The Zombies were one of the best and most original pop groups to rise from the British Beat scene of the early to mid-'60s, with striking harmonies, gorgeous melodies, a gifted and nuanced lead singer inColin Blunstone, and a keyboard player, Rod Argent, who was just as comfortable with jazz and blues as he was with rock, and not afraid to blend his influences in the course of a song. Given all this, The Zombies' first album, 1965's Begin Here, is a bit of a disappointment; while it's an inarguably fine set of songs, half of the tunes are covers, mostly of R&B standards, and while the band plays them with genuine passion and impressive skill, the truth is there were plenty of bands on the U.K. Beat scene who could play "I Got My Mojo Working," "Road Runner," or "You've Really Got a Hold on Me" at least as well if not better. It's on the originals, written by Argent and guitarist Chris White, where one hears what really made The Zombies special. "She's Not There" was an international hit, and the slightly ominous rumble of Argent's electric piano, the emphatic lead vocal from Blunstone, and the melodic lift of the harmonies give it a sound not quite like anyone else around at the time, while "I Can't Make Up My Mind" and "I Don't Want to Know" are similarly well-crafted and thoughtful. "Woman" and "What More Can I Do" are hard-driving R&B numbers that allow the group's individual personality to shine through (especially in Argent and White's forceful instrumental work), and "I Remember When I Loved Her" is a moody and atmospheric piece that anticipates the tone of the group's masterful final albumOdessey and Oracle. Given the wealth of fine original tunes that The Zombies released on various non-LP singles and EPs during this period, it's a shame that so much of Begin Here was given over to covers; it's still a fine album and certainly better than what most of their peers had to offer in 1965, but what could have been an achievement on a par with the Kinks' Face to Face or the Beatles' Rubber Soul ended up being something quite good instead of an unqualified triumph. AMG.
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