The Zombies: R.I.P.

Zombies_RIPPreviously unreleased final album sees the light of day

One might say that this final, previously unreleased Zombies album is something of a Frankenstein’s monster. Constructed after the band’s dissolution in 1968, the six previously unreleased Zombies tracks and six new tracks recorded by a prototype of Argent were meant to satiate an American market that had been late to discover “Time of the Season.” But the album’s pre-release singles (“Imagine the Swan” and “If it Don’t Work Out”) failed to ignite any commercial interest, and the album was shelved by the American label that had requested it in the first place. The tracks dribbled out on singles, compilations (most notably the double-LP Time of the Zombies and Ace Record’s omnibus Zombie Heaven box set) and bootlegs, but an official issue of the original running order from the original master takes had evaded fans until now.

The album, as the last-remaining-Zombies-standing Rod Argent and Chris White conceived it, was neatly split in two: side one was written by Argent and White, and performed by Argent, White, Russ Ballard, Jim Rodford and Bob Henrit, in a line-up soon to be known as Argent; side two was assembled from previously unreleased tracks that had been recorded years earlier by the original group, and brushed up by Argent and White (notably with backing vocals and orchestral touches) for the album. There’s a musical seam between the two sides, but the new recordings aren’t a complete departure. In fact, they sound like what they actually were: a follow-on to the progressive end-times of the original line-up’s Odyssey and Oracle, heavily influenced by the band’s keyboardist.

Listeners familiar with the Zombies’ hits will immediately resonate with Colin Blunstone’s lead vocals and the group’s harmonies on side two. These earlier songs also have beat and baroque pop touches that are closely associated with the Zombies original sound. Argent and White’s material on side two, sung by Argent, including an organ jam, “Conversation Off Floral Street” (a track that was apparently mislabeled with “of” on the singles of the time), and slinky piano-led “I Could Spend the Day” that speak to the jazz inflections of “Time of the Season.” Both album sides have material that is as good as anything the Zombie released during their hit-making tenure, including the singles “Imagine the Swan” and “If It Don’t Work Out,” featured here in both stereo album and mono single mixes.

Zombies fans probably have most or all of this material on compilations and box sets, but it’s still worth hearing the original stereo mixes, in the original sequence, from the album’s master tape. The mono single mix of “Don’t Cry For Me” (the flipside of “If it Don’t Work Out”) is offered here for the first time in a digital format, and the mono mix of “Smokey Day” makes its first-ever appearance. Despite the album’s cobbled-together origin, this is a volume that belongs on the shelf right next to Begin Here, The Zombies and Odyssey and Oracle, extending the criminally under-rewarded brilliance of the Zombies. [©2014 Hyperbolium]

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