Friday, May 6, 2011

May 6: The Zombies, "Time Of The Season"

Artist: The Zombies
Song: "Time Of The Season"
Album: Odessey And Oracle
Year: 1968

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN (will open in new tab)

Though it happens with almost frustrating regularity, it seems that when critics cannot properly define the sound a band creates, they simply write them off with the phrase, "ahead of their time."  The fact of the matter is, when one looks across the history of music, there are very few bands that actually represent such a phrase, as once a sound has been made somewhat widely known, it is no longer a shock when it appears elsewhere.  This was perhaps no more true than during the rise of the psychedelic movement, as at the time, those who pioneered the sound were largely ignored or simply refereed to as radicals in one way or another.  However, it is this early acts that blended together so many different sounds that actually WERE ahead of their time, and yet when one studies their musical formula, the pieces are quite easy to define.  Bringing a brilliant blend of fantastic vocals and some of the most unforgettable melodies in the entire history of music, there are few bands that can take more responsibility for the state of popular music in the mid and late 1960's, as well as the way in which the psychedelic movement came to be than one finds in the music of The Zombies.  Releasing a handful of truly timeless singles, they remain somewhat overshadowed by other bands of the era, and yet one cannot deny the sheer beauty and brilliance that can be experienced within The Zombies' classic 1968 single, "Time Of The Season."

The instant that "Time Of The Season" begins, it identifies itself as one of the most recognizable musical arrangements in history, though it has somewhat become a "oh, THAT'S who that band is!" type of song for many listeners.  The deep, yet swinging groove set into place by bassist Chris White and drummer Hugh Grundy remains one of the finest in all of music history, and the hand clap and breath that are present manage to complete the back-bone of the song in a completely unique manner.  It is this poly-rhythm that sets "Time Of The Season" so far apart from any other song at the time, as it feels as if the song is moving back and forth, almost hopping, along with the fantastic side-to-side sway.  Guitarist Paul Atkinson finds a number of ways to delicately emphasize certain points in the musical progression, and it is the way in which he manages to do this without interfering with the overall mood that stands out as so impressive.  Yet it is the organ playing of Rod Argent that stands out the most, and whether he is filling in during the verses, or going off on a stunning solo, his performance remains one of the finest in music history.  Truth be told, it is his organ solo that largely defines "Time Of The Season," as it sounds as if he is dancing along to the song via his instrument, and to this day, few artists have been able to even remotely match the tone and mood he puts forth.

Though the musical arrangement on "Time Of The Season" is what has made the song so iconic, one cannot overlook the vocals of Colin Blunstone, as he not only delivers a beautiful performance, but his style is completely unique.  Throughout the song, Blunstone works the entire vocal scale, and one cannot help but compare his voice to some of the finest of his generation, as he seems to not only set up perfect harmonies, but it is almost impossible to not sing along with his performance.  Yet there is a breathy, almost nervous feel within his delivery, and this is where Blunstone becomes more akin to Roy Orbison or Del Shannon than to the more mainstream "pop" sound.  It is this sense of darkness or mystery that makes Blunstone's vocals so intriguing, and it is the way in which they build to the wonderfully grand bridge section that pushes "Time Of The Season" to the status which it has achieved.  Lyrically, the song can be interpreted on a number of levels, with the most common being the literal reading of the words as a statement about the arrival of spring, and the "love is in the air" feeling it often brings.  However, if one looks a bit deeper, the words to the song quite accurately define the state of society at the time, and it is much the reason that "Time Of The Season" continues to be used in popular culture as a representation of that time period.

Strangely enough, upon its release, "Time Of The Season" found massive success in a few countries, yet barely charted at all in either the U.S. or the bands' native U.K.  It is almost impossible to understand how this could have happened, as it has become one of the most iconic songs of the generation, and one cannot picture music progressing as it did without the presence of "Time Of The Season."  Yet almost two years after it was first released, the song was put out as a "formal" single in the U.S., and it gained quite a bit of attention.  Ironically though, by the time U.S. audiences caught on to the amazing sound that "is" The Zombies, they had already broken up, and it is in this fact that one can accurately label the band as one of the few groups that were truly "ahead of their time."  The overall impact of the song as the decades have passed can be found not only in its recurring appearances throughout popular culture, but also in the massive number of cover versions that have emerged.  Artists ranging from Scott Weiland to Tanya Donelly to The Guess Who have all put their own touch on the song, and yet none come close to the arrangement and mood put forth on the original.  It is the distinctive blend of a somewhat dark mood, combined with the heavy groove and absolutely brilliant melodies that enable the song to remain fresh, and the unmistakable vocals add the perfect final touch to The Zombies' unmatched 1968 single, "Time Of The Season."

No comments: