1001 Albums: Odessey and Oracle



Artist: The Zombies

Album: Odessey and Oracle

Year: 1968

Length: 35:18

Genre: Psychedelic Pop / Baroque Pop / Chamber Pop

“Tell it to me slowly (tell you what?)
I really want to know
It’s the time of the season for loving”

This album is the sound of a group giving it their all for one last hurrah before disbanding and moving on to do bigger and better things. I would assume, what those things are I don’t know as my research didn’t go that deep, but I’m hoping they’re doing just fine. (One of them is dead, oops).

Ok, so it’s kind of weird to say they did that when this was only their second album. (They seemed disheartened that their live shows weren’t doing as well as time went on and they were losing traction. I don’t know maybe that has something to do with the fact you didn’t release another album util three years after. Kind of gets boring seeing the same shit for three years.) And, it’s not like they didn’t release any other albums either. Sure, it was about 25 years later, but the band didn’t just disappear forever into the annals of history. Actually, they seemed to do the complete opposite, they seemed to have left an ever-lasting mark specifically as a group that made an album that garnered a major cult following that refused to let this album not be known. No joke, go onto any retrospective/review site and it’s just filled with people hailing this album as some sort of 60s psychedelic/baroque pop masterpiece. Usually any piece of media that’s gathered such a strong niche following will have that attitude from its fans, so it’s not at all surprising to be honest. But is it really a masterpiece?

I’m not the person to say. This is the sound of a group putting in everything they’ve got to create the best work they possibly could. Did they succeed? According to many yes. But when it was first released it basically fell into obscurity really quickly and barely made an impact on sales or reception, garnering very mediocre reviews. The most famous song off the album, which is also one of the most famous songs of the 60s, didn’t even hit the top of the charts until two years after it’s release and long after the band had already disbanded. It happens a lot though that something isn’t well-received when it was first released and only gets recognition years later when someone picks it up and is like “Holy shit, this is pretty damn amazing, what gives, why aren’t more people talking about it?”. And that’s the very basic (and probably butchered) story of Odessey and Oracle in a nutshell.

You saw that correctly by the way. That is not a typo on my part. I know how to spell the word Odyssey. The band apparently did not. They say it was intentional the bad spelling… I think they’re making that up and trying to cover their mistake. Just own up to it dudes, nobody will hate you for it. I think the spelling mistake does add to the album as whole, especially knowing the status this album picked up. It adds to its charm and personality and in some weird, mixed up way, fits with the whole tone of the album. Can’t explain why, but the spelling mistake goes by unnoticed because it just sits so snugly within the aesthetics as whole. Or maybe most of us just don’t really see the word Odyssey spelled out enough in real life that the typo gets past us out of pure ignorance. Either answer is acceptable to me.

Ok, I’m blabbering on about nothing now because I’m struggling to actually talk about this album. I’m currently re-listening to it as I write this out, hoping I’d get inspired to write something more detailed and intricate about it. Unfortunately, I’ve got nothing more than it’s a pretty solid psychedelic album. Compared to most, it has a prettier and more graceful sound that evokes feelings of autumn and breezes. It’s a chilled out version of the acid trips we’ve become accustomed too. A relaxed vibe rather than a psychotic hallucination. What really stands out to me though is the passion and heart that went into making this album. Sometimes you can really feel the energy and work that an artist or group has put into their work permeate through it and this is a great example of that. Even if this isn’t your type of album (it’s not really mine) you still feel that strong sense that the band has a deep love for every note they’re playing and that feeling comes through. You can’t help but admire just how much soul they really put into it all and I think at the end of the day that’s really why after all these years it managed to get such a big cult following. Fans recognized that vibe and clung to it, feeling what The Zombies felt as they created what would become their most seminal piece of work. Even if this music ended up being crap, the same effect would occur because you can sense how much they were putting into creating one final grand… finale to their career.

Luckily for them the music they did create was not only great but very lovely. Almost like psychedelic music for my dad and his romantic sensibilities. I think my dad would love this album if he put down The Beatles greatest hits for one second. Either way, it’s an easy-listening psych album that people have given the status of masterpiece. I don’t see the masterpiece part, I, personally, didn’t engage with it nearly as much as the fans did, but I do see a piece of art that was given a lot of love in it’s creation and I will recognize that for what it is.

Song of Choice: Time of the Season