Odessey & Oracle is often cited as one of the most influential records in the history of pop music, discussed in reverential tones along with other masterpieces like Pet Sounds, Revolver and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The album was made all the more mythic by the fact that it was released after The Zombies broke up in 1968.
Forty years later, in March of 2008, the four surviving original members of The Zombies (guitarist Paul Atkinson passed away in 2004), Rod Argent, Colin Blunstone, Chris White and Hugh Grundy reunited for a three night series of concerts at The Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London, which became Odessey and Oracle (Revisited): The 40th Anniversary Concert. The show is divided into two sets, the first featuring The Zombies’ Touring Band, a lineup that includes Argent, Blunstone, Jim Rodford (from Argent), Steve Rodford, Keith Airey and a string quartet. The second section of the show is the performance by Argent, Blunstone, White and Grundy of Odessey & Oracle in its entirety.
Because the primary reason for this show and DVD is the track by track performance of a legendary record, you might be inclined to dismiss the first half, rather like choosing to arrive late to the venue so as to skip the opening band. This would be a mistake. Mixing early Zombies songs like “I Love You” and Argent hits such as “Hold Your Head Up” with Blunstone’s solo work and well-chosen covers, this set is far from filler and much more than a warm up. Argent and Blunstone seem to be truly enjoying themselves as they share tales of musical history and inspiration between songs, and the musicianship is unparalleled while never seeming forced or too polished.
The highlight among many in this set is a beautifully captivating arrangement of Tim Hardin’s “Misty Roses”. Blunstone’s voice, in particular, is astounding. Though somewhat deeper and softly weathered by the years, it still retains that hauntingly unique quality, which Blunstone delivers with amazing, though quietly commanding, power. This sets the tone of the evening and serves to heighten the anticipation for the second set even more.
After a brief break, the second set is introduced by Al Kooper, who worked as an A&R man in the late ’60s. He tells the amusing tale of how he discovered Odessey & Oracle and brought it to the attention of Clive Davis, thereby securing its American release long after the band’s demise. Next the four original members of The Zombies take the stage, backed by touring band guitarist Keith Airey, and Darian Sahanaja (of Brian Wilson’s band), and launch into the blissful harmonies of “Care of Cell 44”.
As they lovingly recreate each of Odessey & Oracle remaining tracks, it’s obvious how pleased these guys are to be playing these songs live—remember, because The Zombies disbanded in 1968, this is effectively the first time they’ve performed them—and it’s clearly gratifying for them to be so warmly received. It’s nearly impossible to pick any standouts in this set, as each song is so gorgeously, perfectly presented. However, “A Rose for Emily” is especially stunning and the harmonies on “Maybe After He’s Gone” and soaring vocals of “Hung Up on A Dream” cannot be praised highly enough. The Zombies close out the Odessey & Oracle tracks with a spectacular version of “Time of the Season”, which may be even more arresting than the one on the album, then they end the show with an encore of sorts comprised of the earlier hits “Tell Her No” and “She’s Not There”.
With such timeless music and such passionate performances in Odessey and Oracle (Revisited): The 40th Anniversary Concert, there’s little fault to find with the DVD. The only complaints one might have are relatively minor. The concert is presented in Dolby 2.0, which sounds great, but a 5.1 option would have been welcome, as well. The multi-camera editing and split-screen effects are a bit distracting at the outset, but they are not too overused and soon forgotten as the music eclipses all other concerns. Obviously, there’s no need for bonus features, although a short documentary with interview clips is included.
Forty years after creating one of the most ravishing records of all time, The Zombies resurrected that remarkable sound, on Odessey and Oracle (Revisited): The 40th Anniversary Concert so it can astonish us all over again.