[The Central Park Zoo produced a demo CD (“Younger Than That Now”) in 2009. The following liner notes were written for the CD by George Sullivan before he and Deborah Hornblow officially joined the band in 2010.]
“So far underground that they are unlikely ever to surface” was the way Glamour magazine characterized the Central Park Zoo in a 1968 article on the Boston rock scene. As I remember, the Zoo didn’t much mind – they were a Harvard mixer band formed by a group of friends with complementary (and mostly self-taught) musical talents, and they never aspired to anything more than cover versions of their favorite rock and roll songs. Flash forward forty years, and the Zoo is still around, and (somewhat to their own bafflement and amusement) they are now slightly closer to surfacing than they ever were in the past. When they played at their recent fortieth class reunion, the organizers’ promotional material billed them as “our beloved Central Park Zoo.”
For me the Zoo’s elevation to “beloved” status is not all that surprising. It’s partly because of their evident joy in making music together, which today remains undimmed even though they have long been geographically scattered and their performances have necessarily been infrequent. It’s partly because of their musicianship – they actually seem to have gotten better over the years, and their sound today is both tighter and more inventive than it was in college days, with arrangements that purposely evoke the original recordings without being slavishly imitative. And it’s partly because of the music itself.
For anyone who lived through the sixties – and many who didn’t – most of the twelve songs on this CD will bring back powerful memories. They are classics, and they are typical of the Zoo’s repertoire. The sole exception is the quintessential Byrds song She Don’t Care About Time from 1965, which never appeared on an LP and went mostly unheard as a single because it was the B side of Turn! Turn! Turn! All the other songs here were hits as singles except for the Jefferson Airplane’s beautiful Comin’ Back to Me, from 1967, which as a single never achieved the Pop 40 success of White Rabbit or Somebody to Love from the same extraordinary album (Surrealistic Pillow). The Standell’s 1966 garage-band paean to Boston, Dirty Water, was a huge hit in Massachusetts (less so elsewhere), and can still be heard there today – it is played at Fenway Park after every Red Sox victory. And Procol Harum’s peerless A Whiter Shade of Pale (1967) here lives up to its vaunted poetic reputation: among the many songs on this CD possessing lyrics that make no sense – too often the lyricist seems to have inhaled and held his breath too long – A Whiter Shade of Pale makes no sense the best. All in all, it’s a terrific collection of songs, performed with skill and love, which is sure to produce grins all around and make any listener feel younger than that now.
Copyright © 2009, Central Park Zoo Band