Odessey & Oracle


28 jan. 2009, 12h15m

Odessey & Oracle
Odessey and Oracle

The Zombies have a sound like none other I have heard. It's piano-driven pop, of the sort I have been led to believe is called baroque pop. It's more frequently beautiful than it is "catchy", it has lyrics which aren't simplistic and don't come second to the music but rather meld perfectly with it. It tends towards the retrospective, introspective, melancholy. It fits neatly into my headspace most of the time.

I liked harmony before, but I think the Zombies really taught me to appreciate it. I don't know enough about music to be able to articulate the difference, but I really do prefer Zombies harmonies even to those of the much-lauded Beach Boys. I think it possibly sounds more like lots of people singing together very well, rather than being almost like another instrument as The Beach Boys tend to sound. It's not exactly less polish, but it kind of is. It's something I could imagine myself joining in with, not something to be admired from a distance. They complement perfectly the unique voice of Colin Blunstone. I guess what I am trying to say here is everything in the Zombies works towards the same sound, the same vision. No part is out of place, nothing jars.

Also this album is of the best musical puns in history, intentionally or otherwise.

Care of Cell 44

If I were to give someone one track and say, "This is the Zombies," this would be it. It's got everything: a pretty piano part, humming backing vocals, Colin Blunstone's breathy, wistful vocals highlighting impeccable harmonies, a subtle but masterful bassline, and endearingly innocent lyrics even though the theme is writing to a girlfriend in prison, thus:

It's gonna be good to have you back again with me
Watching the laughter play around your eyes
Come up and fetch you, saved up for the train fare money
Kiss and make up and it will be so nice...

Simply a masterpiece.

A Rose for Emily

I'm still not quite sure what to make of this track. Mostly subdued musically, with the verses just piano and vocals, then bursting into the layered chorus. Lyrically quietly tragic.

She watches her flowers grow
While lovers come and go
To give each other roses from her tree
But not a rose for Emily...

Her roses are fading now
She keeps her pride somehow
That's all she has protecting her from pain

Allows a depth of feeling usually reserved for the "in love" for those who missed out on love altogether. Not a song that many bands would think to write, and the fact that this band did goes a long way to explaining why I like them so much.

Maybe After He's Gone

Another sad, sad song dressed up with a beautiful chorus bursting out of the lilting verses. One of the songs where I enjoy singing the backing vocals rather than the melody.

She told me she loved me
With words as soft as morning rain
But the light that fell upon me
Turned to shadow when he came...

I feel so cold
I'm on my own
As the night folds in around me
Night surrounds me
I'm alone...

Ends up with a slightly subdued acapella, fading out and making me immediately want to play it over again.

Beechwood Park

The kind of song that makes me nostalgic for something I have never known. Vague, formless, perfect nostalgia.

Do you remember summer days
Just after summer rain
When all the air was damp and warm
In the green of country lanes?
And the breeze would touch your hair
Kiss your face and make you care
About your world
Your summer world
And we would count the evening stars
As the day grew dark
In Beechwood Park...

Closes with perfect prolonged harmony.

Brief Candles

I don't think I will ever be able to work out where this song stands on love. There are three newly-lonely people, and the idea is floated about them being "better off this way". Whether they really are better off, or whether it's a criticism of those who believe they are, is open to interpretation.

Her sadness makes her smile...

Bittersweet, melancholy. What a line.

Hung Up on a Dream

When I am in a particular mood, this song is genuinely heartbreaking.

Well I remember yesterday
Just drifting slowly through a crowded street
With neon darkness shimmering through the haze
A sea of faces rippling in the heat
And from that nameless changing crowd
A sweet vibration seemed to fill the air
I stood astounded staring hard
At men with flowers resting in their hair...

A sweet confusion filled my mind
Until I woke up only finding everything was just a dream
A dream unusual of its kind
That gave me peace and blew my mind
And now I'm hung up on a dream...

They spoke with soft persuading words
About a living creed of gentle love
And turned the arm to sounds unheard
And showed me strangest clouded sights above
Which gently touched my aching mind
And soothed the wanderings of my troubled brain
Sometimes I think I'll never find
Such purity and peace of mind again...

