The Magnificent Moodies (1965)
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I'll Go Crazy B+
This is going to be a difficult album for me to write track reviews. There are 26 songs on here, and they're all pretty much typical Mersey Beat. But anyway, here I go. This is a pretty nice James Brown cover albeit a little stiff. The lead vocals (I have no idea who that is) are alright and he tried hard to hit those screaming notes, but it's pretty clear he didn't quite have the natural power to completely belt it out. They tried to give it somewhat dirty instrumentation, but they couldn't quite pull off the needed ruckus. These guys are just too polite. But this is fun, right?
Something You Got B
This sounds completely generic, like something Ray Charles might have composed, but it's sort of fun. The hooks are a bit weak and so is the riff, but it's a sweet song all the same. The vocals are a bit overblown, though, like he was straining a little too much to be soulful. You can hear Ray Thomas pulling out the flute! It's weird that he was playing that this early!
Go Now A
This wasn't an original composition, but that descending chord progression seems a little arsty to me! It reminds me of “A Whiter Shade of Pale” for some reason. So, I suppose it shouldn't be any big surprise that these guys would eventually transform into one of the world's foremost art-rock bands. Anyway, this is a really captivating song thanks mostly to the chord progression, which is played with conviction on the piano. The lead vocals are loud and boisterous without seeming like he's trying too hard, which is a nice change of pace from the previous two songs.
Can't Nobody Love You B
I'm glad I'm not saying these words to The Moody Blues in 1965, because I would probably come off as annoyingly patronizing. I would say things like “Your band really did a nice job with the blues! It sounds like the blues and everything!” But I would rather listen to Ray Charles perform this sort of song, because these guys are just tame. The melody is catchy and well performed. That rather amateurish harmonica in the background was a nice touch and so were those back-up ooohs...
I Don't Mind C
This James Brown cover is pretty awful, I hate to say... It slogs along at an extremely dull pace, the instrumentals are extremely stiff, and the lead singer, try as he might, can't even get close to mustering the soulful energy required to captivate me through the song. Even Denny Laine's guitar solo halfway in seems stilted.
I've Got a Dream B
Perfectly nice an inoffensive this time, but the song it just your ordinary Mersey Beat pop-rocker. The melody isn't that special, and the instrumentation is a bit boring apart from that tooty flute that Thomas plays. It needed some extra kick, but it's still rather sweet and likable.
Let Me Go A-
Ah now this is interesting. It's an original, but it's not your typical Mersey Beat R&B thing... This is closer to a classical music waltz than anything, as Pinder plays some bubbly rhythms on his keyboard. The way Thomas plays with his flute, it starts to remind me of Ravel's “Bolero.” Interesting chord progression, too. The lead vocals have a nice tendency to sound like it's mourning all over that classical posturing. In other words, this is one of the early hints at what The Moody Blues would later become.
This is the album's second original composition, and it's surely unusual. It's based on a pretty strange chord progression like the last song, making what would have otherwise been an ordinary Merseybeat song into something slightly more interesting. Although, I will complain that this song doesn't seem to develop that well. It's fairly clunky in spots.
Thank You Baby B+
Another original! This one could have been an R&B cover for all I know, since it's more or less a straightforward song. It does have a nice Beatlesesque melody, which is nice, but the rhythm section could surely have used with a little more kick. This just seems like it's having trouble getting off the ground.
It Ain't Necessarily So A
Awesome! This is a cover of a Gershwin tune from Porgy and Bess. Isn't this the sort of thing you'd expect The Moody Blues to cover? It fits their classic song pretty well... It's a moody blues tune, and their instrumentation is rather atmospheric despite their studio limitations. The brooding back-up vocals come up at the right time, Pinder plays that piano with a dramatic aura, and the drum sounds rather like a funeral march. The lead singer doesn't have a particularly impressive voice, but he sounds sincere as he sings this, which is saying something.
True Story B
This is an original and not particularly impressive. Sounds exactly like the sort of average song we would hear on The Beatles' or The Rolling Stones' debut albums... And let's face it, these guys just don't do R&B as well as those guys do.
Bye Bye Bird A-
This is just about the only song of this album that actually seems to rock out. In fact, maybe this rocks out too much, in such a way that it shows these guys were not meant to rock. The harmonica chugging throughout is wild, and so is the drumming. Denny Laine's singing starts out OK, but then he starts to scat and squawk like he's some sort of sexy man. But anyway, this is actually a lot of fun, so I'm not going to make fun of it too much.
People Gotta Go A
Wow! This is fun! This is one of the songs that isn't included in the 24-track reissue of this album, and I'd say this is a great reason for you to scout out the full 26-track version. I really like that ultra-clean drum beat that starts this song off. I mean, that's just class right there. That's complimented beautifully by that ultra stiff piano and guitar riff, which makes this song fun. There's a little bit of beauty in it too with the back-up vocals. To top it all off, the vocal melody is extremely catchy. If the chord progressions weren't so predictable, it might have been something along the lines of The Kinks.
Steal Your Love Away B+
This isn't a song that you should cross mountains and valleys to hear, but this little bit of blue-eyed soul is pretty good and more proof that you shouldn't settle for a copy of this album without bonus tracks. It has a nice, convincing melody, some good guitar, and a nicely convincing vocal performance. At least the vocals sound better than they did at the beginning of the album!
Lose Your Money (But Don't Lose Your Mind) B
This song written by Michael Pinder is a pretty decent R&B thing. The melody ain't too original, but there's some really awesomely wailing harmonica strewn throughout it. Little more than a fun toe-tapping thing!
It's Easy Child B
I wonder if the only reason I get excited over hearing these faint and rather angelic back-up vocals in these songs is that they serve as a small reminder of The Moody Blues' later work where they would use their heavy instrumental layering to give me something a little more wonderous to listen to. Other than that, this is just another ordinary pop-rocker, this time with its main groove played with a piano in an almost cutesy fashion.
I Don't Want to Live Without You A-
Quite a bit sloppier than most of these songs, but I sort of like how earnest they come off singing this. The Moody Blues sound a little more world-weary, which is the perfect sound for the blues. The vocal layering effect comes off really nicely, and I like listening to that nicely done blues piano.
Time is on My Side B+
Ah, now we get the chance to literally compare the early Moody Blues to the early Rolling Stones. ...Predictably, The Stones win hands down, because their version stopped me in my tracks! While this version is formidable, it doesn't quite pack the same punch in the rhythm department, and the lead vocals are extremely weak. (Did you need more evidence that Mick Jagger was an excellent lead singer? Just witness how lame these lead vocals are...)
From the Bottom Of My Heart (I Love You) A
Oh, I really get a strong Moody Blues vibe from this. You'll really get the sense of where they were headed after listening to this. This is a dark and brooding song with a rather unusual but hooky vocal melody and convincingly soulful and soaring lead vocals. The instrumentation (including thick back-up vocals) are laid on thickly, and I can even sense a little bit of breathtaking beauty in back of it. More than anything else, this is a fun song to listen to! But you'll be interested in this in a more academic sense as well!
And My Baby's Gone A-
Maybe the dingo ate your baby...Or maybe The Moody Blues penned a catchy early Beatles-esque pop-rocker with a bouncy groove, hand claps and a rather tinny woody beat. It's structured rather unusually, too, which keeps it interesting, and that's really funny bendy, ringy guitar solo is a bit strange. Hardly projects the same aura of greatness that a Beatles original did, but I'd say this was worth its weight in gold.
This is another original that projects a rather BIG and BROODING sound that sounds like classic Moody Blues. Of course they were just starting out, and it comes off as somewhat awkward as a whole. It's also really, really short (less than two minutes). But the melody contains a few interesting twists here and there, and it's rather beautiful.
You Don't (All the Time) A-
Seriously, you need to get the version with the bonus tracks. I cannot stress that to you enough. This thing here is just an excellent happy-go-lucky pop song. The hooks are strong, the thick background vocals continue to be engrossing. And Ray Thomas even gets to play a bit of the groove with his flute! I like the flute!
Boulevard De La Madelaine A
Wow! Here The Moody Blues try out some tango, and they've created quite a delectable treat! It's pretty unusual, too, and not anything like I've heard before... The song starts out with a tense tango rhythm and then a rather scary riff played by a dirty accordion before breaking into a hooky pop song.
This is My House (But Nobody Calls) A-
That happened to me once. I forgot to turn my cell phone on. This original song doesn't have anything particularly special going on about it since it seems more or less an ordinary R&B rocker, but it's extremely toe-tapping and well played. The vocal hooks are strong, too, and I like those little bendy wolf calls they do (haauuuuuu!).
Life's Not Live B-
Yeesh... Parts of this song are really pleasant, but those rapidly paced, jumbly guitar bits are a little difficult to listen to. I'll give them credit for creating another song that's like something I haven't heard before, but this is just sloppy.
He Can Win B-
Kind of a weak song to close the album with... But this is the bonus tracks and they might have been putting them in chronological order for all I know. The hooks are a little weaker this time, but they there are a few interesting twists in this. That funny way they sing “He can win-in-in-in-in” comes off just as peculiar as it looks. I'm not too sure what they were thinking, but it made the song more interesting than it would have otherwise.
Days of Future Passed (1967)
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The Day Begins B+
This is 1000 percent cinematic music, and there's no rock 'n' roll in sight. OK, if you know the ending of the album already, you're going to recognize the theme of “Nights in White Satin” strewn throughout, but it's done entirely in a cinematic way. I'm imaging watching a film starring Mickey Rooney with hand-painted credits flicking by the screen as I'm listening to this! It's not a terrible orchestration, and the theme of “Nights in White Satin” are going to be compelling whether they're in cinematic form or in pop-rock form like it is later in the album. I just find the presentation of it slightly boring. I'm also not too sure about the cheesy poem that they read at the beginning of this. Again, that is something I would expect to find from a cheesy '40s and '50s film, and I'm still not wholly convinced that was a great idea for a pop album.
Dawn: Dawn is a Feeling A-
If you can make it through some more of that corny orchestral music (and try to!) you'll finally get to hear the album's very first art-rock tune! The brooding melody sung with deeply pitched vocals that sound undoubtedly cool from Justin Hayward. The orchestra provides a lovely backdrop to the melody, the drums, and a regularly pulsating piano. It has a nice melody and the chord progressions are quite good, but my only complaint about it is it's so slow moving! Also, the orchestra takes it over at the end. Is it just me, or does the orchestral sections seem awkwardly worked in?
The Morning: Another Morning A
Well, the orchestra still sounds cheesy, but it starts to sound cool here for awhile as the pop-rock tune starts to play. The wandering melody sounds like a more restrained version of a pop song that might appear on Pink Floyd's The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, and I like it for that! Those cheesy flutes are pretty catchy, and I like that militaristic drum beat that I hear rather quietly in the background. Quite a cool pop song! Once again, the cinematic orchestrations completely take over the proceedings at the end... Ah, classical music. You know rock 'n' roll is going to have the last laugh, don't you?
Lunch Break: Peak Hour A-
This reminds me more of an interlude from Broadway musical than a cinematic score, which sounds a little more appropriate than those “mystifying” cinematic numbers with the harps and thick strings. All the same, it's a fairly average one, and not anything that I get too wild about. After a fade-out, a heavy riff starts to play and it's quite a good riff. It's certainly more of a throwback to their earlier R&B days, and there's almost no use of the orchestra in it. (Where would the orchestra fit in an R&B number?)
The Afternoon: Forever Afternoon (Tuesday?): Time to Get Away A+
It's pretty clear that the “Forever Afternoon” section is one of the main highlights of this album and surely one of the world's earliest examples of progressive rock. On this album, it is only eclipsed by “Nights in White Satin” in quality. It's an utterly elegant and mystical song with a soaring melody and fitfully good vocals. The middle part is a bit clompy and not quite as mystical, but it transitioned well. I might also add that the transition to the orchestrated part at the end fades in rather gracefully and not quite as awkwardly as I've seen it in other parts of this album. The second part of the song is “Time to Get Away,” which is a feeling I suppose is felt by a lot of people as they're nearing retirement age! It's a dark and mourning song that doesn't quite get to me in the melody department, and it's almost forgettable. But it's nice, and that falsetto is strangely likable.
Evening: The Sun Set : Twilight Time A
I'm just taking my computer's word for it how I'm supposed to punctuate these songs. If they really wanted to give each section different titles, then why didn't they just split them up into different tracks? It would have made them more money on iTunes! (Hey, if The Moody Blues can predict Mannheim Steamroller, there's no reason to think they couldn't have also predicted iTunes.) Anyway, they take a Middle-Eastern flavor with this one with a clumpy bass, some tinny drums, and a rather disconnected vocal melody. It's actually quite entertaining to me in spite of its slow pace, and they integrate that orchestra particularly well with this one. This isn't exactly cinema music, and it's also not exactly rock 'n' roll. I don't know what this is! (It's way better than Queen's “The Prophet Song.”) Somehow it gets even better when they bring up a rock 'n' roll beat and let those psychedelic reverb heavy vocals rip forth. They probably overuse the reverb, but the tune they're singing is excellent and you can't forget that they're also using a heavy and rather crunchy backing beat.
Nights in White Satin A+
Of course, this is the song that manages to stop everyone in their tracks, and for good reason. If you're reading this right now and this song doesn't stop you in your tracks, then I think you need a good freaking SLAP ON THE FACE! I mean, from the very beginning that Justin Hayward sings that beautiful, soaring melody, I can't really do anything other than letting my jaw go slack. There's not much else to say about the main section of this song, since I'm sure everyone on the planet is familiar with it even if they don't realize it or not. I even find that London Festival Orchestra that closes the section to be rather grandiose and I get caught up in it despite the poor way I thought the orchestra started the album. Unfortunately, there's another corny poetry bit at the end. ...For pete's sake.........
Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood B
The copy of this album I've been listening to for ages had no bonus tracks on it, so this is the very first time I've ever listened to these. (I'm literally listening to this for the first time as I'm typing this. ...Most of my precursory listens have been on my iPod!) This is certainly a product of The Moody Blues still trying to be an R&B band and has absolutely nothing to do with the style of this album. It's not a terrible tune, but it's forgettable and the sound quality is a little bit grainy. I don't think I'll bother listening to it again.
Fly Me High B
I think the fact that I'm giving these songs rather neutral Bs is all the proof you need that I'm only listening to these things once! (Well I wasn't going to listen to them at all before I just decided to shrug my shoulders and give them a quick run through.) This is another straight pop-rock tune, and it makes a decent listen. However, the hooks aren't very strong, and it's entirely forgettable. It's pretty clear that The Moodies made an excellent choice trying out something different than R&B soon after recording this. I mean, it's not bad, but it's pretty lame.
I Really Haven't Got the Time B-
Ah yes, bring out that old boogie woogie piano. …...........It doesn't take a genius to realize that these guys wouldn't make terribly interesting boogie woogie artists! At least it's sort of fun, the piano is cute and played solidly enough. The vocals are way too soft and tame for the material. ...But for singing over Mellotrons, their voices are tops!!!!
Love and Beauty B
Now, here's a song that exhibits a little bit of that brooding art-rock vibe that they're known for. I hear the Mellotrons and a dark melody with a bouncy piano and bass at its core. I wouldn't be extremely surprised if this was one of the songs they tested out for inclusion on the regular album and it wouldn't have been too awful... but it would have been one of the weaker ones. I don't find the harmonies all that compelling although the vocal layering is top notch.
Leave This Man Alone B+
Back to the more rock oriented stuff, and this one is actually kind of fun to listen to! It doesn't quite have that distinctive Moody Blues personality that they're, of course, best known for, and the melody won't stick with me for very long, but it's a decent, poppy little tune. Perhaps I get a little tired of it midway through, and they could have stood to perhaps introduce another hook midway through. The bouncy pop guitars start to get a little out of tune in the middle, though. I wonder to what extent they were doing that on purpose!
There's something here with this harpsichord led baroque-pop tune. Their vocals are too dark and moody for this to really have a Kinks vibe. Perhaps something closer to Scott Walker? Anyway, this is a little too short and the hooks a little too bland for it to really make much of an impression, but it's not a terrible listen.
Tuesday Afternoon (Alternate Mix)
The vocals are way buried in this mix and buried in those Mellotrons. Other than that, I don't notice anything hugely different. Also notice that I don't have a memory capable of picking out subtle differences between two versions of the same song.
Dawn: Dawn is a Feeling (Alternate Version)
I don't pick up anything extremely different over the version that made the original cut. Maybe some really hardcore fan out there could write a thesis paper about the differences. I can't!
The Sun Set (Alternate Version With No Orchestra
The original was one of example of the orchestra that I liked the most in this album! They took out the cool backdrop!
