Odessey and Oracle: A Classic Album for the Modern Age

Background

The Zombies' 1968 sophomore album Odessey and Oracle still sounds as progressive and original as the day it was released. In a bizarre turn of events, the band split up almost half a year before the album was released. Although it seemingly faded into obscurity after its initial release, it has garnered quite the cult following over the years. Thanks to the internet, the album is facing a new-found popularity, and for good reason.

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"To this day it remains a word-of-mouth obscurity. But by those who know it's held in such regard that the remaining living members of the band are to perform it in its entirety this year, on the fortieth anniversary of its release." 
  - BBC Music 
 
   One of the genres Wikipedia uses to label the album is sunshine-pop, which perfectly captures the feel of the entire album. The shimmering string arrangements and soaring vocal harmonies definitely instill a feeling of warmth in the listener, which is impossible to put into words. Even on the slower, more muted songs, that feeling of warmth is ubiquitous. This is music that makes you feel good; music that grabs your attention and makes you want to listen to it.
   A word I would never use to describe this album is dated. The album is one of those rare gems which seemingly transcends time, perfectly preserved in its original state. Fans of indie, pop, and maybe even alternative will enjoy this album. It is timeless.

Track by Track 


Track 1: "Care of Cell 44"

A very cheery song filled with jangly pianos, sweet vocal harmonies, and lyrics about a person waiting for their lover to be released from prison. A rather whimsical tune with somewhat melancholy undertones. This theme is revisited in the next track.


Track 2: "A Rose For Emily"

This song only features piano and vocals. However, the vocal harmonies really fill the song out so to speak. The lyrics are an adaptation of William Faulkner's short story of the same name. The lyrics are melancholic, but the song still has some of the 'brightness' found on the more upbeat tracks. Think of
it as a small shower on a sunny day.

  
Track 3: "Maybe After He's Gone"

This is the first song on the album to prominently feature a guitar in the intro and verses. The verses are slow and soft-spoken, but the chorus is vibrant and features the albums trademark vocal harmonies. The lyrics allude to lost love and the hope that the lover will return after "he's gone."


Track 4: "Beechwood Park"

This is probably one of my favorite tracks on the album. The haunting combination of tremolo-guitar and atmospheric organ, smooth vocals, and dynamic harmonies create a very unique mood of
nostalgia and calm.


Track 5: "Brief Candles"

"Brief Candles" begins with the vocals of keyboardist Rod Argent, which is accompanied by his bright piano playing. Colin Blunstone takes over the chorus, which is an explosion of emotion intensified by the strings and drums. Interestingly, bass guitarist Chris White sings the next verse, and the Blunstone sings the last one. The alternating vocalists create a unique dynamic. The greatest part of the song is the orchestral bridge, which is very similar to the string passage in "A Day in the Life."


Track 6: "Hung Up on a Dream"

This song is probably the only truly 'psychedelic' song on the album. The combination of strings with the Blunstone's soft, airy voice helps to create a very soft and dreamlike vibe. The harmonies in this song are used in a much more atmospheric, and nontraditional way then the rest of the album.


Track 7: "Changes"

"Changes" is probably the most experimental on the album. The vocal harmony and flutes in the beginning is a recurring motif throughout the song.


Track 8: "I Want Her, She Wants Me"

Argent takes the lead vocals on this tune. This song is most similar to the songs on their first album, but with an updated twist. A great throwback to the bands roots.


Track 9: "This Will Be Our Year"

Had this album been successful upon release, this song would be a classic. The optimistic lyrics, uplifting vocals, and simple piano backing creates a beautiful atmosphere of happiness and optimism. Strangely, there is even a cover version by The Foo Fighters.


Track 10: "Butcher's Tale (Western Front 1914)"

A very odd song written and sang by Chris White, featuring only pump-organ and vocals. The song is about WWI, but is a thinly veiled anti-Vietnam song. It's the only song on the album I could never get into. It sounds very out of place.


Track 11: "Friends of Mine"

This song feels like "This Will Be Our Year" part two. Nonetheless, it's a fantastic song. 


Track 12: "Time of the Season"

The song from the album that most people know. Even though the song was released in 1968, it became a surprise hit in 1969, reaching number three in the charts even though the band had long since dissolved and embarked on other projects. This song is a classic, and I will not even attempt to describe it. LISTEN TO IT.

My Connection

I discovered the album while on a routine stop at my local record store. The store always has a few shelves which display each employees' favorite album, with a description of what it's like written on the plastic sleeve. Initially, I was drawn to the album due to its psychedelic cover art, which contrasts with the actual content of the album. I fell in love with the album upon my first listening.
   I was fortunate enough to attend a free Zombies show in Austin, Texas during the SXSW festival. Armed with my record and a black sharpie, I was determined to get my favorite record signed. Thankfully, I ended up against the stage and right in front of keyboardist Rod Argent, who signed my record right after the show ended. I was able to get Colin's signature by running as fast as I could to the back of the stage. It was definitely worth it.

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