[I also invite you to read my previous review on The Zombies - Begin Here (1965), in order to better under-stand it]. As you know (or not yet), I'm a real fan of musical anecdotes to the point of sometimes finding more interest in the story than in the content of a record. So imagine the dream for me to manage to com-bine these 2 criteria, which gives you Odessey And Oracle, one of my favorite records. We all know legendary artists who became successful, famous or rich after their death, like Van Gogh, Vermeer, Monet or Nick Drake. You can largely add The Zombies to your list, since Odessey And Oracle is the absolute example of the most neglected album in the world when it was released, to know a retrospective success only from the 90's with the re-release of Rhino, that is to say more than 20 years later. It is important to understand that the band was disbanded before the album was released in April 1968. What's amazing is to first try to understand how Odessey And Oracle managed to be ignored despite its greatness. Especially since one of the singles from that album, "Time of the Season", was a commercial success the following year in the United States, but did not help the album to get any exposure. Amazing in itself. In another sense, it suggests that there are still many unrecognized treasures that history will eventually reward.
To understand this, you have to go back to the beginning of Zombies, consisting of Rod Agent, Colin Blun-stone, Paul Atkinon, Chris White and Hugh Grundy. The English band got its name from an unfunny joke, by choosing some things that nobody would do. The Zombies are a band created by accident, by very intellectual students who just wanted to make ends meet. Their first single She's Not There (1964) was a hit in the United States, as were the following ones. On the other hand, they were totally ignored in their native country. Despite their talent and originality, the Zombies didn't seem to fit in with the public's expectations, nor with the music industry because the nerds weren't rock and roll enough. As soon as their first album Begin Here (1965) was released, the difficulties of the band were felt and even their label Decca did not bet on them anymore. Yet there are a handful of singles released between 1965 and 1967 that are not included in any album that are of impressive quality, but nothing does. The Zombies ended up changing labels, joining CBS Records with paltry financial means. The story goes that the Zombies entered the studio at Abbey Road in June 1967 to record their second and last album Odessey And Oracle, just after the Beatles had finished Sgt. With very limited means, helped even by the fact that some of the Beatles' instruments were left in the studio (notably John Lennon's mellotron), the Zombies surpassed themselves and were even obliged to pay for the stereo mixing out of their own pocket. The recording is concluded in November 1967, leaving the group absolutely depleted, which will lead them to the separation to find a more conventional job.
You understood it, the destiny of Odessey And Oracle is an anomaly, so let's now look at the content. The ball opens with Care of Cell 44, a romantic Baroque Pop/Sunshine Pop ballad, narrated by a prisoner eager to get back to his wife, and it is in my opinion my favorite song of the album. In itself, the Zombies didn't invent anything special, it's a perfect form of a mix between the vocals/chorus of the Beach Boys and the instrumentation of Paul Mccartney. However it is important to specify 2 things. The first is that it's incredible to make such a wonderful song without revolutionizing music, and the second is that finally the Zombies manage to give another dimension to its content, partly due to the sophistication of the writing. It's almost impossible for me to find anything to compete with the vocal performances of the Beach Boys or Mccartney, but you have to understand that Colin Blunstrone is an incredible singer. A Rose For Emily is one of the ultimate examples, he is simply accompanied by a delightful piano, warm and complementary chorus that makes the vocal performance so phenomenal. The same goes for the fabulous chorus of Maybe After He's Gone, which is not the best song on the album, but an outsider song. It's as if all of a sudden, you are transported by magic, and nothing can happen to you. It's divine, it's transcendent.
Don't look for the mistake, there is none. This is surely one of the least flawed albums of all time. Built around a melody as hypnotic as it is sovereign, Beechwood Park is a (stunning) psychedelic/soul ballad that also shows that the Zombies are creative and innovative. Not to mention the instrumentation (thanks Rod Agent, Chris White, as well as engineers Goeff Emerick and Peter Vince who also worked on Sgt Pepper's ), from the remarkable arrangements to the quality of the sound produced for the time (although remastered 100 times since). Then constrained by the lack of means, the Zombies even manage to play with the nuances, voluntarily using a rougher and vielleux sound on some passages. I lose my words, sincerely, it is close to the imaginable. Just take 3 minutes to listen to Hung Up On A Dream, one of the first "Dream Pop" songs, with its ethereal voices, this sound in the fog close to shoegaze, to give way to an orchestration close to the world of cinema. Grandiose and it was only the A side.
One of the most ambitious songs of the album introduces Side B, with Changes, a Progressive Pop anthem that defines all conventionality. I don't know if anyone can enlighten me on a grey area, the song starts with either a collage recording or some instrumental, which gives the impression that a piece of old movie music was put here to thematically illustrate the changes of season that the authors describe. This is followed by a majestic chorus that gives the impression of arriving in heaven. The work of structure and construction of Changes is absolutely bluffing and manages perfectly to retranscribe the story that unfolds. It's a lesson in writing and composition that is really exciting. By the famous mellotron, I Want Her She Wants Me pays indirect tribute to the art of John Lennon to write this kind of song. On the contrary, This Will Be Our Year does the same for Paul Mccartney. Once again, it is important to understand that it doesn't matter, because it is so formidable and excellent that one forgets for a while where the inspiration comes from. In a Chamber Folk form, Butcher's Tale stages the world war in an avant-garde pop work of the highest order. The atmosphere is chilling, as if the organ (or mellotron) that comes roaring in as if chaos was approaching, literally came to strike its audience at a funeral. On the other hand, in a completely different register, Friends Of Mine brings happiness on a plate with a ballad Sunshine Pop as naive as seductive. Believe me, this song gets into your head and doesn't get out again. Finally, Time Of The Season closes the proceedings, one of the greatest songs of all time. If you have to make a psychedelic compilation, it is impossible to do without one of his greatest anthems, otherwise it is purely criminal or you missed something. Time Of The Season is timeless and exceptional from start to finish. A catchy verse, an unstoppable rhythmic, a revitalizing chorus, stratospheric keyboards solos, the whole package.
Despite the surprise Billboard success of the single Time Of The Seasons in 1969, the band did not reform but it allowed most of the members to pursue a few years later a solo career. For a long time many fake bands of the same name tried to take advantage of the band's legacy, but fortunately history sometimes does things right and the release of Rhino in 1986 allowed the band to get a second life, marking a large majority of artists from the 90s. What a story!