Twilight Time (Alternate Vocal Mix)
Hell yeah! It's Twilight Time! Let's all go watch those Stephanie Meyer movies! (I would say we should all go out and read the books, but at least the movies don't take as much time.) ...As you might expect, this doesn't have anything to do with Stephanie Meyer, because she wasn't born yet. This is a much barer version of that cool, reverb-heavy psychedelic thing. Everybody like the album's version best of course, but this is interesting too.
In Search of the Lost Chord (1968)
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Every album should begin with a crazy poem spoken by someone in the loony bin while a huge sounding instrument is bending up.
Ride My See-Saw A
COOL SONG. If you thought The Moody Blues were some sort of sissy band, then … you're probably correct, but at least they know how to make their sissy music ROCK. That's right, kids, this song has an upbeat rhythm section, a pulsating bass, and some excellent rock 'n' roll riffage (that are buried rather deeply into the mix). Very excellent instrumental work! But of course the #1 reason this song is awesome is because of their vocal harmonies and how smooth it sounds. I also like those crazy psychedelic lyrics. OK, Mr. Hippie wearing the magic coat, I'll ride your see-saw.
Dr. Livingstone, I Presume A
I'm probably the only person alive in the world who likes that creepy Mellotron sound better than the actual orchestra. There's just something about that orchestra that's too pristine, but that Mellotron has a much more rock 'n' roll sound, and they even give it a little improvisational *oof* whenever they need to, which they of course wouldn't be able to do with an actual orchestra. That's also probably why this album rocks way more than the previous one. This is one of the Pink Floyd inspired childish psychedelic ditties, and it has a bouncy bass and a catchy melody.
House of Four Doors (Part 1) B+
Oh listen to that Mellotron! So creepy yet so awesome! This is one of the stranger songs on the album, and it's not developed as fluidly as it probably should be. They get this really great hippie chorus going at times, but they suddenly *stop* it just as I'm ready for it to keep going. All they do is give us a quiet sound effect of a door creaking open, which probably wasn't necessary. That grand piano concerto in the middle of this is so strange that I'm kind of surprised in retrospect that they would have even tried something like that.
Legend of a Mind A+
Have you ever stopped to ask why The Moody Blues' name managed to survive the ages while many other psychedelic bands have fallen by the wayside? The answer is because of songs like this. It's a weird, tuneful, wandering and delightful song that I swear I'll never get tired of listening to. It doesn't matter that this is one of the most dated '60s songs on the planet earth, particularly the lyrics “Timothy Leary is dead,” which wasn't literally the case when this was written. Like any good prog (or proto-prog?) song, it contains plenty of different evolving textures that are woven in flawlessly with each other. The calmer instrumental section in the middle is beautiful and contains an interesting two-minute flute solo. I suppose you could call the melody childish, but we've surely come to love that about The Moody Blues by this point.
House of Four Doors (Part 2) A-
The second part of this song is less than two minutes long, and it contains a pretty nice vocal hook, which you'll start to hear after sitting through about a minute of quiet mellotron chords.
Voices in the Sky B+
This definitely seems like it could have used more energy or majesty, because this sounds fairly low-key and uneventful to me. The drum rhythm is mixed deeply in the background, the bass guitar sounds bored plodding around at a mid-tempo pace, and the acoustic guitars strumming around seem routine. The Mellotrons give it some body, which certainly helps it achieve a fuller sound, but that wasn't quite enough. Some of the slack is made up by the melody, which contains some nice hooks in it, and even more of it is made up by the brilliant vocal performance from none other than Justin Haywood.
The Best Way to Travel B
This is another one of their strong childlike melodies that has nice, smooth flow and is fun to listen to. But they had to interrupt that with a strange instrumental interlude featuring Mellotron chords fashioned to sound like automobiles speeding down a highway that fades in and out. Interestingly, it predicts Kraftwerk's “Autobahn,” which features a similar use of synthesizers.
Visions of Paradise B+
Quite a lovely and tranquil song, but it doesn't captivate me even remotely like a “vision of paradise.” The melody is rather uneventful although nicely sung, and the heavily textured instrumentation is nice on the ears, but nothing really sticks out at me and engages my ears. They were trying to create an exotic texture with sitars in the background, but I don't find it too impressive. Also, the flute playing puts me to sleep. However, the atmosphere is pretty, and I also find it calming.
The Actor B+
While these songs are lovely, I seem to be slipping into a very consistent complaint that these songs just don't excite me. I do feel comfortable in complaining about this so much, because I am full aware that I'm going to find them much more exciting later on! This song has a nice vocal melody and nice, soaring vocal performance from Haywood, and it's a nice thing to listen to, but I tend to space out more through it than pay very close attention. This is a far cry from “Nights in White Satin,” though, isn't it?
Another poem! Why did these guys like reading poetry so much? ...Eh, hippies.
This psychedelic, sitar-heavy tune proves that The Moody Blues were really trying to fit in with the times. It plods around rather slowly, and the melody is flat and uninteresting. However, that towering chorus really strikes me, and they manage to create a great, huge sound with that mellotron. They probably could have done without that fluttery instrumental interlude with the fluttery sitars, but at least it slowly speeds up as it pushes along. Even though this song was probably more meant to be trendy than anything else, I sort of enjoy listening to it. At least it's way different than the last few songs that proceeded it.
I've found the album to be somewhat dull, and I don't see much use going through these many bonus tracks that contain different mixes and live versions just to see how many more ways I can politely accuse them of being rather boring. Therefore, I will only talk about the only bonus track that don't have versions already in the album.
Simple Game A-
They would have done well to include this in the second half of the album. While it's probably weak as far as classic Moody Blues songs go, it has an exciting drive to it and doesn't rely merely on atmospheres. The melody is catchy and sung dramatically. Nothing too special was done with the instrumentation other than further utilizing their new mellotron sound.
On the Threshold of a Dream (1969)
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In the Beginning B+
More spoken poetry! Graeme Edge must be stopped!! But, no, I actually like this one. The words are sci-fi oriented instead of weird LSD-inspired mysticism, and I find the whole thing rather entertaining. Apparently centered around a robot's (or some sort of being's) first rationalization “I think therefore I am” before a bunch of boingy and beepy sounds come in with an overseer saying “Of course you are, my bright little star!” The production is way more dense and smooth than it was on their previous album, which greatly helps songs like this achieve a more compelling atmosphere.
Lovely to See You A
Justin Hayward, the godliest singer of all time, writes and sings this rockin' number (that is, rockin' in a Moody Blues way). They did an excellent job with the production, because the vocal layering sounds thick and lush, but the guitars are still rocking away crisply. The melody is excellent, the guitar work is fun, and it's beautiful! Perhaps not one of the hits that will be remembered by everyone for the ages, but I'll remember it.
Dear Diary A
Ray Thomas wrote this downbeat, jazzy tune, and it turns out that the song is one of the more memorable ones here. I suppose I could complain that the melody is derivative, but the presentation of it is certainly original. (It's kind of like how most songs on Dark Side of the Moon were jazz-based, but the presentation was their own.) Thomas processed his vocals through some sort of processor to achieve a soft, machine-like effect. Naturally Thomas being a flautist, he decorates the song with some brilliant, jazzy flute noodling.
Send Me No Wine A-
Was it that every band member was on top of their game at this point in The Moody Blues career? This upbeat sing-songey tune was written by John Lodge. It's not terribly complicated or long-winded (at just two minutes and 20 seconds); it's mostly a chorus sung over and over with some strumming guitars, thick vocals, and some sliding mellotron effects in the background for good measure.
To Share Our Love B+
I'm not sure I like the way the previous track bleeds into this one, although this was 1969, and the art of seamless concept albums was still a brand new idea. But John Lodge wrote both of these songs, so couldn't he have worked on polishing this? This song harkens back to their R&B roots, it's upbeat and the guitars are rocking away. The lead vocals and backup singers sounds like they're singing one of their mersey-beat tunes. Fortunately, it's a pretty catchy song!
So Deep Within You A
Cool song, and certainly true to the “classic” Moody Blues sound of thick 'n' heavy vocals that occasionally soar and driving rock 'n' roll rhythms going at a mid-tempo pace. Great touches with the driving flute riff, which is complimented with a timpani! It's so posh, but I love hearing that instrument in symphonic-rock. Pinder's vocals are fine, but they're not godly. I love that this was a democratic band, but they should have let their best singer take over more songs, and not just as background vocals... which face it are this song's best moments.
Never Comes the Day A-
Yes, that's Justin Hayward taking lead vocals there, but it doesn't have that beautiful, soaring quality that I usually associate with him. Nonetheless, it's a good song. It starts acoustic and folky before getting into a more rocking and clapping chorus. It's a cool take on folk music. If you listen closely, you can even here a harmonica getting it on! Still it doesn't have that arresting quality that I've come to expect from him, but the melody is sweet, and it's a pleasant listen.
Lazy Day B+
Lazing on a Sunday afternoon? The main strength of this ditty written by Ray Thomas is that he uses those heavily layered vocals, and of course every time they do that, they sound beautiful! The melody is a bit childish, but it's catchy. That buzzy mellotron following the vocal melody was an interesting idea. But a minor complaint I have about this is how sluggish it sounds.
Are You Sitting Comfortably A
Yes, indeed I am, thanks for asking! This is a beautiful pastoral sound featuring some of Hayward's captivating vocals and some of that excellent flute noodling. The lyrics about the old days of Camelot are silly, but they managed to turn the “on” switch on my geekery. (Back in the old days... like when I was 13, I used to be really into Medieval stuff. I would draw castles on poster board. I watched First Knight about 20 times. I wished dearly to be five years older so that I could watch Excalibur. Those were the days.) As always, the melody is beautiful and flowing. Maybe it could have been a bit more driven, but that's not the sort of song this is. I can't do nothing but love listening to it.
The Dream – Poem
Yes sirs and madams, this is another one of Graeme Edge's bits of spoken word poetry. It's not sci-fi. HE MUST BE STOPPED!!! Did The Moody Blues even need a drummer? ...I mean, other than the timpani on “So Deep Within You.” That was cool.
Have You Heard (Part 1) B+
...Yeah, they need no drummer. All he's doing here is making a few clicky sounds! (OK, I'm just kidding. He's fine.) This is a nicely done though awfully short song. I guess we have to wait for Part 2 for the conclusion, those cliffhanging bastards. The melody is OK, but not great, but they make up for a lot of that with extremely lush instrumentation standards. Of course the main instrumentation is a strummy acoustic guitar, but they decorated it with tons of lush Mellotron sounds!
The Voyage B
This instrumental is arguably the only mishap on the album, but I like it in a way. It's a bunch of power chords on the mellotron meant to illustrate some sort of glorious adventure. Mike Pinder admitted that he had the idea for it from Strauss' “Also sprach Zarathustra,” which was a popular piece of music for hippies to be fascinated by at the time. The instrumental does come across as awfully bare and rambly, although I suppose the title gives us a hint that that was the point. I'll also give it props for leading very well into the following track...
Have You Heard (Part 2) A-
It's basically the same song that we already heard... same melody, same vocal performance. The instrumentation is more precise and bolder, and this is longer, so it's given proper time to flesh itself out. Nonetheless, I feel that it's still too short, and they would have done better to flesh it out even more. Hayward sings such a pleasant, sing-songey melody, and I wanted to hear where else he might dare to take it!
I'm not convinced I should be spending much time going through the bonus tracks, since there really isn't a whole lot to say. They will be great for diehard Moody Blues fans, the sorts of people who hold onto every single note of theirs. The record company was also kind enough to provide us of BBC-recorded live versions of “Lovely to See You,” “Send Me No Wine,” “So Deep Within You,” and “Are You Sitting Comfortably.”
To Our Children's Children's Children (1969)
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Higher and Higher A
Finally, Graeme Edge got that dumb spoken poetry stuff right! ...Well, perhaps the spoken poetry stuff is still silly, but this song rules. It starts out with a lavish hit of a gong, which gives way to space ship noises. Then very faintly, we start to hear some creepy, tightly-harmonized singing come up. Then there's a whoosh before a rock 'n' roll song comes up! Mike Pinder very dramatically says the poem, which is about space ships, with some very awesome background vocals that appropriately go up the scale singing “Higher and higher and higher and higher...” This is very atmospheric, catchy, and a lot of fun. They have a lot of fun layering on some fast paced and exciting electric guitar parts. In short, this is a great opening!
Eyes of a Child I A
It starts with some mystical harps while some quiet woodwinds play a moody melody. But pretty soon, hope comes up when acoustic guitars start to play, and their tightly harmonized singing starts to slowly fade in until it takes full command of the song. It delivers a few really powerful hooks or two before going back into that slower, moody bit again but without the atmosphere. Naturally, they don't let the song close before going back into that exciting chorus! This might not be one of their best songs, but it's lavish and enjoyable.
One thing they did waaaaaaaay better here than they did in the previous album was the way these songs flowed into each other. It was a sudden transition, for sure, from the atmosphere of the previous tune to this more upbeat and childish song, but it's one that I always seem to welcome with open arms. The melody isn't their finest, but I like it anyway. The main attraction is their thick and lavish instrumentation, which warrant plenty of studying on all the subsequent listens you give it. (Yes, this is one of those albums that you're going to want to listen to over and over again, because you'll want to get the most you possibly can out of it.) We have the main rhythm, of course, taken on by drums and a bass guitar, but the background instrumentation consists of a jangly acoustic guitar, woodwinds, and “hmmmmmm!” vocals. Backing singers get more participatory in the chorus as it goes along, which I love about it. Then, I have to mention those little “hits” the drummer does in the final third of the song, which I'm not even sure I noticed until now. Clearly these guys took some time to fully develop these songs... which is amazing since they had already released an album in 1969. Where did they find the time?
Eyes of a Child II A
Again, they bleed these songs into each other way better than they did in the previous album, so there's absolutely no reason for me to complain about this. Also, this version of the song is quite different than the first one; this is more quicker and menacing. The singing is louder and more passionate. It doesn't last for very long, though. Less than two minutes.
I Never Thought I'd Live to Be a Hundred A
What a pretty acoustic tune! It's just Justin Hayward singing along with an acoustic guitar, and that's all it needs. It has such a pretty melody that I might have been upset at them for just making this song one minute long. But it does seem to fit in well with the course of the album, so there's no use in complaining about that. It's sort of the calm eye of the hurricane between the menacing previous song and the following one. They do eventually bring back the melody for “I Never Thought I'd Live to Be a Million,” but it's just 33 seconds in that case.
The first third of this is an aggressive mellotron groove, and it's actually very awesome to suddenly hear right after that extremely calm folk song in the previous track. It just sort of splashes your face with its space dust. That groove is suddenly over, and it's replaced by machine-like spaceship noises, I suppose reminding us that we're inside of a spaceship. But then the cool groove comes back and fades out before we're treated to a more musical version of those space-ship noises. They were experiment with creating atmospheres, obviously, and they created something unique with it. Even by today's standards.
Out and In A
Mike Pinder wrote this beautiful piece. Surely one of the best sing-songey sort of songs of the album, although perhaps it isn't infectious enough to give me the urge to sing along with it. They really flooded this one with the sweeping mellotrons, and that's really keeping the outer space theme of this album together well, since that instrument *does* sound cold and space-like.
This is one of the songs I immediately think of when I see the title, so that means it must be one of the highlights! Seriously, this one not only has an interesting melody, but it's extremely dramatic and driving. It's one of those songs that I cannot for an instance shake my attention away from when I hear it. That's Hayward singing the lead vocals, which just makes it *that* more awesome. The mellotrons, again, are laid on thickly, but it's kept going with loudly strummed acoustic guitars and determined drumming. The sci-fi lyrics are pretty cool, too.
Eternity Road A
I'm just going nuts over these track ratings, but I dare you to listen to these songs for yourself and disagree with me! The melody is catchy, and their thick instrumentation continues to give me that outer space feeling. I'm a little shocked, actually, that I'm not complaining about saminess. But, really, they do an excellent job keeping this album flowing together and these songs don't really sound *that* much alike. Even though technically I suppose they're sort of similar to each other.
Candle of Life A+
Beautiful! If I was on the edge of awarding (in my infinite wisdom) this album a score between a 13 or 14, then this is what pushed me over the edge. (But, really, listening to this album a lot over the last two or three months and a lot yesterday, it's clear to me that this is one great album.) The melody is beautiful, and it's gorgeously delivered. Justin Hayward and John Lodge share the lead vocals, and to hear them sing this arresting melody is an endearing experience. The orchestration makes it even more beautiful. Of course, it's drenched with those mellotrons, but they bring in a grand piano to make the experience even more special.
Sun is Still Shining A
AND THEY STILL KEEP IT GOING! By this time, I usually look for some excuse to not give these songs such strong ratings, but I wouldn't even dream of it. Their melodies, while not terribly infectious, are hooky, interesting and well sung. The chorus is just as interesting as the verses, which means it's good songwriting. The instrumentation contains a sitar grooving around, so there's that mild Indian influence. (I guess they weren't completely ready to give up the “Om!”) Best of all is that it gets a bit more crazed at the end, which forces back our attention if we were nodding out slightly.
