The Zombies – Odessey and Oracle
For the Zombies, the road to Odessey was a bit of an odyssey. The seed was planted in 1958 when schoolboys Rod Argent, Paul Atkinson, and Hugh Grundy began playing music together. After five years playing small UK gigs as the Mustangs, the group, now including Colin Blunstone and Chris White, changed their name to the Zombies in 1962. Their only successful singles until 1969 were She’s Not There and Tell Her No, released in 1964 and 1965, respectively.
After the group’s first full album, 1965’s Begin Here, flopped, they signed with CBS Records and recorded Odessey and Oracle, mostly at EMI’s Abbey Road Studios, beginning June 1, 1967 and completing it November 7. Odessey was accidentally misspelled by the album cover designer, but the band would claim it was intentional (psychedelic, man!). By the time the album was released in the UK on this date in 1968, the group had already split over internal disagreements and a lack of commercial success.
Rod Argent went on to form the band Argent in 1969 while the others found work ranging from music executives to insurance. CBS did not intend to release the record in the US until staff producer, musician, and jack of all musical trades Al Kooper heard the album and insisted upon its release in the states. Lo and behold, Time of the Season became a hit single and the slow re-evaluation of the album began. Today, Odessey can be found in music publications listed among the all-time best albums
From the vantage point of 50 years on, it’s hard to understand why this album wasn’t more of a hit from the get-go. Perhaps if albums such as Revolver, Pet Sounds, and Sgt. Pepper hadn’t already existed, Odessey would’ve stood out more. Maybe the record buying public was experiencing a Summer of Love hangover and had moved on to heavier sounds.
Then again, if those albums hadn’t been recorded, Odessey might not have been either. In no way do I consider Odessey a ripoff, as the album stands on its own merits. But to my ears these are pop gems crafted in the spirit of McCartney and Wilson. While it’s a shame the group wasn’t able to revel in the success of its creation in 1968, there would be subsequent well received reunions down the road with Odessey and Oracle played in full. One of my live music regrets is not seeing them in 2015 when they played nearby.
- Care of Cell 44
- A Rose For Emily
- Maybe After He’s Gone
- Beechwood Park
- Brief Candles
- Hung Up On a Dream
- I Want Her She Wants Me
- This Will Be Our Year
- Butcher’s Tale
- Friends of Mine
- Time of the Season