The Zombies were the most underrated of the British invasion bands -- their heydey meant lots of harmonized, sundrenched psychpop.
And they reached their musical peak in their last collaboration -- the glorious "Odessey & Oracle," now a psychedelic classic. As the album is rereleased, newbies can get to know them through the "Time of the Season" single, which collects two of their most enchanting (and best known) songs together.
It opens with a slow, sensual beat and languorous melodies, sprinkled with soft sighs and ripples of colourful organ. "It's the time of the season/When the love runs high /In this time, give it to me easy/And let me try/With pleasured hands," Colin Blunstone murmurs smoothly.
He continues over a sputter of electric guitar, "To take you and the sun to/Promised lands," only to join a soaring chorale, "To show you every one/It's the TIME... of the seeaaaason... for loving!" Then it switches back to the shimmering, sensual, slightly jazzy sound of the first part of the song, with the occasional colourful keyboard solo.
The song that follows is just as mellow and sunny, but much catchier and more expansive. A cluster of guitars and rattling drums are swamped under waves of piano. Gives it a nice chamberpop feel. And Blunstone sings adoringly of someone who loved him and had faith in him, and "now darkness has gone/and this will be our year/took a long time to come..."
The Zombies made a lot of brilliant psychpop, but these two songs are among their best known. They're also thoroughly good examples of their music, showing them at their most mellow and enchanting -- it's like eavesdropping on an idyllic picnic in a flowered meadow. Maybe with a bit of acid thrown in.
Part of this comes from the music. The Zombies took your basic rock instruments -- guitar, bass and drums -- and blended them into a smooth little pop melody, wound with colourful synth, shimmering Melltron and swirls of piano. It's music to get mellow to, but it also has an innocent, simple sweetness that you don't find in most pop now.
Blunstone's voice fits the instrumentals perfectly -- he sounds smooth and buoyant, especially with the beautifully harmonized backing vocals. So he also fits the lyrics, both the love song and the hippie anthem: "Tell it to me slowly/Tell you what?/I really want to know/It's the time of the season for loving!" he croons with his bandmates.
The "Time of the Season" single highlights two of the Zombies' best songs, and it's also a good listen for those just getting acquainted with this brilliant, enchanting band.
It must have been hard for Zombies compiler Alec Palao to come up with anything original for the recent batch of vinyl EP releases. I mean, only look at their back catalogue, Greg Russo in his excellent Collector's Guide mentions 63 different albums released in the UK alone! There are simply no more outtakes, no matter how much dedicated fans would be willing to pay for such hidden treasures. So he had to make do with two unreleased mono-mixes of Time of the Season and A Rose for Emily, but both presented here in alternative versions: continued drumming where the accepted version has silence, and a cello which was later left out in the official version. Again, we've heard these alternatives before, but only in stereo. You might say: well, big deal, but then turn to side B, which has new stereo mixes of two other favourites, Care of Cell 44 and Hung Up On a Dream. Beautifully done, especially the vocals seem to sound fresher than before. You do need a good record player, though, which can handle these 33 1/3 rpm EPs.