Sure, the last couple years were anything but normal. You could go so far as to say abnormal. I gleaned onto anything I could that would offer some kind of escape from the global pandemic; be it books, films, tv shows, long walks, and of course music. 2020 saw some albums drop that allowed such escapes. The Behind The Sky comp Portals, Zombi’s 2020, the great Azure Vista Records dropping some mind blowing ambient courtesy of Jonas Munk and Dawn Chorus and the Infallible Sea. Anything that felt like its own world to get lost in was my jam in 2020 and into 2021.
One surprising escape came in the form of a covers band creating earnest, unironic covers of late 70s/early 80s soft rock. The kind of songs that are definitely part of my DNA. FM pop radio tracks by The Doobie Brothers, Alan Parsons Project, Eddie Rabbit, the Eagles filled my brain is a 5, 6-year old bebopping around town with my mom in the backseat of our Omni Miser.
The covers band creating these near perfect renditions of soft rock standards is called Zombi & Friends, a band that consists of members of Zombi, Pinkish Black, The Sword, and Trans Am. Cats like Daron Beck, Steve Moore, AE Paterra, Bryan Richie, and Phil Manley performing near-perfect renditions of soft rock and pop rock classics. Zombi & Friends Volume 1 is a trip in the Wayback Machine to a time where it may not have been simpler, but it sure was smoother. Guys in their 30s and 40s with full, manicured beards making sweet, sweet tunes for the masses that may or may not have been coked out of their minds. Zombi & Friends left the coke and instead mainlined all the grooves, melodies, and funk for our pleasure.
I imagine all these fellas are around my age(or close enough to be a little brother?), so they must have had a similar experience as I when it came to these songs. They made their homes in our brains as little kids, then we forgot about them through adolescence. Macheted our way through metal, prog, punk, post-punk, new wave, electronic, and finally as an adult you sort of reckon with those early pivotal musical moments as a kid. For me it was hearing Robbie Dupree’s “Steal Away” on an episode of Better Call Saul. Hearing that song so many decades later unlocked this musical world of soft rock loveliness that I’d been hiding under layers and layers of bearded white guy rock denial. I immediately began revisiting those one-hit wonders of the late 70s/early 80s and found myself waxing nostalgia. Some of it was great, some of it was better left in 1981, but it all worked to rewire my brain.
Zombi & Friends hit up some of those vibes, but they also lock into the masterful Alan Parsons Project, which is easily my favorite cover here. “Sirius/Eye In The Sky” is like a portal to being a little kid that went everywhere with his mom. Groceries, clothes shopping, paying bills, visiting grandma on the lake…that song brings me back to those drives. These cats take the form of Alan Parsons Project and become them on this cover. Likewise “Take It To The Streets”(Doobie Bros) and “I Can’t Tell You Why”(Eagles) are so damn good and impeccably on point.
Lou Rawls, Eddie Rabbit, and freakin’ Double’s “The Captain Of Her Heart” are all here, with some extra surprises. 10 tracks that wax nostalgia, especially if you’re a child of the 80s. Zombi & Friends Volume 1 is a time machine back to when adults could still have hits on the radio. Whether that means anything to you or not, it means something to me. I can’t wait for Zombi & Friends Volume 2.
Until then, make sure your lapels stay wide, your beard is dyed jet black, and the grooves stay, well, groovy.