Everyone who knows me knows that I am a child of the 60’s. I absolutely love the 1960’s, from the styles to the music to the overall vibe of the country. It was a very defining decade in history. So call me a dinosaur, but this edition of Rick’s Picks goes back to 1968.
The Zombies (Rod Argent, Colin Blunstone, Chris White, Paul Atkinson and Hugh Grundy) were getting ready to record their second album in June, 1967…and they were already approaching a break-up. While their first album consisted mainly of covers of other popular songs, as well as their hits “She’s Not There” and “Tell Her No”, their new album was written by the band’s principle songwriters, Rod Argent and Chris White. As they were recording, tempers were flaring and morale was at a low. So bad, in fact, that when Argent presented the final track for the album, “Time of the Season”, Blunstone claimed he hated it and refused to sing it, especially since Argent was badgering him to sing it a certain way.
The band spent as little time in the studio as possible, since their record company had given them a very limited recording budget. When the album was completed in early 1968, Argent and White mixed it down to mono. When their record company informed them that a stereo version was required, Argent and White had to pay for the additional mixing on their own. This seemed to be the last straw, and the band decided to break up for good…weeks before the album was released in April, 1968.
The album was given the title “Oddessey and Oracle”. The title mispelling was a mistake by the artist who did the cover artwork, but the band avoided criticism when they declared that they mispelled it on purpose. It didn’t get much promotion, or attention, when it was released in the UK. But when Columbia A&R man Al Kooper went to England around that same time, he picked up a copy of the album and declared it a classic piece of psychedelic pop. When he got back to the US, he persuaded Columbia to release the album on it’s smaller “Date” label. He further convinced them to release “Time of the Season” as a single, and the band had the biggest hit of their career…about 9 months after they had broken up. In fact, Argent and White were already hard at work rehearsing their new band, “Argent”.
In my opinion, this album is a pop masterpiece. It’s another one of those albums that I have to listen to all the way through to the final cut, the classic “Time of the Season”. The first track, Argent’s “Care of Cell 44” is a pretty, bouncy piano melody about a guy that’s happy because his girlfriend is getting out of prison. The tracks are simple in nature, but are intricate at the same time. Remember, they didn’t spend a lot of time in the studio, so they most likely ran through songs a couple of times, got a good take, mixed a few strings and horns in, and left it at that.
The album has gotten its due. Rhino Records did a nice re-release in the 90’s, complete with extra tracks, and the band’s principle members, Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone, have gotten together several times in the 2000’s to perform the entire album live.
Here is a taste of one of the greatest albums of the 1960’s that still stands tall today…the Zombies’ Oddessey and Oracle.