Begin Here by The Zombies

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Begin Here by The ZombiesWe commence our year-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of 1965 album releases with the oldest music we’ll ever cover at Classic Rock Review. The British group, The Zombies, recorded several singles through 1964 a few of which caught fire in the U.S. market. To capitalize, the group rushed into the studio late in 1964 to record enough material to release an album for the American market. The twelve track album The Zombies was released in January 1965 in the U.S., while the band took a little more time to complete their fourteen track U.K. debut, Begin Here, a few months later. While either version of this album contains too many covers by contemporary standards, there is certainly enough variation and originality in the originals to sustain this as a classic.

The Zombies were originally formed as “The Mustangs” in 1961, while its five members were still at school. After finding out that other bands were using “Mustangs”, the band’s permanent name was coined by short-time member Paul Arnold, who left the group to become a physician. The band “won” a recording contract with Decca Records after winning a beat-group competition and instantly recorded their first hit, “She’s Not There” in 1964. Written by keyboardist Rod Argent, the song contains a cool, jazzy electric piano, Bossa Nova rhythms by drummer Hugh Grundy, and the signature, breathy vocals by lead vocalist Colin Blunstone. The song reached The Top 20 in the UK in September 1964 and climbed all the way to #2 in the U.S. in December 1964.

The group immediately toured the United States and were featured on the initial episode of the national TV show Hullabaloo. Throughout this frenzy, the group was composing and recording, while developing a distinct musical and vocal style with featured a blend of keyboards, snapping rhythms, and distinct lead and harmonized vocals.


Begin Here by The Zombies
Released: March 1, 1965 (Decca)
Produced by: Ken Jones
Recorded: June – November 1964
Side One Side Two
Road Runner
Summertime
I Can’t Make Up My Mind
The Way I Feel Inside
Work n’ Play
You Really Got A Hold On Me/Bring It On Home To Me
She’s Not There
Sticks and Stones
Can’t Nobody Love You
Woman
I Don’t Want to Know
I Remember When I Loved Her
What More Can I Do
I Got My Mojo Working
Bonus Tracks
It’s Alright with Me
Sometimes
Kind of Girl
Tell Her No
Group Musicians
Colin Blunstone – Lead Vocals
Rod Argent – Piano, Keyboards, Harmonica, Vocals
Paul Atkinson – Guitars
Chris White – Bass, Vocals
Hugh Grundy – Drums

Begin Here starts with a rocking version of Bo Didley’s “Road Runner”. Paul Atkinson adds some surf rock guitar elements to complement Blunstone’s wild, intense vocals and a slight organ solo by Argent. George Gershwin’s “Summertime” is next interpreted as a calm and jazzy number with great sixties sonic motifs, led by the electric piano of Argent and the smooth lead vocals of Blunstone. The first original on the album is written by bassist Chris White. “I Can’t Make Up My Mind” is pure sixties pop, with The Zombies offering their first hint of great harmonies with a slight guitar lead by Atkinson. Argent’s “The Way I Feel Inside” is definitely influenced by The Beatles, and most specifically the song “If I Fell” from A Hard Days Night, while “Work n’ Play” is a cool sixties-style instrumental, led by the piano of guest Ken Jones (who wrote the number) and a harmonica lead by Argent.

The medley “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me/Bring It On Home to Me” may be the weakest spot on the album, considering The Beatles had already done their own version of the first part of this medley, and there is nothing special added here. In contrast, the cover “Sticks and Stones” is a great jam even if you can sense some Rolling Stones/Them influence, especially vocally. Atkinson’s bright, picked guitar drives the blues/soul influenced “Can’t Nobody Love You”, a rare track where Argent is reserved to the background with White’s bass and Grundy’s drums much more animated. “Woman” is  riff-driven with harmonized vocals throughout and changes method and tempo between the verse and chorus sections.

The Zombies

“I Don’t Want to Know” is another pop track by White with some lead vocal rudiments, while Argent’s “I Remember When I Loved Her” contains a dark, almost Western feel with echoed, picked acoustic and constant 6/4 rhythmic drive with some percussion effects. Later a haunting organ rises in the background, adding to the overall vibe and show that The Zombies were sophisticated beyond their years and explored abstract musical avenues long before art-rock came along. White’s third and final composition on the album is the short but excellent “What More Can I Do”, which vastly predicts the Doors sound of years to come. Rounding out the original album is “I Got My Mojo Working”, a pure, upbeat blues which forecasts the future of rock n roll with consistent, driving riff and beat and more than apt harmonica by Argent.

Some of the group’s originals which were only included on the American version, The Zombies, were the sixties jam, “It’s Alright With Me”, the Beatlesque rocker, “Sometimes”, and most especially the 1965 hit single “Tell Her No”. This latter track by Argent is a jazz/rock classic with great sense of melody and composition that became the group’s second Top 10 hit in the United States.

After the frenzy of early 1965, The Zombies got into a bit of a commercial rut, releasing several singles through 1966 without much popular reaction. Eventually, the band made their way to Abbey Road Studios in 1967 and recorded their classic album, Odessey and Oracle, released in 1968. Unfortunately, the group was already on the outs by that point, assuring a short but meteoric path for one of the sixties most ingenious rock bands.

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1965 Page

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of 1965 albums.

 

Odessey and Oracle
by The Zombies

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Odessey and Oracle by The ZombiesThe Zombies only had two studio albums during their heyday of the 1960s. The first was their 1965 debut which was filled with British flavored pop with a slight edge. The second was the slightly-psychedelic, pre-prog-rock classic Odessey and Oracle, which was the band’s masterpiece. Released in 1968 after the group had actually disbanded, this album contains twelve richly arranged tracks that are succinct (there is not a single song that lasts as long as four minutes) and of top notch production, done independently by the group members in 1967. The result is an album of bright and melancholy piano tunes with rich vocal harmonies, mellotron, and tight rhythms.

