The Zombies: Complete Studio Recordings

The Zombies
Complete Studio Recordings
(Varèse Sarabande)
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Longtime fans of UK Brit-invasion outfit The Zombies: your time (of the season) has finally arrived. The legendary band is not only being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of the class of 2019 but this vinyl box set that collects nearly all of the Zombies’ studio tracks also arrives, not coincidentally, to coincide with the event. 

Considering the group only logged three hits on two U.S. releases (their debut was cobbled together from singles and only 1968’s Odessey & Oracle was conceived as an album) over the course of three years, many may wonder if they have been influential, or prolific enough, for this honor. But after hearing the music made throughout these 61 tracks, all doubts should be laid to rest. 

Where their contemporaries were mostly influenced by the blues (the Rolling Stones), or Motown and American rock and roll (the Beatles), the Zombies had a distinctly jazz-tinged style quite different than what was emerging from England at the time. Although they played some blues in their earliest days as on a spirited version of “I Got My Mojo Workin’,” this wasn’t indicative of their overall vibe. In singer Colin Blunstone, they featured a frontman whose airy, some might say ghostly voice, was generally at odds with the bolder pop singers of the time. 

It’s all there on “Time Of The Season.” The Zombies’ final hit released in 1969 (after the original quintet had disbanded) unexpectedly reached the top spot in the US charts. Blunstone’s hushed, somewhat ominous vocals mesh beautifully with Rod Argent’s spooky, jazzy piano and the “pop-ahhs” that thread and punctuate the darkness throughout the tune’s three and a half minutes. Nothing sounds like it, either then or since. It’s one of the finest singles of the era and a timeless reminder of just how far ahead of the curve these guys were.  The tune first appeared as the closing cut on 1968’s Odessey & Oracle, a classic album only released in the states after Al Kooper, who was working for Columbia at the time, pushed it through. O & O has since become the group’s finest moment — a baroque pop creation that’s surely dated, but incredibly creative in its use of overdubs and sophisticated, complex arrangements. Take a listen to the marvelous vocals on “A Rose For Emily” to be mesmerized by the intricacy of the approach.

While little of the rest of the Zombies catalog reaches that height, there’s plenty that comes close, all of it worth hearing. And it’s collected here, for the first time under one cover on vinyl. Even their castoffs, B-sides and lesser-known tunes, compiled on the 13-track “Oddities & Extras” platter, were wonderfully eclectic and unusual pop mini-masterpieces, especially by the standards of the time. 

Co-compiler Andrew Sandoval adds new notes to two albums (the odds and sods R.I.P. and Oddities & Extras). Still, with an average selling price of over $100, this lacks a more lavish 12” x 12” book of photos and essays that hardcore fans will expect. Eagle-eyed followers may notice a few tunes missing, too. But in general, this is a terrific one-stop shop for all your Zombie needs … as long as you have a turntable. As of now there is no CD equivalent, although the already available Zombies Heaven box should fill that void.