On March 29, The Zombies will take the stage at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center to celebrate their long overdue induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The time has never been better to revisit the band’s catalogue, a hugely influential one despite its small size. Rediscovering The Zombies has been made easier with the recent release of two deluxe 5-LP vinyl box sets. For the U.S., Varese Vintage has issued The Complete Studio Recordings, while in the group’s native U.K., Demon Music Group has released In the Beginning. These sets offer two different perspectives on the same body of work, though there are variations in the track listings. Yesterday, we explored Varese’s box, and today, we’re taking a look at Demon’s collection!
Believe it or not, The Zombies’ debut album in their native U.K. didn’t arrive until after the band had already released an LP in America. The boys from St. Albans – Colin Blunstone, Rod Argent, Paul Atkinson, Chris White and Hugh Grundy – had released an EP and a quartet of singles (including the No. 12 hit “She’s Not There” and the less commercially but no less artistically successful “Tell Her No”) through April 1965, the month when Begin Here finally debuted in the U.K. on the Decca label. The American Parrot label had already mined the album sessions and single releases for the group’s self-titled American debut, but the 63-song In the Beginning appropriately begins with the mono 14-track Begin Here.
In certain respects, it’s a typical beat/pop album of the period, with the requisite soul and blues covers (a medley of “You Really Got a Hold on Me” and “Bring It on Home to Me,” “I Got My Mojo Working,” “I’m a Road Runner”), but it’s distinguished by an array of fine and sophisticated Argent originals such as “She’s Not There,” “The Way I Feel Inside,” “Woman,” and “I Remember When I Loved Her.” Chris White was already proving himself a talented songwriter, too, with “I Can’t Make Up My Mind,” “I Don’t Want to Know,” and “What More Can I Do.”
After this promising debut, it seemed inevitable that a second album would materialize, but Decca was content to keep The Zombies busy cranking out singles. Six more singles, indeed, arrived through March 1967 – almost two years after the release of Begin Here. But a true second Zombies LP didn’t come until 1968’s Odessey and Oracle for The Zombies’ new home of CBS Records. After the release of that LP and the American success of the single “Time of the Season,” Decca’s U.S. London Records affiliate rounded up some of the material it had stockpiled and released it in 1969 as Early Days. Demon has chosen to revive this long-lost LP, with its hand-drawn psychedelic cover, as the second disc in its box set. Composed entirely of Argent and White originals, it features many Zombies favorites awash in vibrant, unexpected melodies and rich harmonies including “Tell Her No,” “I Love You,” “Whenever You’re Ready,” and alternate versions of “I Want You Back Again” and “She’s Not There.”
For the box set’s third disc, Demon has created an all-new compilation. The aptly-named Continue Here utilizes the American artwork for The Zombies and collects 12 tracks (all but one from the Decca period) not otherwise addressed in this collection. Among these is the trio of songs recorded for Otto Preminger’s film Bunny Lake Is Missing including “Remember You,” presented in both its unique soundtrack rendition and faster single version. “Sometimes” and “It’s Alright with Me” were plucked from the band’s early EP; “I Want You Back Again” was a U.S. single A-side; the remainder were U.K. single As and Bs.
R.I.P., the fourth LP in the box, is the oddest release. Following Odessey and Oracle, CBS sought a follow-up…with one problem. The group had disbanded. One side featured overdubbed versions of songs “in the can,” with Colin Blunstone singing lead. The second side was turned over to Argent and White, who formed a new band and recorded a clutch of songs in the baroque style of Odessey and Oracle. This band, counting Jim Rodford, Russ Ballard, and Bob Henrit among its members, didn’t remain Zombies for long; they soon regrouped as, simply, Argent. But when the singles “Imagine the Swan” and “If It Don’t Work Out” disappointed on the charts, CBS scrapped the R.I.P. album. It took until 2014 for all of its tracks to be released in the originally-intended sequence as planned by CBS, Argent, and White in 1969. This is the version of the LP presented here in stereo, with a “new” front cover inspired by the international compilation I Love You.
The fifth and final LP in the set is, of course, 1968’s landmark Odessey and Oracle – a record which truly needs no introduction. First released on CBS’ Date imprint, Odessey should have ushered in a new era of prosperity for The Zombies but instead closed a chapter as the original group’s second and final proper album. Filled with romantic melodies, literary allusions, and equal parts pop, rock and soul, it was an ambitious record by any standard. In every respect, Odessey and Oracle was ahead of its time; even the now-ubiquitous single “Time of the Season” didn’t catch on immediately. It failed to chart in the U.K., but became a top five hit for the defunct band in America. The LP is presented here in stereo.
In the Beginning is a comprehensive overview of the band’s Decca and CBS years, with the band’s two albums as bookends. It presents all of the material released contemporaneously by The Zombies in the 1960s plus selected extras such as the alternate “She’s Not There” and “I Want You Back Again,” the Bunny Lake Is Missing soundtrack version of “Remember You,” and the single version of “I’ll Call You Mine.” (Some later-released material like the outtakes “I’m Going Home” and “A Love That Never Was” is absent.)
Demon has gone the extra mile on the set’s packaging. Each album has been pressed on 180-gram colored vinyl and is housed in a protective inner sleeve. These sleeves add to the enjoyment, as designer Phil Smee has decked out both sides of each sleeve with Zombies memorabilia. These advertisements, photos, and press clippings – “A HIT – Says Beatle George of first disc by Zombies,” “Zombies Hit Top in One American Chart,” “Bunny girl a bridesmaid as Zombie weds,” “The Zombies’ Christmas in New York” – are an altogether delightful addition to the set. Sound quality is consistent throughout the set and faithful to the original sound and style of these recordings.
The Zombies have never had their catalogue standardized around the world, making the discovery of their original output a confusing proposition for many. The presentation in Demon’s In the Beginning is a fine and clear introduction to the 2019 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees. Argent and Blunstone are currently touring, and have promised that they are at work on a new album. What better time to go back to the Beginning and revisit their classic repertoire? This set offers U.K. fans that opportunity in fine fashion.