Sahan Jayasuriya

The Zombies return to Milwaukee, this time at the Pabst

The classic '60s band might have been a footnote in history, were it not for their masterpiece "Odessey and Oracle," a post-breakup album that would later be the defining Summer of Love sound.

By - Sep 24th, 2013 12:00 am
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It’s not entirely common, but every now and then a band will release an outstanding piece of work, only to break up almost immediately after the album’s release. The Zombies “succeeded” in this at an exceedingly high level; their 1968 album Odessey and Oracle is among the most influential albums of all time, and a personal favorite of mine. Back in action in 2010 after a series of breakups and personnel changes, the Zombies will be appearing at the gorgeous Pabst Theater Wednesday, Sept 25.

The Zombies’ rise to stardom was rather quick. The band formed in 1962 and subsequently won a competition that ultimately funded the recording of their first single, “She’s Not There.” The song became an instant hit on both sides of the Atlantic in 1965, cracking the top 20 in the U.K. and the top 10 in the U.S.

Odessey_and_OracleThings just as quickly started to fade for the Zombies. Subsequent singles and their first album (titled Begin Here across the Atlantic; just The Zombies in the States) failed to re-create the success of their sole hit.

Their second album, Odessey and Oracle was recorded in 1967 at Abbey Road Studios, just months after the completion of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. What came out of these sessions was an incredibly sophisticated work that blended chamber pop with more psychedelic elements. The album opens with “Care of Cell 44″, a fantastic “Penny Lane”-esque psych-pop nugget, filled with lush harmonies. “A Rose for Emily” follows, stripping down to a basic piano and vocal arrangement, showcasing Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone’s voices front and center. “I Want Her, She Wants Me” sounds like a refined Strawberry Alarm Clock tune, driven by harpsichord and the group’s strong vocal harmonies. Arguably the album’s best known track, “Time of the Season,” seems to stand out a bit as the album’s closer, and there’s no better example of Argent’s organ skill on the album than on this track.

Much like Pet Sounds and Forever Changes, Odyssey and Oracle was an overall commercial failure upon its release. The band had broken up for nearly six months at this point, and the band was essentially all but forgotten. Unexpectedly, “Time of the Season” became a sleeper hit in 1969, eventually becoming something of a ’60s counterculture anthem. Since its release, the album has been revisited by fans and critics alike and now enjoys a rather high ranking on many “Greatest Albums of All Time” lists. And, also-importantly, its success led to eventual reformations of the band, including the current touring configuration.

Many musicians aspire to someday make their magnum opus, their own Sgt. Pepper, if you will. The Zombies did better without even trying.

The Zombies take the stage at the Pabst Theater Wednesday September 25. Tickets are still available and can be purchased online or at the door. Follow Sahan Jayasuriya on Twitter and Instagram @sahanicyouth.

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