Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Zombies - Odyssey and Oracle

Release Date: April 19, 1968

★★★★★ Tracks:

Care of Cell 44

Beechwood Park

This Will Be Our Year

In my last year of college, slowly climbing out of my descent in to the emo and post-hardcore dark ages, I decided to revisit pop and rock from the 60's. And in listening through the entire catalogues of The Beatles, Dylan, the Velvet Underground, and many others, I came across a relatively lesser known pop band; the Zombies.

The Zombies' only proper full-length album, Odyssey and Oracle, is one of the many albums produced in the late 60's to blend pop with psychedelia, however unlike a lot of artists following in the psych-pop trend; the Zombies didn't let experimentation get in the way of writing some great pop songs. In fact O&O has a lot in common with one of the group's biggest influences, and arguably the best album of its genre, The Beatles' Revolver; both albums were recorded at Abbey Road Studios, each album has its own implementation of kaleidoscope-style trippy cover-art work, and they both blend similar influences of rock'n'roll, girl-group pop, Beach Boys harmonies, and psychedelia. Even the way in which the tracks are organized is similar. "Care of Cell 44," track 1 on O&O, has an immediately catchy pop-hook full of great harmonies and upbeat melodies, very similar to "Taxman," which is immediately followed by the quieter "A Rose For Emily," a melancholy character study absent of percussion -- does Eleanor Rigby come to mind? And a personal favorite, "Beechwood Park," is definitely the trippiest track of the bunch, just like most would probably say of "Love You To," on Revolver, each at track 4 on their respective albums.

With all these similarities you might ask what the point is in listening to O&O when you could get the same thing out of Revolver. It's a valid argument. Nevertheless the Zombies add some uniqueness to keep the album sounding fresh and original. The inclusion of an organ in many of the tracks really gives the Zombies their defining sound; you can hear the Doors gathering ideas in songs like "Beachwood Park" and "Time of the Season," a song everyone's probably heard while surfing the oldies channels on your ancient FM radios. This nuance in and of itself is enough to give the album a listen. But if you need another reason, the Zombies are excellent musicians and songwriters, very intricately crafting beautiful "Top 40" pop songs but never sacrificing instrumentation for hooks. It's a skill that's rarely mastered, to tight-rope the line between radio-friendly tunes and experimental songwriting, but the Zombies do it with ease.

Odyssey & Oracle has become a mainstay on my mp3 player. My wife and I even included a song within the thirty minutes that led up to our wedding ceremony, "This Will Be Our Year" was played while guests arrived. I hope to purchase O&O on LP someday but with the recent surge in the band's popularity, the damned thing has shot up in price on eBay, upwards of $75 for a 1st Press. Good for them that their records continue to sell. They were never fully appreciated during their time but Odyssey and Oracle continues to age well -- its followers continue to listen and newcomers are jumping on board. Maybe you should too.

Similar records: The Beatles - Revolver, The Kinks - The Village Green Preservation Society
Followers: Dr. Dog, Field Music, Elliott Smith


  1. we were just listening to this the other night... the best!

  2. Hells yea! The first place I probably heard these guys was on "U92."