The Underrated Album: “Odessey and Oracle”

6 Jul

If you live in the Northeast, the scorching grip of summer most certainly was felt today as temperatures hit 103 in New York. And, trust me, it took one minute outside before sweat started developing on every crevice of your body. It was a broiler, but, hey at least its summer. Summer does mean something besides hot weather. New categories. I can hear the applause. Last summer, when the Music Court was still in its nascent stages, we premiered the 60’s bands section. This summer, I’d like to focus on underappreciated albums.

I feel that every music fan who respects the art of albums has at least one unknown album that he/she likes that many others have never heard of. I have around 90 of them. Okay, that was a completely random number, but, I do enjoy many albums that I feel to be very underrated. This gave me an idea. How about a category that profiles one underrated album a week? So, today the Music Court is pleased to welcome “The Underrated Album” to our humble blog home. And, to kick it all off, The Zombies’ Odessey and Oracle.

When Odessey and Oracle was released in April of 1968, The Zombies had already disbanded. During the recording sessions that led to the 12-track LP of original Rod Argent and Chris White tunes, including the unmistakable “Time of the Season,” tempers flared over various elements of the recording. This included “Time of the Season,” where Argent insisted that vocalist Colin Blunstone sung the song a certain way. Thankfully, after he told Argent to sing the song himself, Blunstone agreed to put his mark on rock history (well, he did not know this at the time). Blunstone and Argent got back together in 2001 and still tour today.

So, the break-up of the band most definitely attributed to the little success of the album after it was released. There would be no live performances of the album until Argent and Blunstone got back together 33 years later. Also, it did not help that the album went almost unreleased in the United States, where a lot of the music market resided, by CBS boss Clive Davis. It took the urging of staff producer Al Kooper, best known for organizing the band Blood Sweat & Tears, to get the album onto the U.S CBS/Columbia records label. Kooper loved the album and believed it had three hit singles. He was certainly right about one particular single.

Another reason for why the album did not hit immediate success was because of the competition of the times. Here is a short list of some albums released in 1968.

Beggars Banquet (#57 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s top 500 albums of all time) by The Rolling Stones, White Album (#10) by the Beatles, Cheap Thrills (#338) by Big Brother and the Holding Company, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s debut eponymous album, Electric Ladyland (#54) by The Jimi Hendrix Experience.

1968 is commonly depicted as one of the greatest years for album releases in music history. There was an embarrassment of riches and it is quite possible that Odessey and Oracle was simply lost in success of other albums.

But, recently the album has made a resurgence. It currently ranks 80th on the Rolling Stones list and it appears on numerous lists of greatest albums of the rock era. The genius of the album lies in its diversity, psychedelic sound and well…you know:

Fun Fact: The famous misspelling of odyssey was a mistake by the designer of the LP cover.

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