I Never Thought I'd Live to Be a Million A
Back to that great old acoustic melody! It's just a 30-second snippet this time, and I still wish it were a little bit longer. I do like the idea of bringing it back with a much higher number.
Watching and Waiting A
The final track of the album, and it's yet another home run. They don't let the album close without an epic track, either, which is exactly what this album called for. It might not surprise you, but this is a very mellotron heavy ballad. That in itself doesn't make a song epic, but it's Justin Hayward's soaring, beautiful and thoughtful vocal performance that sends it over that edge. The melody probably isn't the best they've ever done, but I'd say it's still a strong one.
There aren't that many bonus tracks in this release compared to other Moody Blues re-releases although how useful they are is completely dependent upon the listener. I suppose The Moody Blues were so dang busy at the time releasing albums that they hadn't much spare material lying around! There are full versions of “Gypsy” and “Candle of Life,” and a remix of “Sun is Still Shining.” They also included live versions of songs in previous Moody Blues albums, “Have You Heard” and “Legend of a Mind,” which ends up being welcome advertisement of an album that you might not have yet!
A Question of Balance (1970)
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Very cool. Holy crap. Has there ever been a stronger Moody Blues album opener? ...I guess since this isn't a goofy poem or anything. ...And hey, what happened to the Mellotrons? I'm used to being completely whitewashed over Mellotrons in Moody Blues albums, especially at the beginning. For sure, I still hear that good old instrument, but it's kept mostly in the background. Ah, but I'll complain about that when I write the main portion of this review. Right now, though, I want to tell you that THIS SONG IS AWESOME!!! What's most awesome about it? It comes in two parts: A fast rock 'n' rollin' section, and a ballad. And both are excellent. I mean, how couldn't they be? The rock 'n' rollin' section features a ferociously strummed acoustic guitar and drum beat, and a really awesome bass guitar. I mean, listen to it! “Da-da-de-da-DA-de-da...” That's not the end of the bass-line ...I don't know why I tried doing that, actually... But anyway. Justin Hayward wrote and sung this, who as you probably know has one of rock's most godlike vocals. He sings this soaring melody with that beautiful life of his... Just listen to him in the ballad part, and how his voice picks up with the Mellotron. Oh, yummy...
How Is It (We Are Here) A
Justin Hayward isn't singing anymore? ...Oh yes, I forgot this was a “democratic” band. But anyway, Mike Pinder is a decent singer anyway. And he's a great songwriter, too. Listen to this!!! This is a creepy old song with flaring Mellotrons, a paranoid vocal performance, simple but hooky melody, and a little overloaded-fuzz guitar in the middle. Kinda cool.
And the Tide Rushes In A
What's with all the fade-ins/fade-outs? I was hoping they would have gotten over that by now! Why couldn't the previous song have ended with a huge explosion, and then let this folk song rise up from its ashes? Anyway, this extremely lovely song was written by Ray Thomas. It's orchestrated mostly by a few acoustic guitars and very lightly pattered drums, but the Mellotron takes a few moments to flare up and carry on a few dramatic moments. I still miss that the Mellotrons aren't the star of the show anymore, but at least it's biding its time, only coming out at the perfect times.
Don't You Feel Small A-
This is an interesting one. (I guess seeing that Graeme Edge wrote it, it probably shouldn't be a surprise that I would describe it as “interesting.”) The melody is actually very hooky, and I have it running through my head just by reading the song title. The “interesting” thing comes in with his decision to have someone creepily whisper the lyrics at the same time they're being sung. (???) I remember Alice Cooper doing that once, and it sounded pretty cool. Here, while it hardly ruins the song, it's a bit distracting. The whispering isn't the reason for the “mere” A-, though. I don't find myself captivated in the atmosphere like the others.
Tortoise and the Hare A
Who is going to argue against these songs? If you do, I'll probably have to beat you up for it. I mean, I'm not a violent man. The rhythm section is very cool here. Listen to that fast-paced beat and that rumbly bass! Should also probably say that the melody once again is just about the most fantastic thing that ever existed. Catchy as all hell. Once again, the Mellotron is basically just a background ornament, but it bubbles up at a few opportune moments to help push the song's dramatic quality. The singing is also beautiful, especially here since they tightly harmonize with one another. That never can go wrong with these guys... The last thing to mention is the brief electric guitar solo! Yeashhhhhhh.
It's Up to You A
I want to mention here that the best transition between tracks on this album is between “Tortoise and the Hare” and “It's Up to You.” “Tortoise and the Hare” ended with a big Mellotron chord, and then I hear the light acoustic guitar beginning “It's Up To You” start to play. ...But the only reason for that was because this was the beginning of Side 2. ...Apparently back in the old days, the only way people could have listened to this album was via a big shiny round black thing that was separated by sides. How did anyone survive with such primitive technology? Anyway, this is a Justin Hayward song, so I probably don't need to say anything else. But I will anyway. He sings lead vocals, so they're great to listen to. It's an upbeat and rockin' song with a solid rhythm section and some great lead guitar passages. Hooky melody. ...Yup, I think you have the picture. It's nothing new for these guys, surely, but I'm not even close to being tired of it.
Minstrel's Song A
One of my favorites here, although not even close to outmatching “The Question.” I just like listening to how that long-drawn-out acoustic guitar section slowly build to that rather glorious chorus, which builds me up like nothing else. As always, the instrumentation is fantastic. The rhythm section starts simply, but gets louder and more complicated as it reaches the chorus. Also nearer the chorus, the singing gets lusher, and I start to hear a flute well up. And is the melody hooky? You freaking betcha.
Dawning is the Day A-
Well I've already decided I was giving this album a 13 so these track reviews don't matter. (They haven't been mattering much lately, anyway...) But I've got to say. This is a Justin Hayward song, and I'm not quite feeling it. Beautiful vocals and all. The melody is good, but I'm not taking it to heart like the others. I do like that fill Graeme Edge comes up with and repeats a few times. Pretty cool. Anyway, the next song is... (after yet another awkward fade-in/fade-out transition)...
Melancholy Man A+
Whoah. Whoahy-whoah-whoah. (I hope I don't always gush over albums like this... but there does exist albums in our universe that are ripe for gushing...) But wow. This thing is beautiful. That minor chord sequence is mesmerizing and actually sounds melancholy, like the song title says it should sound. After Pinder is through singing the first verses section, by far the lushest Mellotrons of the album start to flare up. And they sound whooshy. Like this poor melancholy man is being overwhelmed with his melancholy. I think we've all felt like this before. (Except for my drunken former Canadian roommate who doesn't have feelings...) This is barely the longest song of the album, edging out “Question by nine seconds, and its epic length is put to great use. I listen to this song, and it's like I'm delving neck-deep into this poor guy's life. What a great song!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The Balance A-
Alright, if I'm giving an A- to this song, then it's pretty clear how gushy eyed I am over this album. This is one of the fruitiest songs that ever existed ever in the history of the universe. No doubt. Now you and I have been listening to these Moody Blues albums for some time now, and I ask you. What has every classic Moody Blues album had that this one has lacked so far. ...Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is a spoken-poetry song written by Graeme Edge! Mike Pinder does his usual duties as the speaker of these poems. Anyway, this one is about a man who one day learns how to love. While that's going on, you can hear some of the most ridiculous high-pitched singing in the background that I could have possibly conceived. It's supposed to be “wide-eyed mystical” or something. Some sort of metaphor about the Vietnam War. ...Hippies. Ray Thomas is also credited as a writer for this, and I have to assume he's the one who wrote the chorus. (He certainly didn't write the spoken poetry bit since that's Edge's turf... or at least I hope not.) ...Really it's not a terrible song. It's still sort of fun.
Mike's Number One B+
Mike wrote a song about his pee? Wow, move over Adam Sandler... No actually, this song is about finding happiness or something. Remember The Moody Blues are strung-out hippie types. Anyway, they made a pretty good decision about keeping Mike's “Number One” off this album, because it's just an ordinarily good Moody Blues song. Likeable melody, strummy acoustic guitars, Mellotrons welling out of the background. It doesn't take off quite like these other songs.
They also included some “Alternate Versions” and “Original Mixes” in this album. I might be a Moody Blues fan, but I'm not particularly an audiophile. So, I really don't care to “review” these songs, when I'm just going to tell you that “I like this just as much as I like the original, even though there's *something* about it that's different.” (Why have I been using so many “quotes” lately?) Anyway, they're there for you if you want them. I guess I can say that I wouldn't hold out for a bonus tracked version of this album... Unless you have a particular hankering for some of Mike's Number One.
Every Good Boy Deserves Favour (1971)
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At the beginning of this track, there is a high pitched synthesizer that very slowly begins to bend, sounding like some sort of space ship falling out of the sky. Eventually, it hits the earth and rumbles, which sounds like the fireworks from Super Mario Bros. (I always like it when I hear '80s video game sounds in '70s albums.) ...Anyway, that's all this piece basically is. A load of sound effects. I hear some rain and thunder, and then some nighttime cricket chirpy noises. The Moody Blues come in with chants of “Desolation!” and “Creation!” while a tribal beat slowly comes up. There's some more chanting, and then … er, sitars? ...OK, sitars. Then what? ...harpsichords? ...why not? Slowly enough, I hear some electric guitars. ...Is this some sort of fruity attempt to tell the history of music? Yeah, probably. Nobody does fruity quite like the good old Moody Blues. A bit of trivia... this is the only Moody Blues song in history to be written by the entire group. No wonder it's so unfocused! Not a terrible idea, but not executed particularly well.
Story In Your Eyes A+
Now this is more like it. A rockin' groove played with a gruffy electric guitar, and a catchy melody delivered by Justin Hayward. Some atmospheric and moody Mellotron sounds pipe up for the chorus, and it's beautiful. I even hear some lively ivory tickling deeply in the background. Saying there's something “deeply in the background” is evidence that they brought back the lusher sounds of the albums they did before A Question of Balance, and I like it. Although probably not as well-written or as exciting as “Question” from that album, it's still very fun.
Our Guessing Game B+
Ray Thomas is next up at the talent show, bringing us this pretty and melancholic piano ballad. Beautiful Mellotrons well out, and I can even hear some french horn sounds in the mix. Eventually some electric guitar sounds are layered on the mix and a busy drum pattern. This once again, shows us, that they were returning to their more classic, lusher sound. It's a beautiful song, but the chorus is on the weaker side.
Emily's Song A-
I'm enjoying reading my old reviews of these albums and seeing how my opinions manage to differ so much over just six or so years... I thought this was insubstantial before, but now it's one of the songs I like the most. The Mellotrons in the background are sweet, and there's a lovely xylphone-esque instrument playing around, which makes it sound like a nursery song. ...I suppose in the grand scheme of The Moody Blues' discography, it isn't very “substantial,” but so what? It's a very sweet and pretty song. My criticism is that it's a bit repetitive. Play it to your three-year-old, if you have one.
After You Came A-
This one is more rock 'n' roll, which is good to hear after coming out of the previous song. The production continues to be in good Moody Blues form: lush and thick. The melody is quite good, too, although not the most memorable these guys have been responsible for. It's the gruff guitars and toe-tapping beat that entertains me the most.
One More Time to Live A
This is the bombastic epic of the album... Seems like every good '70s art-prog-pop-whatever album needs at least one of these. It starts out with a beautiful flute playing with an arpeggiated acoustic guitar, and then some low-key singing commences. A huge Mellotron begins to well out, and then there's a rock 'n' roll chorus. The melody is catchy, and the chorus is exciting. ...It's all very overblown and bombastic, of course, but if you don't like that sort of thing, then why don't you go listen to the Sex Pistols or something?
Nice to Be Here B+
It starts out sounding a bit like “The Morning: Another Morning” from Day of Future Passed except not quite as good! Well... is it really that much of a shock that The Moody Blues lost some of their songwriting powers over the years? Nonetheless, this remains an excellent song with a decent children's melody and very nicely done instrumentation. I like that rumbly drum-line, that funny horn Mellotron, and the thickly laid vocals.
You Can Never Go Home B-
Uh oh...... Er......... This song is pretty enough, especially as it gets to the chorus, but as a whole this thing actually bores me. Some songs in this album didn't seem quite as inspired as these guys have been in the past, but this is the first Moody Blues song to actually bore me in awhile. It doesn't help that the melody is developed sleepily by Hayward who is supposed to sing much more majestically. The melody doesn't do much for me. ...With all that said, it's undoubtedly a pretty song. The mellotrons well up in the chorus like they're supposed to. I like it, but … hm.
My Song B
Well... I guess they didn't have much energy in them for a huge ending. Although this song starts out well enough, as a rather lovely piano ballad from Mike Pinder, but then it goes off in this extended, prog-rock suite that gets boring, low-key and I can hear some breathing space helmet noises. Even the keyed-up bombastic parts don't move me much. It's more than six minutes long, it's pretty just like all Moody Blues songs are supposed to be, and it's ambitious for sure. But is it engaging and thought provoking? Not so much.
The Story in Your Eyes (Original Version)
Still awesome. But the new version sounded much tighter and Hayward's vocals more majestic.
The Dreamer B
Good but not great. Only for the fanatic. I'd say if you find a version of this album without bonus tracks for a good price, you'll be pretty justified in getting it. There's a repetitive piano note that plays throughout this that gives it a tenser feeling to it, but they just repeat it too much and I get sick of it. Otherwise, this contains the standard acoustic guitar strummin' and Mellotrons. The melody is mostly forgettable.
Seventh Sojourn (1972)
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Lost in a Lost World A
Mike Pinder opens this album with this amazing song! ...I read my original review of this, and I can't believe I was freaking out over the existence of a rhythm section. ...I really don't know I was on about, since Moody Blues albums had a lot of toe-tapping rhythms in them... Anyway, this is does have an excellent rhythm section. Not only does it have a very awesomely conceived rhythm section that sounds cool and clear, but it also has a catchy bass line that I hear thumping around in such a cool mid-tempo way. It sounds to me like they traded their traditional, muddy Mellotron sounds with much cleaner Mellotrons. ...I was tempted to call them just regular synthesizers, but Wikipedia tells me that it's a Mellotron-like device called a Chamberlin. Kind of cool! ...This song has a very mellow and sad vocal melody, which I find compelling, but more than that I really like hearing that oboe-like instrument noodling around through this. That's an especially beautiful addition.
New Horizons A+
This is really one of Justin Hayward's crowning achievement with The Moody Blues. I swear, this is one of the most beautiful songs that ever existed. It's almost as good as “Nights in White Satin.” And I don't throw out statements like that lightly, my friend. ...Hayward finds such a gorgeous tune that's also quite bittersweet that I can't help but become completely entranced by it. Those Chamberlin sounds are also especially beautiful, as I can hear this very lovely and grand string texture in the background. And when the strings well up in between verses ...Wow. This is priceless. ...I'm not sure I properly noticed this until now, but Graeme edge comes up with some very huge and appropriate fills for this song, too. ...Yes, you've got to appreciate a good drummer.
For My Lady A+
I should also mention that these fade-outs are done rather well in this album. As the previous song faded out, this one very naturally seems to pop up. The same thing can more or less be said for the previous transition... And, wow! What an excellent song that popped up! This one's a mellow one about being out at the sea. The melody, once again, is very beautiful and melancholic. But what really makes this song for me is that chugging harmonica-like instrument that chugs away in the background during the chorus. It's immediately catches my attention, and I love hearing it. Furthermore, those Chamberlin sounds are, once again, sweeping and majestic. Oh man... what a cool album...
Isn't Life Strange A
This is a huuuuuuge song written by John Lodge. Maybe it's one of the hugest songs they'd ever done. It's characterized by a morose verses section where it sounds like Lodge's vocals are partially being processed through a large fan or something. Also during the melody, we hear more of Pinder's Chamberlin work, which goes to further accentuate its morose feeling, and adding an extra melody for me to pay attention to! ...And then there's the huge build-up to the chorus that just explodes!! with larger-than-life drumming, and a mighty and soaring electric guitar performance from Hayward. ...For some reason, this always reminded me subtly of a heavy metal power ballad from the '80s (even though this is clearly art-rock with heavy Chamberlin work), but maybe many '80s bands would have been better if they took their example from this song?
You and Me A
...Alright, at this point, I just want to point out that these guys were on fire at this point... All of these songs rule... (There's some thought that this was a sort of Abbey Road for these guys, since they knew they were going to break-up after this album, which they were contractually obligated to complete.) But anyway, as I said, this song rules. It's another one of their heavy rocking ones, and you know how well they do these sorts of things. It has a toe-tapping rhythm, catchy melody sung by Justin Hayward (yay!), and yet another one of his finer electric guitar solos. Lyrically, this was apparently about the Vietnam War. (Wasn't everything about the Vietnam War back then?)
