On April 19, 1968, The Zombies published Odessey and Oracle, their second album and also the last. The London group had climbed to the wave of the English invasion three years before and distinguished by the exotic keyboards of Rod Argent and the sighing voice of Colin Bluntstone.
They did not look spectacular and, although they had a couple of colossal hits, they did not distinguished too much from the other groups of the time. Until Odessey and Oracle arrived, an immense, melodic, psychedelic and colorful album that represented the highest creative point of pop music of the era. Commercially, however, it was a disaster: just a few copies were sold, the group split up and the album disappeared from the lists and stores as if he had never been.
But in 1969, the single “Time of the Season” returned to the charts. Over the years, the appreciation of this album has grown with all justice. Today, Odessey and Oracle is seen as one of the greatest albums of the 60s and of all pop history. His influence grows with each listening in new musicians and fifty years later, it sounds as important and imposing as it should have sound in those days.
Exclusively for LAPOPLIFE, a group of musicians, writers, journalists and pop fans share their insights about a record that does not lose its relevance in streaming times and social networks…
BART MENDOZA. Musician in Manual Scan, The Shambles and True Stories. San Diego, California, USA.
Odessey and Oracle, is the rarest of things: it’s a perfect album. Not a note in excess or out of place, every song so memorable, I could play the album in my head even if I didn’t have a couple dozen reissues of it in my collection somewhere. Of my two favorite groups in my pre-teen years, The Beatles made me want to be in a band, The Zombies made me want to write songs. The growth between the Zombies two U.S. albums was inspiring, from beat group to baroque masterpiece in three short years.
The Zombies sound has resonated with bands from around the world ever since their first record landed on a turntable. Of course many a band played The Zombies early hits and tunes from their debut album. Songs from Odessey and Oracle are much more difficult propositions, orchestrated and brilliantly arranged music for reflection as opposed to just filling a dance floor.
Listening to Odessey and Oracle in particular is a master class in songwriting. As a budding musician I learned so much about arrangements, harmonies, the use of space in songs, melody and middle eight’s – for starters. This is timeless music that reveals more with each listen, the sequencing of the tracks crucial to the proceedings.
Odessey and Oracle isn’t just great music, it’s an achievement. It’s for these reasons and more that The Zombies are hugely influential and will remain so for generations to come. You can hear echoes of their sound in groups separated by decades, from sixties legends, The Choir, to my latest combo, True Stories, and likely a million bands in between. Though the album wasn’t a hit when released, it has certainly gathered momentum over the years, now considered one of the era’s best releases. Time has proven the band and their die-hard fans, correct – Odessey and Oracle is a true masterpiece and essential listening.
RONNIE D’ADDARIO. Solo and session musician (and proud father of The Lemon Twigs). Long Island, New York, USA.
Like The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, The Zombies’ Odessey and Oracle was overlooked at the time of release. (I was guilty of that too, but then, I was only twelve years old.) I do remember hearing The Zombies’ “Time of The Season” and The Beach Boys’ “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and “Sloop John B” (“God Only Knows” had not become the hit or classic that it is today – at least not in the United States).
One day in the 1980s, a friend played me “Care of Cell 44”. I loved it. Colin’s voice, the harmonies, the song, the feel. I had to hear the rest of the album. My favorites were “Care of Cell 44”, “A Rose for Emily” and “This Will Be Our Year”. But what was really impressive is that every song, one after the other was great– just a solid, strong album, mellotron and all! It was so good to enjoy music that awesome for the first time, easily and without question, instead of desperately seeking out more recent music to like and having to lower my standards to do so.
The Beach Boys got me through the Seventies, and The Zombies were a great start for the Eighties. The only thing I had known about The Zombies was “She’s Not There”, “Tell Her No” and “Time of The Season”. But there was so much more.
Odessey and Oracle is no longer a secret. Three years ago, my sons, Brian and Michael (aka The Lemon Twigs) took to it right away. Like The Beatles, this album will be passed on and appreciated forever. Let’s hope so.
ROBERTO CASTILLO UDIARTE. Writer, poet. Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico.
The Zombies had already surprised me with two classic compositions like “She’s Not There “in 1964 and” Tell Her No “in 1965; however, his album Odessey and Oracle, with a dozen good pop songs, was born untimely and came to me late. Recorded in England in the summer of ’67, it was released in the early ’68.
