George Starostin's Reviews



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Eugene Bentley <> (07.12.2001)

Despite it being 1965, there was still plenty of pressure from producers of third and fourth tier groups to do a lot of covers. Also remember that these were Decca recordings. At that point Decca had know clue about how to manage and record rock groups (they were ones that passed up on the Beatles who were then snatched up by EMI/Parlaphone).

After all that, though, it all boils down to the covers not making very good listening pleasure. It isn't totally the producer's fault though. I believe that the Zombies themselves wanted to record grittier material and so did the rhythm and blues covers.

I must say that I agree that they are mostly lackluster. Would you believe that there Zombie fans out there that actually prefer this stuff to their originals? I do have to say that doing those covers did help in the Zombies' development.

I must mention their cover of 'Summertime.' I like the ethereal effect of the backing vocals (or that an organ playing in the upper ranges) and a pianette solo that was miles ahead its time. Tom Petty even had to make mention of it in the liner notes of the Zombie Heaven box set.

Although 'I Remember When I Loved Her' is a direct cop (right down to the light bossa nova rhythm) of the Beatles' 'And I Love Her,' there is an incredibly different feel here that goes far beyond the supposedly sappy sentiments. I don't know if those are Medieval intonations you hear (I hear more of that on the semi-accapella track 'The Way I Feel Inside'), but the minor key melody, Blunstone's' breathy (and heavily reverbed) vocals and Rod Argent's lofty organ solo does create a gothic atmosphere.

One of the charms of the Zombies and Odessey and Oracle is that they take inspiration and influences of other groups (and sometimes you can nail it down to a specific song) and create something of their very own out of it. They were masters at absorbing influences and putting their own mark on it.

I agree that the bonus tracks do up the value of Begin Here, but those same tracks could be found in better company on Seeformiles release Singles A's & B's and the two more recent compilations on Fuel and Big Beat. Begin Here is not by any means the best way to sample the Zombies' early career. Their strength was the series of innovative singles they released for Decca and not the rhythm and blues covers found on their first album


Eugene Bentley <> (17.09.2002)

I am glad that you finally got this one, but not glad that a lot of the 'hype' surrounding Odessey and Oracle (which I am guilty of) ruined your initial listening experience with it. I'm glad that you got the Rhino version, the Big Beat version has both stereo and mono versions on it plus three bonus tracks. That may be too much Odessey and Oracle at one sitting.

Maybe because I've been a long time fan of the album since the 70s and like the whole album, but I have to disagree with you on 'Changes'. I love the complex Elizabethan choral quality of it. There wasn't meant to be a 'hook' to the song (in a traditional rock n roll sense) similar to the Beatles 'Strawberry Fields Forever.' Although I like 'I Want Her, She Wants Me,' it is more of a step backwards for the Zombies (being originally demoed in 1966 and given to the Mindbenders to utterly destroy). 'Friends Of Mine' is the one I like the least a little too showbiz vaudeville for me.

I'm surprised that you liked 'Butcher's Tale' which tends to be the track that most dislike (if there is to be any). It is actually Chris White that is singing on that and not Colin Blunstone. The "weird accordion" in the song is actually what they call a harmonium. It's a relatively portable keyboard instrument set up much like a piano and was used in place of an organ at many country churches during the 19TH century. I also believe that harmoniums were used at church services on the battlefields. The contrast between Chris' feeble voice and the graphic horror he's describing is quite spooky when in tandem with the banshee wails of the harmonium.

You're not the first person to notice the similarity between 'Beechwood Park' and 'A Whiter Shade Of Pale.' I noticed it back in the seventies when the Zombies were pretty much forgotten -- so was Procol Harum --Hell people could barely remember the Beatles (don't get me started about that time period). The liner notes on The Thirtieth Anniversary Edition of Odessey and Oracle also mentions it. And you are right in thinking that Procol Harum was influencing the Zombies in this case.

In his book "The Zombies Hung Up On a Dream," Claes Johansen (who incidentally also wrote "Procol Harum Beyond the Pale") interviewed Colin and Rod. Colin said 'I went to a party with Rod when that came out. It went on all night this party and we played 'A Whiter Shade Of Pale' all night. It was only a little record player, so we put it on 'repeat'. I just absolutely loved it. It may have had an influence on Odessey and Oracle"'

Rod said that he had to go out and buy the record after that night. He always had the idea of the Hammond Organ with slow Leslie speaker (on the Decca recordings, Rod was using either a Hohner pianette or a Vox organ) would sound great. "And now someone's bloody well got there ahead of me!"

