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Colin Blunstone

+ {Neil MacArthur} + {Keats}

Born 24th June 1945 in Lempsford, Hertfordshire, singer-songwriter COLIN BLUNSTONE is best remembered for his wispy and debonair vocals with 60s Baroque-pop combo, The ZOMBIES. Defined by their monster hits, `She’s Not There’ and `Time Of The Season’ (the latter from the Mellotron masterpiece “Odessey And Oracle” set), the austere and refined BLUNSTONE wanted to explore the pop field as a solo artist, while his long-time keyboard-king cohort, Rod ARGENT, found hard-rock his forte. Of course, they’d collaborate decades later as a duo and with a re-formed, post-millennium, ZOMBIES.
At a time when the said psychedelic act were in transition and on the threshold of breaking up (little did they know “Time Of The Season” was about to go Top 3 Stateside!), 1969 saw the re-emergence of the singer, but as the pseudonymous NEIL MacARTHUR, did anyone really notice that the Top 40 re-visit of `She’s Not There’ was BLUNSTONE? Probably not. And when two other ditties (`Don’t Try To Explain’ and `It’s Not Easy’) flopped forthwith, the anonymity of a day-time job with a London insurance firm looked likely to pay the bills from then on in.
Out of the limelight for a while and shying away from the media at the turn of the decade, BLUNSTONE (under his proper moniker) was eventually guided back into the business by other former ZOMBIES-turned-producers/songwriters; ROD ARGENT and Chris White. Recorded between the summers of 1970 and ’71 and duly released by Epic Records, the appropriately-titled ONE YEAR {*7} was somewhat overlooked by the public, although his version of DENNY LAINE’s `Say You Don’t Mind’ careered into the Top 20. A ZOMBIES record in all but name, orchestral arrangements from Chris Gunning and backing by Blue Train (aka ARGENT), the set was graced by creamy ballads like TIM HARDIN’s `Misty Roses’ and MICHAEL d’ABO’s `Mary, Won’t You Warm My Bed’ (the latter one of two flops; the other being `Caroline Goodbye’).
With an array of session people behind him (plus ARGENT – the man and the group), and despite being bookended by two misty-eyed ballads in `I Don’t Believe In Miracles’ and `How Could We Dare To Be Wrong’, ENNISMORE (1972) {*6}, failed to generate support from fans past or present. His uncanny resemblance to almost mimicking the vox of DUSTY SPRINGFIELD (a compliment indeed for any BURT BACHARACH fan!), pastel platters such as `Exclusively For Me’ and `I’ve Always Had You’ were ineffective in days when rock was king; the quietly-spoken ERIC MATTHEWS suffered the same fate a generation later.
Chris White took his turn at the controls for third set, JOURNEY (1974) {*6}, a blatant attempt at producing a pure pop record. Augmented on harmony by Cambridge a cappella sextet, the King’s Singers, and “Journey-man” DUNCAN BROWNE. `Wonderful’ flopped unceremoniously, while one of two Richard Kerr/Gary Osborne songs, `This Is Your Captain Calling’ went the same way.
PLANES (1976) {*4} – featuring the title track donated by ELTON JOHN and Bernie Taupin – and the Elton-sanctioned NEVER EVEN THOUGHT (1978) {*3}, were inconsequential to the day’s high-flying punk birds; songwriters such as MURRAY HEAD, NEIL SEDAKA, The BEACH BOYS, KIKI DEE, BUDDY HOLLY and ROD ARGENT (the latter on old ZOMBIES nugget, `(Care Of) Cell 44’, could do little or nothing to resurrect Colin’s flagging career. The plug was pulled on 1979’s ARGENT-produced, Dutch-only LATE NIGHTS IN SOHO {*3}.
Colin soldiered on in the 80s, relying on project work rather than solo sets to maintain his profile. In February 1980, he guested on MIKE BATT’s solo 45, `Losing Your Way In The Rain’, while a year later the singer featured on DAVE STEWART’s UK Top 20 cover hit, `What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted’; this Dave was the ex-URIEL/HATFIELD + THE NORTH musician. Clutching an old soul tune, `Tracks Of My Tears’ (from SMOKEY ROBINSON), BLUNSTONE had a minor UK hit in 1982, while his vocal part with the ALAN PARSONS PROJECT, `Old And Wise’, game the collaborative act a US Top 30 smash.
Together with members of PILOT (2), CAMEL, COCKNEY REBEL and the alumnus of the aforementioned APP, Colin instigated Brit-supergroup, KEATS; respective musicians David Paton (bass), Ian Bairnson (guitars), Peter Bardens (keyboards) and Stuart Elliott (drums), all contributed nearly a dozen tracks on the band’s eponymous, KEATS (1984) {*4} set. A series of flop singles rounded off an ineffective period for BLUNSTONE, plus there was room on board Don Airey’s star-studded set “K2 (Tales Of Triumph & Tragedy)” in 1988. A rather toned-down Colin and Chris reunion with The ZOMBIES (Rod relegated to guest artist) on “New World” in 1991 was recorded to limit imposter groups plagiarising their songs.
In 1992, Colin was a feature of another star-studded outfit, The Bolland Project, who released one set, “Darwin (The Evolution)”, with the man found voice on their single, `Emma My Dear’. A year later, Timecode 64 (with COLIN BLUNSTONE) combined for a techno version of `She’s Not There’, but loyal fans were wondering when he would again find time for a full set.
This was answered in 1995 when Permanent Records delivered his comeback album, ECHO BRIDGE {*5}. Basically an album of outsider songs, including BILLY BRAGG’s `Levi Stubbs’ Tears’, GALLAGHER & LYLE’s `Breakaway’, NIK KERSHAW’s `Oxygen’ contribution and CLIFFORD T. WARD’s `The Best Is Yet To Come’, the album could safely be filed under contemporary pop. 1998’s THE LIGHT INSIDE {*4} drew once again from the pen of KERSHAW and Colin’s main co-conspirator, Andy Nye, but it was run-of-the-mill stuff for fans of MICHAEL BOLTON and CHRISTOPHER CROSS.
As was his attempt with songsmith ROD ARGENT for the jointly-credited, OUT OF THE SHADOWS (2001) {*4}; sanitised gloss-dross from men still stuck in the 80s. Colin and Rod would subsequently re-form The ZOMBIES for mid-00s sets, “As Far As I Can See…” and “Live At The Bloomsbury Theatre”. Not forgetting the excellent “Odessey And Oracle” 40th Anniversary deluxe DVD/CD release and another studio piece, “Breathe Out, Breathe In” (2011) two BLUNSTONE solo sets found their way to Amazon, iTunes and beyond: THE GHOST OF YOU AND ME (2009) {*5} and the equally, squeakily-clean ON THE AIR TONIGHT (2012) {*5}.
© MC Strong 1997/GPD // rev-up MCS Nov2012

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