The Land of Make Believe A
Alright... at this point, I can't help but surrender to the pure awesomeness of this album. ...I'm not going to try to resist its hold over me... There isn't a way possible for this to have been improved. (Why not an A+, you ask? Well... it's not as magical as “New Horizons” or “For My Lady.”) ...This is yet another Justin Hayward song, and he takes the moment to soar over it magnificently. In the verses section we hear some xylophones playing what sounds like children's music... of course these guys were no strangers to such music, but with the heavy Chamberlin orchestration, it does sound different.
When You're a Free Man A
...Yes, I'm not even trying to resist it. This is yet another captivating ballad, this time written and sung by Mike Pinder. Not only is the melody another gorgeous, bittersweet tune for these guys, but the orchestration is utterly brilliant. His heavy Chamberlin work is so heaaaavy that it gives this song such a thick atmosphere that I can feel it when I breathe. Once again, I love hearing Edge's drum fills, and Hayward comes up with quite a few great electric guitar licks throughout that don't distract me from the atmosphere, but pepper it up lovely. My God... these guys were on fire, weren't they? This song is six minutes long, and it could go longer.
I'm Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band) A+
Now, this song is just fun. It's catchy as hell, too. This is one of those songs that I hear playing in my head just by reading its song title. Not only is the main vocal melody extremely memorable to me, but so is these multiple “responses” Pinder comes up with on his keyboards. (He's playing two different lines at once, and they're both freaking catchy) ...Also, put this one in the same category as “Question” for having a really, really, really cool bass-guitar line. It sounds like all these guys (except for Edge) are singing in unison, and that just makes this thing even more larger-than-life. ...Hayward takes a moment to shred his guitar a bit... and, really, I think that's the closest he'd ever gotten to actually SHREDDING his guitar without sounding too uncharacteristic for The Moody Blues. Edge is playing the crapola out of his drums very awesomely. Could this album represent Edge's best work with this band? I sure don't remember pointing him out so much as I have been... (Also, note that this album doesn't have any of his dumb poems in it!) ...For God's sake, this is the coolest song on the planet earth. (But I still like “New Horizons” better!)
Isn't Life Strange (Original Version)
Guess what? This song was originally eight minutes and 14 seconds long! ...Well, it's still awesome, so if you want two extra minutes of awesomeness, then here you go.
You and Me (Beckthorns Backing Track)
I don't really know what Beckthorns is, but whatever. This is still awesome, too, but where are the vocals? ...Hey, karaoke anyone?
Lost in a Lost World (Instrumental Demo)
These guys should have just released a Stack-O-Tracks like The Beach Boys did, since that turned out so well for them.
Ah, here we go! An actual bonus track people who aren't interested in karaoke might be interested in! ...The version of this album I was most familiar with over the years didn't have these bonus tracks, so this is the very first time I'm hearing this! ...I don't know if I'm just high after listening to an album that I completely love, or this really is such an excellent song. ...But, really, if you love the sound of Seventh Sojourn, you're probably going to love this as well. It's a Justin Hayward ballad (yay!) with another morose melody and some heavy Chamberlin work. In the chorus there's a harpsichord pattering around. (What is this, the '60s?) Anyway, it has a very nice melody and it's fun to listen to. ...It would have been the weakest song on the album had it been included, but that just goes to show how strong that album was. ...Moody Blues fans would be strongly advised to seek this song out if they haven't already.
Caught Live + 5 (1977)
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Gypsy (Of a Strange and Distant Time) A
Awesome! I absolutely loved this song from To Our Children's Children's Children, and I almost like it equally as much in this live version. I think it must prove what an excellent song it was to begin with, because this rendition is much less exact than it was in the studio version. We don't have any of those arresting mellotrons to captivate us; rather they're just playing the song like they would in their garage. It was a fairly upbeat and rocking (for them) song to begin with, but here you might actually want to dance to it. A relatively gruff electric guitar takes on the riff (a similar guitar did in the studio cut, but I'm not sure I ever really noticed it until now), and Graeme Edge goes to town with the drumming. Justin Hayward doesn't sound like the angel from heaven like he does in the studio cut, which is partly due to the lack of reverb and he can't benefit from multiple takes. Although whoever that is hitting those high notes in the background, I must say, that's impressive for a live show. Unnecessary but it's one of those touches that turns out to be very much appreciated. I also love Pinder's mellotrons, which are played in a terribly excited and upbeat manner.
The Sunset A
Ha, well if it wasn't obvious these guys were stoned, just listen to the spoken introduction to this song. The vocal performance isn't much better; Pinder sounds like he's almost whispering, and he's enunciating pretty much every other syllable. They never sounded more like hippies than they do here. Anyway, despite this (or maybe because of this), this is yet another fascinating cover of one of their great songs from Days of Future Passed. In fact, maybe I like this version a little bit better. The drumming is more crunchy, and they come up with some inventive textures with their mellotrons. ...I mean, it has a great melody anyway, so any presentation of it probably would have been interesting to me. But this is fun.
Dr. Livingstone, I Presume A
I have to say, I love their song selection! This was without a doubt one of my favorite songs from Search of the Lost Chord, and once again, they really do a great job with it. I mentioned the person hitting the high notes in “Gypsy,” but here somebody in the background lets out a hearty “Wahoooooo!” a few times. Also like the other songs, they give this a much more rocking rendition than we heard in the studio album, which was originally kind of fruity. The mellotrons sound more forceful, particularly by the end, and Edge keeps the drumming lively.
Never Comes the Day B+
This song is intermittently a folk ballad and a more harder, rocking tune. The folk ballad admittedly isn't wonderful, but the rocking part is very much fun. I mentioned in the original track review that if you listen closely, you can hear a harmonica getting it on. You don't have to listen so closely here. Again, they're not concentrating on making perfect copies of their studio songs, but they seem to be trying to let their audience have as much fun as possible.
Peak Hour A-
This is another song that I never really noticed could rock out until I heard it here. I mean, it was fast paced in its original incarnation from Days of Future Passed, but here they're just going to down with it. They let some crunchy guitars take on the riff, and they sound as fun as ever. Graeme Edge takes a few opportunities for a brief solo, but that's actually constructive in picking up the groove again after they delve into the slow, acoustic ballad section of the song. So once again, it's very different from the studio cut, but it's still very enjoyable.
Tuesday Afternoon A
Yay, this is absolutely one of the best cuts from Days of Future Passed. The melody is so wonderful and majestic that they couldn't even butcher this song if they tried. They might have been stoned, but they definitely do still try. The melody is beautiful, and they even chime in for the soaring harmonies at just the right times. Pinder plays some very lovely chords with his mellotron and, as I mentioned many time, Edge's drumming is lively and helps give these version a crunchier feel.
Are You Sitting Comfortably? A-
Still, this song about the Medieval days and Camelot managed to excite the geeky 15-year-old in me who was into that sort of thing. (How much time has passed, yet I've never been able to get rid of those old fascinations.) The original was excellent, but they lose much of that hypnotic quality I got out of the original. It's a ballad, and of course they don't create a danceable, rock 'n' roll version of it. It's still a wonderful song, of course. The vocals are beautiful, and Ray Thomas' flute work throughout is excellent.
We probably all wondered if they ever did those spoken-word bits from their albums in their concerts, and the answer to that is a definitive yes. The mellotron doesn't sound nearly as washy as it does in the studio versions, of course, but they bend around all “dreamy like” and stuff.
Have You Heard (Part 1) B+
Well, I guess it's a Mike-Pinder-a-thon since they're playing the entire three-song-suite he did at the end of On the Threshold of a Dream. These are lovely songs of course with pretty melodies, but I think it's safe to say that he's not the prettiest singer of the group.
The Voyage B
I don't think this would have been in my request-list if I were around to tell them which of their songs they should play on their live album. All the same, it's interesting that they were able to play this goofy instrumental very close to the way it was performed on the album. I mean, of course it's not as well-produced, but the timing of it is quite close, and Pinder's mellotrons basically play the same thing. Graeme Edge goes to town with a drum solo at the end...
Have You Heard (Part 2) B
I know this is how it was formed on the album, but I think they could have left off the revival for the live album. It's played a little longer here, but it's basically the same melody. The melody is quite good, but not one of the best ones they ever did. The drumming is busier, and I like that, and I hear a few of the other band members chipping in with their vocals in the middle, which is kind of silly.
Nights in White Satin A
OH YES, THIS IS THE MOMENT WE'VE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR!!! FINALLY!!!!!!! It's the only song they play here that actually gets applause before it starts. ...Holy crap, this is one polite audience, isn't it? ... But anyway, what can I say about “Nights in White Satin?” We all know it's one of the greatest pop-rock songs ever written, right? Yes, it loses a lot of its magic in this live version, especially since the original version thrived on its polished and intense drama, a sound that they don't even come close to recreating here. And it's not an upbeat song, so they couldn't get any points back for rocking out. Nonetheless, they perform it here with verve. Hayward's vocals are imprecise, but they're still beautiful. ...I really wish I knew my Moody Blues history to know who that is hitting those crazy high notes, but I'm still quite amazed he's able to pull that off so well in this live setting.
Legend of a Mind A
OH YES, IT'S ANOTHER ONE OF THOSE GREAT MOODY BLUES SONGS THAT I'VE BEEN REALLY WANTING TO HEAR THEM DO!!! As you know, it was kind of a rambly old song in its original incarnation, and that aspect of it is probably intensified in this live version. Some of the instrumental solos get a bit off-kilter at times, but that's actually quite charming. ...As I said so many times about some of these songs, as long as they kept the basics of it intact, there was nothing they could do to destroy it. The pacing is also increased slightly, and so it has a bit more of a marching beat, which I also like about it. It's not as perfect as the original, but it's different and it's fun.
Ride My See-Saw A
I said to these guys earlier that I wanted to ride their see-saw, but I don't know where it is... Anyway, Graeme Edge is playing his drums so quickly, and these stoned hippies (for whatever reason) decides to yell out “L-O-V-E” at the beginning of this. For a split second, it reminds me of “Blitzkreig Bop.” ...But then, they start playing the actual song with their beautiful vocal harmonies, and this ain't no Ramones. But what this song is is a total blast from beginning to end. As I said, the drumming is quick and loud, but they also manage to throw in a few interesting guitar solos. This ain't the calculating Moody Blues, but it's enjoyable as hell.
Gimme A Little Somethin' B
We're done with the Caught Live part, and now we're to the + 5. Yes, these are songs that The Moody Blues had recorded in 1967 and 1968, but didn't make it on their albums. (I mean, it was as if these guys didn't record enough songs during this period, but they had some left over...) Anyway, this is sure to be a treat to their insane fanbase. But I listen to this, and I realize why they let it off. The melody is fine, the harmonies are pretty, and so are the mellotrons, but it never catches fire for me. Its success was hinging on its chorus taking off, but it doesn't quite seem to have the spirit.
Please Think About It B
Another song that I'm sure their fanbase would love to hear, but I know exactly why they left this off their albums. It's rather boring. It's a slowly paced ballad with a piano tinkling in the background, playing a descending chord pattern. The melody is fairly uninteresting, and the bass guitar is even less interesting. It doesn't have the classic mellotron sound, so it would've been out of place. But at least it has some lovely and heavily harmonized vocal parts.
Long Summer Days B+
Pachelbel's Canon! ...Man, I don't seem to be very impressed with these extra tracks. Maybe I'm more impressed that they were able to edit themselves out of these relatively boring songs. Again, this is a perfectly nice song. The melody is nice, and they do a great job with the vocal harmonies. Perhaps it's one of the better vocal harmonies that I've ever heard them do, since unlike the previous song, it does help this get airborne, slightly. At any rate, it makes a pleasant listen.
King and Queen A-
Oh here we go... This is an excellent song of comparable quality to To Our Children's Children's Children, and the only reason they probably left it off is because there was no place for it to fit. It starts out as a quieter folk ballad before they pack on the mellotrons and heavy vocals to create that classic Moody Blues sound that we all know and love. The melody, once again, is wonderful, although probably not one of their most memorable. Nonetheless, all Moody Blues fans should hear this if they haven't.
What Am I Doing Here? A
Another rarity that Moody Blues fans clearly need to hear, and it's also hands-down my favorite of these tracks. This is a mid-tempo song with thick, atmospheric mellotrons and an utterly gorgeous vocal performance. Even the melody is quite whistleable, and I'd imagine that you'll even start to do that if you listen to these five songs enough! Again, this would have sounded wonderfully on their classic albums.
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Steppin' in a Slide Zone B+
Well you can see the problems right away, can't you? There's about a minute's worth of atmospheric synthesizers that slowly rise up from the quiet depths before finally EXPLODING into a typical Moody Blues pop-rocker. Except the pop-rocker isn't terribly great. I mean, it's sort of fun, but it doesn't inspire starry eyed wonder out of me, as a pure Moody Blues geek... And there is something awfully discontenting about the sound of it. ...Well, those are synthesizers, aren't they? No Mellotrons, no Chamberlins, simple ole synthesizers. I suppose it wasn't a huge problem since synthesizers were what Mellotrons evolved to by 1978. I usually like synthesizers anyway, but … eh. The Moody Blues just aren't the same without the Mellotrons, and unfortunately the synthesizers aren't really making up for it. I will say, however, I like that deep, rumbly sound they make of it. It's kind of fun. ...My next question, where is the bass? This is an alright song, but with a more pronounced bass-line, this might have been toe-tapping or something.
Under Moonshine C+
Here's another problem: This song is just no good! …Come on, Ray Thomas!!!! ...Well, it's OK, and I can't say I particularly dislike the overall experience of listening to it, but it's woefully uninspired. The melody is completely forgettable, and Thomas's lead vocals comes off as awfully weak. The back-up singers come off more loudly than he does sometimes, which I don't think is a good thing. The instrumentals are also disappointingly lacking for a Moody Blues song. They're lush and busy, but they just don't come together as a cohesive unit. This thing is loud, long, and dead.
Had to Fall in Love A
Is there really any question that Justin Hayward was the best. Respect for the other four, but Hayward always seems to be writing most of my favorite Moody Blues songs and he's also the one with “the voice.” This song picks up much of the slack that left us all scratching our heads in “Under Moonshine.” This is just a beautiful ballad—Hayward sings its captivating melody in that glorious way that he does. Back-up singers flare up in the background at just the right times and at just the right volumes to help make this uplifting. I've gotta say my favorite part of this is that thoughtful harmonica that plays throughout it. ...It's such a beautiful addition.
I'll Be Level With You B
I'll be level with you, Graeme Edge... (“Life is here / Love will come in the end give it time / There's wonders still to do and I know you'll find it's true / That yours will be bigger than mine / I'll be level with you / The only thing I hope you will do is tell me about what / You're doing from time to time”) ...If you're going to put it like that, I'd might as well get on my hands and knees and beg you to start writing those cheesy poems again! …Admittedly, this is a pretty lame-o song, but I do sort of have fun with it. It has a catchy melody, and it does rock out a bit. I wish though that it were more driving, though, and I'm really not sure about that middle-eight section where everything comes to a halt. I have fun with it, but … eh.
Another Justin Hayward song! ...This is a far cry away from captivating me like “New Horizons” did on their previous studio album, but … well there aren't many songs that captivate me quite like that one. This at least gets somewhat close. Naturally, they drench it with synthesizers, and Hayward sings it in a beautifully captivating manner. Unfortunately, I really don't know what it is with that saxophone noodling about through it. My first thought is that it sounds like the saxophone you hear throughout the Saturday Night Live theme song. But anyway, this is a very nice song. I'd even call it a good reason to own this album if you don't already.
Top Rank Suite B
...OK, here's at least evidence that I'm not taking bribe money from Hayward. This is his third song of the album, and I'm just not wild about it. What I like about it is they get a nice little rock 'n' roll groove going with some upbeat pianos and some '50s rock 'n' roll style lead guitar. They use the saxophones in a more appropriate fashion here, keeping a nice little groove going. ...Unfortunately, it's all just uninspired to me. The melody is forgettable, and those thickly drenched Moody Blues vocals just seem out of place. ...It makes a decent listen, but hardly up to the good name of The Moody Blues.
I'm Your Man C
Now this really isn't up to the good name of The Moody Blues. (What's the deal with Ray Thomas? This is his second writing credit of the album, and the second song that qualifies as being 'quite horrible.') This was an attempt at some sort of '70s smooth soul song, but unfortunately they couldn't have picked a less interesting groove for it, and Thomas' vocal melody doesn't work too well. ...The one good thing about it is the chorus, which nearly picks up and starts to recapture The Moody Blues' brand of majesty... But it's too little. As a whole, this is BORING.
