Reviewed on this page:
The Singles A's & B's - Odessey And Oracle - All Together Now -
InConcert - Red House - Breathe Out, Breathe In
What? Who? Oh yeah, those preppy English guys who dished out a couple of cheesy, flash-in-the-pan hits in the mid-60s and promptly exited stage right... well, not exactly. Next to the Beatles, the Zombies may have been the most mature and sophisticated songwriters of the early British Invasion. If this sounds like a wild overstatement, break out your guitar and try to play their stuff. Unlike competing acts like the Kinks and the Yardbirds, the Zombies actually knew the meaning of the terms minor key and modulation. This was a big deal back in late 1964/early 1965, when the Zombies were briefly thrust upon the international scene with two smash singles - "She's Not There" and "Tell Her No." Admit it, one or the other or both undoubtedly are going through your head at this very moment.
Alas, after striking gold with two of their first three attempts, the Zombies went on a nightmarish losing streak, releasing eight flop 45's in a row. With the band losing money everywhere and the record company unwilling to back them any further, the group managed to record a second and final album in the summer of '67 and then called it quits. Carefully produced despite a shoe-string budget, it too was a flop, and it wasn't even released in the U.S. until some months later when Al Kooper heard the record and intervened on its behalf. Somehow, the single from that LP - "Time of the Season" - slowly but inexorably took off and became a major hit, more than a year after the group had already broken up. And strange as it may seem, the minimally produced Odessey and Oracle turns out to be one of the best albums of the 60s.
The Zombies were led by keyboard whiz Rod Argent, but about half of the songs (and some quite good ones!) were written by bassist Chris White. Frontman Colin Blunstone contributed fantastic white-soul tenor vocals, and Argent's vocal harmony arrangements were superb. But the group lacked a strong soloist and had an excessively mild-mannered rhythm section, and by 1967 rock fans had lost their patience with English schoolboys posing as R & B'ers. Perhaps the band should have salvaged their image by urinating on some gas station attendants, a la the Stones.
In late 1968 Argent formed a band of that name, which until breaking up in 1976 did enjoy some commercial success on both sides of the Atlantic - their big hit was 1972's "Hold Your Head Up." White was heavily involved as a producer and songwriter, but didn't perform with the band. In the early 70s Argent and White produced a pair of solo albums for Blunstone called One Year and Ennismore; both of them featured the Argent band members on the backing tracks. These are clearly the closest thing to a legitimate Zombies reunion record you'll ever come across, but I've never seen them in the stores, and I don't think they're available on CD. Argent also sang backups on a 1977 Blunstone record.
Blunstone has continued to cut solo albums to this day; the title track of his 1976 solo album Planes was written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin. He has frequently sung a track or two on Alan Parsons Project albums, and in 1984 Parsons produced Keats, an album by a one-shot band of that name featuring Blunstone on lead vocals and many of Parson's regular players on the backing tracks. Meanwhile, Argent has become a soundtrack writer and music store owner, and has put out an occasional solo record of his own.
In addition to a new Zombies web site, there are multiple Alan Parsons sites. The best place to start may be with the guys who run the Encyclopaedia Projectologia.
Special thanks to Arthur and RRJOSEF for assorted info. (JA)
I just wanted to throw in that Chris White's development as a songwriter was the key to the band's improvement: Argent was writing great songs
from the start ("She's Not There" was recorded at the Zombies' first session) and didn't really develop, while White was the George
Harrison of the group, progressing from trivial early songs about his bad moods ("What More Can I Do") to writing several of the best
tracks on Odessey. (DBW)
Zombies: Rod Argent (keyboards, vocals); Paul Atkinson (guitar); Colin Blunstone (lead vocals); Hugh Grundy (drums); Chris White (bass, vocals).
Argent: Argent; Russ Ballard (guitar, vocals); Robert Henrit (drums); Jim Rodford (bass; Argent's cousin).
