ZOMBI – ZOMBI and Friends Volume 1

Well, this is an unexpected turn I would have never expected. Pittsburgh born prog duo Zombi is mostly known for their own musical prowess. Over the past fifteen-plus years they have made a half-dozen albums of modern instrumental prog music, morphing from their humble beginnings as a band heavily indebted to the Italian giallo film soundtracks of Goblin to the almost Rush-like intensity of 2015’s Shape Shift. The duo have never made the same album twice and, I must admit, I like them all.

This album differs from the others in their back catalog in the fact that (a) there are vocals on these tracks and (b) it is an album of cover versions of other people’s songs. And of those songs, nearly all of them are of the yacht rock variety: late seventies and early eighties synth heavy pop songs originally done by bands like the Alan Parsons Project, Neil Diamond, Eddie Rabbitt, Barry Gibb and more. Not exactly normal Zombi territory but wow, what a daring effort.

I have no idea how or why they started this project. I am going to guess it started as a bit of a joke during their pandemic downtime that soon took a life of its own. The duo is here joined by friends from a bunch of other bands including members of The Sword, Trans Am, Pinkish Black and Zao, amongst others. I am assuming that a good chunk of these guest appearances are the vocal performances. Unfortunately the promotional material provided with the album doesn’t tell who sings on what, so I have no idea about any of that. But I do know that a few of these pairings are excellent.

Amongst my favourite reinterpretations on this album are the APP’s “Sirius/Eye In The Sky”, Michael McDonald’s “Taking It To The Streets” and the Eagles’ “I Can’t Tell You Why”. The Alan Parsons track is so well done that, if you weren’t paying close attention, you might actually think it was the original. “Taking…” has a very admirable vocalist – obviously not as soulful as Michael MdDonald himself but it’s a very good vocal performance and I love the keyboard recreation of the saxophone solo. And the baritone vocals in the Eagles’ cover really works.

This album is possibly the Zombi album that will get the least amount of repeated plays of their entire recorded output but it is a really fun listen nonetheless. It’s a big step, at least to these ears, from what the band is best known for, but kudos to them for putting it out there. It’s refreshing to see a band buck the trends and do what they want to do. I don’t know if any of these songs will end up in the setlists for their upcoming tour – their first to hit Canadian cities in a while – but if they do I am sure they’ll bring a smile to those listening.

Catch Zombi supporting OM this September in Western Canada

9/20 Winnipeg, MB @ Pyramid Cabaret
9/22 Saskatoon, SK @ Amigos Cantina
9/23 Edmonton, AB @ The Starlite Room
9/24 Calgary, AB @ Dickens
9/27 Vancouver, BC @ Rickshaw Theatre

(Relapse Records)

Album review by Sean Palmerston

Sean is the founder/publisher of Hellbound.ca; he has also written about metal for Exclaim!, Metal Maniacs, Roadburn, Unrestrained! and Vice.