Four decades later, the old guys deliver
By Dan Campbell
Published October 18, 2004 in The
Chalk one up for poetic justice. It's been nearly 40 years since the
Zombies and Love recorded two of the few albums to ever deserve the tag of
Now they're again showcasing their masterworks in concert, providing us a
second chance to savor live what most of us missed the first time around.
Beloved by the critics, though ignored by the fans. It's an old story for
both groups. But sometimes history rights itself, as it did Saturday night
before a full house at the State Theater in Falls Church.
Headlining this dream rock doubleheader, the Zombies set revolved around
their acclaimed 1968 song cycle, "Odyssey & Oracle," while Love uncorked
nearly all of its equally ambitious "Forever Changes" album, also vintage
Where the Zombies focused on deft pop craftsmanship, Love burned through
its set with dueling, feedback-drenched guitars that were far fiercer than
on the original recorded versions.
After a hiatus of more than 30 years, the Zombies re-formed a few years
back around the band's original cornerstones: vocalist Colin Blunstone, a
gifted singer (and still the quintessential English gentleman rocker) and
keyboard virtuoso Rod Argent.
Although not an original member, ex-Kinks bassist Jim Rodford is still
"family," having played in Argent, the 1970s progressive-rock band Mr.
Argent formed after the Zombies' demise.
The Zombies folded tent just as "Odyssey" was released in '68, so they
never had a chance to perform it live until the re-formation. As such,
"Time of the Season," "Rose for Emily," and "Brief Candles" were among the
"Odyssey" numbers that shimmered Saturday with spot-on harmonies and Mr.
Argent's tasty keyboard fills.
"Time to Move," a classic-sounding Zombies rocker, was one of four or five
numbers performed from this year's "As Far As I Can See," the band's first
new album since the 1960s.
A storming version of the Argent hit, "Hold Your Head Up," replete with
effects-drenched organ riffs and a fist-pumping, sing-along chorus, got
the biggest ovation of the night, while "Keep on Rolling" gave Mr. Argent
a chance to tear loose on some barrelhouse piano playing.
The polished-pop perfection of the early Zombies hits, "She's Not There,"
and "Tell Her No," capped the regular set. A three-song encore followed,
with "Just Out of Reach," "God Gave Rock 'n' Roll to You"(another Argent
hit), and finally Mr. Blunstone's breathy, quietly sublime take on George
The pride of L.A.'s Sunset Strip circa 1968, Love is still fronted by
vocalist/guitarist Arthur Lee, who appears to have tossed aside the
personal demons (drugs, guns, jail time) that came close to destroying him
on many occasions. He looked to be in good physical shape, and his vocals
were excellent; the sweet timbre of his youthful voice having gained just
a dash more grit.
Also in the fold is Love's original lead guitarist, Johnny Echols -- who,
obviously hasn't been resting on his laurels all these years. His stinging
leads are almost shockingly better now than in the band's 1960s heyday.
He frequently traded hot licks on cold steel with co-lead guitarist Mike
Randall, a young man with blond dreadlocks. At one point, Mr. Randall
played psychedelic slide guitar by scraping a bottle of beer down the
fretboard of his Gibson hollowbody. Not to be undone, Mr. Echols later
played his guitar behind his head without missing a note.
All the great songs from "Forever Changes" were played, though "A House is
Not a Motel," "Alone Again Or" and "Old Man" were probably the cream of
the crop. The album versions rely primarily on acoustic guitars,
orchestrations and even brass, so it was fascinating to hear how well the
lead guitars were able to translate those parts in concert.
No such translation was needed for the supersonic, psychedelic hit "Seven
& Seven Is," which was extended in concert. It still roars along at triple
speed -- until it hits that famous wall at 90 miles per hour before fading
into a slow blues jam.