The song “Time of the Season” was the only hit on radio until early 1969. Brief, but with very good production of Al Kooper and Rod Argent, the album includes 12 songs in 35 minutes. Several of them, mainly “Changes”, “Case of Cell 44 “,” Maybe After He’s Gone”, are baroque pop ballads of the type of groups like Left Banke, The Turtles, The Hollies and, mainly, with Bachian vocal harmonies at The Beach Boys style in “God Only Knows” and “Heroes and Villans”, and some reminiscences of “Penny Lane” by The Beatles in “This Will Be Our Year”.
Apart from the good work on the keyboards of Rod Argent in “Time of the Season”, I love “A Rose for Emily “, based on the homonymous story by the North American writer William Faulkner, originally published in 1930. I think “Beechwood Park” could have been a classic ballad with his bachiano hammond organ in the Matthew Fisher style of Procol Harum. The same song anti-war “Butcher’s Tale (Western Front 1914)”, the only one in which Colin does not sing Blunstone but Chris White, the bassist, and that includes a reverse recording at the beginning from a disc by Pierre Boulez and continues with the harmonium and the melotron by Rod Argent, instruments and techniques already used in 66 and 67 by The Beatles in recordings like “Rain”, “I’m Only Sleeping” and “Tomorrow Never Knows”.
Chris White says that the inspiration for the tone of his composition was based on a song by The Bee Gees, “New York Mining Disaster 1941”. If this Odessey and Oracle album had originally come out in 1967 the story music could possibly have been another.
KAREN LYNN. Musician in The Bookends. Scranton, Pennsylvania, USA.
There are some albums that you listen to in order to lift your spirits and change your mood, but if you are searching for an album that will transport you to a musical, magical place with beautiful baroque rock sounds, then Odessey and Oracle is absolutely one I would recommend! In my opinion every song on the album is a masterpiece on its own, but linked like pearls one to the next to form a complete work of art. From the first note of “Care of Cell”; to the fading of the last song “Time Of The Season”, the music’s magnetic pull never weakens and you find yourself feeling like you’ve just woken from a beautiful dream that you hope to repeat again and again!
I would list this album as one I must have if I were stranded on a desert island, and one I would recommend to anyone interested in broadening their musical horizons. I remember the first time I saw the Zombies perform Odessey and Oracle; live in its entirety in 2015, and how perfect it was! In my mind the theater immediately transformed into a larger version of my room and record player, sounding exactly like
the album, bringing tears to my eyes.
I was lucky enough to see them perform it again in 2017. It’s not every day that an album of this magnitude comes along, so I give it my highest regard. If you’ve heard it, you know what I’m saying is true, and if you haven’t, you shouldn’t deny your ears one minute longer!
DUGLAS T. STEWART. Musician in BMX Bandits. Glasgow, Scotland.
I think Odessey and Oracle by The Zombies is my favourite British pop album. There’s one condition in this though, it has to be the mono version. If you are going to buy this album don’t be tempted to get it in Stereo. If you have it in stereo instead of mono throw it away and get the proper version in mono.
My favourite track on the album is a song of hope called “This Will Be Our Year” and if you have the stereo version you’ll miss the warm, spirit-lifting brass arrangement which makes this track like a comforting sonic hug.
In the early 1990’s I was on tour with my group BMX Bandits and my best friend Norman Blake was on tour in America with Teenage Fanclub. When we returned to our home town of Bellshill we both declared to the other we had an album we’d found while on tour that we had to share with the other one, One of the best things I’ve ever heard, you’ll love it. It turned out we were both talking about Odessey and Oracle.
From the rinky-tinky intro of the album’s opener “Care of Cell 44” and its strange tale of someone waiting for their girlfriend to get home from prison, then those glorious harmonies kick in and I was hooked. Every track was full of wonder and delights. Special mention must also go to Colin Blunstone’s vocals, he didn’t rate himself as a singer Rod Argent once told me. Blunstone’s voice has such power but also a tenderness and vulnerability. He might have my favourite male voice in pop.
This is a special album, it always sounds fresh to my ears no matter how often I listen. BUT it has to be in MONO!
