The Ron Kane Files

Writing About Music

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Zombies

12-13-07 The Zombies

(re-run from Aug. ’02)


LP 1968? 12 TRKS

GENRE: UK mid-to-late 60’s pop/rock

Here is the best record (their swansong) by a rather minor (only two ‘hits’ before this album came along) UK late 60’s group. The singer is Colin Blunstone and the keyboard player is none other than Rod “Hold Your Head Up” Argent. I suppose this group & LP answer your prayers if you have OD’d on The Beatles when you’re a young adult or something. But I do understand that it is a very highly regarded group/album – in short, I find it a bit over-rated.

I have known at least 2 people in my lifetime that The Zombies were their favorite group. Me? I prefer LP’s like Family “Music In A Doll’s House”, Manfred Mann “As Is”…every band has their fans. Let’s just say that I’m not someone for whom the Zombies CD box set was created.

Whether or not you can bring the name ‘Zombies’ to mind, you will have heard their 3 charting hits, “She’s Not There”, “Tell Her No” and (most famously) “Time Of The Season”. All are good songs that the local oldies radio station plays too much (a la Manfred Mann’s “Doo Wah Diddy”).

I have always felt compelled to own “Odessey and Oracle”, largely due to the opening cut, "Care of Cell Block 44". There’s even some mellotron on there!

Is the ‘obscurity factor’ at work, as regards this album? (“It’s obscure. It’s my secret. You won’t ever know about it. I love it!”). Don’t get me wrong, this is an album that definitely attracts superlative comments from many. Nowadays.

I understand why Al Kooper wanted to make sure this LP got heard at the time… but nothing else was ever going to come from The Zombies. Odessey And Oracle, good record” – End of story, for me anyway.

2007 addendum: I still see this album name-checked all the time. I recently bought a kami sleeve ( = little paper album cover ) CD of it in Japan – with sporting both the mono and stereo versions of the album. They even re-produced the “Stereo” sticker on the rear cover! Now a favorite of revisionist historians – a la Love’s “Forever Changes” – people who claim to have loved it for decades who only heard it in the 80’s for the first time – well, I guess that is decades, huh?


Anonymous Jim Donato said...

Re: Generational Lag Factor

I hear you on the "Forever Changes" factor. I never even heard of Love until the mid-80s. I was listening to top 40 radio from 1971-1978 and to this day I have never heard Arthur Lee or Love in any way, shape or form.

Similarly, starting in the 80s I began hearing a ton about The Velvet Underground while not one note of their music ever entered my ears via popular culture.

How much of this generational time lag is due to hype and how much is due to simply being out of step with the times that the record was issued in?

Don't discount hype! Without Danny Sugarman working HARD, would The Doors have gained their cultural ascendancy in the late 70s? At least I can argue, that as a child listening to top 40 radio, it was positively sick with examples of The Doors, so maybe they would have without his tireless plugging. But the -mythology- of the Doors owes everything to Sugarman. And to the tireless support of Ray "Where's My Check" Manzarek.

With the VU I can see that their music was cold and heartless in a way that was not ready for prime time until their influences had time to affect society. After punk the VU made sense in a way that they did not before. With Cale's avant-garde leanings and Reed's vile/violent lyrical concerns, the VU were destined be the genie in the black leather bottle that stayed well capped until listeners had caught up with them.

9:29 AM  
Blogger Ron Kane said...

Both Love and The Zombies are good groups; both are also (in the present day) a bit over-rated, in my opinion. And I am a Doors fan, but not a V.U. fan.

9:44 PM  
Blogger chas_m said...

I was always very fond of "She's Not There" -- I think I have an interest in "anti-love" songs, and of course I'm old enough to appreciate those great 60s hooks!

At the risk of sounding precious, I *re*discovered the Zombies in the 80s (along with a lot of other things). Northern England in the late 60s was a not-bad place to be musically, and enough other Zombie stuff had gotten into my head (largely, I found out LATER, via John Peel playing things like "Tell Her No" and "This Will Be Our Year") to note them as a "group I like," though I did not collect anything at the time.

Your Ode to Odessey and Oracle (heh!) made me run over to iTunes and have a listen. GREAT STUFF! I'm sure I've heard "Care of Cell 44" before, but the rest (apart from "Time") was new to me. Hmm, maybe that box set isn't a bad idea ...

10:16 PM  
Anonymous peterg said...

I respect those who may not appreciate the Zombies as much as I and many others do, but it's hard to understandhow they can be called "over-rated." Exactly how are they being over-rated? Praised by George Harrison, Tom Petty, Billy Joel, Stevie Van Zandt, and scores of later rock artists, these guys were weaving beautiful, haunting, complex structures in 64 when the next-most complex music you could hear in those days was "Do Wah Diddy" (not a bad song, but a simple one, as were most of Sixties pop). Wonderful as Odessy and Oracle is, I also am saddened that their first album, "Zombies begin here," is so often overlooked. "What More Can I Do," Summertime," "Sometimes," "It's All Right With Me," along with singles from 65-66 such as the astonishingly beautiful "Remember When I loved her," the virtual anthem "I Love You," and arguably one of the greatest rock songs of the Sixties, "Whenever You're Ready" are among the classics of that era, and even now, they remind us just how far ahead of the times Rod, Colin, Chris, Hugh and Paul were. Over-rated? You're entitled to your opinion, but boy, that is one hard case to make when it comes to the Zombies.

1:10 PM  

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