Friday, February 18, 2011

Time of the Zombies - The Zombies

Time of the Zombies
The Zombies
Epic KEG 32861

Kind of a creepy album cover for a record that is so sweet and sensitive, but I guess it fits with the irony of the Zombies name itself - the most erudite and tenderest of the British Invasion bands chose to name themselves after mindless monsters.  "Zombie Heaven" basically rendered this obsolete, but as much as I love that CD box set, I still have a lot of regard for this double album.  I knew very little about the Zombies when I bought it as a teenager aside from their hit singles, but you couldn't ask for a better introduction to the group, every song is great, this record was compiled with a lot of care and intelligence.  At first I was a little perturbed that the group was so nerdy looking and that the liner notes were going on about how educated they were, but when I gave it a spin all my doubts vanished.  The band played with so much style and verve, Rod Argent's keyboard work was inventive and exciting, Colin Blunstone had such a heart breaking and expressive voice.  I'd never heard pop music like this.  Instead of the raw, driving, rhythm and blues inspired music I was accustomed to hearing from the British Invasion bands, I heard music from the hearts of poets - melancholy, observant, aching, yearning.  These songs really spoke to me, I related to the Zombies the way I never could to the Yardbirds or the Animals or the Stones.  I shared their world view, their cultural values, their middle class background.  Groups like the Eagles and Led Zeppelin might as well be from Mars as far as I was concerned, but these guys I could imagine talking to or hanging out with.  This was well before college rock, it was so refreshing to encounter a group I could identify with, one so unlike the macho pretty boys, hippie half-wits and drug-addled neanderthals that populated the rock scene of the 1970s.  Such great songs.  Side 3 and 4 feature "Odessey and Oracle" in its entirety, restoring that lost masterpiece to the catalog that it never should have left.  It is now justly recognized for its greatness, but back in the 1970s it was little known aside from "Time of the Season."  I was amazed by it.  The music was so eclectic, it was so different from every other record I had heard, it was my first serious encounter with chamber pop, aside from the occasional Beatles effort in that vein.  The lyrics were so intelligent - songs about World War I and convicts and loneliness and alienation.  I was dazzled by the imagery and atmosphere of songs like "Hung Up On A Dream," "Maybe After He's Gone," and "Brief Candles."  What other 60s band would do a song ("Friends of Mine") about how happy they are that their friends are in love and then actually name the friends?  "Odessey and Oracle" is chock full of these unusual and heartfelt songs.  A great, great album.  Side one and two cherry pick through the rest of the Zombies catalog including the hits "She's Not There" and "Tell Her No" and adding such wonderful lesser known tracks as "Imagine the Swan," "I Know She Will," "Is This The Dream," "She Loves The Way They Love Her" and so many more.  I could just go on and on about how every song is terrific.  The liner notes by Pete Frame are first rate, with some vintage clippings and comments from the group.  One of my all-time favorite albums.  Recommended to anyone who ever wished that rock wasn't so stupid sometimes.

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