In addition to the quasi Bach thing about the Procol Harum song, Rod also mentioned its descending bassline (which is evident all over Odessey). However the descending bassline was already in their repertoire of Decca recordings. Procol Harum organist Matthew Fisher had been a long-standing fan of the Zombies as far back as 1964. So who influenced who as a band?

I agree that it has been MIS-categorized to a certain extent. People say that it's psychedelic, but it doesn't garner much of the Jimi Hendrix/Jefferson Airplane Haight-Ashbury ambiance (or sentiment) of the Hippie Heaven of '67. The Zombies were just too cautious and deliberate to be part of the drug crowd. In a review that I posted on I referred to it as an echo of the psychedelic era (psychedelic lite would have sounded too much like coffee mate).

However, the album does owe a lot to the Beatles'"SGT. Pepper era and engineer Geoff Emerick of Abbey Road studios (the Zombies were the first non-EMI group to record there by the way). Odessey and Oracle was recorded directly after SGT. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and the results on Odessey and Oracle are pretty evident of the Beatles' masterpiece.

One more thing to mention is that"Odessey and Oracle has a leg up on both the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds and the Beatles' SGT. Pepper in that it is virtually a self-made project. Session musicians were used on only one track -- the brass figures on 'This Will Be Our Year.' Both Pet Sounds and SGT. Pepper have session musicians all over both albums.

As a result of the limitations, the Zombies created an album with more aural continuity (c'mon only the Beatles could get away with putting Indian raga of 'Within You and Without You' next to the vaudevillian 'When I'm Sixty-four'). The "Do It Yourself" feel of the album garnered some respect from the Punk/New Wave crowd.

Paul Weller of the Jam listed Odessey and Oracle among his top 5 favourites. That's surprising if you only heard the material he did for the Jam but not if you also heard the music he did with the Style Council.

So essence, there is more to Odessey and Oracle than meets the ear (at least at first listening).

Bob Josef <> (03.02.2004)

When I first started listening to AM radio in early 1969, "Time of the Season" was all over the radio. This eerie, captivating tune was certainly intriguing to a naive 11-year-old kid. So, I don't know how the hell I missed this album for 35 years!

My loss. Certainly one of the most beautiful albums from 1967-1968. A lot of comparisons have made to Pet Sounds and Sgt. Pepper's.., but to me, the one album this most recalls is Days of Future Passed. This is what the Moodies' album might have sounded like if they had come up with more songs and less orchestral filler. Although the Moodies would never had included something as dark and graphic as "Butcher's Tale". This is, to me, the only real misstep of the album. Not the song itself (a very powerful anti-war statement, devoid of the heavy handed anger of other protest pieces of the era), but Chris White's decision to sing it himself. He simply couldn't handle it, and should have handed it over to Colin. But, otherwise, on big surprise is how competent his and Rod's voices are on the rest of the album. A huge disagreement over "Changes" -- the contrast between the minimal backing track and the maximum vocal harmonies is incredible. Some of the poppier tunes ("Friends of Mine" "This Will Be Our Year") already were a bit dated by late 1968, but still a lot of fun. It's amazing how much the band was able to do with so little. Still, I have to agree that "Time of the Season" is the best song. There's a subtle, threatening sexual undercurrent that really is unlike the rest of the songs, and Rod and Hugh really cut loose more here than elsewhere.

The 30th Anniversary Edition, besides containing the mono and stereo mixes of the complete album, adds three stereo mixes. There's a backing track to "Care of Cell 44" (without mellotron) which really indicated the care behind the production. The alternate version of "A Rose for Emily" has a real cello instead of mellotron strings, which make the song sound even more English. Finally, there's a mix of "Time of the Season" in which the drums are more emphazised on the chorus and instrumental. All in all, no fan of 60's rock should wait 35 years to get this album!!


Eugene Bentley <> (09.01.2000)

I am fan of both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones (my wife is a bigger Stones fan but hates the Beatles). I am also a bit of Zombiesphile and qualified to make a few comments.

The Zombies were originally signed to Decca. If that name doesn't ring a bell, they were the ones that turned down the Beatles ("groups with Guitars are on the way out"). The Zombies were Decca's tentative step into Brit Rock & Roll.

I agree that their Rhythm & Blues covers are very weak (with 'I'm Going Home' being the best of that lot). But most of the British bands did that. It was an exercise in beefing up the group or a group feeling their way around to develop a style (even though they fell flat on their face on that score).

