The Zombies Odessey and Oracle

[Columbia; 1968]

Styles: baroque pop, classic ’60s pop rock
Others: the Beatles, Love, the Guess Who

Unlike a lot of albums of the psychedelic era, Odessey and Oracle doesn’t rely on any gimmick. It’s a straight up, no bullshit album, and as far as I’m concerned, one of the best collections of pop music ever recorded. Now widely recognized as a classic, I find it somewhat surprising that Odessey’s biggest hit was "Time of the Season", a song that gained recognition a few years after its release and, unfortunately, after the band had broken up. The classic tunes' punchy guitar chorus and overall 'psychedelic' sound doesn't necessarily represent what the Zombies are all about, so if you have any preconceived notions about the band based on 'that one song' in Forest Gump, get rid of them. No, at its core Odessey and Oracle is much more stripped down and classically influenced; what we call a Baroque Pop album. The two main songwriters, Rod Argent and Chris White, were obviously familiar with the nuts and bolts of musical structure, and they used them to create a shockingly consistent body of tunes. Really, any of the 12 original tracks could have been big hits, and it's a damn shame more of them weren't. Aside from the actual compositions, the production is also classic 60s. The drums retain that fresh vintage sound, always finding their place in the mix, but never crowding out the other instruments. There is no extra studio sheen, no pointless orchestration. When an instrument comes in, its presence is essential to the composition. Such bluntness is refreshing amidst a lot of today’s musical excess and studio wizardry, and remains a trademark for some of the best albums of the 60s, this one included.

It's hard to find fault in Odessey and Oracle, but for the sake of this review I'll point out that the lyrics are sometimes blithe and clichéd. Yeah, so when Chris White randomly name drops his friends in, ahem, "Friends of Mine," its pure '60s; this time in a kind of awkward, optimistic, outdated way. Aside from that, you would be hard pressed to find an album as consistent as Odessey and Oracle: its a pop aficionado's wet dream. And it still sounds fresh today, partly because of the bands clear recording style, partly because of their songwriting techniques. So unless the world's musical taste veers towards atonal electronic noise rock, Odessey and Oracle should remain a classic. Lets hope.

1.Care of Cell 44
2.A Rose for Emily
3.Maybe After She's Gone
4.Beechwood Park
5.Brief Candles
6.Hung Up On a Dream
8.I Want Her She Wants Me
9.This Will Be Our Year
10.Butcher's Tale (Western Front 1914)
11. Friends of Mine
12.Time of the Season

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