The tracks on Odessey and Oracle alternated between compositions by bassist Chris White and by keyboardist Rod Argent, each possessing a knack for composing original and diverse songs. The album was mainly recorded at Abbey Road studios during the summer of 1967, nearly a full year before its release. The group had a tight budget for recording and worked quickly in the studio. This brisk pace also had negative effects, such as the misspelling of “odyssey” in the cover design (which forever changed the album’s official title) and creative tensions among the group members, which ultimately led to their demise by the end of 1967.

With the group disbanded, CBS Records initially decided not to release the album in the United States. However, producer Al Kooper had heard the album during a trip to England and convinced the label to reverse its decision. The Zombies had previous success in the US during the “British invasion” days of 1964 and 1965 fueled by the singles “She’s Not There” and “Tell Her No”. With the release of Odessey and Oracle, another hit single, “Time of the Season”, closed out the decade with their biggest hit.


Odessey and Oracle by The Zombies
Released: April 19, 1968 (CBS)
Produced by: The Zombies
Recorded: Olympic Studios & Abbey Road Studios, London, June–November 1967
Side One Side Two
Care of Cell 44
A Rose for Emily
Maybe After He’s Gone
Beechwood Park
Brief Candles
Hung Up On a Dream
Changes
I Want Her, She Wants Me
This Will Be Our Year
Butcher’s Tale (Western Front 1914)
Friends of Mine
Time of the Season
Band Musicians
Colin Blunstone – Lead Vocals
Rod Argent – Piano, Organ, Melotron, Vocals
Paul Atkinson – Guitar, Vocals
Chris White– Bass, Vocals
Hugh Grundy – Drums, Vocals

 

The perfect English pop of Argent’s “Care of Cell 44” starts the album with a very upbeat tune with just a tad of tad of melancholy. The Zombies’ extraordinary vocal talents are apparent right from the start, led by lead vocalist Colin Blunstone and the gorgeous harmonies of the rest of the band. This unique song tells the uncommon story of an impending release of a prison inmate and was the lead single for Odessey and Oracle, although it failed to chart. The ballad “A Rose for Emily” is like a subdued “Eleanor Rigby”, driven by Blunstone’s lead vocal melody and Argent’s simple rudimental guide piano and again contains multipart vocals in the chorus. The song concludes with nicely diminished ending chords, following the sad closing lyric;

And as the years go by, she will grow old and die, The roses in her garden fade away, not one left for her grave, not a rose for Emily…”

“Maybe After He’s Gone” alternates between Paul Atkinson picked folk guitar during mellow verse and a driving chorus with heavy harmonies and piano. This is a great mood piece of pure, high end sixties pop. Atkinson returns with a very interesting guitar Leslie effect on “Beechwood Park”, good folk song with more great vocal harmonies and a vibe similar to Procol Harum’s “Whiter Shade of Pale”. White’s “Brief Candles” has been called a true piece of songwriting genius, with soft piano verses giving way to mellotron drenched choruses held tight by the drum-driven rhythm of Hugh Grundy. The song alternates moods masterfully. Side one concludes with the mainly psychedelic “Hung Up on a Dream”, with a heavy reverb on Argent’s piano and the best guitar work by Atkinson on an album which used his talents strategically.

The second side begins with White’s “Changes”, containing two distinct sections, which seem to compete with each other. One part is almost like a choir recital while another contains bongos and other percussive effects trading off with the mellotron in this fine psychedelic rocker. Argent takes lead vocals “I Want Her, She Wants Me” is upbeat, much like the opening track with Argent’s harpsichord, White’s very bouncy bass by White and more pop/rock-oriented harmonies than on most other tracks on the album. “This Will Be Our Year” is a great rock ballad, not the slow and sappy kind, but the upbeat yet romantic, with very good vocals by Blunstone, who pretty much carries the song alone with none of the usual harmonies.

The Zombies

Written and sung by White, “Butcher’s Tale (Western Front 1914)” is the most far-out, freak-out song on Odessey and Oracle, starting with a sound effect and driven throughout by deep and dark organ sound for a raw effect like later punk, but a bit more legitimate. The lyrics tell of a battle from the viewpoint of a soldier in the midst of the fight in World War I, which many took as a thinly-disguised comment on Vietnam. “Friends of Mine” brings the mood back up instantly with duo vocals and breezy pop, this song is a great setup for the album’s climatic ending.

“Time of the Season” would become the group’s best known song and biggest hit, and provided an extremely strong ending to the album. This song truly has it all; a great bass riff by White, tight drums by Grundy, pure hip mood with whisper effects, perfectly breezy and unique vocals by Blunstone, and a couple of Hammond organ jams by composer Rod Argent. Although it was recorded in August 1967, it would not be heard by most of the world until early 1969, when it reached #3 in the US and the Top Ten in several other nations.

Odessey and Oracle is an indelible final statement by a rock group which was together for too short a time. Rod Argent and Chris White soon formed an offshoot group “Argent”, which worked through the early 1970s. It wasn’t until 1997 that the group performed any of the material live, during a brief reunion to promote their box set. A decade later, in 2008, The Zombies celebrated the 40th anniversary of Odessey and Oracle‘s release by performing the album in its entirety for the first time every.

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1968 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 45th anniversary of 1968 albums.