Album Review: The Zombies — Greatest Hits

The Zombies have a sterling and well-deserved reputation. That reputation is built primarily on three things: a couple of early singles, a final album of staggering quality, and a latter-day, 21st century renaissance in which the group finally capitalizes on those first two things, while proving it has plenty more to offer.

And its that final idea – more to offer – that is spotlighted in a new CD collection called The Zombies Greatest Hits. The title is something of a misnomer; while the group did achieve hit-single status a few times in the UK during its initial run, the Zombies wouldn’t chalk up an 80-minute compact disc’s worth of hits (an LP’s worth, maybe just).

But there’s no disputing the “greatest” part of this collection’s title. This 16-track set brings together the group’s monaural 45rpm singles. Some of them charted, certainly; other didn’t. Still others achieved some success in other countries across Europe, in cover versions by far lesser-known acts. The material is uniformly first-rate.

Most fans of pop music will be familiar with “She’s Not There” and “Time of the Season.” A subset of that group will know “Tell Her No” and the original version of “I Love You,” the latter charting in the U.S. in a cover version by one-hit-wonders People. But most of the remaining tunes will be unfamiliar to most, especially those outside of England.

But the Zombies’ high standard of songwriting, arrangement, musicianship and production is on brilliant display throughout this set. Many of the songs – especially the earlier ones – fit into the then-prevailing beat/pop group style, but every one has a significant twist: Colin Blunstone’s lead vocals that are at once more subtle than the usual far and more fully-developed; Rod Argent’s virtuosic keyboard solos that are steeped in jazz and r&b. Sometimes – nearly always, in fact – both of those qualities.

And the songwriting (mostly, but not exclusively by Rod Argent or bassist Chris White) is superb, displaying a sophistication for its era uncommon outside the Beatles or Kinks. Listening now, many of these songs sound like hits. In a just world they would have been.

Kudos to Varèse Sarabande for compiling this set of songs, and to famed archivist Andrew Sandoval for overseeing the project. For those wanting to dip into the Zombies’ slim 60s body of work (believe it or not, they released only one album prior to Oddesey and Oracle), The Zombies Greatest Hits is essential. For the more hardcore fans, it’s … essential as well.

There have been various low-budget albums calling themselves The Zombies Greatest Hits. Accept no substitute.

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…yeah, I’m a fan.