Saturday, 13 February 2016

"Odyssey & Oracle" by THE ZOMBIES (1998 Ace/Big Beat Mono & Stereo Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Time Of The Season..."

Talk about iconic. The word 'masterpiece' gets bandied about a lot in this malarkey we call reviewing – but in the case of this 1968 UK period piece which only charted belatedly in the USA on the back of a hit single – the smiles of affection at the mere sight of Terry Quick's wonderful Psych sleeve for "Odyssey & Oracle" by The Zombies is truly warranted. Like Love's "Forever Changes or Van Morrison's "Astral Weeks" (see reviews) – "Odyssey & Oracle" seems to throw up new discoveries every time you return to its pretty layers. It’s time for those seasons...

UK released April 1998 – "Odyssey & Oracle" by THE ZOMBIES on Ace/Big Beat CDWIKM 181 (Barcode 029667418126) is an 'Expanded Edition' offering both the MONO and STEREO versions of the 1968 LP on CD along with 3 alternate versions and rarities from the period. It plays out as follows (79:56 minutes):

1. Care Of Cell 44
2. A Rose For Emily
3. Maybe After He's Gone
4. Beechwood Park
5. Brief Candles
6. Hung Up On A Dream
7. Changes [Side 2]
8. I Want Her She Wants Me
9. This Will Be Our Year
10. Butcher's Tale (Western Front 1914)
11. Friends Of Mine
12. Time Of The Season
Tracks 1 to 12 are the STEREO version of the album "Odyssey & Oracle" – released April 1968 in the UK on CBS Records S BPG 63280 and November 1968 in the USA on Date Records TES 4013. The album was reissued February 1969 in the USA after "Time Of The Season" became a huge hit and rose to No. 3 on the Pop charts. The new cover art mentions the song name on the sleeve (as opposed to the 1968 version that didn’t) and charted March 1969 – peaking at No. 95. The LP didn’t chart in the UK despite favourable reviews. ROD ARGENT wrote Tracks 1, 2, 6, 8, and 12 – CHRIS WHITE wrote Tracks 3, 4, 7, 9, 10 and 11.
(Note: Track 9, "This Will Be Our Year" is only available in Mono).

Tracks 13 to 24 are as above but in MONO – CBS Records BPG 63280 (UK only).

BONUS TRACKS (All Stereo and Previously Unreleased):
25. A Rose For Emily (Alternate Version 2)
26. Time Of The Season (Alternate Mix)
27. Prison Song aka Care Of Cell 44 (Backing Track)

CBS Records in the UK and COLUMBIA and DATE Records in the USA released several 7" singles around the album. Using the Mono mixes - fans can sequence almost all of them as follows (23 = Track Number):
1. Friends Of Mine (23) b/w Beechwood Park (16)
UK, CBS Records 2960 – released 23 October 1967
USA – Not issued

2. Care Of Cell 44 (13) b/w Maybe After He's Gone (15)
UK, CBS Records 3087 – released 24 November 1967
USA, Columbia Records 4-44363 – released 21 November 1967
Note: UK and USA 7" singles are edits on the A-side – 3:17 to 3:56 minutes

3. Butcher's Tale (Western Front 1914) (22) b/w This Will Be Our Year (21)
USA, Date 2-1612 (Promos in Titled Sleeve, Released June 1968)

4. Time Of The Season (24) b/w I’ll Call You Mine (not on this CD) 
UK, CBS Records 3380 (Orange Label), April 1968 – reissued September 1973 with same B-side on Epic S EPC 3380 (Yellow Label)
Time Of The Season (24) b/w Friends Of Mine (23)
USA, Date 2-1628, 1968 – reissued January 1969

The chunky 20-page booklet has perceptive, witty and informative liner notes by noted music historian and major mod fan ALEC PALAO – while the text is peppered with Trade Adverts (Disc and Music Echo), Label Repros (Columbia) and rare Foreign Picture Sleeves as well as the Lyrics (in the last pages). NICK ROBBINS – a long-standing Sound Engineer for Ace and many Reissue labels – has handled the transfers and Remasters and done a bang-up job. Some people prefer the ‘purity’ of the Mono mix – but for me the Stereo is thrilling stuff – all those rhythms and instruments swirling about the place with a real sense of clarity.

The moment "Care Of Cell 44" hits your speakers – you’re struck by a variety of emotions – the great Stereo Audio, the clarity of the instruments and those layered vocals – and of course the uniqueness of Colin Blunstone's voice. In fact with the loveliness of "A Rose For Emily" – the album begins to feel like a British answer to "Pet Sounds" by way of "Sgt. Peppers" – it's more than impressive. But it's the sheer musicality of "Maybe After He's Gone" that blows it out the water for me – a stunner and sounding great here. We get more than a bit Beatles "I Am The Walrus" in terms of the soundscape for the trippy "Beechwood Park" and the pretty piano-led "Brief Candles" by Chris White feels like LOVE at their finest (Rod Argent taking the vocals on the 1st Verse). Side 1 ends with the Mellotron soundscape of "Hung Up On A Dream" – all three alternating the vocals with Blunstone on Lead.

Side 2 opens with the vocally ambitious "Changes" – another ode to strawberry girls walking about in 'buttoned-down clothes' of many colours. Rod Argent sings "I Want Her She Wants Me" – a very cool clavinet-lead pop ditty with a relentlessly upbeat post summer of love vibe. "This Will Be Our Year" was the B-side of "Butcher's Tale" in some territories – the kind of piano melody that sounds so smart now and those " took a long time to come..." lyrics tragic in the face of the band's split having just produced a brilliant LP. Chris White talks of the preacher sleeping at night while my arms won't stop shaking in the soldier's post-war song "Butcher's Tale" – the use of that fairground-sounding organ a genius move. It ends on the double-whammy of "Friends Of Mine" and the brilliant "Time Of The Season" – a song that even now sounds so ridiculously ahead of its time.

A wonderful album and thoroughly deserved of its legendary status – even the Previously Unreleased Backing Track to 'thingy' Take 1' as the engineer calls the song at the beginning of "Care Of Cell 44" sounds musically magical in its raw form. "Odyssey & Oracle" by The Zombies is a 60ts epic and this superb Ace/Big Beat CD reissue does its ongoing musical legacy justice...

This review is part of my SOUNDS GOOD Music Book Series. One of those titles is COOL 1960s MUSIC - an E-Book with over 200 entries and 2000 e-Pages - purchase on Amazon and search any artist or song (click the link below). Huge amounts of info taken directly from the discs (no cut and paste crap). 

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