John Lodge's second song of the album, and the second song of the album that's OK but nothing that stops me dead in my tracks. This is an attempt at a huge, luscious power ballad that The Moodies used to do so well back in their heyday. It's a nice attempt, but it's not particularly sweeping me along. The melody doesn't strike me as being greatly memorable, and the instrumentation lacks the powerful drive that it needed for it to be really successful.
One Step into the Light A
It's hard to not imagine this as Mike Pinder's tearful farewell to the band. ...He wasn't interested in pushing on with The Moody Blues any longer and he went to pursue a nine-to-five career in computer industry, specifically helping pioneer computer music for Atari. This is a very pretty song with a nice wandering melody, delivered nicely by Pinder. (“There's one thing I can do / Play my Mellotron for you / Try to blow away your city blues / Your dreams are not unfound / Get your feet back on the ground / The truth will set us free, we cannot lose / We cannot love, we just have to choose.”) ...We could have done without the corny lyrics, but farewell anyway, Mellotron man.
The Day We Meet Again A-
OK, I just got a letter from Justin Hayward with $0.05 in it, asking me to consider giving his fourth and final song on this album a good rating. ...Well, I appreciate sweet, sweet money when I can get it, but I was going to give this song a good rating anyway. It's quite pretty. Although perhaps not as huge and sweeping as his other songs on this disc. It seems like I should have been able to hear Hayward's voice take a more commanding lead over all those drowning synthesizers!
They've included five live cuts of songs in this album, which is a nice bonus for people who really like this album. Four of them were taken from Seattle in 1979, and the other one was from Houston in 1978. They're alright. I wouldn't shell out extra money for them, or anything.
Long Distance Voyager (1981)
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The Voice A
This is more like it! After the disappointing opener of Octave, it's nice to hear these guys write this extremely catchy song with one of their more toe-tapping rhythms. Justin Hayward takes lead vocals for this, and he sounds fantastic of course, singing soaringly. The new keyboardist, Patrick Moraz, seems pretty fond of a lot of blips and bloops that sort of dates this song to the early '80s... But other than that, this is a good ole Moody Blues song in top-form. The atmosphere is done pretty well. In classic Moody Blues style, it consists of some strummy acoustic guitars and some backing synthesziers and tightly harmonized vocals, which make the whole experience sound thick. Most importantly, it's a lot of fun to hear.
Talking Out of Turn A
Ya know what? These songs are so wonderful, that I don't care what Patrick Moraz does. He makes another blip-and-bloopy synthesizer loop that plays throughout the song, which doesn't really add anything to it. But the song itself is a captivating ballad with a sweet verses section, a chorus with heightened sense of drama, and quite excellent orchestration. The backing synthesizer strings might not be Mellotrons, but they sound lovely. I even kind of like that synthesizer texture that I keep hearing fade in and out all throughout the song. Again, that's a touch that dates this to the early '80s... but other than that, this is as good of a Moody Blues ballad as any. ...Even Justin Hayward comes in with a very fitting and beautiful guitar solo. ...Hair bands at the time shall drool in its presence...
Gemini Dream A-
Every time I hear this song, I think of ZZ Top's “Sharp Dressed Man.” Except ZZ Top's song has a cool riff, and this song has a slightly less cool riff. (“Sharp Dressed Man” was released two years after this... Really, the songs just have similar patterns, so it's hardly a case for the plagiarism file... then again, my standards for what constitutes plagiarism in rock music is pretty lax... I don't even think George Harrison's “My Sweet Lord” and The Chiffon's “He's So Fine” was a legitimate case for the plagiarism file...) Also, of course The Moody Blues go into a more fruitier chorus than ZZ Top ever would have gone ...Anyway, what I approve of here is that this is actually a pretty rockin' song. It has a menacing little bass, and Hayward comes in with some very cool electric guitar riffs.
In My World A-
This is another very good song, and it's sung by Justin Hayward, so you know how much of a man-crush I have on his voice. This is a power ballad, and he sings it soaringly. Always proves to be a good time, you know! The atmosphere is presented nice and thick, and it's a wonderful thing to sit back and soak up. There's some very nice use of slide guitar in here, which makes the song seem even more dreamy. ...I suppose the one huge complaint I have about it is that it's seven minutes long, and doesn't really warrant that length. The melody is good, but doesn't quite have that much staying power. ...And why is Patrick Moraz playing that dumb pan-flute synth? I thought The Moody Blues had a real flutist in their midst! Screw you, synth pan-flute!!!!!!!!!!!!
Meanwhile... I get to listen to some electric piano! (The electric piano always reminds me of the late '70s and early '80s, so there's another dated piece of instrumentation …........... Oh, I know The Mellotron sounds like the early '70s, but the early '70s were so much more awesome than the early '80s, so there.) ...This is a more mid-tempo rocker from Justin Hayward again, but … er … it's clearly not one of his better ones. I'll have to look back on my previous reviews to look at the stats, but I've noticed that Hayward doesn't fare so well when he writes more than two songs per Moody Blues album. ...With that said, I still enjoy listening to this. It's just that the vocal hooks aren't that strong. The instrumentation is OK as long as you can stomach that electric piano. ...I stomach it OK.
22,000 Days A-
Graeme Edge wrote this one, and it's completely devoid of silly poetry. (I guess that's the one positive development of mid-career Moody Blues...) And you know what? It's a perfectly decent song. The thing he does right is gives it a nice little rhythm section... with drum machines, I reckon. (What is it with drummers and drum machines? Phil Collins and now Graeme Edge? I would've thought drummers would've been concerned that machines were going to put them out of business in the early '80s.) I hear that bass stomping around, not merely content with playing one note. The melody isn't terribly hooky, but it's kind of fun. It sounds like a pirate song to me. The vocals are heavily layered, so it's like all the pirates on the ship have joined in for this... Patrick Moraz really goes to town with the synthesizers, here... There's huge synthesizers fading in and out throughout this, and he solos with one that sounds a bit like a harmonica. ...Actually I don't mind Moraz here. He makes this sound extra goofy.
This is a very nice ballad by John Lodge that's both written well and performed well. The chorus has a nice soaring quality with rather lovely uplifting strings. However, by the end, it's so big that it more or less comes off as overly pompous. (Pompousness of course isn't an unusual mode for The Moody Blues, but usually they earn their pompousness by delivering on atmospheres and melody... this song has a bit of that, but not enough.) It makes a nice listen, but it doesn't particularly move me. The running length is nearly five and a half minutes, and it seems to plod around too much. The melody, while a nice listen, doesn't really linger with me.
Painted Smile B
Er... well... This song is fruity... even for The Moody Blues. It's a waltz that sounds like cutesy carnival music. If I were a kid listening to this at the circus, it might have been something, but now... er... I don't know what it is, but I don't like cutesy carnival music anymore. Maybe all it does these days is reminds me of getting a bellyache from cotton candy. Unfortunately with Moraz's synthesizer embellishments, it makes it sound cornier. On the upside, it's a decent melody and it's presented very well. It's just not something I'm ever really going to get into... (Paul McCartney did a children's song sort of similar to this called “We All Stand Together” except that one's wins me over because it's sort of silly... this one comes off a bit more seriously and thus is harder for me to stomach...)
Hello, spoken-word poetry! It's not a Graeme Edge track, though... isn't that weird? There's some more carnival music in the background while a psycho circus ringleader gives a speech. ...Spooooooooooky.
Veteran Cosmic Rocker A
Cool title! And I've gotta give Ray Thomas some props for this one... His contributions in the previous album were lackluster, but he's made up for it in this album as far as I'm concerned. (I didn't care much for “Painted Smile” not because it was a poor song, but because carnival music freaks me out.) This song on the other hand is a blast, and it's like no other Moody Blues I've heard before. Thomas comes off with an extremely dramatic and boisterous vocal performance, and he sounds like he's going a bit insane. The drums and bass guitar are loud and driving. I think they're even using some drum machines, which creates an odd though interesting rhythm. I also hear some sitars in the background just to give it a neat bit of a psychedelic atmosphere... The instrumental interlude is a blast, too, featuring a harmonica solo, flute solo, and then some exciting gypsy violin. ...How could I say no to something like this?
The Voice (Edit Version)
Why edit it? ...I would like to actually talk to someone who likes having bonus tracks like this. I can't say it hurts, but I never listen to these things.
The Present (1983)
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Blue World A
Hey, say what you want about the '80s as a decade, but synth-pop could be real cool when it wants to. I might not normally think synth-pop combined with The Moody Blues was a match made in heaven... But as long as they're going to create a nice, deep, bouncy synth-bass, an interesting chord progression, and a beautiful vocal melody delivered by none other than Justin Hayward, how could it possibly go wrong? I listen to this and I almost don't even care that there aren't mellotrons in their songs anymore. That's how good it is. The ultra-smooth synth strings in the background give it a little class, and … er … those canned arpeggios throughout don't take away from anything, at least. ...As always, the main star of the show is that breezy and catchy vocal melody—the verses are just as catchy as the more soaring chorus. The instrumentation helps make it toe-tapping, but the hooks are what wins me over!
Meet Me Halfway A
...No, I'll meet you the full way if you continue making '80s pop songs like this. Maybe it's a little bit cutesy, but there's nothing so wrong with cutesy things from time to time. Unfortunately, I've heard this album before, and these excellent synth-pop songs aren't going to last, but let's enjoy them while we've got them, shall we? Like the previous song, the synth-pop instrumentation is toe-tapping with its regular synth-bass and drum machine... But the real reason it's a great song is because the melody is so gosh-darn catchy! It was a collaborated effort between John Lodge and Justin Hayward, and thus it's Hayward I'm hearing predominantly giving the vocals.
Sitting at the Wheel B+
.......This is where I start to say What is this, the '80s, or something? I mean, it's a pretty good song, but I'm noticing that they're embracing some of the more horrid tendencies that decade had to offer. The one-two, one-two drum machine rhythms are a little bit obnoxious, and the synth-bass just plays eighth notes... Sure, there was synth-bass on the previous two songs, but they were at least giving us a rhythm! The synthesizers are pretty cheesy. ...The saving grace is that it's a pretty driving song, and the melody isn't bad. I also like Lodge's vocal performance, which is loud and glamorous, which suits it. The Jerry Lee Lewis piano I hear faintly during the chorus doesn't hurt, either!
Going Nowhere B
Here's some trivia for you: What is the name of the producer of this album? ...Pip Williams. Now, I have a more important question to ask: Why would anyone want people to call him Pip? I mean, you're only one syllable away from pipsqueak, aren't you? ...Back to the topic, The Moody Blues continue to be stuck in the '80s. This is a Graeme Edge song, though, which sort of helps amuse me. Though I regret to inform you that this isn't as entertaining to me as his pirate song from the previous album. ...This is pretty much an ordinary mid-tempo song with decent hooks, but nothing extreme about it that grabs my attention. I will say that I like hearing that call-and-response thing he has going with his lead vocals and the background singers. The instrumental interlude where Moraz is given free range to throw in a number of synthesizer effects is about as exciting as watching an unexciting laser show. The drum machine loop is boring... Again, I don't really get why drummers were so fascinated with drum machines... Maybe I just don't understand drummers? ...I find it good natured enough to give it that B without any reservations.
Hole in the World B+
Well you'd better go plug it up! ...It might just me my fascination for militaristic drum beats, but this two-minute instrumental is pretty cool to me. It's got a pretty solid drum beat (probably courtesy of a drum machine) while Moraz plays his synthesizer, and Hayward plays a few nice minimal licks with his geetar.
Under My Feet B-
The Moody Blues are still way too likable at this point for me to point an accusory finger of boringness at them, but... Well, this song is getting really close. The rhythm is clunky and sort of silly... The rhythms for their first two songs were awesome and was a credit to the '80s style of presenting pop music, but this not so much. The rubbery bass plods along there while John Lodge tries to sing a grandiose melody in their old style. The melody is flat and uninteresting to me, and the chorus of “Underrrrrrrrrrrrrrr! Un-der-my-feet!” is pretty goofy. Various electronic sound effects, such a whooshy Superman noises inserted throughout, are pointless and don't really add anything. ...There was at least a last-ditch attempt to throw some life into this with the addition of a full horn section, which turns out to be pretty cool, and that's followed up with a bout of military drums.
It's Cold Outside Your Heart B-
This album is slowly plunging into the pits, isn't it? Patrick Moraz makes me want to strangle him with that really deeply pitched synthesizer plopping around FOR THE ENTIRE SONG. Usually, deeply pitched synthesizers can be cool, but it sounds entirely out of place. ...The overall melody isn't bad at all, but it's not one of Hayward's more memorable tunes. It seems more written like he was going through the motions... I mean, the chorus is sure *soaring*, but I don't find it memorable particularly. And as I said earlier, Moraz made sure of it that this song wasn't enjoyable.
Running Water B+
This is more like it! ...I guess what I've said sometimes about Hayward having more than two songs per album turns out to still hold up... All of them except one are going to be quite good! While this still isn't as good as the opening two songs of the album, it's quite a nice ballad. Maybe the melody isn't the most memorable as he's ever written, and I never get much of an itch to return to it. However, it's still makes an enjoyable listen. Hayward, as always, gives a beautiful and heartfelt performance, which is exactly what his distinctive vocals are best at. The synth-scape is quite thick, but instead of distracting me, it actually helps give the song an atmosphere.
I Am B+
Mystical flute and a synthesizers that sound oddly like sitars and tamburas? Weird, pretentious lyrics, and freaky whispering in the background? That can only mean one thing: This is by Ray Thomas. I've got to say... Thomas gets a lot of flack for these over-the-top pieces, '60s mystical pieces that he liked to do... but at least they're much more interesting to me than a song like “Under My Feet.” As long as you approach this like a goofy performance piece instead of something more suitable for a Top 40 radio single, you might find you enjoy this. (It isn't even two minutes long, so at least it doesn't subject you to itself for very long.)
They keep on throwing Ray Thomas's songs at the ends of their albums, which I guess is why the last two Moody Blues albums had pretty strong endings. (He's got to be the most creative Moody Blues member at this point.) This is an interesting song that starts out as an acoustic ballad with a pretty melody and a compelling vocal performance. (He's also got to be the second-best singer of the group, a surprisingly close second to Hayward.) After a bit, some upbeat drums pipe up, and it turns into a toe-tapping pop-rock song. The drama it creates is compelling and actually soaring. Patrick Moraz noodles around with his synthesizers for a bit, and they actually help the song move along... As a whole, it's handily the third-best song of the album.
It's a shortened version of that awesome song that opened the album! I guess they tried to get it on the radio or something... Well? Didn't people want to listen to it on their drive home from work in 1983?
Sitting At the Wheel (Steven Greenberg Remix)
What a horrid remix. A stiff and lifeless synthesizer groove? No thanks. Steven Greenberg must be the Steven Gutenberg of mixers.
The Other Side of Life (1986)
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Your Wildest Dreams A
Oh no... This is getting very '80s, isn't it? ...Especially that synthesized introduction. Is it even possible for that to get more cheesy? Even after the introduction, these synthesizers are more streamlined than ever. Very 1986. In the early '80s, synthesizers were still new and had grit to them. Let's face it: When they streamlined synthesizers, they turned bland. Fortunately, in this instance, Hayward hadn't forgotten how to make a catchy song, so it's songwriting that saved the day. This one is rather beautiful and soaring, and his vocals are as lovely as ever and suit it perfectly of course. The upbeat, drum-machine-heavy groove is snappy and fun. Even if you hate '80s pop music, you'll probably still like this. In this case, technology doesn't hide the fact that this is still The Moody Blues.
Talkin' Talkin' B
See? Here's the problem. The stiff synthesizers are starting to take over. This song is based on a very simple and repetitive synthesizer groove, and The Moodies have trouble coming up with an interesting vocal melody to sing over it. I mean, how could there possibly be a good Moody Blues song all over that? I hear their thickly layered though soft vocals trying to sing over that, but unfortunately their vocals are drowned out. ...These guys always sounded best when they were being majestic. They managed that a few times in their previous album, but here... Not so much.
Rock 'N' Roll Over You C+
It's always a bit amusing to me to see so many similar themed songs in the '80s that almost couldn't be further from rock 'n' roll. Call it '80s synth-pop pap, but don't call it rock 'n' roll! (This Moody Blues song is basically the same thing as Starship's “We Built This City” ...except it's not even remotely as catchy.) But then again, I don't usually get on my pedestal and start demanding to 25-year-old albums that they adhere to my principles. Or at least I don't think I do. ...Truth be told, anyone who can accept that this driving synth-heavy song doesn't sound like rock 'n' roll (and it doesn't sound like The Moody Blues for that matter), you might find yourself tapping your foot to it. Me? I just wish they would find better textures to play. It's just a bland one-two-one-two drum machine beat, pound-pound-pound-pound bass-synth, and a bunch bland synthesizers in the background. It's not offensive, but it's so forgettable that... Well, I reckon I've forgotten it already.
