THE ZOMBIES – ODESSEY AND ORACLE
Released April 19, 1968- 48 years ago
The Zombies’ sophomore studio release is generally considered the band’s best and one of the most enduring and influential albums to come out of the late ‘60s British psychedelic movement. Combining airy choruses, trippy melodies, and ornate keyboard-centric orchestration, it easily stands with the later Beatles and early Pink Floyd releases.
The Classic Pick is a weekly feature at 4pm M-F on The Home Stretch, sponsored by the Good Oak Bar and curated by Kris Kerry. Each Monday at 4pm Kris stops by KXCI’s studio to give us insight on this classic album at 91.3FM and kxci.org.
The Zombies formed in 1962 in the London suburb of St. Albans. Led by Rod Argent (keyboards & vocals) and Colin Blunstone (lead vocals), the group is best known for their radio hits “She’s Not There” (1965), “Tell Her No” (1965), and “Time of the Season” from Odessey and Oracle. The Zombies were more successful in the UK than the US, but never shared the success of other British Invasion bands, despite these three hits. The rest of the band includes Paul Atikinson (guitar), Hugh Grundy (drums), and Chris White (bass).
Odessey and Oracle was really their only cohesive full-length release (their first album, Begin Here (1965), was largely pasted together from singles and covers). Considered a pop-psychedelia masterpiece, the album was largely unnoticed with its release in 1968 in the UK, but after lobbying from Al Kooper, famed member of Blood Sweat and Tears, songwriter, and person responsible for Bob Dylan’s improvised organ riffs on “Like A Rolling Stone,” CBS/Columbia Records agreed to release the album in the US, and by 1969 “Time of the Season” was a top ten Billboard hit, peaking at #3.
Odessey and Oracle was recorded in June of 1967. Nine of the twelve songs were recorded at Abby Road Studios in London. The other three were recorded at Olympia Studios also in London. Open since 1931, Abby Road is one of rock’s most famous studios. Most of The Beatles’ and Pink Floyd’s albums were recorded there as well as albums by Donovan, Deep Purple, The Alan Parsons Project, Buzzcocks, XTC, Morressey, Rush, Depeche Mode, and Radiohead. Olympic Studios recorded albums from 1966-2009. Artists recording here include The Beatles, BB King, David Bowie, Nick Cave, Ray Charles, Eric Clapton, Elvis Costello, The Cure, The Jam, Jimi Hendrix, King Crimson, Led Zeppelin, Madonna, Motörhead, Queen, Rolling Stones, Roxy Music, U2 and a host of other acts.
Because the album was recorded on a tight budget and deadline, The Zombies rehearsed rigorously prior to recording. There were no outtakes or unused songs during the recording sessions.
The album was recorded using a four track machine – the same tape machine used on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. In the 1960s most recording was done on four or eight track tape machines. Today most studios use 64 tracks or more.
Production credit goes to The Zombies themselves, with most of the producing decisions left band co-founder, songwriter, and keyboard player, Rod Argent, and bassist, Chris White.
The Zombies had been experiencing internal strife thoughout 1967 with tempers flaring during recording, and they disbanded not long after recording had ceased – just a few months before the release of Odessey and Oracle. With the success of “Time of the Season” the band was encouraged to reunite, and several new tracks were cut for an album scheduled for release in late 1969. However this never came to fruition.
While Odessey and Oracle was received indifferently upon its release, it has since gained a cult following and become a widely acclaimed album. Nearly every music magazine in existence gives it top ratings, and Rolling Stone ranks it #100 on their list of “500 Greatest Albums of All Time.” The British publications, Mojo, Q Magazine, NME, and The Guardian also place it on their “greatest all-time” albums list.
Paul Well of The Jam has been cited several times stating this album as one of his favorites and instrumental in his artistic development. Songs from Odessey and Oracle have been covered by Elliott Smith, OK Go, Of Montreal, Foo Fighters, and The Avett Brothers, among others.
The Zombies are not in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. They’ve been eligible since 1989. They weren’t around very long, but their mark on music is substantial and some believe they still have a chance on induction.