JORDI SARAVIA. Musician in Sr. Saravia and The Corleone Soul System. Barrio de Gràcia, Barcelona, Catalunya.
I see Odessey and Oracle as one of those albums where pop is much more that simple three-minute songs (although they are three-minute songs). And it baffles me that I have not succeeded! Maybe it’s due to the over-saturation of discs similar that there was after the Sgt. Pepper phenomenon …
As a pop fan of the ’60s, I must admit that I was late for this record. I ignored it for years until I started reading articles where he was cited as a classic unjustly obviated by the public. I liked it a lot more than Pet Sounds,
It seemed more round and not so baroque. Sometimes I find it very sugary, but it’s beautiful, with an exquisite production. A true jewel that has had justice maybe too late, but it did not deserve oblivion. I see it as a mixture of Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake, a little bit of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn and some Pet Sounds. I could also quote the Beatles, although I see it less dispersed than
Pepper (that seems to me a tremendous discazo), with a clearer line. It has nothing that envy any of those that I have cited previously.
ANGIE MOON. Music journalist, radio personality, blogger. Limerick, Ireland.
I can’t believe it’s been 50 years since this legendary album was released. This album is on my list of perfect albums on my blog, The Diversity of Classic Rock. My only wish for this album is that I could have it on vinyl.
A perfect album is one of those albums that I can play all the way through, love every track, and not skip one. Odyssey and Oracle is easily one of my favourites of 1968 and all these qualities apply.
The first exposure I had to The Zombies was their debut hit single “She’s Not There”, off the aptly titled Begin Here. This song came out 30 years before I was born, but I have vivid memories of hearing it when I was starting to get into the wonderful music and popular culture of the 60s.
I watched a video with this song playing in the background with some footage of people in the 60s dancing and living life. I fell in love with Rod Argent’s organ playing and the group’s vocals. I had to hear more of the Zombies! But where to go next?
When I was in the classic rock fandom on Tumblr, I found lots of fans of the Zombies and all of them were recommending their classic album Odyssey and Oracle. I already knew the hit song and last track of the album, Time of the Season, but there’s so much more on that album that is worth listening to, and better than that hit single.
As a visual person, the first thing that catches my eye about the album is the colourful and psychedelic album cover. It’s a mix of old and new and I love the colour scheme. When you listen to this album, you can hear how far The Zombies have come in just a few years since their debut.
The best moments on this album in my opinion are “Care of Cell 44,” “Maybe After He’s Gone,” “Brief Candles”, “Hung Up on a Dream,” “Changes,” and “This Will Be Our Year.” The album is beautiful from beginning to end and if you haven’t heard it, you’re missing out on some of the best 35 minutes of your life.
It is a shame that The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has yet again snubbed The Zombies and they will not be inducted in the year that marks the 50 th anniversary of Odyssey and Oracle, which would still be too late.
Fans would use the hashtag #ThisWillBeOurYear, but much to everyone’s dismay, the band didn’t make it. However, in our hearts, every year is a year to appreciate The Zombies. You can’t find albums like this anymore and that is what makes the 60s so special.
JAVIER MORALES I GARCÍA. Editor in fanzine Ecos de Sociedad. Tenerife, Islas Canarias, Spain.
I admit it from the beginning: neither the Zombies nor this record were my favorites in a long time. This is so and I act of contrition briefly explaining my reasons.
The first time I heard the Zombies was in one of those glorious cheap compilations of the 80s and the song was “She’s Not There”; It did not capture me as another Honeybus song that also came to the charts, or even as Procol Harum.
That song by Rod Argent did not tell me anything special or “Time Of The Season”, which at that time was my introduction to Odessey and Oracle. They seemed too similar to what The Doors were doing in another part of the globe and neither did the Doors of my favorites in those years of youth. There has always been talk of the British Invasion, but less of the songs or influences that made the trip the other way around, and this is what I thought of that time. But one day I will never forget to listen to full volume a song called “This Will Be Our Year” that began with a piano that broke the silence in an almost epic and that raised me as rarely has happened to me. In addition, the song began with some phrases that were engraved to me iron in the heart and in the soul: The warmth of your love like the warmth of the sun / and this will be our year, took a long time to come.
