With his dark, shadowy makeup and distinctly booming laugh, horror host John Zacherle was Halloween fun personified. Best known for his work in the ‘50s as host of the TV program “Shock Theater,” Zacherle also had an extensive career in novelty music and voiceover work. Long out-of-print and ridiculously expensive, Real Gone Music has reissued his classic album Zacherle’s Monster Gallery, featuring the original cover art by legendary Mad Magazine artist Jack Davis.
The first thing to note here is that it’s actually just an alternate release of Zacherle’s earlier record, Spook Along With Zacherley; the main difference being the album title and Davis’ artwork. While both covers are aesthetically pleasing (Spook Along features Zacherle centered and in character) Zacherle’s Monster Gallery is the clear winner; illustrated monsters dance along a ghoulish parade route in front of a spooky old house, with cartoon Zacherle in the lead playing a flute made of bones.
While this album doesn’t include Zacherle’s biggest hit “Dinner With Drac,” it makes up for it with the strong opener of “Coolest Little Monster.” The song consists of Zacherle serenading his ghoulish gal over a ‘50s rock and roll beat, all the while offering gifts like “a small box of smallpox” and “your own noose for home use.” It’s an absolute joy hearing Zacherle ham it up, never breaking character and going all in for laughs.
Another favorite is the bossa nova tinged werewolf ballad “Baying at the Moon.” Zacherle is still pining for his favorite girl, but this time he has wailing backup singers to complement his dinner music vocal delivery. Like most of the songs on the album, this one clocks in at two and a half minutes, making it a quick listen and packing in plenty of dynamics from the capable band.
The oddest moment on the album is easily the final track, “Zacherley For President.” Full of sound effects and crowd noise, the song is more radio play or musical theater than novelty track. However, with the sorry state of the current U.S. political system, who can really argue with Zacherle’s political stance of “more schools for more ghouls” and “a family closet for every skeleton”?
While not listing any specific audio sourcing, or presence of any remastering, the sound is absolutely flawless. The stereo spacing is pretty solid as well, always presenting Zacherle’s bombastic vocals front and center while panning the background vocals far left or right. Overall, I was very happy with the experience, even going so far as to feature one of the tracks on my 2017 Halloween mixtape.
It’s hard to knock a release that’s a faithful reproduction of the original, but I would have really loved some liner notes and a full gatefold. There’s a bio for Zacherle on the back of the thin cardboard single sleeve, but it’s all about his character and less about the actual person. Still, we get a beautiful vinyl variant described as “green & orange pumpkin vinyl,” swirling around the platter and living up to its namesake. It’s festive as hell, weighs about 140-gram and spins nice and flat.
Zacherle’s Monster Gallery is limited to 1,000 copies and available on “Green & Orange Pumpkin” vinyl at Real Gone Music.