Monday, July 20, 2009

Song of the Week: "Summertime", The Zombies

Today we start a week long salute to one of the greatest songs ever written. The song is Summertime and was penned by George Gershwin in 1935 for the musical, Porgy and Bess. Some songs are brilliant because of the performance, but not necessarily the intrinsic nature of the composition. See MC5's Kick Out the Jams video diary entry directly preceding this post as an example. Other songs are so perfectly composed that it is nearly impossible for anyone to do a bad version of it. Summertime, I would argue, falls into this latter category. In celebration of Summertime (and Summer), we will post a new version of the song each day this week. Upbeat, sorrowful, latin, soul, jazz, rock and country. We may just explore them all.

Today we start things off with the criminally underrated British Invasion band, The Zombies. Their version is pretty straightforward. Slow and brooding, the moody nature of the song is first tipped by the bass work of Chris White who gives us the first melodic hint as to what song we are enjoying. Then the beautiful, breathy voice of Colin Blunstone comes in. Blunstone, perhaps best known for voicing the band's hit, Time of the Season, sings Summertime with a sultry heat that would fit well into any Tennessee Williams play. Rod Argent's electric piano punctuates our song and the three front men harmonize with a gentle ghostly feel to it. Click here to hear the Zombies version of Summertime.

We'll see you tomorrow with another version of the song.

5 comments:

  1. Really glad you started with the Zombies' version. I think i was only vaguely aware of the song before i heard this version as a teenager. Pretty funny that a group of pasty English public schoolers would introduce me to a song about Southern slavery, but then again Gershwin wasn't exactly a cotton picker himself. I do love this version, and when i think of the song i still hear Colin Blunstone's voice in my head.

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  2. Blunstone's voice was made for this song.

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  3. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


    Sara

    http://pianotutorial.net

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  4. Morgan, I find the Zombies story to be tragic; so many great singles that, very oddly, did almost nothing on the charts, other than "She's Not There" and "Time of the Season", the latter almost shelved. It was released after the band broke up, discouraged. And wouldn't any act be discouraged after the seriously fine run of singles, and one classic album in Oddesey & Oracle, and not being admitted into the upper echelon? Grrr! They were one of the best bands of the '60s.

    Thanks for the post!

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  5. I also find the Zombies story to have a tragic edge to it. Much as we talked about on your excellent site with The Merry Go Round, or as I touched on elsewhere in these pages with Arthur Lee and Love.

    What's more tragic with the Zombies is how, inexplicably, they were ignored in the UK after their first two singles. Dropped from labels and left to play a high school in Michigan one night, and a corner bar in Wisconsin the next night. If ever a band deserved more, it was The Zombies. Thank goodness fellow musicians like Al Kooper stepped forward to insist that Odessey and Oracle made it to print.

    The Zombies were, in my opinion, one of the most consistently high quality bands of any band in the last 50 years.

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