A hymn for me since then and that, finally, it took me to fall in love with that record as if it were the first love, one of those that are never forgotten. Without doubt, love is the main theme of the album, in all ways, in all facets and always with the piano as the main narrator. The influences are clear, it is not necessary to name them, influences that drink in the American sounds, but also very British and of everything that was to come, perhaps, ahead of your time Timeless, even. “Care of Cell 44” is like going to the beach after visiting the prison, there is also a bit of psychiatric in “A Rose For Emily”, there is something evil and mysterious and nostalgic in “Maybe After She’s Gone” and a little of “Blue Jay Way” at Beechwood Park.
The talent of Chris White and Colin Blunstone comes out in that silky jewel that is “Brief Candles”, always leave your candles burning that you never know, so a
rayito of light sneaks in the “Hang Up To Dream” and in the “Changes”, although this time it is again in a Gothic way. Then there’s the nice jingle jangle of “I Want Her, She Wants Me” that sounds like a love song in love with feeling.
The return to the trenches is with “Butcher’s Tale”, piece where the baroque is in large doses like other songs in the same wave, for example, I come to the head “My World Fell Down” by Sagittarius. Small Masterpieces, without a doubt.
Alicia and her friends would happily dance the “Friends of Mine” in any No Birthday party that boasts and, after or before, there are already the two songs that I have spoken about, but beyond the sublime instrumentation and the precious voices , the words will always shine … And I will not forget how you helped me to cheer me up during bad times and how you told me that you loved me, giving me faith to keep going and now we are just starting our love story. Quite an odyssey and who knows what will happen.
DANIEL WYLIE. Music in Cosmic Rough Riders. Glasgow, Scotland.
I discovered The Zombies by working my way backwards from Argent and Colin Blunstone’s hit singles like “Hold Your Head Up”, “Say You Don’t Mind” and “God Gave Rock’n’Roll to You”. As a child, I'd heard “She’s Not There” and “Time of The Season” and loved them but wasn’t surprised to find that the first Zombies album was made up of a hit single and the usual boring rhythm and blues. I almost gave up on them.
The Beatles changed everything of course and in the three years between the first Zombies album and Odessey and Oracle, the band had moved on musically and were embracing mild psychedelia, as were the Rolling Stones, The Small Faces and many others.
It’s a fact that Odessey and Oracle is now regarded (and rightly so) as a classic album from the 60’s but even classic albums have stand out songs and “Time Of the Season”, is a towering work of genius in a brilliantly melodic set of super strong tunes.
FERNANDO TORRES. Musician in Okama Flannel Boy. Mexico City, México.
After the revelation of 1965 with Begin Here, The Zombies showed the English beat, until then dominated by the northerners of Liverpool and Manchester, that in Hertfordshire cooked a much more sophisticated sound. Among R & amp; B classics and exquisitely reinterpreted rock and roll, there were original cuts composed by the young Rod Argent and Chris White, keyboardist and bass player of the group respectively, but main creative minds. Melodic drifts, Vox organ riffs impregnated with influences from jazz and lounge and the sensual voice of Colin Blunstone, a magnificent combination that promised to give more to the shaky paradigm of the late 60s.
Psychedelia and experimentation would reach the Zombie land for the year 1967, when they recorded their magnificent Odessey and Oracle, which, unlike other psychedelic pop classics, has an accelerated and absolutely frugal production, with only three months to record and a tight budget. Even so, they managed to create a masterpiece at the height of The Beatles, Kinks or Beach Boys retaining that characteristic seal of his.
What wonderful encounter in Odessey? The elegance and the poise of the arrangements of piano, organ and harpsichord of Argent seduce the ear, the baroque influence is undeniable that coupled with the well-known charm of Blunstone, now more ethereal and reflective, weave an enveloping atmosphere that excites me, It causes chills, fills me with joy and yearning every time I put the album on the turntable.
I remember hearing “Time Of The Season” for the first time in a Crest toothpaste commercial as a child. As forgetful and out of context as the commercial was, I will never forget that introduction with Chris White’s bass, slap and exhale, they caused me an uncontrollable interest in hearing what was going on, as soon as I had the money I looked for a copy of it immediately .
