Live At The Bloomsbury Theatre, London

The Zombies

The Zombies are back! Yeah, I know it sounds like the tag line for a George Romero horror film, but I’m referring to the 60s group featuring Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent. The duo recently reunited for a tour, and a new double CD set, as well as a companion DVD, with the striking title of Live at the Bloomsbury Theatre, London has been issued by Rhino. The CD set features 25 songs, including classics like “God Gave Rock ‘N Roll To You” and “Time Of The Season,” along with tunes from more recent Blunstone/Argent recordings. There are also some gems from the back catalog that Argent claims were never played live before, such as the beautiful “Beechwood Park” and haunting “A Rose For Emily.” Blunstone and Argent have not been together on stage for over three decades, but with some seasoned players filling out the Zombies line-up, they deliver a fairly solid set.

Argent breaks out with his blistering signature organ solos on “I Love You” and “Hold Your Head Up” (technically not a Zombie’s tune, but who cares really?). Blunstone shows off his vocal power on the aforementioned “I Love You” and “God Gave Rock ‘N Roll To You.” Newer members of the band also shine, with bassist Jim Rodford (formerly with The Kinks for 20 years) and Keith Aiery on guitar, each adding some tasty harmonies and backing vocals, especially on “What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted,” “A Rose For Emily” and “Time Of The Season.”

Though songs like “Time” and “Tell Her No” seem to rush a bit ahead of the tempo I’m used to, they are well served here. It’s great to hear these played live, even if there are only two original members of the band. I still have a bit of a hard time accepting a band playing and billing themselves under their old name when they really only have a a couple of original members on hand. But I must commend Blunstone and Argent for being careful to bill the tour as Colin Blunstone/Rod Argent of The Zombies (maybe a small point, I know). They also have enlisted veteran players for support — guys who have been with them in one incarnation or another, and have the chops to prove they are their contemporaries. This is not some vanity project where old guys get new kids in the band to help them slug through some old classics to cash in.

The real highlights are when Argent and Blunstone are backed by a string quartet on “I Want To Fly” and “Say You Don’t Mind.” The version of “Fly” might be the best thing on the entire collection, as it blends Argent’s piano, Blunstone’s vocals and the strings almost seamlessly. One tends to forget how well Argent plays considering his absence from the limelight these last few years. Everyone knows the seminal 70s hit “Hold Our Head Up,” but hearing Argent tickle the ivories on this collection demonstrates his versatility.

The CD and DVD are not exact copies. Taken from the same show, the DVD features 16 songs where you get 25 on the two CDs. This shouldn’t deter you from purchasing the DVD. In fact, I’d venture to say the DVD is a smidgen better than the CD. You get a great view of the action on stage with nice close-ups to boot. You get to see Argent’s flying fingers when he plays solos. You are treated to a split screen view as drummer Steve Rodford grooves off of Argent. I am happy video directors have taken to staying on the band throughout performances these days, forgoing that obligatory shot of some audience member playing air guitar while we miss the ‘real’ guitarist soloing. And where onstage banter and song introduction are cut from the CDs, you get it with the DVD. The bottom line: If you want a full night of Zombies music, pick up the CD. If you want to see this performance (truncated as it is from the CD), pick up the DVD. Hell, pick both of them up — it is well worth it in any form.

~ Ralph Greco, Jr.

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