Saturday, November 2, 2013

Rock Roots - The Zombies

Rock Roots
The Zombies
Decca  Roots 2

Here's a post for Halloween.  Just kidding, aside from their name, the Zombies with their tender and romantic records could hardly be farther from the spirit of Halloween.  I saw them give a wonderful show at the Troubadour back in September.  Well they were calling themselves the Zombies but it was really just Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent with some side men one of whom was Jim Rodford so they could have just as accurately called themselves Argent (they actually did perform "Hold Your Head Up.")  Although Blunstone looks more like a head master nowadays, he still sings with the angelic voice of a schoolboy.  He looks great compared to Argent and Rodford though who are definitely showing their age.  It was an old crowd too, it was the first time I've been to a show where everyone rushed up to the balcony to get one of the few seats available because no one wanted to stand.  I was well back in line and I still got right up front in the pit.  I'm glad they are still working, they've been one of my favorite groups since I was a teenager.  As I mentioned in my post on "Time of the Zombies" the box set of "Zombie Heaven" has rendered all Zombies compilations obsolete and this one is no exception, all of it is on the box.  Of course the box is a bunch of CDs and this is vinyl so it has value to me.  I was thrilled when I found it at Aron's Records back in the 1980s.  Although the liner notes claim that 10 of the 16 songs on the album had never been released on an LP prior to this album, they are referring to England (this is an import.)  This claim is untrue since one of those 10 tracks ("I Remember When I Loved Her") appeared on the Zombies' English debut album, "Begin Here."  In the American market 4 of the non-album tracks on here are on "Time of the Zombies" and 2 others appear on the London Records compilation "Early Days."  Since the album consists largely of the Zombies' Decca singles, the later See For Miles Zombies singles collection has almost all of it as well.  Be that as it may, I'm still glad I have it since I don't have the See For Miles compilation.  Side one is wonderful.  It kicks off with their 1964 classic hit single "She's Not There" and its B-side the Beatlesque "You Make Me Feel Good" which is so good it sounds like it could have been an A-side in its own right.  It has a brief bit of studio noise before it starts which I haven't heard on any other recording of the song.  Their 1964 follow up single "Leave Me Be" is next.  The single flopped but I think it is a great song, one of my favorites in their catalog.  I like the contrast between the delicate verses and the driving chorus led by Argent's dynamic organ line.  "Indication" from 1966 tanked as well but it is another excellent song.  It is one of the hardest rocking songs they ever did and the organ and guitar interplay at the end of the song is very exciting.  Although the liner notes indicate the 2.07 running time of the abbreviated American version of the single, this is the full length 2.59 version of the song. "How We Were Before" was its flip side.  It is the sort of delicate, wistful song the Zombies excelled at and unlike most of their songs it is guitar driven with bongos providing percussion.  It is one of the few Zombies songs written by Colin Blunstone as opposed to Chris White or Rod Argent.  "I Remember When I Loved Her" is in a similar vein, a quiet, sad song full of atmosphere.  It was the B-side of a 1965 U. S. single in addition to its appearance on "Begin Here."  "Is This The Dream" was a 1965 single.  It is a punchy, uptempo tune with a strong vocal from Blunstone and a brief but powerful electric piano solo from Argent.  It reminds me of the Animals.  The side concludes with "Woman" which was the B-side of "Leave Me Be."  It is a propulsive riff-driven tune with an energetic organ solo from Argent as well as one of Paul Atkinson's best guitar solos.  Side two opens with the Zombies' other hit single for Decca, "Tell Her No" released in January 1965.  Blunstone's vocal really sends me on this one.  "Whenever You're Ready" was an unsuccessful single from 1965, but it deserved a better fate.  It has that special Zombies mixture of tenderness and power with a strong melody and plenty of instrumental force.  It is followed by its B-side, "I Love You" which was a hit for the American group the People in 1968.  I like the Zombies' version much better, particularly Blunstone's vocal.  It is followed by the only non-singles on the record, "Summertime" and "I Can't Make Up My Mind" which appeared on "Begin Here" in 1965.  "Summertime" is also on the group's American debut album, but as far as I am aware "I Can't Make Up My Mind" was never on vinyl in the United States.  "Summertime" is the Gershwin classic that has been covered countless times but the Zombies' jazzy version is one of my favorites with a fabulous breathy vocal from Blunstone and a terrific piano solo from Argent.  It was one of the highlights of their show at the Troubadour.  "I Can't Make Up My Mind" has a weird bit of studio chatter at the beginning of the take.  It is a moody song driven by a melodic jangly guitar riff that is one of my favorite songs on "Begin Here."  "Remember You" was a single from the soundtrack for the movie "Bunny Lake is Missing."  It was an A-side in England, but in the U.S. it was the B-side to the other song from the film "Just Out of Reach" which was left off this album for some reason.  I actually prefer "Just Out of Reach" myself but "Remember You" has its virtues, in particular its jazzy rhythm and some memorable piano work from Argent.  "Gotta Get A Hold of Myself" was the Zombies' penultimate single for Decca in 1966.  I don't believe this was ever released in the U.S. on vinyl.  It was written by Clint Ballard Jr. (who wrote the Hollies' hit "I'm Alive") in collaboration with Angela Riela and had been a single for Dee Dee Warwick in 1965.  The group manage to make it sound Zombieish but it depresses me that they felt compelled to do covers to try and get a hit and it didn't even work.  "The album concludes with another cover, the final Zombies Decca single, "Goin' Out Of My Head" from 1967 which also went unreleased in the American market.  I like it better than the hit version by Little Anthony and the Imperials, if only because it is less melodramatic.  It decidedly isn't very Zombieish, the flip side "She Does Everything For Me" (not on this record alas) is much better.  It was a disappointing finish to their run at Decca.  It is hard to believe that a few months later they would be recording "Odessey and Oracle" creating the best music of their career.  I'm not sure what the point of this record was, as a singles collection it is missing several tracks and as a greatest hits on Decca record it has the very obvious omission of "She's Coming Home."  Nonetheless I'm happy to have it.  When I bought it I hadn't heard many of the songs on it and even now I still enjoy listening to it.  It sounds great, nine of the tracks are in mono and it is a quality pressing.  Aside from "Goin' Out of My Head" every track is good and many are great.  Recommended to Zombie fans who prefer vinyl over CDs.

1 comment:

  1. Lots of pretty pictures and neat-o reviews are nice... But music links would be better!