Odessey and Oracle – The Zombies

Today marks the 50th anniversary of Odessey and Oracle, the second album by the Zombies, which was released on 19th April 1968. I was asked to write a post to celebrate it’s birthday for the Brazilian site Cansei do Mainstream by my good pal Joyce Guillarducci. Joyce DJed a set at Here’s Sound, a refugee fundraiser curated by Old Rope last summer, and yours truly then contributed a track to her O Verão do Amor compilation project to commemorate the ‘summer of love’. (You can hear it at the bottom of this article).

The article was translated into Portuguese. Here’s the link if you want to read it: http://canseidomainstream.com.br/2018/04/19/13-odessey-and-oracle-the-zombies/

Below is the original article in English.

Odessey and Oracle is a psychedelic pop masterpiece to rival anything of the era. Timing is important in music (spelling less so, the title famously contains a typo) and for the Zombies staying in sync was never easy. Recorded in 1967 at the height of the summer of love, it wouldn’t see a release until a year later and so seemed slow out of the starting blocks, instead of helping its psychedelic peers to set the pace of the musical revolution.

Things had started so well. After a couple of hits in the UK and the States, this second-wave ‘British Invasion’ group from St Albans should have consolidated their success. Their first album, Begin Here, didn’t push them into the acclaimed realms of the Stones or the Kinks but with their second album came a second chance and their timing couldn’t have been better. They recorded it at Abbey Road, right after the Beatles had put the finishing touches to Sgt Pepper. There, the EMI engineers had helped to push the boundaries of what was technically possible and were ready to make Odessey and Oracle sound incredible.

They didn’t fail either. This LP still sounds fabulous and better produced than more famous records of the time. Unlike many of their peers and despite their R&B roots,  the Zombies’ sound was never guitar driven and across the twelve tracks of this record it’s the piano and the organ that take centre stage, by turns sounding bold and strident, wistful and forlorn. The album is soaked in rich harmonies, melodic bass, moody drums and the infamous mellotron (a kind of early synthesiser).

Surely with such wonderful music on tape the Zombies would become superstars. Alas it wasn’t to be. After singles Care of Cell 44 and Friends of Mine were released to indifference in the UK, the band broke up and the record label shelved the album until 1968 when it also failed to trouble the charts. Then in 1969, the album’s eerie psyche closing track became a surprise smash hit and topped the charts in the US. Since then Odessey and Oracle has gradually – and deservedly – gained recognition as one of the finest works of its generation and one of the best psyche rock records of all time.

 

Here’s the cover of Friends of Mine from Odessey and Oracle that I contributed with my much cooler friends Paul and Sarah:

And here is the (coincidentally covered) B-side to it, Beechwood Park, by Murilo Sá:

 

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2 comments

  1. Very ‘of its time’ the cover art, isn’t it? Apparently they didn’t notice the typo until it was too late and then pretended it was intentional – a reference to odes.

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