The Zombies took their band off life support after the tepid response to 1968’s Odessey & Oracle, the aftermath of which would prove to be one of the great ironies of pop music. Colin Blunstone, after a brief hiatus as a banker, pushed on with a fairly fruitful career as pseudonymous vocalist Neil MacArthur. His bandmates Rod Argent and Chris White, noodling around with bits and pieces that would later form the prog-rock dinosaur Argent, recorded a raft of demos and alternate mixes of coulda-been Zombies tracks.
Into the Afterlife, released in 2007, collects 20 of these mish-mash tracks–MacArthur a- and b-sides, along with Argent/White demos and castoffs. The songs here are the slightest distance from the soulful baroque pop the Zombies had crafted to that point, which leaves the listener with a faintly creepy feeling of peeking at their career’s autopsy; what went wrong, what was in great shape, shoulda would coulda… The material is inexplicably strong, leaving an inability to account for the Zombies’ poor US chart performance after “Tell Her No.”
Argent and White’s “Telescope (Mister Galileo)” is a slinkily sleazy peeping-tom tune that oozes with Zombies color. Argent assumes vocal duties, as he did now and then on Zombies records, with just the right amount of heartache, though not as expertly as Blunstone. The song is every bit as schoolboy lusty as “Time of the Season,” albeit obviously not as accomplished as the monster single that reanimated the band’s profile months after they’d cashed out. The song is presented in two versions on Into the Afterlife, polished and rough, both being great, but the demo has the scruffy charm of Zombies classics like “I Love You” and “Just Out of Reach.”
Zombies fans are strongly urged to hunt down a copy of Into the Afterlife and help themselves to the handful of posthumous gems therein. Note: Some tracks also appear on RIP (available on a patchwork basis from the Zombies Heaven boxed set), but most appear here alone and are essential to Zombies completists. Oh, and there’s a Nilsson cover.