Odessey & Oracle: The CBS Years 1967-1969
The Zombies' tenure with the British CBS label certainly didn't seem very distinguished at first. In 1967, they recorded an album and a handful of singles; the 45s failed to make any significant impression on the charts, and by the time the album was released in April 1968, the Zombies were history. However, that album, Odessey and Oracle, enjoyed a surprising rebirth several months later when American producer and session musician Al Kooper urged the band's American label, Columbia, to give it a belated Stateside release, and the single "Time of the Season" became the group's biggest international hit, while the album was later embraced as a cult favorite, often (and deservedly) cited as one of the great British albums of the '60s. Odessey and Oracle: The CBS Years 1967-1969 compiles the entirety of the Zombies' CBS material, featuring the stereo and mono mixes of the album for those who enjoy spotting the differences between (they've been remastered by Jon Astley and sound superb here), as well as 12 bonus tracks. Six of the songs were recorded in 1968 by former Zombies Rod Argent, Chris White, and Hugh Grundy, accompanied by members of Argent's new, self-titled band, in hopes of capitalizing on the Zombies' posthumous success, while the rest were leftovers from their years at Decca that had been given fresh overdubs. At one point, this material was to be released as a final Zombies album called "R.I.P." (and was indeed issued under that title in Japan in 2000), but most of the tracks first surfaced on a compilation called Time of the Zombies in 1973. Compared to Odessey and Oracle, this "lost album" seems a bit pale, and Colin Blunstone's lead vocals are missed on the newer tracks (he'd dropped out of the music biz for several years after the Zombies ended), but the songs are quite good and the performances compare favorably with the fine singles the band made for Decca; it wasn't another masterpiece, but confirms the truncated band still had something to offer. Since Odessey and Oracle has already been issued on CD in both mono and stereo versions, hardcore Zombies fans will probably be buying this package for the "R.I.P." tracks, but this set has been assembled with care, the packaging is handsome, the booklet includes well-written essays from Al Kooper, John Tracy, and Chris Welch, and Rod Argent contributes notes on the album's songs. This is as good a presentation of the Zombies' finest hour as we're ever likely to see.