Begin Here (1965)
Uh, maybe not. Although I don't have this, I can tell that it's quite uneven because I've heard all the sides that were released as singles
(see below). In addition to the band's first two big hits ("She's Not There"; "Tell Her No") and some other predictable but ultra-smooth pop
songs ("What More Can I Do"), there's some experimental stuff (the almost-a capella "The Way I Feel Inside") and several covers of R & B
tunes by Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters, and the like. (JA)
Uneven is an understatement: incredibly unconvincing R&B (covers of "I Got My Mojo Working" and "Road Runner") next to incredibly beautiful
pop songs (other than the hits, Argent's circular "I Remember When I Loved Her" is the standout). White was already writing songs, but they
weren't very good: "I Can't Make Up My Mind" and "I Don't Want To Know" are interesting only as confessions of weakness unusual in rock and
roll. The British version of the album doesn't contain "Tell Her No," and the US version also incorporates a couple of Argent
songs from a 1965 EP: "It's Alright With Me" and "Sometimes." (DBW)
The Singles A's & B's (rec. 1964 - 1967, rel. 1984)
It took me years to track this down, but it was worth it (more or less). The eleven Zombies singles from '64 to early '67 are
presented in order, giving you a chance to see the gradual musical progression between the group's two widely-separated LP's. It's quite
uneven and a lot of it is duplicated from the first album ("She's Not There"; "Tell Her No").
But there are more than a few decent sides you won't hear elsewhere ("Whenever You're Ready"), and also a pack of bizarre experiments dating
from '66 and early '67 that nearly approach the breakthrough Odessey sound: "Indication," with a tense, almost neurotic organ line;
"Gotta Get a Hold of Myself," featuring one of Blunstone's most intense vocals; the memorably tuneful "She Does Everything For Me," which
would have fit in fine on Odessey; and a completely over the top cover of the Little Anthony hit "Goin' Out Of My Head" with a
bombastic orchestral arrangement. (JA)
"Whenever You're Ready" may be the ultimate Zombies song: syncopated drum pattern, lovely harmony vocals, unforgettable melody. Do whatever
you have to do to get this song. Incidentally, the disc Alroy reviewed features a previously unreleased Gene Vincent cover ("I'm Going Home")
mistitled "She's Coming Home" - the Zombies did release a song with that title, a pretty decent Argent number.
Odessey And Oracle (1967)
- One of the few records I can safely put on at any time without fear of being bored: it's a pop masterpiece and a
fantastic sing-along or play-along record. The intricate harmonies, catchy riffs, complex chord progressions, melodic bass playing, and heavy
use of keyboards all eerily evoke the Beatles' lighter mid-60s style (e.g., Rubber Soul and
McCartney's compositions after that point). Some of it's light but clever pop ("I Want Her She Wants Me"; "Friends of Mine"), and there are a
couple of off-putting experiments (the flaky, mellotron-infested "Changes"; the bizarre war protest "Butchers Tale (Western Front 1914)").
But many of the better tunes would have edged out the weaker tracks on any Beatles album - just the first side is littered with up-tempo pop
symphonies ("Care of Cell 44"), melodramatic character sketches ("A Rose for Emily"), haunting mood pieces ("Beechwood Park"), and anthemic
love songs ("Maybe After He's Gone"; "Brief Candles"). Oh, and then there's the huge hit "Time of the Season," which bears up to repeated
listening. p.s.: hold out until you can get your hands on the Rhino Records release, which includes two good bonus tracks. There is also a
European important version with something like a dozen bonus tracks, but I haven't heard them. (JA)
- Alroy's right on target, except I don't agree that the Rhino bonus tracks are worth hunting down:
"I'll Call You Mine" is a decent Beatles imitation, and "Imagine The Swan" borrows its descending vocals from "Monday Monday" - they don't
hold up next to the real Odessey tracks. (DBW)
R.I.P. (rec. 1964-1968, never released)
The plan here was to make a new album by combining outtakes from the flop single period and some new material recorded by the Argent lineup.
