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Critics' Choice
TIME OF THE ZOMBIES
4/25/17

It took five decades, but The Zombies are finally getting a well-deserved victory lap. They’re wrapping up a U.S. tour 5/4 in Houston, to celebrate the belatedly deified Odessey and Oracle album, playing the 1968 masterpiece from start to finish (for the final time, they say). “The Zombies have really had an odd path to success,” says vocalist Colin Blunstone, “Almost backwards in a way.”

Odessey, recorded 50 years ago, was a stunning send-off for the band, but was mostly ignored at the time of its release, other than for its posthumous U.S. hit “Time of the Season,” leaving the Zombies to slink into the annals of obscurity after a promising early career. 

After scoring two quick U.S. top-5 hits in 1964 on the coattails of the Beatles-led British Invasion (“She’s Not There,” “Tell Her No”), The Zombies band hit a commercial wall for much of their rest of their initial incarnation. Despite a handful of solid singles, as the ‘60s got more hip, the Zombies became more irrelevant. The band was undone by an image that can be generously described as square, thanks to ill-advised publicity early in their career.

“We were labeled academic geeks,” says Blunstone, 71. “It was just the opposite of what we are. We wanted to be exciting. People who are daring. They want pirates. They don’t want academic geeks.”

The writing was on the wall, but before disbanding, The Zombies got their creative ya-yas out with Odessey, but it wasn’t until a decade later, when up-and-comers like Paul Weller publicly espoused the album’s greatness, that it was dusted off for reassessment. Since then, Odessey has been slowly but surely getting its props as a masterpiece of baroque chamber pop, chock-full of lush harmonies and swirling psychedelic textures.

To coincide with the Odessey and Oracle 50th Anniversary Finale Tour, which includes rare live appearances from original Zombies Chris White and Hugh Grundy, alongside Blunstone and keyboardist Rod Argent (who have toured the States several times with The Zombies since 1999) the album’s been given the deluxe re-issue treatment, complete with mono mixes and alternate tracks.  A lushly-photographed band history, The “Odessey”: The Zombies in Words and Images has also been issued, with a foreword from fan Tom Petty.