The Zombies - Odessey And Oracle - Review
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critics' view

Ask any scholar of mid-to-late '60s British pop to list the three top releases from the Summer Of Love: They’ll undoubtedly give you Sgt Pepper and argue the toss between, say, Ogden's Nut Gone Flake and Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. But nine out of ten will also include the Zombies' Odessey And Oracle. To this day it remains a word-of mouth obscurity. But by those who know it’s held in such regard that the remaining living members of the band are to perform it in its entirety this year, on the fortieth anniversary of its release.

To most, the Zombies can be summed-up by the two hits that book-ended their brief career. The 1964 hit, She’s Not there, and the blue-eyed soul shuffle of Time Of The Season (which closes this album): both feature the exquisite breathy vocals of Colin Blunstone and serpentine keyboards of Rod Argent. Like many bands of their generation, the St Albans school chums started life as purveyors of r 'n' b and soul standards. Yet following one album, a film soundtrack and a busy touring schedule, by 1967 they were really coming into their own.

Odessey… was filled with songs that sidestepped normal subject matter – the return of incarcerated loved-ones (Care Of Cell 44); a local girls' school (Beechwood Park), the horrors of war (The Butcher’s Tale); or just mates of the band who were in couples (Friends Of Mine). And on A Rose For Emily they proved to be every bit the equal of the Beatles in weaving tales of lost hope, subtly tinged with nostalgia. Partly recorded in Abbey Road (with all the flowery gadgets that were mandatory for those who worked there at the time), this is mellotron-assisted baroque pop of the highest order.

The irony was that, following the success of Time Of The Season in the US, the band were abandoned by their label and apathy tore them apart before the album ever saw the light of day. A stereo mix was funded solely by Blunstone and Argent's royalties from the single. Despite the critical praise it was too late, and the various members either retired or (again, in the case of Bluntstone and Argent) went on to other musical careers.

And before you write in, the album's title was mis-spelled by the designer of the cover (a friend of guitarist, Chris White’s).

Despite the plethora of 'what-ifs' that surround this gem, it remains an album that should grace any record collection. Essential…

Chris Jones
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