Since none of the 1966 tracks the band released were successful, it didn't take a genius to see that no one would be clamoring for
outtakes from that same period, and the project was abandoned. Two singles were released, though: "Imagine The Swan" backed with the instrumental
"Conversation Off Floral Street" and (in the US only) "If It Don't Work Out" backed with "Don't Cry For Me."
Into The Afterlife (rec. 1968-9, rel. 2007)
A hodgepodge of post-Zombies material, including remixes of R.I.P. tunes, demos for the nascent Argent, and single sides cut by Colin Blunstone under the pseudonym Neil MacArthur.
Argent (Argent: 1970)
The new group's debut album. (JA)
Ring Of Hands (Argent: 1971)
The single "Sweet Mary" was banned in the US for its supposed drug references. (JA)
One Year (Blunstone: 1971)
Largely written and produced by White and Argent. (DBW)
All Together Now (Argent: 1972)
Skip this if you're looking for more of the memorable melodies, lovely harmony vocals or deft psychedelia of Odessey. Instead, Argent's new band plays rough-hewn back-to-basics rock, with the gruff bluesy lead vocals that were so popular in the early 70s. With Argent mainly featured on organ, the band ends up sounding like Grand Funk Railroad plus Rick Wakeman. The smash hit "Hold Your Head Up" is generic and overlong; Ballard's "He's A Dynamo" is an unconvincing Mitch Ryder-style raveup;
and the thirteen-minute prog-rock epic "Pure Love" is a disconnected mess. Throughout the rhythm section is solid but unsurprising, Ballard is subdued and unimaginative, and Argent has plenty of chops ("Keep On Rollin'") but not enough ideas, musically or lyrically. Ballard contributed "Tragedy" and "He's A Dynamo"; the rest of the songwriting is by Argent and White (working together, unlike the Zombies years). The CD reissue collects six additional single sides including Ballard's fine anthem "God Gave Rock And Roll To You" and Argent/White's elegant B-side "Kingdom" - making this a de facto greatest hits disc. (DBW)
In Deep (Argent: 1973)
The original source of the hit "God Gave Rock 'N' Roll To You." (JA)
Ennismore (Blunstone: 1973)
Again, produced by White and Argent. (DBW)
Nexus (Argent: 1974)
Ballard's last studio appearance with the band. (JA)
Journey (Blunstone: 1974)
Produced by White. (DBW)
Encore (Argent: 1974)
A live double album. (JA)
In Concert (rec. 1972 - 1974, rel. 1995)
A remarkably entertaining live album that makes me seriously wonder why this band's original studio LP's are out of print.
Most of it is from a single late 1972 concert, but there are four other numbers recorded for TV in 1973 and early 1974.
With both of the group's big hits ("Hold Your Head Up;" "God Gave Rock 'N' Roll To You") and plenty of material from All Together Now, it's mostly well written and performed.
Sure, there's some arrogant longwindedness ("The Fakir"), and the group tries hard to ape prog rock competitors like ELP and Yes - witness Argent's ostentatiously churchy Hammond organ parts ("Dance Of Ages").
Ballard's howling vocals, self-indulgent guitar work, and dumb, repetitive writing ("He's A Dynamo") add up to intermittently satisfying, boogie-influenced hard rock a la Humble Pie.
But his vocal interplay with Argent is interesting; he's a decent soloist ("Gonna Meet My Maker"); he hits solidly with a couple of thrashing hard rock anthems ("Tragedy"; "God Gave..."; "It's Only Money"); Argent's playing is fleet and melodic; and despite the dull, blues-based "Sweet Mary," there are several intelligent, creative Argent-White compositions (the Wings-meets-Soft Machine suite "Music From The Spheres").
