Guide to British Music of the 1960s

June 2001

CD Review

The Zombies - Odessey & Oracle

 

The English Pet Sounds? At the very least a classic that has not received the recognition that it surely deserves. This is a great album and it's given a new life on CD. Like the earlier reviewed John Mayall's Bluesbreakers featuring Eric Clapton, this CD features both mono and stereo versions of the album. 

Mention the Zombies and the you automatically think of the wonderful She's Not There. However, they never received the acclaim that they justified and this is surely highlighted by Odessey and Oracle. Apart from the "hit" they had not made much headway in the UK and so, in 1967, they left Decca and moved to CBS. Friends of Mine and Care of Cell 44 were released as singles but they had little impact on the charts. The release of Odessey and Oracle followed although the band had split by then. Time of the Season was released posthumously and was a hit in the US. The single reached number 3 in the US and was a million seller as it also was in Japan. 

This is without a doubt one of the most missed albums of the 1960s and should be up with the likes of Revolver, Pet Sounds and Ogden's Nut Gone Flake. Odessey and Oracle mixed well-crafted songs with impressive arrangements, superb harmonies and Colin Blunstone's clear voice. It was even named in Mojo's 100 Greatest Albums voted for by critics in 1995. 

All the songs were written either by Chris White (bass) or Rod Argent (keyboards). The band had not released any original material for over a year although some had been written. In addition, they were feeling optimistic about a new start on a new label. Unfortunately, it was also the end. It was produced by Chris White and Rod Argent, quite rare especially in those days that the band would produce their own album. It was also a rare Abbey Road recording by a non-EMI artist.

Time of the Season is the stand-out track starting with a bass intro before Blunstone enters the fray. The song builds from there with individual instruments making their own mark and highlighting the musicianship present in the band. It is hardly surprising that this was not a hit in the UK as it does not have that commercial pop feel. It is, however, a masterpiece of creativity that sounds fresh and exciting even now in 2001. Rose for Emily features just vocals and piano. This track like many of the others has an "Englishness", not in the same way as the Kinks but stories closer to reminiscences of past times.

One area that makes Odessey and Oracle stand out and invites the Beach Boys comparisons is the vocal harmonies. Not only was Colin Blunstone an extremely gifted singer but the other members of the band helped to create such beautiful vocal sounds.

This is a forgotten masterpiece that deserves a new audience.

Released: 1968
CBS
CD-re-release: 1998
Big Beat CDWIKD 181
 
UK Highest Chart Position: Did not chart
US Highest Chart Position: 95

Essential Tracks:

  • Time of the Season

  • Maybe After He's Gone

  • Friends of Mine

Track Listing:

  1. Care of Cell 44
  2. A Rose for Emily
  3. Maybe After He's Gone
  4. Beechwood Park
  5. Brief Candles
  6. Hung Up On A Dream
  7. Changes
  8. I Want Her She Wants Me
  9. This Will Be Our Year
  10. Butcher's Tale (Western Front 1914)
  11. Friends of Mine
  12. Time of the Season

Additional tracks (mostly mono versions)

  1. Care of Cell 44
  2. A Rose for Emily
  3. Maybe After He's Gone
  4. Beechwood Park
  5. Brief Candles
  6. Hung Up On A Dream
  7. Changes
  8. I Want Her She Wants Me
  9. This Will Be Our Year
  10. Butcher's Tale (Western Front 1914)
  11. Friends of Mine
  12. Time of the Season
  13. A Rose for Emily (Alternate)
  14. Time of the Season (Alternate)
  15. Prison Song aka Care of Cell 44 (Backing track)

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