Rod Argent of British Invasion act The Zombies knows the benefit of delayed reactions. The band’s sophomore album “Odessey and Oracle” stiffed upon its early 1968 release, after the players had already dispersed to pursue other projects. The single, “Time of the Season,” became an international hit in 1969, however, and the album is now heralded as a psychedelic pop masterpiece.
“It turned out well,” says Argent. “After the Zombies, Chris White and I were working toward the first Argent album, and we wanted to make a record for Colin [Blunstone]. We were able to negotiate with Clive Davis [then Columbia Records’ president] to the background of ‘Time of the Season’ being number one in Cashbox, which was equivalent to Billboard at the time.”
Another song from “Odessey and Oracle” is currently enjoying fresh attention. Podcast sensation “S-Town” features “A Rose for Emily” as each episode closes. The story from the producers of “This American Life” about intrigue in a small southern town was downloaded more than 16 million times in the week following its March 28 release. That many plays at radio would put the Zombies back on top of the Billboard Hot 100. “I wasn’t aware, but I’m absolutely knocked out by that,” says Argent. “That’s very exciting. I’ll have to get in touch with our management.”
Since 2004, keyboardist Argent and singer Blunstone have traveled with a modern Zombies line-up and released albums including 2015’s “Still Got that Hunger.” Bandmates include former Kinks and Argent bassist Jim Rodford, his drummer son Steve Rodford, and guitarist Tom Toomey. Blunstone’s voice remains supple and expressive. Argent describes the singer’s meticulous vocal training, and also describes the fun he had writing “Edge of the Rainbow” for his old friend.
“In the early days, he’d give me the third degree about the high range of a song like ‘She’s Not There,’ especially when we had to perform on early-morning radio programs,” says Argent. “For ‘Edge of the Rainbow,’ I’d been listening to favorites like Ray Charles’ early blues stuff, and thought I’d like to do something like that. I knew when we put it through the Zombies filter, it would sound completely different. At the end, we send it a note higher than we ever pushed Colin’s range before. He sounds marvelous.”
The Zombies’ Thalia Hall dates will begin with a set by the current lineup. Then, an expanded roster featuring original members Hugh Grundy and Chris White will play “Odessey and Oracle” in full.
“Songs like ‘Care of Cell 44’ and ‘This Will Be Our Year’ sound great with five people, but others like ‘Brief Candles’ and ‘Hung Up on a Dream’ need the extra keyboards and harmonies to really flower,” says Argent.
“Because this is the 50th anniversary of making ‘Odessey and Oracle,’ we’re going to really celebrate it. After that, the idea is to draw a line under it. We’re very proud of the album, but we don’t want to spend our whole lives concentrating on something that happened fifty years ago.”
Jeff Elbel is a local freelance writer.