Originally formed in 1958, iconic rock band the Zombies performed ‘Odessey and Oracle’ in its entirety at the London Palladium on 29th September. They first rose to fame in 1964, at the start of the British Invasion, with the hit ‘She’s Not There’, but parted ways in 1967 and didn’t reunite until the 90s. They released their sixth studio album ‘Still Got That Hunger’ in 2015.
‘Odessey and Oracle’ came out in April 1968, four months after the Zombies broke up due to the lack of success following the release of the LP’s first single, ‘Care of Cell 44’. As vocalist Blunstone told 60s Today in a recent interview, “when the single failed, it seemed as though the whole project had failed”. However, he admitted that, in hindsight, the band should perhaps have stayed together for longer.
The Zombies show in London was part of the “Odessey and Oracle 50th Anniversary Finale Tour”. This series of concerts is particularly special because the group didn’t take the album on the road when it first came out, and therefore they didn’t perform songs from it live until over 30 years later. As Blunstone said, the band members can’t recall whether they had played some early versions of the tracks back in the 60s and which ones these might have been, so the first official performance took place in 1999.
The first set of the show included songs from all eras of the Zombies’ career, from the early beginnings to ‘Still Got that Hunger’. As is the case with every singer, Blunstone’s vocals have matured since 1967, but he still has the range necessary to comfortably belt out the highest notes of ‘She’s Not There’, ‘Tell Her No’, ‘A Rose for Emily’ and ‘Time of the Season’. Just as importantly, the velvety voice of the then 22-year-old who sang most songs on ‘Odessey and Oracle’ is still recognizable, and, at times, it feels as though it hasn’t changed all that much. Argent’s keyboard playing is not only full of energy, but he introduces elements of improvisation to his playing that make his love of jazz evident and lift the listening experience high above that of a simple pop concert.
During the first set, founding members Argent and Blunstone were accompanied by bassist Jim Rodford, who had previously played with the Animals and the Kinks, guitarist Tom Toomey and drummer Steve Rodford. For the second half, original musicians bassist Chris White and drummer Hugh Grundy joined the band, in addition to keyboardist Darian Sahanaja, who plays with Brian Wilson, and backing vocalist and White’s wife Vivienne Boucherat. Boucherat also designed the artwork for the book ‘The “Odessey”: The Zombies in Words and Images’, which came out earlier this year.
Most of ‘Odessey and Oracle’ was recorded at Abbey Road Studios between June and November 1967. Since its release, it has received recognition both critically and commercially, and is now widely considered a ground-breaking and influential piece of 60s rock ‘n’ roll and psychedelic music. Most notably, it has been ranked by Rolling Stone magazine as number 100 on the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” list.