Atmospheric is the word. Makes me think of the Skill-city Fitz goes to in Robin Hobb's books. Just putting that out there in case anyone knows what I mean. The irrelevance of time, the mental release, the emptiness once it's gone. Surreal, bewitching and enthralling.


Filler? Maybe. Choral, layered, again looking into the past, but detailing pretty specific changes, from natural, effortless beauty:

I knew her when summer was her crown
And autumn sad
How brown her eyes...

to the trappings of wealth:

See her walk by
Peppermint coat
Button-down clothes
Buttoned-up high
Diamonds and stones
Hang from her hand
Isn't she smart?
Isn't she grand?

I don't think it's a criticism, but it might be. Pretty repetitive, to be honest, and my most-skipped track for the album.

I Want Her She Wants Me

The Zombies tend to write about the unhappy side of love. This one of two songs on here that is pure happiness. Very pop, sing-along, perfect. (One cannot use the words perfect, flawless or impeccable too many times in a review of O&O, so don't even think about calling me out on it.) This song's title is all you really need to know.

She told me to be careful
If I loved her, oooohhh
'Cause she had given her heart
Once before...

After that hint of doubt on her part, the certainty he holds for their love is that much sweeter.

This Will Be Our Year

This song is about acknowledging the bad times while looking forward to the good ones. Pure optimism. The attitude is, "We've had some shit, we got through it, now we're due". Still, another track I am generally indifferent towards. I won't normally listen to it outside the context of the album, but it is by no means a bad song.

Butcher's Tale (Western Front 1914)

This song has a totally different sound, more artificial than the others, with no drums and wavering, pleading vocals.

And I
And I can't stop shaking
My hands won't stop shaking
My arms won't stop shaking
My mind won't stop shaking
I want to go home
Please let me go home
Go home

The anguish in the "mind won't stop shaking" part floors me. A song not about the politics of war but the personal cost involved, and therefore not as annoying as most anti-war songs. The one dig involved is fair enough, too:

And the preacher in his pulpit
Sermoned, "Go and fight, do what is right"
But he don't have to hear these guns
And I'll bet he sleeps at night

Friends of Mine

Filler? Maybe. Happy enough, a catalogue of all the happy couples in the singer's life, used to convince him that happiness is possible, it just hasn't happened for him yet.

And when I feel bad
When people disappoint me
That's when I need you two
To help me believe

No hint of envy or dissatisfaction, just an earnest optimism. Sadly, the best part of the song is kind of once it's already over: the muted, "Ah..." at the end. I don't know what it's for but it's awesome. This song finishes out the three lowest-tier songs on the album, despite its happily crashing cymbals and general bounciness.

Time of the Season

You gotta know this song. Their biggest hit, though as usual the biggest hit isn't the best song. It is very, very cool though, with its calm, assured harmonies and echoed lyrics. Standout moments are the organ breaks, the broken-down harmonies on "It's the time of the season for loving" line and that percussion line (integrated drums and handclaps, and the "aaaaah" of exhaled breath).

What's your name?
(What's your name?)
Who's your daddy?
(Who's your daddy? He rich?)
Is he rich like me?

Smoooooooooth. And, apparently, the coining of the saying, "Who's your daddy?" Not exactly as it's ended up being used...

The song was effectively a posthumous hit, as by the time it was released as a single the band had disbanded and moved on. The album as a whole was an intended swansong, and if a band has to go out, then they can't do much better than going out like this.

Colin Blunstone: vocals
Chris White: bass (songwriter)
Rod Argent: piano (songwriter)
Paul Atkinson: guitar
Hugh Grundy: drums

I am very proud of myself. I remembered all the names. But I only know one face, so the names are not in picture-order or anything fancy like that. Hm. I am not sure how to end this journal. So, bye.


  • yorkekida

    awesome review man..(and what a great album...)

    8 août 2009, 0h56m
  • jordan10la

    Good review of my all time favorite album.

    1 juin 2010, 22h48m
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