I Just Don't Care B
Justin Hayward? Could his ballad songwriting juice have run out? ...I caught hints of that in their previous two albums, but here he's treading water more than ever. It's a nice listen, and the melody is fine, but it never really catches fire. Part of that is due to the stifling number of instrumental effects put on this, such as clicky cowboy noises, a weird-sounding saxophone, chimes, Casio-keyboard organs, and mystical electro-voice noises. It's a cluttery mess. This would have been far better if Hayward just sung it with an acoustic guitar. And maybe get Graeme Edge to play the REAL drums. ...The '80s sucked.
Running Out of Love B-
Here, the Moody Blues totally banged a gong, and ripped off T. Rex. Whatever. Everybody's doing it. Oasis did it. Amazingly, they also ripped off Robert Palmer in the same groove. Did Oasis ever rip off Robert Palmer, too? ...I just wish they would lay off these boring synthesizer patterns. If they would only give those drum machines and bass some interesting patterns like they did on the first two songs on their previous album, we wouldn't be having this discussion. And where's the melody? They're singing on this, but there are no hooks to speak of. The only nice thing about this song is that middle-eight section, where they actually write a chord progression.
The Other Side of Life C+
Seven minutes of this? Once again, this is a song characterized by a very stiff drum machine and synth-bass line that are an integral part of the song's boring texture. Patrick Moraz's boring synthesizer chord patterns don't do much to liven the affair. Hayward's vocal melody might have been OK if these boring instrumentals weren't trying to melt my brains so that they would ooze out of my ears. ...But even that's not the great shakes. ...Let me make an understatement and say that this album ain't exactly The Moody Blues' finest moment...
The Spirit C+
This just depresses me. Graeme Edge was always sort of a loveable guy, but his contribution to this album stinks to high heavens. I mean, how could he do this?! ...Patrick Moraz is given co-writing credit, so why don't I just blame it on him? ...Yeah, I still haven't forgotten that Edge wrote that pirate song in Long Distance Voyager, which makes him eligible for a few more free passes. ...Anyway, this song is pretty much dead in the water the moment it starts. I don't have anything that much against drum-machines, but they should at least create a driving and toe-tapping beat. These don't. ...Although at least Edge was sensible enough to program a few fills in there... The melody has a few spots that are doing something interesting, but they never seem to last that long.
Slings and Arrows C+
Ugh... Why is it that I hate every single one of these songs more in their first 10 seconds than I do for the remainder of the songs? ...Patrick Moraz... the Beelzebub of keyboardists... BRING MIKE PINDER BACK!!!!! ...Once again, this is a stiff synth-pop song, and I'm really getting tired of the formula. I mean, this rhythm section isn't anymore complicated than something you'd get out of a Casio keyboard demo. It's bland and terrible. There's a riff played with what sounds like a real guitar, but … it's ripping off some song or another... I recognize it. With that said, there's something to the melody. There are a few spots that are very nice to hear with their layered voices, but the bland rhythm section really sabotages it for me. Other instrumental effects layered on this just make things cluttery. For example, there's that criminally awkward synthesizer solo in the fade-out. ...Geez.
It May Be a Fire B+
If it glows orange and radiates heat, then chances are you've got a fire there. Yup. Glad to be of service. ...This is a ballad written by John Lodge this time. He's treading water, of course, but at least they had enough sense to lay off all those horrible instrumental embellishments and just concentrates on orchestral stuff, which of course is the best fit for The Moodies' sound. Unfortunately, the melody doesn't have any huge hooks in it that makes me want to keep coming back to it. But for at-the-moment listening, this is rather nice.
Sur La Mer (1988)
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I Know You're Out There Somewhere B+
Oh man, how they've streamlined their sound! There was a little bit of awkwardness going on in their previous album, but this thing here sounds about as pristine as one of Madonna's albums, or something. (I guess Tony Visconti got with the program.) ...The severe drawback to doing this, of course, is that this song sounds rather stale and soooooooooo '80s that it's unapologetic about it. ...I'm going to throw it out there that I find the melody to be hooky, and of course well-sung by Hayward. It was a pretty big hit on the adult contemporary charts in 1988. ...I know, adult-contemporary. Barfola. The instrumental interlude section is so boring that they'd might as well not have one. If they were only going to write radio hits, then they shouldn't have dragged this on for six and a half minutes. It just repeats and repeats and repeats. Stop wasting out time, and I won't waste yours. (I really wish I could give lectures to rock stars.)
Want to Be With You B
Oh those synthesizers! I'm glad I was about six years old at the time, and didn't have to slowly witness the murder of rock 'n' roll with synthesizers. ...I just occasionally visit that decade, and then run across lame-o songs like this and feel sad for those poor rock 'n' roll fans of 1988. The background synthesizers are about the worst kind... Cloudy, hazy stuff that does nothing but washes everything. No personality, texture, or anything. ...Oh, excuse me, there's a harp arpeggiating up and down throughout the song. ...I hope they didn't break anything composing that arpeggio. I will say at least the keyboard has a few nice lines in the chorus. ...The vocal melody is a bit BLAH.
River of Endless Love C+
Oh no... This is even more 1988 than the previous song. Synth-pop and drum machine patterns abounds on this song, and they're obnoxious. There's nothing terrible about using such patterns, but why not let them evolve? It's a copy-and-paste job. Some of the gruffy guitar bounces around in a decent way, and the bass-guitar has a riff... But I suppose neither of those really makes this song. At least I can report that there is something to the melody, and I'll always like hearing their tight vocal harmonization. It's just a shame they didn't have much control over their instrumentation.
No More Lies B-
No more synth-pop! It doesn't suit you! (Ooo... There's my first lecture to Mr. Justin Hayward.) ...This is a very cute song, isn't it? Isn't it so cute that you want to pinch its plastic cheeks and then watch an episode of Full House? It starts out OK with its pristine production, bouncy drum machine, and doopy-doop melody, but then it gets old rather quickly. I'm quite ready for it to end after the two minute mark. ...And then around the four-minute mark it does actually end. ...But it turns out it was a fake ending, and they bring back the groove again for another minute for a long fade-out. Wooohoooooooooooooo. I still remember when these guys were awesome.
Here Comes the Weekend C+
Man, maybe I should be reviewing this on a Friday? I'm being such a nerd and reviewing it on a Tuesday. ...Then again, I'm pretty sure I'll be a nerd reviewing this album any day of the week... Yeah, there's never a day that goes by when I'm not a nerd. This is one of those “driving” synth-pop songs that has pristine production and a boring melody. The “driving” synth and drum machine rhythm doesn't move me in the slightest. Again, it sounds quite cheesy to my ears... and I'm pretty sure it sounded cheesy to the ears of people from 1988. Those poor people. They also thought mullets were cool. Ouch.
Vintage Wine B
The Moody Blues' classic albums have aged a bit like vintage wine, but this album has aged like urine in a bottle... (Oooh, was that a bit rough?) I suppose it isn't specifically The Moody Blues' fault that the '80s was a horrible time for music unless you were in a band that had newly emerged like Altered Images... Then you were awesome... But the poor Moody Blues—they couldn't make their hippie albums anymore and had to appeal to the adult contemporary charts... Well anyway, this is surely one of the better songs here, although still a little bit too cheeky for my taste. Hayward's bouncy melody isn't bad, and the instrumentation—taken on mainly by strummy guitars—is rather nice. It sounds like a Jimmy Buffett song except with stronger hooks.
Breaking Point B-
I don't have a breaking point... That's why I can listen to this whole album... (OK, I do have a breaking point, but only a small handful of albums were ever able to hurt me.) ...Well, this song isn't bad! It's rather unmemorable, but that's surely not the first time I've ever called a song that on this album. I'm going to lend a rare compliment to Patrick Moraz who plays a few hits with his keyboards reminding me of that iconic shower-scene music in Psycho. ...What I don't like particularly is the boring way this starts, boring singing over cloudy and washy synthesizers. Whatever happened to these guys' keyboard textures, which I used to be able to listen to for hours ...Although I guess at least they're not terribly corny. Finally after a minute and a half of that, they launch into the expectedly faceless synth-pop song. Not unlistenable, but not memorable either.
I saw that movie! It had Kurt Russell in it... Good thing it didn't have this song in it! Because then it wouldn't have been historically accurate—that movie took place in 1980. So anyway, here's another synth-pop song that's so boring and faceless that I don't even know why they bothered with it. ...That is, I know why they bothered with it (pressures to make money), but ...why not write fun synth-pop music? The synth groove, we've heard a million times before, and the melody is forgettable. Even the middle-eight section—while I appreciate they have one—comes off rather stiff.
Love is On the Run C-
Oh no, no, no, no, no............. As much as I've been wanting to give these songs the benefit of the doubt, I just can't take this one. I mean, it's so terrible! The melody sounds like a Euro-pop version of a nursery rhyme. Coupled with that plodding, mid-tempo synth groove, it's a match made in hell. It goes on for more than five minutes, which seems like an enternity... Where the heck is Graeme Edge, anyway? Isn't he supposed to be writing something? Man! Hayward and Lodge were hogging it!
Deeply disappointing... That's what this album is. The closing number is underwhelming. It starts off slow and plodding with an uninteresting drum machine rhythm and plain synthesizers in the background. Hayward, and his still-lovely vocals, unfortunately doesn't find a very interesting melody to sing. About the only thing going in this album's favor is the general push to a louder and more forceful conclusion. So, truth be told, this song isn't terrible! But we still expect more out of them!
Keys of the Kingdom (1991)
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Say It With Love A-
Hello! You'll never guess what this album starts with. ...A Justin Hayward song that sounds very much like the openings to their previous... say... 1,000,000 albums. But do I ever get tired of this? No sir. Not even remotely. Though this certainly isn't the strongest of Hayward's openers, it's still nice. The melody is very strong, and the instrumentation atmospheric. You can hear Hayward do some elegant guitar work. ...You can tell this is from the late-'80s/early-'90s because of those LOUD and CLEAN drums, but they're not the worst. His vocals don't sound quite as velvety as they used to, but they still know to soar. ...My only complaint about this is that it doesn't get me terribly excited. The very similar opening to The Present, on the other hand, was Whoooooosh!!!!
Bless the Wings (That Bring You Back) A
Yes, I agree. Bless Paul, bless Linda, and bless … DENNY LAINE! Was this a cry out to dear old Denny to rejoin the group? It would have been pretty awesome if Denny Laine were to rejoin The Moody Blues for a 1965-era reunion. But anyway, this lush and pompous song is just about the loveliest thing ever. Fortunately, Hayward wasn't making the same mistakes he made on their previous album by making boring synth-pop... NO! This song is MAJESTIC, which was always The Moody Blues' main strengths. The melody is nice, and Hayward's vocals are BIG. It still sounds much more like their early '80s albums as opposed to their classic-era album, but …............. hey, I liked those!
Is This Heaven? B+
Nope, these are my track reviews, silly... And, wow, these guys were feeling just a bit euphoric when they wrote this... (“I opened up the letter that the / Postman gave to me this morning / Had to stop myself from shouting out / “I love this world” / When I'm in your arms / Is this heaven?”) ...Yes, whenever the postman comes around my place, I have to stop myself from shouting things, too! ...So, here is a collaboration between Lodge and Hayward, and it's not bad! The melody is very slow-moving and majestic, and there are plenty of lush strings in the background. ...And a sitar? Awesome. ...However, I don't know what the deal is with all those sound-effects. I hear someone whistling the melody in the background, I hear someone tap dancing, and at one point, I hear a manic scream “I LOVE THIS WORLD!!!”
Say What You Mean (Parts I & II) B+
I can't be too sure what the point of specifying that a song is in two parts if they're both together like this. …And I have a feeling if Justin Hayward explained this to me, personally, I would just be in a perpetual state of confusion. However, that's not a new feeling for me. (Nor for most other people who have been through engineering college.) ...I've gotta say, this isn't a bad song, either! Maybe I'm not terribly thrilled that they're returning to the synth-pop ways of their previous album, but they hadn't forgotten to orchestrate it with some background ooos and some grand electronic string arrangements... and there's even a synth-horn arrangement at the end, which is well-used. There are some key changes that suddenly pop up as he keeps on repeating that chorus, which makes this thing seem even more grand. The overall feeling of this song is majestic and quite immersible. ...My only complaint is that there's a rather awkward bit at one point where they suddenly slow down the pace. It loses the momentum too much.
Lean On Me (Tonight) B
My, my, aren't we posh?!?! Yeah, I know saying that to The Moody Blues is like asking Julia Child: My, my, don't we cook?!?! ...But geez. This song is posh even for The Moody Blues. It opens with a grand old synthesizer arrangement that's heavy on the strings, uses timpani, and massive cymbal crashes. ...After hearing that, I might not have expected a dippy oompah piano ballad to start! But whatever... This is the first John Lodge solo song on this album, and it's... Well, the dude was never one of The Moody Blues' stronger songwriters, was he? At least lot at this point of The Moody's career. The good news is that this is a perfectly listenable song, and he goes off on a few tangents that have a few mildly interesting hooks in them. ...Yes, I like this song. But not too much.
Hope and Pray B
Ehhhhhhhh... I still like it better than most of the songs from Sur La Mer, but I'm getting just a bit tired of these boring synthesizer and drum machine rhythms. If they would give these things interesting patterns, or something, then they could be awesome, but they didn't put any effort in them whatsoever. What they did right was let the song soaaar over it a bit with some nicely done electric guitar, and a generally soaring melody, which is OK if somewhat forgettable.
Shadows on the Wall B+
Another John Lodge song! While he does have trouble standing out over his bandmate Justin Hayward both on songwriting and singing terms, this song is at least better than the previous one!! This is a rather pretty ballad with a sweet melody and vocal performance from Lodge. The orchestration is nicely done; I always like hearing these guys write songs where I can hear strings and guitar welling in the background... But unfortunately, the song never completely takes off for me. At some points, it sounds like it's about to, but it never does. I'm also not a huge fan of those blocky synthesizer chords that NEVER change during its entire run.
Once is Enough C
WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?!?!?!?!???!!??!?!?!?! ...Sorry to yell there, but this sounds like it belongs on Sure Lamer, and … Once was enough for Moody Blues albums with songs that sound like this on it. With those boring synthesizer rhythms, toneless melodies, blankly grooving synth-horns... BLAH.
Celtic Sonant A-
Wowwwwww! They let Ray Thomas do a song! ...And wow did he ever do something freaky with it. (I have a feeling that Hayward and Lodge prevented Thomas from having too much to do with these later-period Moody Blues albums, because he would freak out too much. I mean, he might try to fit too much of the universe in it, and it would explode.) But anyway, this is without a doubt the most interesting song of the bunch. As you've probably gathered from the title, this song sounds like CELTIC music. This being the early '90s, he orchestrates it with THICK synthesizer sounds and pounding drums. He plays a Celtic flute, which is great, of course, and he also sings his pompous lyrics in a melodramatic tone of voice. Would we have it any other way?
...Eh... This one just isn't working for me. This upbeat song from John Lodge doesn't have a melody that interests me, and not much atmosphere to speak of. He's trying to create some sort of rocker, but it never picks up any dust. ...Even with the full horn section. It just falls flat. ...And, to be honest, he doesn't have enough of a rock 'n' roll voice to properly pull of a song like this! ….....Wait, why are they even trying rock 'n' roll? No offense, but you're THE MOODY BLUES. ...I mean, if you want to bring Denny Laine back, then that's another thing..........
Never Blame the Rainbows For the Rain B
...Those are wise words, Mr. Hippie Man. And this is a nice closing song, which is a very nice relief after that lame-o previous song. It's a collaboration between Hayward and Thomas, which is nice to see! The melody is sweet—especially the chorus—and it's heavily orchestrated with watery guitars, strings and reverb-heavy back-up vocals. But I wish it took off a bit more with all that lushness. ...I also don't really like that wobbly calculator synth I hear introducing it and then popping up intermittently throughout it.
A Night at Red Rocks (1993)
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Whoo... It's like an overture to a Broadway play, except it takes a crapload longer. Usually, these things just give us a small sampling of what's to come, but these guys delve in pretty deeply into their songs. Even though it's nice to hear such grand, orchestral versions of their classic songs (they do “Ride My Seesaw,” “New Horizons,” “Another Morning,” Voices in the Sky,” “(Evening) Time to Get Away,” “Isn't Life Strange,” “Legend of a Mind,” “Tuesday Afternoon,” and “Nights in White Satin”), dragging it on for more than seven minutes was a bit much. The orchestra sounds nice, but they're not doing anything terribly mindblowing and I would imagine were a bit bored having to perform something by The Moody Blues instead of Beethoven, which—let's face it—is about a billion times more exciting than this.
