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Colin Blunstone - One Year

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Artist: Colin Blunstone

Album: One Year

Label: Water

Review date: May. 17, 2007

It took 3 years after the break-up of the Zombies for lead singer Colin Blunstone to release his first solo album, 1971’s One Year . In the meantime, Blunstone recorded a few singles under the pseudonym Neil MacArthur, while his former bandmates Rod Argent and Chris White (as producer) begin recording as Argent. One Year reunites the three, with Argent and White producing and contributing several tracks. Its gentle, melancholic tone, however, contrasts with that of Argent, and at least on the surface, feels more like a Zombies album than anything else the former Zombies recorded (including 2004’s Blunstone-Argent reunion As Far As I Can See).

The production and recording of One Year was sporadic, and the earlier three tracks (with Argent as backing band) clash with the coherence of the remaining seven. The former (two of which sport Tony Visconti arrangements) play against Blunstone’s strengths, aiming for sleek R&B-inflected pop, while the latter use them to their fullest potential. The non-Argent tracks, a mixed bag ranging from Tim Hardin’s “Misty Roses” to Denny Laine’s “Say You Don’t Mind” depend almost exclusively on string quartet arrangements by Chris Gunning. Chamber-pop would indeed seem to be the world for these stripped-down, intimate arrangements, occasionally augmented by a lone harp. Blunstone’s voice blends beautifully with the strings; never overpowered or overpowering, he feels like a fifth member of the quartet.

While Blunstone’s performances are excellent throughout, its clearly arranger Gunning who is the real star of One Year. This becomes clear as early as the album’s second track, when Blunstone’s vocal is interrupted by a lengthy instrumental break that introduces the ubiquitous string quartet. Gunning’s touch raises the album’s best material (Argent/White’s “Smokey Day”) to a par with the Zombies finest moments, while preventing the weaker tracks (Blunstone’s “Though You Are Far Away,” Argent/White’s “Her Song”) from descending into orchestral sappiness. The final three tracks, structured like a suite, are particularly impressive: the upbeat Blunstone original “I Can’t Live Without You” (an improbable, but fortuitous candidate for a string quartet arrangement) segues into the brass and wind ensemble-backed “Let Me Come Closer To You,” which resolves beautifully into “Say You Don’t Mind” (the album’s only charting single).

One Year offers tempting hints of a Zombies reunion, but finds Argent and White wisely deferring to Chris Gunning’s arrangements. The album never attains or even aspires to the heights of Odessey and Oracle (and what album does?), but remains an elegant and satisfying achievement in its own right.

By Michael Cramer

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