Whenever a band of the classic rock era puts out an album these days, some fans will always be dismissive, assuming the group is either past its prime or has replaced too many members to recapture the magic. However, these skeptics would be proven very wrong upon hearing the Zombies’ latest release, Still Got That Hunger, which hearkens back to the band’s earlier days in a number of interesting ways, most prominently in how it was recorded. Quite similar to the way Odessey and Oracle was made, the band essentially played live together on each track and selected the best takes rather than recording each performer’s piece separately and arranging them later. Even the eclectic album cover was designed by the same artist responsible for Odessey and Oracle‘s colorful jacket.
But in spite of the similarities, Still Got That Hunger is not an attempt to reinvent Odessey and Oracle by any means. Though the approach may be somewhat the same, the final product is an entirely different animal, encompassing the wide variety of influences inherent in the band’s original records, all while keeping it fresh with new twists and styles along the way. The album is well made and enchanting in its own right, thanks to the combined talents of original lead singer Colin Blunstone and keyboardist Rod Argent, along with guitarist Tom Toomey, drummer Steve Rodford, and bassist Jim Rodford, who travel the musical gamut from jazz, to blues rock, to the unique brand of gothic pop the band is most famous for.
Right away, the Zombies show off their range by opening with the bluesy rocker “Moving On,” which is likely to shock any listener who’s only heard their more mellifluous hits like “She’s Not There” and “Time of the Season.” I even found myself second guessing whether that was really Colin Blunstone, known for his soothing, ethereal voice, belting out this swaggering tune. Yet, considering the group’s R&B roots, it’s really not that much of a surprise, and even somewhat calls to mind their ’60s-era cover of Gene Vincent’s “I’m Going Home.”
From this hard-hitting number, the album takes a sharp a U-turn into “Chasing the Past.” Beginning with an almost classical piano intro, joined by Blunstone’s haunting vocals, everything about the song is distinctly Zombies, from the unique chord changes right down to Argent’s trademark organ solo. It’s definitely a standout track and just the kind of moody gem a fan would expect from a Zombies record. A similar sound is also found in the beautifully melancholy “Now I Know I’ll Never Get Over You” which feels strongly rooted in ’60s baroque pop, despite its more modern instrumentation, as well as in the lovely piano-based tune, “Little One,” wherein we get to hear Blunstone’s and Argent’s fantastic musical chemistry shine on its own.
Though there are mellow moments, a highly optimistic mood seems to run throughout the entire album. “Edge of the Rainbow” is a gospel-tinged example of this, as is the wonderfully sunny “Maybe Tomorrow,” the hopeful “Beyond the Borderline,” and the nostalgic “New York,” which serves as a reflection on the Zombies’ first visit the United States during the British Invasion. What’s especially interesting about “New York” is that it provides a window into the Zombies’ past, describing their first performances at the Brooklyn Fox theater. They played six shows a day there, starting on a “snowy Christmas” in 1964, during which they were able to meet greats like Patti LaBelle and Aretha Franklin. It’s probably the album’s most sentimental track, but the delivery and the lyrics form a genuinely heartfelt tribute to a poignant moment in the band’s history.
Yet, nowhere is a return to the past more explicit than in the Zombies’ re-recording of their 1965 single, “I Want You Back Again.” This might initially be seen as a risky move, as any reinterpretation of a classic could easily be written off as lesser than the original, but the Zombies come through with a truly great take. Blunstone’s vocals are raw and soulful as ever, Argent’s soloing is endlessly impressive, and the electric guitar wailing out the hook gives the song a cool modern rock edge. The obvious conclusion by the track’s end is that these guys have definitely still got it.
As the album progresses, the overarching theme of interweaving the past and the present to create something new becomes all the more apparent. It’s clear that the Zombies have artistically grown and changed a lot, in ways that many British Invasion bands have not been able to do, while still retaining the core elements that made them so unique and memorable all those years ago. Still Got That Hunger is a remarkable testament to the Zombies’ continued relevance, creativity, and the solid songwriting that has always set them apart. And fortunately for fans everywhere, the band doesn’t seem to be losing their hunger for making great music anytime soon.
To get your copy of the Zombies Still Got That Hunger, find it on iTunes or order it on Amazon!