Monday, February 25, 2008

classick albums: Odessey & Oracle

"A sweet vibration seemed to fill the air"Recorded at Abbey Road in the Summer of '67, Odessey & Oracle was produced during the height of the psychedelic movement in London, and The Zombies were smack dab in the middle of it. As you can probably tell the album cover (above), The Zombies were riding a wave of psychotropics, which when filtered through their novice Brit Invasion crops, conjured a hazy dream world, thick with cloud 9 eccentricities and the stoney sheen of a magically sunny day in the Summer of '67.

Odessey & Oracle opens with the skeletal "A Rose for Emily", which moves from a minimalist piano composition into a soaring breeze of harmonic wonder and back down, before drifting softly into "Maybe After He's Gone," a bass heavy British Invasion jam with thumping jazz drums and carefully constructed "la-la" harmonies wrapped underneath Colin Blunstone's breathy vocals. In a bizarre bit of ancestry, the off kilter clicks of a typewriter during the breakdown in "Maybe After He's Gone" play like an unlikely great-grandfather to the rhythmless glitch tech of IDM.

A bit stoney from the beginning, a feeling of chemical imbalance comes alive on "Hung Up On A Dream",where orchestral sweeps envelope the dreamy song, whose ambiguous lyrics straddle the line between a child's mystical dream and a young man's transcendental trip.
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
The glow only grows from there with "Changes", a loopy flute laden cut with 4 part harmonies swelling in unison over simple hand percussion and extremely minimal piano parts. Like the Beach Boys, The Zombies used harmonies as vehicle for psychedelic experimentation, using layer upon layer of effected vocal to form an ethereal feeling of drifting through space and time, as if everything were a dream.

On the other side of the psyche coin is the rumbling, squeezebox fueled "Butcher's Tale (Western Front 1914)", which would sound fitting on the Incredible String Band's The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter. Propelled by a fully overdriven organ and lyrics like "My hands won't stop shaking/ My arms won't stop shaking/ My mind won't stop shaking/I want to go home", "Butcher's Tale" is the quintessential bad trip song, in a totally good way. I don't think I have to mention how lovely uber classics like "Time of the Season", "This Will Be Our Year" and "I Want Her (She Wants Me)" are. Y'all already know that.

Unfortunately, by the time the album was released, The Zombies had disbanded. Odessey & Oracle was their last work, their definitive artistic statement, an undeniable masterpiece. While Brian Wilson and Pet Sounds continue to get all the critical nods for influencing the psyche popsters of the moment (Panda Bear, Miracle Fortress, Of Montreal, etc), The Zombies have clearly left a similar influence on Generation X/Y, especially on Panda Bear, who thanks them in the liner notes of Person Pitch (His loopy harmonies are much more comparable to the songs on Odessey & Oracle than the highly orchestrated choral arrangements of Pet Sounds & Holland). Now only if someone from Continuum would do 33 1/3 book on The Zombies master work.

The Zombies- A Rose for Emily
The Zombies- Changes
The Zombies- Hung Up on a Dream

No comments: