixth album, entitled Still Got That Hunger. If the songs in this album should be encapsulated in a few words, then the fitting description to use would be “rocking nostalgic emblems draped with the aspirations of contemporary Pop Rock.” Still Got That Hunger opens with the count of the piano-guitar bluesy Rock indulgence of “Moving On.” Then, as “Chasing the Past” plays, the mood turns to something Classical-inspired, owing to the tiptoeing cyclical piano arpeggios in the intro and then progressing into Progressive Rock as the instrumentation builds up with Hammond organ solos in the interludes, plus the Gentle Giant – evoking vocal harmonies in the choruses and a hint of Simon Dupree & the Big Sound’s styling that will surely titillate the senses of any aficionado of the genre’s classic period. The piano, as well as the mode of the other instruments, then switches onto something bluesy and soulful, Gospel-oriented R&B with “Edge of the Rainbow,” sounding off along the lines of fellow ’60s pioneer Percy Sledge (“When a Man Loves a Woman”). The following, “New York,” is one of the songs that give the album its touch of relative recentness; it starts with a burst of the flamboyant Glam and Pop of David Lee Roth (“Just like Paradise”) and smoothens with the silky, but equally bombastic Pop Rock of Steve Perry (“Oh Sherrie”).
The rocking ballad “I Want You Back Again” is a polished rework of its 1965-released original self; this time, less improvised but more structured, giving it finesse and a classier polished sound. “And We Were Young Again” takes the listener to a nostalgic trip back on ’60s memory lane, both lyrically and musically – which can be a very soothing, shimmery, and delightful experience, especially to those who were there since the humble beginnings of The Zombies. “Maybe Tomorrow” is a call-for-reminiscence stomper adorned with complementing Rock-n-Roll-inspired piano rolls, subtly fuzzy electric-guitar lines, and beautiful directly referential lyrics: “Remember, baby, just how good it used to be / When nothing mattered in the world, just you and me / Maybe tomorrow we can start again / Kick out the quarrel, baby, we can make amends / We should forget about today / Just like The Beatles used to say / I believe in yesterday.”
“Now I Know I’ll Never Get Over You” is a remake of a song released in 2009 by Blunstone as a solo artist; while the style of the original is Baroque Pop, the one in this album is more akin to the guitar-oriented ’60s Psychedelic Pop style of The Zombies, making it an appropriate and better version for the band. Near the end of the album is the slow and somber ballad “Little One,” which features a playful, jazzy piano part and a set of lyrics that is “sweet as a symphony.” It also exudes a whiff of the sentimentality and melody of Bread’s “If.” Finally, Still Got That Hunger closes aptly with “Beyond the Borderline,” whose combination of big-hall drum sound, piano melodies, and vocal styling effectively pays homage to the classic trademark sound of The Zombies of old.
While The Zombies’ new album echoes shadows and traces of its past psychedelic sound, it is also sparingly and carefully brushed with strokes of contemporary Pop Rock, making it an altogether familiar and different beast – a ’60s-rooted outfit dressed in modern regalia, celebrating the carefree aspects of the 1960s in the equally expressive, yet freer setting of the current generation. CrypticRock gives Still Got That Hunger 4 out of 5 stars.