April 8, 2019
Colin Blunstone’s (and The Zombies) popularity came home to me when I was walking through downtown Las Vegas in 2017. On the street tannoy I heard ‘She’s Not There’. (I always absorb background music around me and process the oddity of the selection in surprising locations). This hit climbed to No. 2 in the US charts in 1964. I missed out on The Zombies, even I was young in 1964, but I had adored and seen the two separate acts that came out of their disbandment.
The keyboard player formed Prog rockers Argent. Rod Argent wrote ‘She’s Not There’ and had several hits after. I saw them a couple of times and bought the albums. Colin Blunstone, The Zombies unmistakable lead vocalist, didn’t follow Rod Argent into his band: he pursued a solo career and released some fabulous albums. These would have been filed under Singer Songwriter back in the day. Blunstone’s voice had a sweeping range from mellow to falsetto but also had a seductive depth as soft as cashmere and smooth as honey.
Blunstone never seemed to get a lot of commercial success and whilst he’s been releasing albums over the years then our collective desire for nostalgia and the power of the ‘grey pound/dollar’ seems to have reignited the septuagenarian’s bank account. I’m so delighted about his success. Maybe about a decade ago I saw him in York in a small band with Rod Argent playing some of his catalogue but mainly Argent’s. His show at Pocklington Art Centre, North Yorkshire saw him fronting a five piece band and giving full rein to his catalogue and blissful voice.
In a 90 minute set over 23 songs he brought the sold out show to their feet with album tracks, singles and those Zombies’ hits. I’ve referenced the mellifluous voice but behind him was an accomplished band. Manolo Polidario was nothing short of staggering on acoustic and electric guitars. His dexterity and speed were eye catching. Pete Billington, band leader, on keyboards got several opportunities to step up whether on piano or organ and often these solos were a highlight.
Not all the seats were occupied by devotees (my wife!) but his canon included a couple of covers that helped those less familiar get comfortable with his work. Tracks from 1971’s One Year and 1972’s Ennismore came back to back – “Misty Roses”, “Caroline Goodbye”, “Though You Are Far Away”, “Let Me Come Closer To You”, “Say You Don’t Mind”, “I Don’t Believe In Miracles’ and “Andorra”. The singles “Wonderful”, “Time Of The Season” and “She’s Not There” eventually appeared as the audience sat enrapt.
The banter between songs emphasised what a charming man he is. He acknowledged an old school friend in the audience which set him on a long deprecating speech about his own academic mediocrity! He covered his recent appearance in Cleveland, OH playing to 30,000 at The Zombies induction into ‘The Rock n’ Roll Hall Of Fame’, buying a new outfit for the appearance that needed a second mortgage to pay for it and what the flight there and back inflicted on his throat through the dryness of the air.
Much to everyone’s disappointment the band ripped into the last song of the night – The Zombies “Just Out Of Reach” and he was gone leaving the crowd wanting more.
Blunstone had a support act. This wasn’t a good thing as far as I was concerned. Onto the stage crept a fit looking tall older bloke with an acoustic guitar, baseball hat (we were inside and this is England) and a white beard complaining of a voice strain through a heavy cold. Not propitious and I wondered how many people I’d disturb by shuffling out in the dark to the bar! However his songs were fine and he did light up the auditorium. This was when he declared he’d been married to Donna Summer for 32 years until her untimely death. This illumination came as everyone looked at Wikipedia on their smart phones thinking is this guy for real? He was and his name is Bruce Sudano.