Late Lament B-
Uh oh... They're getting so back to their past that they've even resumed doing that spoken word poetry nonsense. Although the crowd sure seems to cheer for it (but that's also where the band first comes out)! Unfortunately with the return of the full orchestra, they make everything cheesy again. This would have sounded nicer with MELLOTRONS, baby! But I suppose Mellotrons were out of fashion in the '90s or something. I don't get it.
Tuesday Afternoon (Forever Afternoon) B
Alright! We're finally getting to the real songs! And it's nice! As we always knew, the song has a pretty melody. Hayward's vocals are a bit weird, though, at some points sounding like they hadn't quite figured out the rhythm of the song. (Surely, they weren't still doing pot before their concerts in the '90s!) The orchestra is *bleh*, but as long as we're willing to accept their use of orchestra, it's not too much of a drag!
For My Lady A-
Still, I contend, that the orchestra is a bit of a drag although it's hard to know why, since this wasn't exactly one of their rock 'n' roll songs. Maybe there was just subtle studio touches I loved about the original? ...Eh, but doesn't this confirm what I've always thought about these guys? They were a studio band. And anyway, Ray Thomas certainly gives a brilliant vocal performance in that way he does, and the melody is still beautiful.
Bless the Wings (That Bring You Back) A-
Uh oh... Songs from one of their new albums! ...But wait, this was handily their best song from Keys to the Kingdom (despite certain objections I've gotten about it!). This also makes appropriate use of the orchestra, which handles those grand, sweeping parts that only a full orchestra could do. Hayward's vocals have improved immensely from “Tuesday Afternoon,” hitting all the notes correctly and sounding passionate to boot. Nice song!
Emily's Song A-
A John Lodge song! ...I grimaced a bit when I saw that I was going to listen to a John Lodge song next, but I forgot that he was as good of a songwriter as any of them back in those Classic Seven days. This gentle and sweet song also makes nice use of that orchestra, which recreates the original's nursery rhyme quality quite well. The strings are well textured, and I like all those twinkly instruments I hear in the background. It's a nice song that's well-orchestrated. One moment where I don't complain too much about the orchestra.
New Horizons A
This is one song that I would be ticked if I didn't hear them play at a Moody Blues concert. (The other one would be “Night in White Satin,” but I think they're probably contractually obligated to play that song.) But you'll also only find this song on the Deluxe version, as opposed to the original single CD release, so I would almost certainly make this a good reason to shell out a few extra dollars. The only reason I can think of that they didn't include this in the original release is that there's just a bit of squeaky feedback noise at the beginning, and Hayward's falsetto doesn't sound that good. (Obviously, the dude has a great falsetto, but he probably needs a lot of takes to make it right in the studio.) But still, as you can imagine, this sounds just about perfect with a full, sweeping orchestra. ...Although hearing it like this makes some of those chords sound a little bit awkward. Someone studying at the conservatory would have been slapped for that. ...But these guys are rock 'n' roll, and it's still beautiful!
Lean on Me (Tonight) B+
Well I wouldn't have necessarily expected it, but the full orchestra actually toned down the poncey poshness that emanated from the original. ...Maybe they would have needed to swallow up other city's orchestras to recreate something like that with the orchestra. This is a pretty song, too. John Lodge's vocals were never the best, and he does come across as a bit weak, letting the orchestra overshadow him too much, but the bouncy melody is nice, and this is fun to listen to. Justin Hayward gives a very nice, high-pitched guitar solo on there. ...This is only song so far that I apparently like more than the original.
Voices in the Sky B+
This is another pretty song of theirs... Although never one that stuck out at me too much. The melody is nice as always, and I don't think the orchestra takes away too much from the original. Hayward does a nice job, as usual, with the vocals, although he doesn't come across as nice and velvety as he did in the original! (Well, just don't be too disappointed that Hayward only had one shot at doing these vocals.)
Lovely to See You B+
...Yeah, there's just something weird about hearing the full symphony orchestra playing during these more rock 'n' roll songs. Orchestras just don't ROCK. The original sounded great and driving with the Mellotrons, but this one... Well, we still have Hayward chugging away with an electric guitar, which is great, but that's about it. I also don't know what the deal is with the female background singers. If the other members couldn't sing, then why not bring in male singers to recreate their tight vocal harmonies? Those drums are a bit blank. They're boringly BIG (I guess they were still in '80s mode), and they needed more blood-pumping fills! But anyway, this is a classic song, and it's lovely to hear.
Gemini Dream B+
Uh oh! They're acknowledging their '80s albums now! This one still sounds like “Sharp Dressed Man” to me. Probably an unfair distraction, since “Sharp Dressed Man” was released later... but what can you do? The orchestra plays a minimal role with this song, which is exactly right, since it's a synth-pop song. It's pretty catchy, and it's still fun to hear more of Hayward's guitaring. (But the keyboards are goofy.)
I Know You're Out There Somewhere A-
Uh oh! They're still acknowledging their '80s albums! (And why the hell would they fail to acknowledge their best '80s album, which was The Present? ...They also don't play anything from To Our Children's Children's Children on here, which I suppose is more baffling.) But whatever. This is handily one of their finest moments of the '80s anyway, and the orchestra gives it another appropriate rest. ...I can't believe I'm saying this, but bring Patrick Moraz back! These boring keyboard tones makes his stuff sound brilliant by comparison! I mean, this sounds like he just turned on his Casio keyboard for the first time. ...But anyway, it's a nice song, and Hayward performs the catchy and soaring melody swimmingly well.
The Voice A-
Again, as long as they're performing the '80s stuff, at least they're performing the right '80s stuff. Hearing it back-to-back with “I Know You're Out There Somewhere” also shows us indisputably how similar the opening songs to their albums were in the '80s. They're all upbeat, dramatic, catchy, and Hayward-led. Again, the keyboards and drums are a bit of a drag. It has me missing Patrick Moraz whose wobbly, high-pitched synthesizers in the original I can actually appreciate now. But anyway, it's a brilliant song! That'll never change, no matter what they do. Hayward's electric guitar stuff is pretty great.
Say it With Love B+
Another one of their opening songs! I say this with love: The Moody Blues' opening songs had been fantastic in all of their studio albums since 1981! But I suppose the main reason they put them all together like this was to give the orchestra an extended rest... There wasn't a whole lot they could have done during a synth-pop song, anyway, and they shouldn't. It's a catchy song that's well performed. ...Though never one of my favorites of theirs, and I still don't care for those female back-up singers. If anything, bring us Moody-Blues-like singers!
The Story in Your Eyes A-
Still good although nowhere NEAR as bright and energetic as the original. The drums are a bit loud and clunky... I like that there are some Jerry Lee Lewis style piano, but I can't hear it well enough. The guitars are crunchy and upbeat and I like Hayward's vocals... as usual! His electric guitar solo is excellent, for that brief moment it pops up.
Your Wildest Dreams B+
Oh no! It's the Jack Horkheimer intro to The Other Side of Life! Gaah!! It also sounds like Hayward was a bit tired of singing at this point; he sounds a bit labored here. Other than that, this is still a nice song though I could fathom a much more lively rendition of it!
Isn't Life Strange B
Yeah, seriously! Give John Lodge a chance to sing! Although I'm surprised to hear him do that weird pulsating thing with his vocals, which I had figured he needed to sing through a giant fan to recreate the effect. But anyway, this is one moment where I think more involvement from the orchestra would have been nice, because the original was such a HUGE and BOMBASTIC song, and they're absolutely struggling to recreate that here. I certainly hear that orchestra there, specifically a horn section tooting away in the middle of it, but they needed more involvement with the build-up. And where is Justin Hayward? We needed some of his guitar as well as his back-up vocals. ...I don't like those female back-up singers at all.
The Other Side of Life C+
Ugh... So far, they had only been performing their good songs. Here, they completely go against that principle and perform one of their terrible songs. There's no mercy, either; they perform this for its entire seven and a half minutes. ...On the bright side, I like that the drums are live, but I don't like that this is boring. The melody never interested me, and the instruments are just filling up space with proper noise. Nothing interesting.
I'm Just a Singer in a Rock 'N' Roll Band A
Are you ready for some rock 'n' roll? ...And then Graeme Edge does a drum solo. (Gah!!) But after that, that loud and driving song that we're all familiar with pops up, and it's a lot of fun to hear! Especially Justin Hayward who lets out a rip-roaring guitar solo in there, which sounds like he was waiting ages for the opportunity to rip that one out. Unfortunately, the vocals seem very weak, and those female back-up singers are really distracting. Grrr! Tell them to leave, please! They don't belong!!
Nights in White Satin A
Ah yes, the song that they must be contractually obligated to perform at every concert. I mean, if they didn't perform this song, then they would probably have a riot on their hands. Good thing it's here, and it's in really good form. Hayward's vocals are nice, and he solidly hits those soaring high notes. ...Although I might have expected perfection, and this doesn't quite get there! (Ugh! I'm so hard to please!) But then again, I'm comparing it to the original, which was about as perfect as it gets. I hear the orchestra there, playing appropriately in the background. I also like hearing good ole Ray Thomas very nicely deliver that flute solo. Mmmm!
Legend of a Mind A
I'd imagine there would be many long faces going out of the concert if they didn't perform this one, either, since everyone seems to like this song as well. (And why shouldn't they? It rules!) As one of Ray Thomas' songs, it's nice to hear him give a performance, since it did seem an awful lot like Hayward's voice needed a rest. Also, Thomas gets to play an extended flute solo, which is pretty excellent as far as those go, so flute fans will get something nice out of this. (I do wish the keyboardist picked a different sound than he did... It doesn't sound terribly great with the flute!)
What happened to the orchestra? ...I would have thought they would have ended things out, but I only hear them barely in the background, sounding probably bored out of their minds. That is, up until a finale at the end. At any rate, I like these good old rock 'n' roll songs, although this doesn't nearly get my blood flowing like the original did. I especially regret that I can't hear that bass-line I loved so much! (Although I can still hear it barely although I can't be too sure if it was a force of my imagination.) Nevertheless, it's a rendition of a classic song... Not flawless, but still good.
Ride My See-Saw B+
Is this album finally over? It seems like I've been writing these track reviews for days. So, they end it with a '90s rock 'n' roll treatment of their old '60s song. (I almost think I'm hearing “Everybody Dance Now” at the beginning of this, which his just … er … wrong.) I suppose they wanted something for the kids to go out dancing to? It's still pretty good. Obviously, the melody is still catchy and nicely delivered. Hayward lets out a few rip-roaring solos here and there. It's fun to listen to.
Strange Times (1999)
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English Sunset B+
Man, when I think of an English sunset, I wouldn't really think of drum machines... Or maybe I shouldn't expect everything about a force of nature be like Frederick Delius? ...And just because this song has drum machines on it, it doesn't mean all of these songs sound like this. In fact, this is the only one. Yay. So anyway, this one isn't too bad for a drum machine song although nowhere near as inspired as, say, “The Voice” or “Blue World.” The drum machine rhythm is just a bit too stiff and stilted for my tastes. But other than that, I like it. It has a good melody. The synthesizers (surprise?) sound pretty fantastic, particularly in that icy intro. The wobbly and scratchy sound effects in the background, supplemented with a finely textured synth-string creates a rather fetching texture. The melody is OK, but I don't find it that memorable.
I was about to count this song down a few points for sounding too cutesy, but then I have to remember that The Moody Blues' main competition in the late '90s was probably... groan... The Trans-Siberian Orchestra. (Why do people like The Trans-Siberian Orchestra so much? ...Well, at least we only have to put up with them for about three weeks a year...) Well, we have to put things in perspective, don't we? ...This song is really nice! It has a pretty melody, background synthesizers that sound smooth but not too cheesy. The piano is heavenly, with just the right reverb put on it. Hayward's singing is soaring, sounding about just as good as he's always sounded. What I don't care much for is the background singers sounding like lite-R&B and those finger snaps. ...Is that nitpicking?
Sooner or Later (Walkin' on Air) A-
Why is it that the cutsiness is getting to me? I don't have a problem with ABBA albums, so I wonder why I'm all of the sudden being bothered by it? ...I don't know. It's another nice song that seems a bit too sterile for its own good. The drum beat is fairly lively though it's plain. The melody is nice and well-sung, but nothing that I find hugely fascinating. The instrumentation sounds nice with some crystal-clear piano and the usual array of strummy guitars.
Wherever You Are B
Another nice song! There's so much nicety going around here! This time it's by John Lodge exclusively, but his songwriting style doesn't seem to be that starkly different from Hayward's. (Remember when Lodge wanted to be rock 'n' roll in the '80s? Those days are behind us, my friends.) I don't know what's with the rhythm section, but it sounds like CLOCKS. I mean, what's with all those CLOCKS? The pacing is pretty sluggish, and I'm not sure that rhythm section is doing it any favors. The melody is OK.
Foolish Love A-
Well, this is another NICE song full of nicety. Again, it seems odd of me to give a song like this a full-on A-, since I swear I probably would have hated this if I listened to it the year it was released. But now that I'm an old man, I can at least appreciate it based on its compositional aspects alone. The chord progression is rather nice, and I like the melody. It's pretty as usual, but it still doesn't quite make it into the stratosphere like so many of his other songs have so easily.
Love Don't Come Easy A
Now this is more like it! A BALLAD! (I am an old man these days, aren't I?) But unlike the previous song that couldn't quite generate the momentum I was looking for, here's a song that does. I'm a bit surprised to learn that this was written by John Lodge, since ballads like this are usually Hayward's specialty. The melody is extremely pretty, and the orchestration matches. The rhythm section doesn't seem stiff at all, but there's a nice, crunching organic quality to it. The background synthesizers create a lovely atmosphere, and Hayward's electric guitar solo is sitting pretty in the background. Very nice song!
All That Is Real Is You A
Now it's Hayward's chance to deliver a soaring ballad. ...What's with all this stuff coming out all of the sudden? The album didn't start this good, did it? The melody sounds like an old 19th Century folk song, and I sort of find that charming. What sweeps me off my feet about it, once again, is the thick orchestration. Those sweeping background strings, appropriately grandiose electric guitar noodles, majestic background vocals, and some LOUD drumming that doesn't sound like it's processed through a machine. This is all I want!
Strange Times A
Isn't this odd? The album was sort of stale to begin with, but now here are three hugely solid ones all in a row. I'm so used to The Moody Blues stacking up all their best songs at the beginning of their albums. ...It could also be that they were trying just a *bit* too hard to sound contemporary at the beginning when all we really wanted from them was to sound like themselves. This is another nice, atmospheric and lushly orchestrated ballad. The melody is pretty and isn't sung especially well. It's a fun listen that seems to make me go airborne when I listen to it. What else can I ever want?
Words You Say A-
Wow, this is another pretty one! They leave off the drumming for the first half of this one (sorry, Graeme), and John Lodge sings amongst a sweeping orchestra. The melody is quite nice; I would have liked to hear it on a Disney film. (That's not meant to be a put-down... but interpret that statement how you please.) It's a bit corny, but I can like it. The melody, once again, is pretty, and I like Lodges vocals... which might not be as pretty as Hayward's, but he nonetheless comes off as earnest singing it.
My Little Lovely B+
The obligatory Ray Thomas song? ...He would leave the band shortly thereafter this, which is a shame, but I guess the guy wasn't always given a whole lot to do. Well anyway, this song is far more modest than what I'm used to hearing him do. (I mean, considering he's the guy who wrote “Celtic Sonnet” and “Veteran Cosmic Rocker.” It's even weirdly short compared to all those sprawling epics John and Justin were putting out. It's a scamp minute and 45 minutes and consists mostly of an acoustic guitar. There's a slight orchestral swell in the second half, but doesn't have much of a chance to pick up dust. ...Well, anyway, I guess this is where we say goodbye to Ray.
Forever Now B+
Yeah... The inertia must be gone. I'm not getting anything particularly special here—not anything close to those three behemoth songs in the beginning of this album. While it's pretty and well-written, I'm sitting through this shrugging. ...And I know it's probably pointless of me to complain about this so late in The Moody Blues discography, but … these guys weren't exactly ones for diversity. It seems like I'm sitting through a bunch of the same stuff! Of course, they still good at doing the same old things, but... er... It's usually Ray Thomas who livens things up! But that minute-and-forty-five-minute song?
The One B+
Starring Jet Li! ...When I saw that movie about 10 years ago (ouch!) I considered it just about the worst movie I ever saw. Do you think I'd change my mind about it if I watched it again? ...There goes my mind wandering again. So anyway, here's another pretty nice Moody Blues song. I like that it's more rock 'n' roll than the previous two songs, but I'm wondering why Graeme Edge couldn't have come up with a more interesting drum rhythm than that dull *thump-thump-thump-thump* thing he's doing. I might be nitpicking there... Other than that, the melody is nice, and it's catchy, too. Though they repeat that chorus an awful lot.
