Review: The Zombies – Still Got That Hunger

2.5 OUT OF 5 NUTS!

zombieshungerThe Zombies enjoy a pretty good reputation for a band that had only three hit singles and one hit album in the 1960s. Theirs is a crazy story and a cautionary tale. If it wasn’t for bad breaks of timing and fate, this band might have left an even bigger footprint on the Rock landscape. Who wouldn’t be curious about how they sound in 2015?

The quintet came to fame in 1964 with “She’s Not There” a stunningly original song for its time, memorable for its syncopated beat, Colin Blundstone’s dirty choir boy vocals and Rod Argent’s explosive keyboard solo. They followed up with 1965’s “Tell Her No”, but for the next four years the hits dried up, despite the release of some similarly high quality and original-sounding records.

The Zombies weren’t blues-based or even R&B-based, and that might have been part of the problem – an elusive identity. If anything, their records were jazz-based and keyboard-centric, putting them a bit out of step with Top 40 radio. They were certainly not bad boys, but they weren’t nice boys either, and they even sometimes came across as kind of a cerebral outfit — more strikes against them.

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Frustrated by their lack of success, in 1968 the boys decided to pack it in. Rod Argent formed the band Argent, and Blundstone set off on a solo career, which he thankfully didn’t call Blundstone. Little did they expect that their 1967 album Odessey and Oracle would become a belated hit due to the unexpected 1969 success of the now-timeless classic ‘Time of the Season”.

(Incidentally, what more evidence do you need that this band was snake-bit by bad luck, when you consider that the album designer misspelled the word “Odyssey” on the album cover, and they were forced to go with it anyway.)

Despite the well-deserved success of this brilliant album, the former band members were committed to their new projects and couldn’t tour in support of it, and so the Zombies drifted off into the delete bin of Rock history, only to be resurrected as a nostalgia-circuit act in the late 1990s.

A fun Rock parlor game is imagining what might have happened if the Zombies had continued together through the late sixties, if Argent’s 1972 hit “Hold Your Head Up” had actually been a Zombies record, and what else they might have done if they had stayed together.

Well it sounds like the band had the same idea for Still Got That Hunger. It sounds as if they wanted to go back in time and see what the Zombies would have sounded like in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Unfortunately much of it ended up sounding more like Toto or Journey than the Zombies. I’m not gonna lie, there are some unspeakably lame tracks on this album.

I hate to say that, because I really respect these guys and their huge contributions in the past. And I also admire their persistence and determination in trying to recapture some of the old magic in a new setting. To their credit they’re trying to turn a new page, and not rest on their past glories. They say as much in one of the better songs, the simmering “Chasing The Past”:

And there is not another place
That I would rather be than here
No case for chasing the past
Yesterday it’s gone
It’s just as well
Now we’ll take tomorrow and give it hell

To be sure, their talents still shine through. Blundstone maintains his pure and distinct vocal qualities, which is truly remarkable at his age. And Rod Argent certainly helps bolster his case for being one of the great Rock keyboardists of all time. His playing on this album is a genuine treat.

And there are a couple more tracks that are pretty good too. “I’m Moving On” holds together really well, serving up some nice jazzy chords and a great piano break in the middle. They also had the good sense to re-do an obscure 1965 single called “I Want You Back Again”, which was fantastic back then and is still fantastic today.

Hell, if the only thing this album did was re-introduce that song to the world, it may have been worthwhile. If they are going to keep making new albums maybe they should try to re-do some more of their obscure gems like this, it sure wouldn’t hurt.


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