Of the literally dozens of memorable bands that emerged from the British Beat scene in the early to mid-'60s, the Zombies were one act that stood out: there was a smart, slightly arty aura to their clever and beautifully crafted melodies, superb vocal harmonies, and a distinct instrumental sound, highlighted by Rod Argent's keyboard work, often using electric piano to memorable effect. Even when the Zombies rocked out or sunk into a tough R&B groove, they could convey a keen intelligence along with their energy, and their more introspective moments gave them a sound and feel that was unique. As good as they were, the Zombies didn't have much luck on the charts -- while "She's Not There" and "Tell Her No" were hits in 1965, most of their subsequent recordings attracted little notice on initial release, and some of the band's finest work was barely heard in its day. Begin Here: The Complete Decca Mono Recordings 1964-1967 confirms how baffling this is in retrospect. It includes the group's 1965 album Begin Here as well as 22 songs that appeared on singles and EPs, and it's disc two, with those non-LP sides, that makes the case for the Zombies' strengths. The album was divided half and half between covers and originals; all but two of the extra tracks are group originals, and Rod Argent and guitarist Chris White were excellent songwriters, crafting top-notch pop and R&B tunes with a clever twist, and if lead singer Colin Blunstone didn't write as much material, the songs that appear here are fine stuff. The group clearly knew how to make their music work in the studio, and the crisp monophonic remastering by Jon Astley gives these recordings plenty of punch without blurring the sonic details. The Complete Decca Mono Recordings 1964-1967 preserves a great group in their heyday, and John Tracy's liner notes and a beautifully designed package make this as much a treat for the eyes as for the ears. Short of picking up the box set Zombie Heaven, you're not going to find a much better presentation of this band's Decca years than this.