Saturdays can be great: RSD 10 and The Zombies

Colin Blunstone 2

Colin Blunstone and bassist Jim Rodford fire up the crowd for the first half The Zombies performance April 22 at the Showbox at the Market. 

As a working dude, I really look forward to the weekends.  The last six weeks were so busy with so many demands on my evening time I valued every minute of weekend down time.  Unfortunately there wasn’t a lot of weekend down time.  Yes, I did have spring break off a couple of weeks ago.  It was deliberately restful and quiet.

So after another week of late nights as the JagWire staff got an issue of the paper off to the printer, I was really looking forward to this weekend and some down time.

But wait!  As often happens, there was plenty planned.  We had some birthdays to celebrate on Saturday, but the family festivities coincided with a couple of fun activities.  Saturday was the tenth annual Record Store Day, as well as a long-planned Zombies concert in Seattle.

First, Record Store Day.  Usually I avoid the vinyl version of Black Friday.  This is the list of records available to retailers for the event yesterday.  It’s lengthy, but that doesn’t mean your local record store will have any of those that interest you.  They are of very limited production, and some seem to be directed at very specific geographic regions.  The album that interested me most was The Meters box, but I knew there was virtually no possibility of getting a copy because only 510 copies were produced and it was aimed a specific region–likely the New Orleans area where The Meters are worshiped like gods.

No, Record Store Day is often mostly about standing in line to be disappointed when I.  find the five or six records I’m interested in are all sold out or hideously expensive. Record shops tend to be small, with tight quarters and the entire process of purchasing is difficult.  I do think the local shops profit from the extra traffic, but the big winners are the designer labels that offer albums twice a year to addicts and collectors who can’t stand being left out.

Boogie Records, my local record shop, a fairly small enterprise struggling to get started, hosted its second annual Record Store Day.  In connection with the festive nature of the day, they brought in bands to play all day in the parking lot.  They had extra help in the shop and at the coffee bar.  They truly did their best to make the RSD experience more than just about hawking spendy niche records, and I commend them for their efforts.  Note: In an effort of transparency, I am a regular customer at Boogie Records and consider the owners friends of the family.

Doors Live at the matrix

I did my part.  I arrived about an hour before opening, got my number 6, and dutifully took my place in line.  I did get one record on my list–The Doors Live at the Matrix.  I believe the Matrix was Jefferson Airplane founder Marty Balin’s club in San Francisco, the band was recorded live in 1967.  The LP is essentially a live version of the their first, excellent album, The Doors. It’s great.  Everything you’d expect, “Light My Fire”, “Back Door Man,” Twentieth century Fox,” “The End,” are all there.  Vocalist Jim Morrison is in fine style and seems quite sober.  I was able to get number 763 of 10,000 pressings.

Though I was deprived of my longed for copy of The Cars Live at the Agora, I did make myself feel a little better by snagging a couple more records from Boogie’s growing and increasingly well organized stash of used records.

I’d been thinking before heading down to the shop, wouldn’t it be nice to pick up a copy of Devo’s excellent Freedom of Choice, and lo there was one.  Best known for the song and accompanying video “Whip It,”  the 1980 album is just a great record. I also had my eye on a very nice 1968 re-pressing of The Genius of Ray Charles.  Recorded in 1959, it features Charles playing with elements Duke Ellington’s and Count Basie’s jazz bands on side A.  Charles is remarkable and the musicianship is superb.  Side B was recorded in Seattle, and arranged by a young Quincy Jones, again with jazz accompaniment and strings. And while none of this sounds like “Hit the Road Jack,” or “Georgia on My Mind,” I was really surprised at how good Charles sounded, and his ability to crossover between genres.  A great acquisition.

The Zombies 

My badly light-washed photo of Rod Argent on the left and Colin Blunstone on the right.  Though there was much more to the band than just these two, they certainly captured the audience’s attention. 

As great as Record Store Day and seeing the family was, Saturday night was our long awaited night to see the Zombies at The Showbox in Seattle. I have one of those life-long connections to the British Invasion band.  in 1968 I was a Seattle Times paperboy.  One of the super popular songs I always heard on the radio was “Time of the Season.” It is so different from many popular songs of the time, with its big Rod Argent organ lead, and Colin Blunstone’s breathy vocals. To this day, the song probably lands in my top 20 songs.

Last night was not my first experience with the band.  In 2006 The Zombies traveled with Little Steven’s Underground Garage tour.  They played El Corazon in Seattle to about 100 concert goers.  I got to stand about eight feet from Blunstone.  I went with son Patrick and his then-wife Michelle, and it was one of the most wonderful concert experiences of my life.  Blunstone was very good, and the energetic younger-than-his-years Argent was superb.

But that 2006 performance saw a band that was still finding itself, much as the audience was re-discovering what a great band The Zombies were. They seemed to lack polish and the confidence that came with playing together over an extended period of time.  The original band member only lasted for a few years, and now it was nearly fifty years later.

In the years since 2006, the Zombies became much more popular.  Their 50th anniversary tour to commemorate The Odessey and the Oracle, widely recognized as a minor masterpiece, drew crowds wherever they went.

At our annual Christmas gathering in December, we saw the Zombies were making a return to Seattle in April, so Patrick, Rachel, my brother-in-law Paul and I bought tickets that minute.  We cashed them in on Saturday night. The band that appeared at the Showbox at the Market on Saturday, was a much more experienced, very polished outfit compared to the band I saw ten years ago.  The stage set-up offered two drumkits as well as two mellotron and keyboard sets.  Weird, but would all be clarified later.

The set was divided into two halves.  The first set featured well known Zombie songs, such as “She’s Not There,” “Tell Her No,” and “I Love.”  At first notice, two things were evident.  First, this is very much Argent’s band.  The banter between songs was all Argent.  Inevitably the band went on to play Argent’s one big solo hit from the 70’s, “Hold Your Head Up.”  Decent energetic song, well-played, but it did go on for an excruciating ten minutes. The second big observation is that Blunstone’s voice is, if anything, stronger than it was when I last saw him. Pretty amazing for a guy who is now 72 years old. With Tom Toomey on guitar and Jim Rodford on bass, and Steve Rodford drumming, it was a very enjoyable set.

When the band emerged twenty or so minutes later it was straight on to Odessey and the Oracle.  The band changed as original bassist Chris White stepped in for Jim Rodford, and original drummer, Hugh Grundy joined Steve Rodford at the kit. A second keyboardist joined the band–but his name escapes me, and my sources aren’t helping much.

While the first half the show seemed well-paced and relaxed, with enough banter to be informative and interesting, the Odessey half felt needlessly rushed.  From “Care of Cell” to “Time of The Season,” all 12 songs were over and done with in forty minutes and it was on to the encore.  Don’t get me wrong, all were well performed by a very professional, very polished group of musicians who knew their stuff.  It just felt like they had a taxi outside with the meter running.

A great show, thoroughly enjoyable.  I count myself fortunate to have seen this band more than once.



2 thoughts on “Saturdays can be great: RSD 10 and The Zombies

  1. Spokane has two stores that participate in RSD. I struck out getting “A Message from The Meters” from the first store but managed to snag a copy at the second!

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