f-tunes: The Zombies—Odessey and Oracle

Thu, Jan 7, 2010 at 4:56 pm ET


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The Zombies Odessey and Oracle

The time has come for the debut of The Admiral here at Frump.  You will likely see me posting f-tunes more than any other, due to my unhealthy obsession with music.  Old music, current music and music that hasn’t even been released yet.  (Dear RIAA, about that last part.  I don’t steal, I time travel… and sample things to buy later… no, really).  I thought for a while about which album I would start with and figured it would be best to talk briefly about a record I wish I had been exposed to much sooner.

So here it is:  The ZombiesOdessey and Oracle.  The Admiral might be a noob to this whole blogging thing, but for those keeping score at home: No, I didn’t misspell “odyssey”, The Zombies did.  The band themselves claim it was done intentionally and with poetic license while the printer of the album’s artwork claims it was a mistake and the band is just covering.  Whatever the case may be, the unique spelling is apropo for the 1968 psychadelic baroque pop masterpiece. [originally released in the UK in 1967, for the music trivia buffs]  continued…

Odessey and Oracle‘s poppy riffs, melodic bass lines, ethereal three part harmonies and keyboard laden tracks are most reminiscent of Sgt. Pepper era Beatles minus the tension building jangly dissonance of “A Day In the Life”.   Coincidentally, Odessey was recorded at Abbey Road Studios immediately after Sgt. Pepper and Pink Floyd’s The Piper at the Gates of Dawn were completed.  The parallels to the Fab Four do not end there, as the recording of Odessey and Oracle occurred when the band knew it would be their final album release, much like Abbey Road would be for the Beatles a few years later.  One would think that both groups would struggle with the prospect of their impending demise and a general sense of apathy would set in amongst the members.  In each of these atypical cases, however, the result was near perfection.    The album grabs the best vocal elements of the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds,  and the aforementioned intricate orchestration of post-’66 Beatles, with an occasional touch of both bombastic and harrowing organ playing characteristic of The Doors, molding them in to one 35 minute opus.

Until only a few years ago, I had somehow managed to completely bypass this influential “British Invasion” band in my previous scouring and self-education of 1960’s music.  Much like the Small Faces, Love and The Left Banke, The Zombies have managed to fly relatively under the radar for many in Generations X & Y, while the influence of their timeless hooks and layered compositions are still evident in many major and independent label acts today .  But for the numerous citations of their influence by  modern artists, and the frequent use of their song “Time of the Season” in virtually any Vietnam-era motion picture soundtrack of the last 30 years, they have gone relatively unnoticed by many of my peers who have subsequently been eternally grateful to The Admiral for turning them on to this record.

During a time in the industry when most artists found their money-making comfort zone and stuck with it, The Zombies did the complete opposite.   Odessey and Oracle is evidence of how astute The Zombies were in their comprehension of minor keys, modulation, and complex arrangements.  Their blend of pop sensibilties with sometimes haunting pscyhedelia allow the listener to revel in some of the more finely crafted songs of arguably the best era in rock music.   When other bands of the decade were still making their living ripping off the American blues artists who preceded them, these guys were looking forward and striking out on their own to the very end.

The Zombies were well ahead of their time with Odessey and Oracle,  I only wish they had made more records for us to enjoy. 

HIGHLIGHT TRACKS:   Care of Cell 44,  Maybe After He’s Gone,  This Will Be Our Year, Time of the Season.

If You Like: Post 1966 Beatles, Beach Boys Pet Sounds, Os Mutantes, The Yardbirds or The Kinks you should listen to this album.

Bands Citing This Artist/Album as Influences:   REM, Paul Weller, The Who, The Thrills, Beck, Belle And Sebastian, Super Furry Animals, Stone Temple Pilots, Tom Petty, Pat Metheny, Oasis, Smashing Pumpkins, Elliott Smith as well as their peers of the era, including The Kinks and many others. 

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