The Zombies, Shepherds Bush Empire, London

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The Independent Culture

You could form one hell of a supergroup with the musicians queuing to see the premiere performance of Odessey and Oracle, the wonderful, pastoral album The Zombies released 40 years ago. Paul Weller is in attendance, as are Robyn Hitchcock, Gary Lightbody, and Sid Griffin, the American musician-turned-journalist and broadcaster.

By the time of the release of Odessey and Oracle in 1968, the Zombies had broken up. Keyboard player Rod Argent and lead singer Colin Blunstone, he of the longing, angelic voice, went on to successful careers before reuniting as a duo at the turn of the millennium.

The first half takes in early Zombies B-side "I Love You", a synth-driven "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted", Blunstone's 1981 hit with the other Dave Stewart, the singer's beautiful signature solo song "Say You Don't Mind" and the organ-driven "Hold Your Head Up" from Argent's eponymous Seventies band.

The five original Zombies last played together in 1997, though they never performed Odessey and Oracle in its entirety. In fact, they left it so late that Keith Airey is replacing guitarist Paul Atkinson, who died in 2004, but bassist and composer Chris White and drummer Hugh Grundy are back in an extended line-up also featuring Darian Sahanaja on mellotron, a string quartet and a horn section.

The band are able to recreate the intricate layers of blissful harmonies on songs such as "Maybe after He's Gone" and "Beechwood Park". As their voices soar in the middle of "Hung Up on a Dream", it's real shivers-down-the-spine stuff. The baroque pop of "Friends of Mine", dedicated to the couples who did and didn't make it, and the anti-war "Butcher's Tale (Western Front 1914)" prove that the band were both of their time and incredibly prescient. "Time of the Season", the album's closing track, has lost none of its breathy, breezy charm. The encore of "Tell Her No" and "She's Not There" further demonstrates how far St Albans' finest had travelled from their British Invasion beginnings.

Critics are often accused of perversely talking up obscure albums but Odessey and Oracle has gone from curio to cult to classic and deserves a place in everyone's collection. Timeless.



The Zombies play the Childline Rocks benefit at IndigO2 tomorrow; www.theindigo2.com

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