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 Moody Blues

British Rock Group

Days of Future Passed

In Search of the Lost Chord

On the Threshold of a Dream

To Our Children's Children's Children

A Question of Balance

Every Good Boy Deserves Favour

Seventh Sojourn

Octave

Long Distance Voyager

 

 

 

THE MOODY BLUES

In 2006 I travelled to the Regency Theatre in Ipswich to see the Moody Blues live. With Justin Hayward, John Lodge and Graeme Edge still in the line-up it was a fair reflection of the classic Moodies line-up.

It was an excellent gig. Now in their 60s, like so many rock stars, they moved effortlessly through their back catalogue.

In many ways the Moody Blues were the quintessential English psychedelic band - all kaftans and embarrassingly bad poetry. But somehow it worked as they always seemed to be trapped in a time warp - but comfortably trapped.

Justin Hayward had, and still has, a silky voice to kill for that always gave the band a head start. Along their journey the Moodies left a trail of classic rock songs like "Isn't Life Strange," "Nights in White Satin," "Question," etc etc.

Often the songs were shoe-horned into quite complex lyrical albums. I had a kind of love affair with the band. The oozing, swirling mellotron, the well designed open-out album sleeves, the strangely titled albums all added to the mystery of the band.

Days of Future Passed - 1967-  7

The Day Begins/Dawn- Dawn is a Feeling/ The Morning - Another Morning/Lunch Break - Peak Hour/ The Afternoon - Forever Afternoon (Tuesday?): Time to Get Away/Evening; The Sun Set- Twilight Time/The Night - Nights in White Satin.

Some of my albums take on an almost mythical proportions due to not being played regularly. Sometimes the legend of an album will far outweigh its reality. So I returned to Days of Future Passed for the first time in many years and found it an interesting introduction to the group. Denny Laine was long gone and here we were faced with a fusion of classic music with pop/rock and poetry (the kaftan effect). At times it tips the nod to Gershwin's An American in Paris and at others is an amalgam of styles. Somehow it maintains its freshness and never lapses into dull repetition. 

It doesn't take too much imagination to see how the band would move from this classical phrase into more mythical areas.

 

In Search of the Lost Chord - 1968 - 6.5

Departure/Ride My See-Saw/Dr. Livingstone, I Presume/House of Four Doors/Legend of a Mind/House of Four Doors Pt. 2/Voices in the Sky/The Best Way to Travel/Visions of Paradise/The Actor/The Word/Om

And so the trip began. The band changed directions, ditched the orchestra and made do with the mellotron and various other instruments. This is very late 60s and early 70s, dealing with the search for spiritual enlightenment which is pretty much summed up by the final two pieces "The Word" and "Om". The fact that The Moodies stayed popular throughout the passage of this and subsequent albums said much for their musical abilities which were to continue to blossom.

In Search of the Lost Chord had many of the Moody hallmarks - jaunty singalongs and soaring vocals on the underrated "House of Four Doors." Spoken word passages were also thrown in and today these can sound rather dated. Overall a decent transitional album and it dies include the Moodies classic Nights in White Satin.

 

On the Threshold of A Dream - 1969 - 6

In the Beginning/Lovely to See You/Dear Diary/Send Me No Wine/To Share Our Love/So Deep Within You/Never Comes the Day/Lazy Day/Are You Sitting Comfortably?/The Dream/Have You Heard (Part 1)/The Voyage/Have You Heard (Part 2).

There is a decided jauntiness to the Moodies dream album that continued where "In Search of  The Lost Chord" left off. All the singalong harmonies were here. The result was quite simply a UK number one album. which is something of a surprise as the material on this album is arguably not as strong as the previous and certainly not as powerful as the offerings still to come.

Never Comes the Day is a very pretty ballad with Justin Hayward's vocals giving way to an almost jazz fuelled singalong section. Lazy Day somehow summed up the feel of the group at this and many other times during their career. Elsewhere there were some lower points, that prevented this from being a really good album. But you just knew there was something slightly better just around the corner.

