Pete's Blog

Letter to my Nephew

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Dear Gil, I just discovered some music I really think you'd like. It's an album from the '60s that it's hard to believe I'd never listened to before (#80 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest albums) but there you are. It's by the best of the second-tier British Invasion groups, the Zombies, and it's called "Odessey and Oracle." The misspellling is, in that flashing '60s style, more or less intentional. I had heard the album's hit single "Time of the Season" plenty of times - great rhythm track, great engineering, great singing, great organ solo - but that did not prepare me for how good the rest of the album was. The closest comparison to an album you might be familiar with would be the Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds." Recorded a year later, in 1967, "Odessey and Oracle" has the same sense of trying to find new ways to approach harmony singing in a pop context. Also, like "Pet Sounds," the songs themselves are kind of corny but redeemed by spectacular arrangements. Being English, the Zombies have more of the choirboy thing (which made me think of you, natch) and less of the streetcorner/doowop thing than the Beach Boys. But the album has the same superb musicianship and the same yearning, questing quality. It's tremendously satisfying and quite timeless. I really think you'd like it. Of course, you may be all over it already. My students constantly correct me in matters of '60s arcana, and why should you be any different? The group's story is as interesting as their music. They were teenagers in a backwater town in Hertfordshire who won a local battle of the bands, recorded a hit with the prize money, spent the next three years touring the world, then recorded their masterpiece after breaking up. Anyway, check it out. vvv, Uncle Pete

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