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Sun, April 28, 2013

The Zombies - Odessey & Oracle

The Zombies are an English rock band, formed in 1962 in St Albans and led by Rod Argent (piano, organ and vocals) and Colin Blunstone (vocals). The group scored British and American hits in 1964 with "She's Not There". In the US, two further singles, "Tell Her No" and, in 1969, "Time of the Season", were also successful.

Their 1968 album, Odessey and Oracle, comprising twelve songs by the group's principal songwriters, Argent and Chris White, is ranked number 100 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

Mainly recorded between June and August 1967 at Abbey Road and Olympic Studios, it was released on 19 April 1968 by CBS Records.

Recording history

Odessey and Oracle was recorded in 1967 after The Zombies signed to the CBS label. The group began work on the album in June 1967. Nine of the twelve songs were recorded at EMI's Abbey Road Studios. In August, when Abbey Road was unavailable, The Zombies temporarily shifted base to Olympic Studios where they recorded "Beechwood Park", "Maybe After He's Gone", and "I Want Her She Wants Me". They returned to Abbey Road Studios in September. The sessions ended in November and the final track to be recorded was "Changes".

Because the album was recorded to a tight budget and deadline, The Zombies worked quickly in the studio, having rehearsed rigorously beforehand. This meant that there would be no out-takes or unused songs recorded during the sessions. Cello and Mellotron parts were added to "A Rose for Emily" but discarded at the final mixing stage.

Colin Blunstone and Paul Atkinson felt disillusioned and tempers flared during the recording of "Time of the Season". Blunstone was not at all keen on the song. When writer Rod Argent insisted he sing it a certain way, Blunstone's patience snapped and he effectively told Argent to sing it himself. Blunstone finally sang the vocal as required.

The album was recorded using a Studer four track machine, the same type of tape machine used on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Argent and White mixed the album down into mono, but when they handed the master to CBS, they were informed that a stereo mix was required. The recording budget having been spent, Argent and White used their own money to pay for the stereo mix. One major problem arose when it came time to mix "This Will Be Our Year" into stereo. The Zombies' original producer Ken Jones had dubbed live horn parts directly onto a mono mix. With the horns not having been recorded on the multi-track beforehand, a faked stereo mix had to be made of the mono master. The stereo mix was completed on 1 January 1968.

Morale within the band was at a low point at the end of the recording. Two singles, "Care of Cell 44" and "Friends of Mine", had been unsuccessful, and the band had a declining demand for live appearances, so after a final gig in mid-December 1967, the band split up.

Album sleeve

The album sleeve contains a short text written by keyboard player Argent quoting William Shakespeare's The Tempest.

The misspelling of "odyssey" in the title was the result of a mistake by the designer of the LP cover, Terry Quirk (who was the flatmate of bass player Chris White). The band tried to cover this up at the time of release by claiming the misspelling was intentional.

Track listing

All songs written and composed by Chris White, except where noted.

Side one 
No.  Title  Length 

1.  "Care of Cell 44" (Rod Argent)  3:57
2.  "A Rose for Emily" (Argent)  2:19
3.  "Maybe After He's Gone"    2:34
4.  "Beechwood Park"    2:44
5.  "Brief Candles"    3:30
6.  "Hung Up on a Dream" (Argent)  3:02

Side two 
No.  Title  Length 

1.  "Changes"    3:20
2.  "I Want Her, She Wants Me" (Argent)  2:53
3.  "This Will Be Our Year"    2:08
4.  "Butcher's Tale (Western Front 1914)"    2:48
5.  "Friends of Mine"    2:18
6.  "Time of the Season" (Argent)  3:34


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source  Rating

Allmusic  5/5 stars
BBC Music  (very favourable)  (very favourable
Pitchfork  9.3/10[10]
PopMatters  (very favourable)
Robert Christgau  A-
Rolling Stone  4.5/5 stars
Treble  (very favourable)

While the album was received indifferently upon its release, it has since gone on to gain a cult following and become a critically respected album. In their retrospective review, Allmusic gave the album five stars out of five, calling it "one of the flukiest (and best) albums of the 1960s, and one of the most enduring long-players to come out of the entire British psychedelic boom". BBC Music wrote "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." wrote "Odessey and Oracle, even by today's standards, is impossible to top."