The Zombies/Different Game/Cooking Vinyl
4.5 out of Five Stars
Videos by American Songwriter
The Zombies might best be described as kings of the comeback. Some 60 years after serving in the front lines of the so-called ‘60s British Invasion, they, like all good Zombies, came back from the dead, making some of the best music of their career. Granted, they’ll always be remembered for their seminal hits, “Tell Her No” and “She’s Not There,” as well as their 1968 opus, Odessey & Oracle, which, despite its release following the band’s premature break-up, is now rightly recognized as a musical masterpiece on the same scale as Sgt Pepper, Tommy, and Beggars Banquet.
The intervening years found the band’s prime movers, keyboardist and songwriter Rod Argent and singer Colin Blunstone, continuing with successful solo careers of their own—Argent at the helm of the band that bore his name, and Blunstone with a series of albums that kept his profile intact. Happily though, when the pair reunited to record the album Out of the Shadows at the beginning of the millennium, ostensively as a duo, the idea of a reunion became a no-brainer. The 50th anniversary of Odyssey & Oracle brought special attention and spurred the idea of further studio and archival albums under The Zombies banner. Now, with a revamped line-up that includes drummer Steve Rodford, guitarist Tom Toomey and bassist Søren Koch, the band is literally making some of the best music of its collective career.
That’s no exaggeration. The band’s new album, Different Game, easily ranks among the finest works they’ve ever offered, even drawing favorable comparisons to Odyssey & Oracle in terms of its sheer grandeur and symphonic sweep. It makes a formidable impression even at the outset, the majestic keyboard flourish of the title track bringing to mind the classic cadences of Procol Harum’s early endeavors. Those orchestrated elements play a key role in several songs—“I Want To Fly” being the most pertinent example—but the lush arrangements suggest the feel of an absolute epoch. Other elements enter the fray as well—the jazzy stylings of “Dropped Reeling & Stupid,” its awkward title aside, recalls those initial influences that inspired the band’s music early on, while the cooing harmonies of “Rediscover” nod towards the Beach Boys in all their sun-speckled glory. Several love songs dominate the set, but one in particular, “You Could Be My Love,” stands out among the most moving, and not surprisingly, brings easy comparison to Bob Dylan’s similarly titled emotive ballad, “Make You Feel My Love.” It has all the makings of a standard in itself.
Ultimately, Different Game is something of a misnomer. Rather, it’s the continuation of a fabled legacy and one that has not only stood the test of time but remains vibrant and invigorating all these decades on. Clearly, The Zombies are still in the game and still playing for keeps.
Photo by Stephen Olker/Getty Images for SXSW