Review: The Zombies “Odessey and Oracle,” a forgotten classic

Released: 1968
CBS Records (U.S.), Date Records (U.K.)

There was more to the British Invasion than The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. One of the best and most overlooked bands of that era is The Zombies. And Odessey and Oracle is their masterpiece.

Fronted by Rod Argent, the band was formed in St. Albans during the early 60s. Melding Beatles-esque melodies with the baroque inclinations of the latter day Beach Boys, Odessey and Oracle is the first Zombies album without any covers. Songwriters Chris White (bass) and Argent prove able to provide quality songwriting throughout,  with only a few let downs.

Odessey and Oracle kicks off with Care of Cell 44, featuring fantastic harmony and soaring vocals.  The Zombies feature some of the more pleasant harmonies you’ll hear on record, and cuts like Maybe After He’s Gone wouldn’t sound out of place on Rubber Soul.

Of course, everyone knows Time of the Season, the album’s hit single. It’s easily the most accessible and catchy track. But in a nod to the album-centric consumption of music in the time, the track is the last on the LP.

The real highlight here is This Will Be Our Year – to my ears, one of the finest, most concise and criminally-underlooked pop songs of its era. Judge for yourself:

This is not a perfect album . There are a few missteps, namely the clunkers A Rose for Emily and A Butcher’s Tale, both of which are, rather simply, boring. Everything else is solid enough to make up for it though.

Some may think of the Zombies as a flash in the pan, but it’s really an unfair indictment considering the talent they had in the band. They were never quite as endearing as the Beatles, as English as the Kinks, as ambitious as The Who or as gritty as The Stones (not even close on that last one, actually). But over forty years after its release, Odessey and Oracle stands as one of the best rock albums of the 1960s.

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2 Comments

Filed under Unheralded classics

2 responses to “Review: The Zombies “Odessey and Oracle,” a forgotten classic

  1. Yeh, the Zombies are so overlooked in my opinion, too. Thanks for the post, I see some typos though, Odyssey -> Odessey.

  2. jspratt

    Didn’t mention it in this, but yes, “odessey” is the (incorrect/different) way they spelled it on the record.

    Wikipedia says:
    “The famous misspelling of “odyssey” in the title was the result of a mistake by the designer of the LP cover, Terry Quirk (who was the flatmate of bass player Chris White). The band tried to cover this up at the time of release by claiming the misspelling was intentional.”

    Then it says “citation needed”, so take it for whatever it’s worth.

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