In sum, an unusually focused and tuneful effort as far as early 70s British prog rock goes. (JA)
Circus (Argent: 1975)
At this point Russ Ballard was replaced by guitarist John Grimaldi and singer/guitarist John Verity. (JA)
Counterpoint (Argent: 1975)
The group's last album. (JA)
Planes (Blunstone: 1976)
Elton John signed Blunstone to Rocket Records and donated the disc's title track. (DBW)
Moving Home (Rod Argent: 1978)
Rod's first solo album, and his last for a decade. (JA)
Red House (Rod Argent: 1988)
This comes off as a New Age movie soundtrack, but a good New Age movie soundtrack. It's mostly instrumental, and mostly done on synthesizers - even the drums sound like drum machines - augmented by occasional sax, guitar (Clem Clempson, ex-Humble Pie), or bass (Mo Foster, ex-Jeff Beck). Argent scat sings on "Salvation Song" and delivers fantastic soul vocals on "Helpless" and "Baby Don't You Cry," but that's it.
He'd been doing movie and TV scores for years at this point, and he really had the form figured out: even though some of the numbers drag over six minutes, you hardly notice because they're so light, tuneful, and relaxing. When Argent breaks from the New Age thing to deliver a sparkling, slowed-down 3/4-time classical piano solo ("A 4th Gymnopedie," reprised with synth and sax on "In Memory"), it has far more emotional impact than any bombastic, over-orchestrated nightmare you'd find on an ELP album. This is the perfect record to chill out with at the end of a long day. (JA)
Return Of The Zombies (1990)
This is a reunion record featuring most of the original band, but not Rod Argent (or Paul Atkinson). It's a shame, because Argent clearly still had all of his chops at this point (see above). I've seen the track listing, which includes a remake of "Time Of The Season" with a guest appearance by Argent. It looks like a couple of "new" members were pretty heavily involved in the songwriting; one fan tells me the result is "so so," and another that Colin Blunstone's solo work is better - and I can confirm that Argent's are pretty good themselves (see above). (JA)
Also known as New World. (DBW)
Echo Bridge (Blunstone: 1996)
Zombie Heaven (rec. 1964-1968, rel. 1997)
Since this four-disc, 119-track boxed set contains everything the Zombies ever recorded (except a couple of wayward demos) and great liner
notes, you should definitely
grab it if you find it cheap. If you can't find it cheap, and you already have a good singles compilation and Odessey, it's marginal:
there are a few terrific hard-to-find tracks ("I Remember When I Loved Her," "She Loves The Way They Love Her") mixed in with a ton of
second-rate tunes ("I Know She Will") and superfluous demos ("Leave Me Be").
The 29 BBC tracks are mostly covers, ranging from dreadful ("Road Runner") to engaging (the Supremes' "When The Lovelight Starts
Shining Through His Eyes," the Isley Brothers' "This Old Heart Of Mine"), plus a few hits ("Tell Her No")
and one Odessey track, "Friends Of Mine."
The Light Inside (Blunstone: 1998)
Argent adds some backing vocals; produced by Don Airey. (DBW)
Out Of The Shadows (Blunstone & Argent: 2001)
I haven't been able to find much information on this one. (DBW)
As Far As I Can See (2004)
Billed as "The Zombies" but it's actually Blunstone and Argent again. (DBW)
Odessey And Oracle: 40th Anniversary Live Concert (2008)
The four living Zombies (oxymoron alert) got together to play the entire classic album, followed by Argent and Blunstone's touring version of the band delivering a bunch of solo hits ("Hold Your Head Up").
Breathe Out, Breathe In (2011)
Blunstone and Argent and friends, though White apparently co-wrote a couple of tunes.
There are some fine songs, in both upbeat (title track) and somber ("Let It Go") moods, while Argent's electric piano solos are as groovy as ever ("Show Me The Way"). Their unique blend of airiness and melancholy marks "Any Other Way" and "Christmas For The Free" among others.
On the other hand, some Beatles lifts - "Shine On Sunshine" is a slavish copy of "The Long And Winding Road"; "Play It For Real" adapts the "Hey Bulldog" riff - show there's a huge difference between finding inspiration, and outright imitation. (More concerningly, "Another Day" recalls Journey's "Who's Crying Now.")
Ultimately it's a notch above the average band reunion but no more.
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