The melancholic guitar, the percussive interventions between the verses, the Blunstone’s narration in “Maybe After He’s Gone”, the sweetness and the mature understanding of “Brief Candles”, the epic vocal harmonies and the poetry of “Changes” drove me crazy for this sound, which makes my imagination fly towards an indefinite and absolutely utopian vacation period away from the chaos of modern life. A tranquil Sunday of bridge, a mysterious and exciting journey, a deep and peaceful reflection, passionate and sincere love, that is all that Odessey brings to mind. Without a doubt the perfect itinerary for the dreamer …
MARIANO ARIAS. Leader of radio show Cebollas Verdes (Radio Ritmo Getafe). Madrid, Spain.
Odessey and Oracle, the second LP of the Zombies published 50 years ago, is a pop summit of all time, an album endowed with an uncontainable magnetism, as well as the history of its gestation conceived from the beginning as a farewell. In the absence of the expected success – just a hit with “She’s Not There” in 1964 – the band decided to dissolve by the end of 1966, but bassist Chris White convinced his teammates to continue for a while longer and take advantage of the favorable contract with Columbia to record a final album without commercial pressure. And this context of full freedom, together with the creative emergence of Rod Argent and White himself were decisive for Odessey and Oracle to end up being one of the quintessential works of the 60s, with instrumentation, melodies and vocal games that They delight and inspire the best feelings. I have seen many times how some of their songs have been used to convey ideas that we all share: the value of friendship illustrated by “Friends of Mine”, or “This Will Be Our Year “and hope for a better future.
It is also one of those rare discs that has no filler songs and can be listened to willingly at a stretch; and much more than that, because if we unite the recordings and those that were unpublished – and that would be published in successive reissues – would come out two substantial albums. It is also especially valuable make it a disc accessible to all ears, away from any pretentiousness despite its sophisticated sound. Everyone who talks about this album praises him, even people who did not know anything about the Zombies or other bands of their time, and about this I have anecdotes from my family circle. I gave it to a cousin years ago He was very music-minded, but well-educated, and he loved it, and he also told me that the songs ‘sounded’ to him; or my own mother, who since I was very young comes to me saying the typical of: “what a music roll you like, lower the volume my son”. Well, one day at home I got the Odessey and Oracle and she was captivated and she asked me to make a copy. That’s why it’s a pity that the album went unnoticed in 1968, and only received a late recognition with “Time of the Season” on American charts almost two years later, illustrating another of many episodes in which the quality and response of the public They go their separate ways. But, finally, the passage of time did justice with this timeless record and now we are celebrating its 50th anniversary; It is a good opportunity to draw it, put it on the plate and let yourself be carried away by the magic contained in its furrows.
RALF ORTIZ. Writer. San Luis Potosí, Mexico.
Being late for the party rarely means that literally. When you are five years old, even if you were a child in 1968 in Mexico, it would be difficult for you to discover and appreciate something like Odessey and Oracle. Then apply to arrive late to the party.
The cool thing about the music is that it’s an endless party and you’re forgiven for being late, the joke is to be, get there when you get there. Well within certain parameters, right? I mean, if you’re sixty-something, and you say you like rock, but you do not know the Zombies, something went wrong. Something did not work
I met them at 16 and I liked them, but I would be lying if I said that I appreciated them for everything they were. I went back to the Zombies … I was going to say recently, but it was in 2001! Odessey and Oracle was the subject of a reissue with additional tracks. It’s already seventeen years of that edition, and twenty-five years had passed since I first heard it. That reissue was the last albums that my friend Papuy would give me, who also gave me a Sony chrome cassette to record it. Odessey and Oracle
It sounded different than that first time. The wonderful thing about the album is that it was there where people like Robyn Hitchcock, R.E.M., The Smiths, Crowded House and so many others took on another meaning. There is music that hits you like you owe money. It leaves you lying. In the same way, there is music that comes and hugs you and reminds you that there is a fine and invisible thread that connects the souls. That is why it is easy for us to say that it could be the best album in history, but as long as that thread exists there will be others that are. You can be a 16 year old guy on a rainy afternoon in Los Angeles, California, or a fifty-somethings music lover sharing and talking about what you’re passionate about, while in the speakers you hear that question in “Time of the Season “:” What’s your name? / Who’s your daddy? “And you answer the second question, sure, saying: rock.