Also the 'will to break the formula' was actually there (although in a more subtle way). Their producer Ken Jones (not to be confused with the drummer Kenny Jones from the Small Faces and later day Who) wanted to exploit Colin's breathy (not squeaky!) vocals as in 'Leave Me Be' and downplay group harmonies and soften edginess. 'Is This the Dream?' is an example of where they tried to break free of Jones' restraints. "She's Coming Home' is a stab at some blue-eyed soul. 'I Want You Back Again' is in a 3/4 jazz waltz time signature which is odd for a pop/rock song (which is usually in 4/4). And 'She Does Everything For Me' sounds as if they were listening to Rolling Stones' 'Paint It Black'. These are all examples of the Zombies responding to the music around them and using that to create their own style.

I also want to mention that if EP Collection is in stereo, some of the impact of the recordings may be lost. There are some missing beats and vocals that were added to the final monaral mixdown. The stereo versions were of course released without either The Zombies' or Ken Jones' consent.

Now about the song 'She Loves the Way They Love Her'. That song was actually a post-Zombies Zombies recording. Due to the posthumous success of 'Time Of the Season',CBS pressured Rod Argent to record another Zombies album. Argent revamped some masters from 1965 and flesh out the rest with some new songs. 'She Loves' is a result of the latter with a new lineup that included Hugh Grundy, Jim Rodford and Rick Birkett (who did the guitar work you liked). This goup was the first incarnation of Argent. Robert Henrit and Russ Ballard eventually replaced Birkett and Grundy for the official Argent lineup. If you can imagine the style of 'She Love the Way They Love Her' with a little more edge, you might see why people gushed over Argent's first two albums (I also read the All Together Now review). Incidentally 'She Love's the Way They Love Her' also appeared on Colin Blunstone's One Year solo album with the official Argent lineup backing him.

[Special author note: thanks for all the info - especially about 'She Loves The Way...']

Scott Kohler <> (22.10.2000)

I, like you, owned the EP Collection before I finally heard Odessey and Oracle when I got the Zombie Heaven box set. The first thought I had when I heard it was, "Wow, this is my kind of group!", but let me not at all overstate the facts by saying THIS COMPILATION GIVES NO CLUE WHATSOEVER TO THE BRILLIANCE OF ODESSEY AND ORACLE. One of the two songs that appears is 'Time of the Season', which is the only song that really sounds out of place on O&O (even though it is great). The other one, 'Brief Candles', when put in the company of the early singles, doesn't sound the same as it does on Odessey and Oracle. From the moment the first song of O&O ("Care of Cell 44") begins, it is clear that you are listening to a one-of-a-kind masterwork of piano pop that not only puts them in league with the Beatles, but betters any individual Beatles album, in my opinion as a HUGE Beatles fan who has listened to Rubber Soul, Revolver, and Abbey Road for hours on end. The fact that the Zombies never recorded anything else after the Odessey and Oracle album prevents them from being as major a figure in pop music as the Beatles, but had they been able to continue in this vein for a couple of more years (impossible, since they had already broken up when Odessey was released), they would be rock legends, not just legendary shadows of a time long past.

Kirill V. Nurski <> (11.03.2001)

The EP collection was originally released by "See For Miles Records" in France, so the track listing more or less corresponds to The Zombies' French EP discography. "Kind of Girl" and "It's Alright" were originally issued on The Zombies' first U.K. EP in November, 1964 (Decca DFE 8598). "I'm Going Home" remained unissued until the nineties. It first appeared as a bonus track on the 1992 reissue of The Zombies' debut album, Begin Here, by Repertoire Records in Germany.

Steve Potocin <> (25.11.2002)

The Zombies. These guys get a little more respect than the Hollies, but not much. They unlike The Hollies got no respect in their own country, doing much better in the USA. I listen to this record and I can't believe they were not huge! "Shes Not There" of course could not be ignored, a minor key masterpiece far ahead of it's time. Think about 64 , only afew Beatle tracks were close to being as adventurous. The Zombies vocally were in the elite 4 [Hollies,Beatles,Beach Boys] instrumentally solid with a superb musician[Argent] and GREAT writers! 'Just Out Of Reach', 'You Make Me Fell Good', 'Nothing Changed'. None were singles but were better than 99% of what was being released! 'I Love You', how was The Zombies version not a hit? As Always I have my hidden gem. Now among Zombies fans, it well known, but 'Whenever Your Ready' is mostly unknown. What a shame. IT is just one of the best songs ever. Beautiful melody and vocals,just an amazing song. This record gets the highest mark because the songs and performances are amongst the most beautiful of all time!


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