The Zombies – The BBC Sessions (Varese Vintage)

The Zombies were the first band to officially release material recorded at the BBC when the British broadcasters opened up their archives in 1985. They released these sessions again in 1998 as part of the Zombie Heaven boxset, and here they are once more, now a two-disc set with a few previously unreleased recordings. Like their peers, The Zombies’ BBC visits were a chance to plug their hits, and to play some exclusive material that hadn’t been released elsewhere. They recorded versions of their early hits “She’s Not There” and “Tell Her No” (the latter at three different sessions), and a host of other effervescent Zombies originals that should have been hits, like “You Make Me Feel Good”, “If It Don’t Work Out” and “Just Out Of Reach”. Well-done covers of The Impressions, The Isley Brothers, The Supremes, Isaac Hayes, The Four Tops and Billy Stewart make a strong case for The Zombies as a great white soul band, and they’re also comfortable playing blues (“Wee Baby Blues”), rockabilly (“Rip It Up”) and pop (a stunning cover of “The Look Of Love”). Though The BBC Radio Sessions has an embarrassment of great songs and performances (and those goofy BBC interviews), some of the sessions were only available from secondary sources, so the sound is sometimes compromised (especially on their cover of “Sitting In The Park”). Also, there’s no material from the best Zombies album, Odessey and Oracle, though it’s nobody’s fault since the band broke up before it was released in 1968, and didn’t play it live until decades later. Even with those imperfections, The BBC Sessions has more than enough great stuff for me to recommend it.