The Zombies farewell LP (only their second), 1968’s Odessey & Oracle fell on me like a bucket of brilliant paint, immediately stunning me and coloring my outlook on a number of things. I’ve infrequently encountered an album that was so instantly engaging and deftly beautiful. Rarely has a band defined themselves as impressively as the Zombies finally had when Odessey & Oracle was released.
Drums and drums of ink have been dedicated to canonizing this highly notable album from the halcyon days of ’60s rock, so I suppose I should spare you my pitiful stab at capturing all the record emcompasses. It’s a big bunch of wonderful stuff, suffice to say. I will instead like to share a single track. In an album full of exhuberant, emotionally wrought songs, it’s Odessey & Oracle‘s penultimate track that sets its defining tone: happy.
“Friends Of Mine”, b-side of the Zombies final, monstrous hit “Time Of The Season”, captures a little harmless vicarious joy as the narrator relates how the affection shared by a couple he knows lifts his own spirits. It’s funny to hear someone singing about someone else’s happiness, but that’s what really makes the song–love radiates, and he’s pleased to be around it. It wraps around him protectively, friendship and optimism.
It’s loud and bright, almost embarassingly cloying, bursting at the seams in all directions, and I absolutely love it. It makes me happy to hear someone else being happy about someone else’s happiness. Now, that’s a powerful sentiment! The pounding piano doesn’t hurt a bit, either.
The Zombies were among the premiere melodicists of the British Invasion. Though commercial success was often lacking, the band secured its posterity by influencing their contemporaries and countless dedicated pop craftsmen afterward. Their trademark chord structures blended baroque and blues, adding a soupçon of ’60s sunshine psychedelia toward the end, creating a more positive, warmly textured counterpart to the hard-bent trends developing in pop music of the era.
Of Montreal covered “Friends Of Mine” on their 2002 album If He Is Protecting Our Nation, Then Who Will Protect Big Oil, Our Children?, but even they, as capable as they are, failed to match the whimsy and lightness of the Zombies’ original. Some material should just be left off-limits. The Zombies set an incredibly high standard within the span of a mere 12 tracks, and I really can’t help but wonder how often lightning like this strikes. Who’s doing this today?