As Far As I Can See

The Zombies' essential 1968 album Odessey & Oracle didn't become a hit until almost two years after its release, spurred by the belated availability of "Time Of The Season" as a single. The album entered the rock pantheon roughly two decades later, when a wave of psych-pop revivalists claimed it as their own Sgt. Pepper's. Recently, Zombies vocalist Colin Blunstone and guitarist-songwriter Rod Argent reunited for a club tour where they played the bulk of Odessey & Oracle, plus earlier hits like "Tell Her No" and "She's Not There." The shows received good notices, but didn't really reflect the musicians' evolving styles, which are better reflected in Blunstone's brief-but-successful solo career as a twee folkie, and Argent's chart-topping stint as a progressive hard-rocker.

All of which means that fans should table complaints that Argent and Blunstone's new album As Far As I Can See... doesn't sound much like The Zombies, since these guys stopped being The Zombies long ago. Slinky middle-of-the-road R&B numbers like "In My Mind A Miracle" and "Memphis" could just as easily be the work of a reconstituted Spencer Davis Group, if it weren't for the way Blunstone's magisterial voice snakes around Argent's vibrant keyboards, almost recalling "I Want Her She Wants Me." In the liner notes, Argent says that the duo decided to revive the Zombies name because they heard similarities between their harmonies now and the harmonies of old, though as any Behind The Music fan can tell, when a band starts touting its technical achievements, the magic is pretty much gone. As Far As I Can See... works fine as a well-produced bar-band exercise, but it's not a comeback worth fussing about.

Zombies junkies are better off choosing from the growing number of bands still striving to squeeze something fresh out of spooky, jazzy pop. One of the best is Kevin Tihista's Red Terror, which made its debut three years ago with the gorgeous Don't Breathe A Word, a pretty pop sleeper that sneaked onto a major label and disappeared before many could note its attempt at Big Star as arranged by Burt Bacharach. Since then, Tihista has written and recorded a slew of songs, but has only released them sporadically. Wake Up Captain represents his first real full-length since Don't Breathe A Word, and though it can't bear the weight of his cult's expectations, the disc contains plenty of arresting moments where fragility soars across grandiose orchestration.

Wake Up Captain takes a quieter approach than Don't Breathe A Word, striving for the sound of the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night. Deploying piano-bass-and-guitar-solo arrangements similar to the early-'70s work of John Lennon and Harry Nilsson, Kevin Tihista's Red Terror works diligently over an hour of breathy, echoing balladry to justify the tenuous optimism of the album's final track, "This Is An Offering," a hymn for the pop-addled.

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