Book review: The Odessey: The Zombies in Words and Images - The Zombies with Scott B. Bomar and Cindy da Silva
Intentionally or otherwise, the misspelling of Odyssey as Odessey half a century ago has led to eternal life for one group of zombies.
More accurately THE Zombies, the 60s British rock group who are now celebrating the 50th anniversary of the recording of their classic Odessey and Oracle LP in the most eclectic and eye-catching way.
No, not an enhanced edition of the aforementioned album, but rather an artefact that perfectly complements it.
This 152-page hardback book boasts a collection of rare and unseen photographs of the band members, hard at work in the studio and relaxing at leisure. It also includes handwritten lyrics for 22 songs – including every O&O title – as well as specially-commissioned artwork based on the theme of each one.
Despite their legion of fans, their reputation as a rousing live act and, not least, the quality and indeed, sheer beauty of their studio output, all of The Zombies’ singles failed to reach the all-important UK top 10 chart. In fact, their only top 40 entry – which peaked at 12 – was their first release, She’s Not There, in 1964.
It was a different story when it came to international sales, particularly in the US, where it seemed The Zombies could do no wrong on vinyl or on stage. Today, and with the benefit of hindsight, they are widely credited as being one of the more influential bands to emerge from that decade’s music scene.
Reinforcing the point are candid reflections throughout the book on the personal impact of The Zombies’ music and lyrics, from the likes of Paul Weller, Brian Wilson, Carlos Santana and Graham Nash, as well as music journalists, friends and fans.
The tone is set by Tom Petty in his affectionate foreword. He tells us: ‘The Zombies, said quite simply and honestly, were an enormous influence on the American musicians of the time. The electric piano and organ had not been manipulated and showcased like that before. The music rocked, but also shimmered with touches of genuine jazz and R&B. Gorgeous two and three part vocal harmonies that rivalled The Beach Boys. Amazing drum and bass arrangements we all stole from. In short this was so original it hurt.’
Of O&O itself, Tom asserts: ‘It was, and is, a masterpiece of the highest order.’
Much of this belated adoration from seasoned musicians and newer fans alike comes down to that second album, recorded in 1967 after a change of record company, yet not released until the following year and, initially, in the UK only.
By that time they had split up, disillusioned by the lack of commercial success for the taster singles taken from what is widely acknowledged as their magnum opus.
Artist Terry Quirk, who admits to that misspelling of Odyssey when he created the LP cover, designed the book’s cover with a similar look. He also contributed new artwork specific to each song, while visual artist, songwriter and singer Vivienne Boucherat has created full page scenes inspired by the lyrics.
Vivienne is married to original band member Chris White, and he and fellow Zombies, Rod Argent, Colin Blunstone and Hugh Grundy, give a valuable insight into the 22 songs in the book with their own memories of each selection.
Try reading this book while the album plays… all in all, you’ll be in true zombie heaven!
(Reel Art Press/BMG Books, hardback, Â£24.95)