Music

Colin Blunstone: On the Air Tonight

After all these years, Colin Blunstone retains a wonderful voice. It would be an even more rewarding experience if he were prepared to deploy it on more ambitious material.


Colin Blunstone

On the Air Tonight

Label: Zip
US Release Date: 2014-01-21
UK Release Date: 2012-10-15
Label Website
Artist Website
Amazon
iTunes

Colin Blunstone is a bit of a hero, really. As lead singer with the Zombies, he had a No. 14 hit in the UK nearly 50 years (natch) ago with "She's Not There", later covered (but not improving on the Britbeat's simplicity) by Santana. Colin also hit the UK Top 20 in 1972 with the beautifully baroque "Say You Don’t Mind".

But both these achievements pale into insignificance alongside the Zombies' extraordinary 1968 masterpiece Odessey and Oracle (the cover designers were responsible for the misspelling, in case you were wondering). This LP was one of the first testaments of the psychedelic/pop/folk trend to emerge from the late '60s. Inevitably the Beatles' and Byrds' full-blown conversion in '66 drove the psych movement, but the folkier tinges can be heard from '68 onwards ranging from Small Faces dabblings to US bands like The Association. It's a period not to be underestimated, not least because it gave the harpsichord its proper place in the studio.

To stay on point, Odessey and Oracle was the business: every track a memorable song. It even, somewhat bizarrely, spawned a 1969 No. 3 US hit in "Time of the Season". By then, the Zombies, disillusioned by the album's lack of chart success in their homeland, had split up. But Odessey and Oracle has grown in stature with every passing year -- so much so that Rolling Stone ranked it as their 100th best ever album -- and with it the Blunstone voice and his ability to catalyse classy pop arrangements.

Ah, the Colin Blunstone voice: an instrument of aural candy, mixing a soft breathless timbre with a metier for vocal swoops and dives. In this, his first solo album since 2009 (although it's already been released in the UK, in 2012), it's the voice you turn to straightaway – can he still cut it, is that unique tone still intact? Well, the short answer is yes; and by all accounts he can still deliver in live performance as well (the surviving members of Zombies have re-formed in recent years, and Blunstone will soon be doing his first live shows in the States for 40 years).

It's easy to become almost obsessed with the Blunstone voice, so much that you forget the material and arrangements behind it. In that regard On the Air Tonight is, to be frank, a mixed bag. The 10 tracks on offer comprise some old Blunstone/Zombies remakes, a couple of covers (including Duncan Browne's "Wild Places"), and a few new writes. Musically, it is on the one hand positioned in different eras; but at the same time there is a consistent feel to the overall product, especially on the slower piano-led tracks (which also carry the most impact).

The opener "Turn Your Heart Around" and the slower "So Much More" exemplify Blunstone's ability to dip into the decades. "Turn Your Heart Around", with a similar (if slightly stilted) dynamic to say Survivor's "Eye Of The Tiger" is all 1980s – which is maybe not surprising as it was recorded by Blunstone's 1984 short-lived Alan Parsons Project offshoot Keats. Whereas "So Much More" is that straightahead '60s Britpop simplicity, complete with Farfisa organ. "Not Our Time" is somewhat anonymous '70s soft-rock

But it really is on the ballads -- where the material is stronger -- that Blunstone and his musicians hit their stride. "The Best Is Yet To Come", co-written by Mel C of The Spice Girls (more musically talented than you might think) is quietly glorious, punctuated by some fantastic Blunstone high notes and a shining backing vocal troupe. The title track also stands out, with a Billy Joel-like piano intro, a lovely acoustic solo interlude and the type of fragile vocal which Colin Blunstone excels in.

In conclusion, this is a nice album with some genuinely quality moments. But, although you have to hand it to Colin Blunstone that he is evidently still crazy for music after all these years, you also believe he could still stretch himself out a bit more. Take a leaf out of Paul McCartney's or Elton John's book, Colin: go get yourself some modern ace producers/collaborators; hawk around for some new material; and showcase that voice in excelsis. There's time yet for this often underrated artist to produce something really special.

6

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image