Breathe Out, Breathe In (AIS)
By Brian Arsenault
As the British bands stormed America in the mid 60s, it wasn’t clear which would endure and indeed become key bands in the history of rock ‘n roll and which would fade away or mercifully depart the airwaves. (Tell the truth, didn’t you want to seriously injure Herman’s Hermits?) Now we know that the Beatles are immortal and the Stones, Who, Led Zeppelin are all giants in the rock pantheon.
At the time though, it seemed The Kinks, The Animals and The Zombies might be just as big and just as accomplished. But The Kinks went from hard rock to the quirkiness, however intelligent, of Ray Davies. The Animals succumbed to fear of flying and the burden of Burden.
The Zombies, though, ah, the Zombies — those great harmonies, that giant organ, the terrible yearning of their lyrics, the hint of darkness and despair. Was it greatness? Was it?
I have this weird theory that maybe The Zombies didn’t sustain great band status because the contradiction between their name and their music was too great. Zombies for sweetness to rival Buddy Holly’s? What kind of name is Zombies for the band’s lyricism? We just don’t know for sure. But after a start that still has some alternative radio jocks comparing them favorably to the Beatles (absurd, I know, but true) they simply were gone in America, at least, as more and more artists piled in.
Still, there is a tip of the hat coming for the two central guys in the band — organist Rod Argent and singer Colin Blunstone — for pulling together some other musicians and recording a 50th Anniversary Zombies album, Breath Out, Breathe In.
It’s just that except for the second cut, “Any Other Way,” it takes until the last three songs for a sound to emerge that seems to have any connection to The Zombies you may recall. I didn’t expect a time warp with songs as rich as “Time of the Season” on every take but really guys, you’re just not there.
Maybe it’s the title song that set it up badly for me. A few bars into “Breathe Out, Breathe In” and I’m transported to a Holiday Inn lounge where a third rate cover band is doing a Steely Dan imitation morphing into the worst of Joe Jackson. Or maybe they were trying to write a song for American Idol.
Still, my hopes were raised by the next track, “Any Other Way,” with organ work worthy of the best of the Zs, a smooth vocal, nice guitar work. Now this was good, a song that could get air play wherever quality music is played on the radio — which must be somewhere.
“Play it for Real” is Beatles based and solid, but “Shine on Sunshine” is the album’s McCartney moment, melodic but more than a bit saccharine. And while the Zs pay a nice tribute to the Beatles in the press release on the album, the Beatles do the Beatles the best after all.
All my notes read that way through a couple listenings. Nice, lyrical, pretty, pleasant. There’s just no bite, no marvelously melodic meanderings as during the early days.
Mercifully, the last three cuts are probably the best. On “Another Day” they suddenly remember that they are a rock band, or at least used to be. An interesting wall of sound created by the Z harmonies and organ.
“I Do Believe” is soulful with maybe Blunstone’s best vocal of the album. A nice affirmation of life and love. “Let it Go” may be a little too derivative of their heroes’ “Let it Be,” but it’s a lot closer to The Zombies you may remember. There’s an echo of “She’s Not There” and I guess I wanted more of that.
More of the band that created the terrible yearning of “She’s Not There” and the need to sometimes push away what’s most desired in “Tell Her No;” the band that brought light out of dark melodies and brooding instrumentation; the band that built harmonies three and four parts deep under body trembling organ work.
Gone, even if the harmonies and organ are still there.
The band that first asked “Who’s your daddy” has become your granddaddy. It’s not bad. It’s ok. It’s just not thrilling. Or as my best pal said, “The music just doesn’t grab ya.”
To read more reviews and posts by Brian Arsenault click HERE.