Sometimes when the reality of life kicks in, all we are really left with is the dream!

 

To Our Children's Children's Children - 1969 - 7.5

Higher and Higher/Eyes of a Child I/Floating/Eyes of a Child II/ I Never Thought I'd Live to be a Hundred/Beyond/Out and In/Gypsy (Of a Strange and Distant Time)/Eternity Road/Candle of Life/Sun is Still Shining/I Never Thought I'd Live to be a Million/Watching and Waiting

Strangely enough this album only got to number two despite having a much stronger line-up of songs - a number of which would become Moody Blues' classics. There is a much greater thematic feel to this album than the previous two. It was the first issue on the band's new label Threshold Records and had a fuller sound which apparently made it difficult to re-produce the sound in live concerts.

The title is intriguing enough in itself. Were the band searching long into the future, prompted by the thoughts of space travel and the moon landing? Well of course they were. The album starts at a terrific pace with Higher and Higher and then the fine songwriting just continues with Eyes of a Child running straight into Floating and the whole thing is given a rather surreal feel by "I Never Thought I'd Live to be a Hundred." Gypsy, Eternity Road and Candle of Life are all extremely good songs and the album is rounded off with the wistful and truly beautiful Watching and Waiting which brings us down to earth very gently. The whole albums banks and soars.

A Question of Balance - 1970 - 7

Question/How Is It (We Are Here)/And the Tide Rushes In/Don't You Feel Small/Tortoise And The Hare/It's Up To You/Minstrel's Song/Dawning Is The Day/Melancholy Man/The Balance 

After what some might deem the excesses of the previous few albums, the band went for a stripped down sound on A Question of Balance and it made a successful change of direction with simpler songs.

Ironically the album opens with one of the bands great pieces "Question" which wouldn't be out of place on the previous album and is full of forceful lyrics with pounding beats giving way to the beautiful choruses. Much of the remainder of the material seems to be a natural progression towards almost folk/rock with Melancholy Man being a beautifully crafted offering. There's still plenty of the old Moody mysticism as well.

 

Every Good Boy Deserves Favour - 1971 - 7.5

Procession/The Story in Your Eyes/Our Guessing Game/Emily's Song/After You Came/One More Time to Live/Nice to Be Here/You Can Never Go Home/My Song

The swirling melodies return as the band seem to ramp things up again after the relative sparseness of the previous album. There are some corkers here with the band proving vocally very strong indeed.

There is a pastoral feel to Emily's Song - a lovely piece. Elsewhere it s whimsical trip of swirling mellotron and guitars - almost the quintessential Moody Blues sound and in many ways this was probably more representative of the whole raft of band styles than practically any other album. Plenty of classical overtones as well with a fine ending in the form of "My Song" - this was certainly one of their strongest albums.

 

Seventh Sojourn - 1972 - 6

Lost in a Lost World/New Horizons/For My Lady/Isn't Life Strange/You and Me/The Land of Make-Believe/When You're a Free Man/I'm Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band)

In many ways Seventh Sojourn has a looser feeling about it, at times overtly political as on Lost in a Lost World and at times more like a collection of individual songs than music that clings together. Generally thought of as the final of the Moodies seven ground-breaking psychedelic albums, it has all the hallmarks and some very strong material. To me, however, there seems to be a missing spark that would lift it up a notch, despite the strength of Isn't Life Stranger.

After seven albums in six years the band seemed to hibernate before bringing out Octave in 1978.

 

Octave - 1978 - 4.5
Long Distance Voyager -1981

The Voice/Talking Out of Turn/Gemini Dream/In My World/Meanwhile/22,000 Days/Nervous/Painted Smile/Reflective Smile/Veteran Cosmic Rocker

This one somehow survives the dreadful opening two lines of The Voice "Won't you take me back to school/I need to learn the golden rule." Really corny lyrics that then give way to a really decent rocker that Justin Hayward is so good in delivering. After Octave the only real way was up and three years further on the Moodies began once again to find the joy of their music. Talking Out of Turn is arguably overlong and rather dull, but at least you could see where the band's reference points were.