The Zombies truly are one of the best rock's forgotten bands. They started out mainly as a R'n'B cover group, but much like The Who, found their own voice when keyboardist Rod Argent and bassist Chris White started writing songs by themselves. Musically, Argent's jazz-influenced keyboard runs and riffs were always the main attraction, but that's not to say that lead singer's, Colin Blunstone's breathy lead vocals or those tender group vocal harmonies are any less good.
Prompted by the success of 'She's There' - one of the greatest slices of pop perfection of the 60's - the band releases Begin Here (UK)/ The Zombies (US) in 1965. Both versions of the album are all right, but most of the songs kind of pale when put next to the aforementioned She's Not There (OK, to be honest, 'Tell Her No', the band's 2nd single, is very good as well).
From then on, the band's singles fail to even enter the charts, one by one. Argent usually wrote the A-side, while White the B-side. I have all of these singles on a compilation suggestively called 'The Singles: A's and B's (2005)'. Some are great, some good, some mediocre, but the band never really released anything bad as a single, in my opinion. Is This The Dream (1966), Goin' Out of My Head (1967) and Imagine The Swan (1969) are my 3 favourites. The last in particular, is such a sad and heartbreaking harpsichord-driven story of delusion and long-lost love, that it would've fit perfectly on 'Odessey and Oracle'.
Speaking of 'Odessey and Oracle', now this is an album that truly deserves its own thread (oh wait, it actually has one). Remember how I said that The Zombies were at an all-time low commercially? Well, artistically speaking, this is a whole different story. The band kept getting better and better, with each new year. The melodies were more solid, the sounds newer, the moods different and the chart success....still only dreamt of. But that doesn't matter - now, 45 years later and few reunion albums that I've yet to listen to, O&O is regarded as an all-time masterpiece. And deservedly so. Everything comes together on this record, absolutely everything they've ever worked towards achieving. And the songs...wow, pure pop heaven. From the dreamy piano-pop of 'Hung Up On a Dream', to the harmony-explosion of 'Brief Candles', to that fragile beauty of 'A Rose For Emily' and to the shiver-sending horror imagery and power of 'Butcher's Tale'... every single song's a gem and would deserve its own paragraph.
All in all, a masterpiece of an album, but also a very sad one. Each time I listen to it, I can't help but wonder what directions might the band have taken, had it been a commercial success. Sad is the fact that they broke up before even releasing the album. What if they would've topped it? My eyes sparkle at the very thought of that.