The Swallow B
I really don't know why it takes them a full minute to start this song. All I hear at the beginning is a pretty boring guitar playing a somewhat uninteresting riff. ...But then the drums finally pop up and Hayward starts to sing another pretty melody. There's some sweeping string orchestra for the chorus, but it remains mostly subtle for this one. I like the lyrics that are about taking life easy. Unfortunately, the last minute of the song is about as uninteresting as the first minute. …It seems like they should have tried fleshing this one out a little better.
Nothing Changes B
Oh my! Did anyone wonder whatever happened to that spoken-word poetry? HERE IT IS!!! Graeme Edge reads a poem about time amongst some spacey synthesizers and sparse piano. Later on, a strummy acoustic guitar comes along and so does some of Hayward's electric guitars, which brings it out to a more sweeping conclusion. The poem itself is about as goofy as they've always been. He talks about all those landmark “futuristic” years like 1984 and 2001. ...AND THEY'RE THE PAST NOW!!! ...WHOAH!!! (Or rather, he says that 2001 is quickly approaching. I remember when 2001 seemed a long time in the future... the year in which I graduated high school. ...Not so much the year that someone went into a spacecraft and hallucinated, unfortunately.)
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Don't Need a Reindeer A-
I don't think I've ever known anyone to literally need a reindeer. That is, if we can all agree that Santa Claus isn't real. (Sorry if I just burst someone's bubble... but you can read now, so it's been a long time coming...) ...And what the hell is with this song? It's so gosh-darn cheesy! That dinky drum rhythm sound like it belongs one one of those Kidz Bop albums. Come on Graeme! Take control of your instrument! ...But other than that, I kind of like this. The melody is similarly cutesy, but it takes off into a chorus that kind of sweeps me along. Hayward's vocals are pretty as always. ...I mean, if they really had to make a Christmas album, this was about the best way they could have gone about it.
December Snow B
I really hate that woody percussive instrument I hear at the beginning of this. ...There's something random for me to nitpick over, but that one of the signature sounds of bad adult contemporary song. Don't do this, Moody Blues!! ...Other than that, this isn't a horrible song. But it's not particularly great, either! It's another pretty one where Hayward gets to use his pretty voice... But the parts where it's supposed to soar don't particularly soar, and the result is a song that just seems to go on forever without doing anything terribly interesting. It's all kind of a pleasant blur. We can listen to Hayward noodle with his electric guitar in the background, which you'd might as well, since that's by far the most interesting thing here.
In the Quiet of the Christmas Morning B+
Whoah! I didn't know The Moody Blues wrote this! I've heard this thing played all over the place! ...Oh wait, this is a Bach cover. There's someone playing a flute, too, but that's not Ray Thomas unfortunately. He retired. Instead it's someone named Norda Mullen who sounds like she's playing at a college's senior recital. Respectable and by the book, but it doesn't score many awesome points. ...The Moody Blues sort of cleverly added their own melody to this Bach classic, which works surprisingly well. It comes across as a bit corny, like it belongs in some sort of made-for-TV Christmas special for the Hallmark Channel, but … well, if we can't let go of our natural aversion against “magical” glockenspiels and cheesy lyrics, then maybe we can enjoy this.
On This Christmas Day A-
Hi John Lodge! …Still writings songs for the group, eh? ...Hey, I have a question for you. Why do you let Justin Hayward always put his songs first in Moody Blues albums? Is he some kind of bully, or something? ...Anyway, this is a very pretty and mellow ditty that features a swelling orchestra and soaring vocals. Could it be that John Lodge's vocals have gotten slightly better with age? Or perhaps now he's just writing songs more like Hayward's than the sorts of songs that he used to! The melody is nice. I also like that the drums don't sound corny and “contemporary.” Give it that classic Moody Blues flavor! ...That would be my philosophy if I were an aging Moody.
Happy Xmas (War is Over) A-
Whoah! John Lennon's spirit will live on after all! ...No, I'm being serious! I like this song! And this is a particularly excellent rendition of it. Instead of the full choir that John Lennon's original had, The Moody Blues (expectedly) has a whole lot of Justin Haywards! Also, they give it full string orchestration, and that sounds positively glorious. I like hearing Hayward's soaring rendition of the chorus, which really shows that his voice hasn't lost that much of its quality with age. My only complaint about this is that it's so short! The energy they develop for that chorus was surely enough to push it out a few extra minutes, which'll be about the time I'll be ready to get on with the next song.
A Winter's Tale A-
Ugh! That college-kid-recital flute is back! Boo!! Why even have a flautist? You're just making us miss Ray Thomas!! Midway through, it turns into an oboe, where it should stay! ...But anyway, this is a very nice cover song. I've never even heard the original before, so at least they're pulling out songs that haven't been over-saturated in Christmas albums. It's by Mike Batt and Tim Rice. That makes me think it's from some sort of Broadway play, since Tim Rice is sort of the king of Broadway lyrics. (Jesus Christ Superstar, baby. And we mustn't forget Chess!) The hooks are pretty nice although not really something I'm going to get caught in my head. The delivery from Hayward and Lodge (on back-ups) are sweet. Very nice! Thumbs up!
The Spirit of Christmas A-
Could it be that John Lodge is outshining his fellow Moody Blue in their old age? I tended to like Lodge's songs best in Strange Times, too. The melody is pretty and so is his vocal performance. I also wholeheartedly approve of the lack of contemporary-pop sounding drums. If letting Graeme Edge play some real drums was of Lodge's insistence then, my hat's off to him. ...He gets quite ambitious in here, even at one strangely brief moment in here, engaging the use of a full gospel choir. Hayward lets off a few soaring licks with his guitar, which shan't be ignored.
Yes, I Believe B
I believe in The Moody Blues! What else is there in the world? Even when they're long dead and gone, anyone can still go back and listen to their albums. ...Take those words to heart, my children. Also, it appears as though my conjecture that John Lodge was outshining Justin Hayward's songwriting in their old age gets another little bit of evidence. Now, this is an OK song, but it's WAY overblown. When I described something as having a 'sweeping' orchestration in previous tracks, I didn't mean it quite like this. I mean, these instruments are so sweeping that it's like a tornado! He's using drum machines, too, which I still don't like. The melody is OK, but nothing I'm particularly thrilled at hearing... even as it's playing.
When a Child is Born A-
No more college-kid flute! I've had enough of that! ...OK, maybe the flute sounds pretty here, and I don't mind it for once. Still. It makes me miss Ray Thomas! ...I'm not sure where this song came from, but it's not an original. Wikipedia seems to be telling me it was written by someone called “Zachar” who lived in the 14th Century. But this melody seems waaay to contemporary for that. So, either Wikipedia failed me or that 13th Century dude predicted Johnny Mathis. This is a very pretty song, though. It's cutesy as hell, but I don't think that's news to anyone who's made it this far in the album.
White Christmas C+
Whoah! They waited until the penultimate track to give us a song that typically appears in Christmas albums. ...Now, they could have just not done this song, at all, and the album would've been better for it. But since there's only one of these, then I don't have to cringe so much. ...I suppose Irving Berlin's classic is quite nice. It's sort of hard to judge, because I'm sure I've heard this song right from my very birth. (I was born in mid-November, so I can assume I've heard this song at least once in my first month on earth.) So anyway, I wish they didn't go off on this cutesy pop-rock tangent with it. I mean, it's bad enough they have to sing this song, but giving it the cute-dimpled rock 'n' roll treatment was going a bit too far.
In the Bleak Midwinter B
Bleak? What are you trying to do, depress? During Christmas? Come on, man, leave this depressing stuff for early January when we all have to put up all those dumb looking decorations and go back to work! ...This is another cover that I'm unfamiliar with. Although according to good ole Wikipedia, it was written by Gustav Holst. It does sound like an old timey English song, come to think of it... The Moody Blues do their typical things with it; string orchestration, maybe a little bit of guitar. I like it fine, but it's sort of underwhelming. Not the sort of majesty I'd particularly expect of them. And if this is going to be the last ever Moody Blues studio album, then I would have wished for something more definitive! Oh well...
Lovely to See You Live (2005)
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Lovely to See You Again A-
I have this bad feeling The Moody Blues open their concerts with this song is because it's a message to their audience. Ugh! Stop being so cutesy! ...But don't stop playing these excellent songs! I mean, who doesn't like this song? It has a great, catchy melody. Justin Hayward doesn't sound as much like an old man as he probably should. It's played very well. I love hearing Hayward's lead guitar.
Tuesday Afternoon A
Wow! They got someone to pull out a Mellotron!!!! ...When I review live albums, I tend to lower the track ratings from the original if I don't think they really add anything. But hey! There was no Mellotron in the original, and I'm thrilled as hell that they dusted that old instrument off for this album! (I suppose that could be a keyboard that's set to sound like a Mellotron. But the sound is identical, and it's all the same to my ears.) The melody—as you know—is catchy, catchy, catchy. Even the flute sounds great, even though there's no Ray Thomas anymore.
Lean on Me (Tonight) B
Aw... I had almost forgotten that their post-1972 albums even existed... But anyway, this is a song I never cared about in Keys to the Kingdom, and it's not the most thrilling thing to hear them do live. I'll grant you that the hooks are nice, but they seem somewhat corny. Of course they get away with that because they're The Moody Blues! That sort of oompah rhythm they're playing with those keyboards are set deeply in the background whereas the foreground is drenched with synthesizers. I'm a little surprised they were able to get the atmosphere like that live! Unless they're using canned music or something! ...But Justin Hayward plays a very nice electric guitar solo. There's another thing the guy hasn't lost with time.
The Actor A-
Hayward says this song is from The Search of the Lost Chord, and they're still looking for it! ...I found it! It's in the key of R! Do you want to hear what it sounds like? ...Scrape your fingernails across a chalkboard. (Now, why were you even trying to find it?) ...They certainly pulled this song out of the woodwork, because I had nearly forgotten it existed. I must've been feeling decadent when I wrote my review of that album, because I gave this a mere B+. Well! It also has a very hooky and whistleable melody. I hear some female back-up singers get in on the action during the crescendo, which was a great touch. I also like that I'm hearing distinctly late '60s flute-Mellotrons. These sounds are VITAL!
Steppin' In a Slide Zone B
They're playing songs from Octave?!?!?!?!? Why? ...Do people actually like that album, or something? I mean, no disrespect to it, but... Man, maybe I'm not a real Moody Blues fan, or something? The atmosphere they concoct at the beginning of this is supposed to be “dark and mysterious,” but it seemed a bit halfhearted although I still like hearing Hayward play his guitar. After that intro is over, the song gets upbeat. And it's better! Still not the catchiest song The Moody Blues song they'd ever done, but it does sound like a good song to get people's feet moving at a concert.
The Voice A-
Wow... Well they're doing their '80s stuff a lot more than I figured they would. ...I figured these guys would have stuck with the albums that their fans know best! But maybe a lot of people in the audience grew up in the '80s? Anyway, as long as they stick to their good songs, then I won't raise a ruckus at all. It's upbeat and danceable, and a lot of fun to hear them do once again. They even made those keyboard whooshy sounds. Those were cheesy in the '80s, but recreating those in the '00s are sort of cute...
Talking Out of Turn A-
“The Voice” was the first song of The Present, and now they're performing the second. ...I suppose these songs could be construed as the most poppy of the lot, which would be a decent reason to perform them to please the audience. But... seriously guys! Stick mainly to your classic stuff, if you don't mind! Oh well, I like this song anyway. It's catchy, upbeat, fun to listen to. Yadda yadda yadda... I wonder if hardcore Moody Blues fans realize how much songs like this sound like ABBA? I mean, that chorus has ABBA written all over it.
I Know You're Out There Somewhere A-
Another '80s song. Even though it's from the horror-of-horrors Sur La Mer, it's an altogether selection from there. This also marks an improvement over the original, since we have Graeme Edge playing those drums live, and this doesn't sound so much like it's been drenched with synth-vomit. The keyboards are cutesy, but I like listening to them amazingly. The melody—even in the original—was rather soaring, and memorable. Hayward gives an excellent performance also. It's an improvement over the original, and I appreciate it … but again, let's stop it with the '80s stuff!
The Story in Your Eyes A
Yay! A Golden-Era song! And it's one of their great ones! (I gotta say, The Moody Blues definitely have a good handle on what I want to hear. Even those '80s songs I complain about, I would love to hear them do live. Which I'm going to actually do in about one month from writing this!!) And man, this is solidly performed. The energy is undeniable. It doesn't hold a candle to the original, but it's surprisingly not all that obvious that these guys had aged terribly in that 30-odd years. And Justin Hayward lets an excellent and extended guitar solo rip through... Purely crowd-pleasing (I hear them start to cheer) but that's because people like awesome things.
Forever Autumn A
What the heck is this??? ...They're covering a song from a Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds, which I never listened to, but it seems like I should. Especially since I'm listening to this song that's extremely pretty! Hayward sings a very beautiful and soaring melody while strumming an acoustic guitar. A pan-flute synthesizer noodles around playing a few especially memorable lines, and there's a little build-up by some background string-synths. Very nice! I'm going to have to give that album a try one of these days... (I guess Jeff Wayne also did a musical for Spartacus... Whoah!)
Your Wildest Dreams A-
Again with the '80s stuff??? ...Oh well. I still liked this song. I wasn't a huge fan of it in the original album, but that cheesy '80s space-age introduction is sort of quaint to hear them reproduce so faithfully on the stage. But anyway, the main reason everybody likes that song is because you can dance to it! And dance, everyone does I'm sure. And it's a catchy and soaring synth-pop number in that '80s Moody Blues way. (I wonder if they're only performing all the good songs from that decade so people would stop saying that they were terrible back then? ...Well, they weren't terrible, but it also wasn't a walk in the park. ...And why the hell aren't they doing anything from The Present while they're at it, which is easily their best album that decade?)
Isn't Life Strange A-
Isn't it strange that it takes them 8 billion years to perform stuff from their classic albums??? But anyway, this bit from Seventh Sojourn is just lovely! Now, John Lodge sings this, so you won't get the pretty soaring vocals from Hayward. To make matters worse, he's trying to imitate live that wobbly effect he put in the original. ...Seriously, he should just sing normally! But he's alright. The flute solo is melancholy though pretty. I'm sure glad they got rid of that college kid who was mucking up the flute bits in December! My only complaint is this is a bit sprawled-out, and those drums are just a bit too loud. ...There I go with my nitpicks!
The Other Side of Life B
Another '80s song?!?!?!? And unlike the others, this was never exactly my favorite. The melody doesn't strike me as anything that soars and nothing about the groove or riff catches my ear much at all. However, this does mark an improvement, because the rhythm section is much rawer and LOUDER. We have some real drumming pounding away, and those dark synthesizers are kind of fun to hear.
December Snow B
Well... didn't we all wonder when they would get to December? ...I'm a little surprised it took them this long in the concert to do it, since it's likely the album that the fewest people in the audience owns. For sure, this is a pretty song, and they do a faithful rendition of it. The melody is sweet and Hayward gives a faithfully soaring rendition. Other than that, it has trouble sticking out of the crowd of better songs...
Higher and Higher A
YES!!! It's about friggin' time they did a song from their best album they ever did (and—not consequently—one of the best albums of all time), To Our Children's Children's Children. It's the first song of that album, which totally rocked. Leave all those '80s dance-pop numbers in the dust! This is what completely brings the house down!! The menacing and infectious bass and drumming. Why they take us higher and higher! Hayward gets blisters on his fingers from that electric guitar solo. I also like hearing Graeme Edge talk about Neil Armstrong and the space exploration. His accent is almost Cockney... and he should do some voice acting for video games like Fable, if he doesn't do that already. Since Mike Pinder wasn't there any longer, Edge reads the poetry himself. And why shouldn't he have just done that all along? ...I'm even willing to ignore the fact that there's a near drum-solo in here. It's brief, and he keeps the menacing rhythm intact.
Are You Sitting Comfortably? A
Why indeedy I am... And I'm very much in the mood for hearing this beautiful song from On the Threshold of a Dream! The warm atmosphere of the original is recreated so faithfully that it almost sounds like I'm listening to that album. The main difference is that there's an extended flute solo in here (and I almost think I start to hear a second one... weird...) As the song was always, the melody is beautiful. And I still like those lyrics about those old Camelot stories.
Just a Singer in a Rock 'n' Roll Band A+
Again, those '80s dance songs are just big piles of doo doo if you're looking for songs that BRING DOWN THE HOUSE. These menacing '70s rock numbers are about 100,000 times better than that. Maybe they stacked those '80s songs at the beginning of the live show just so they could go out on a high like this? These guys might have been old and wrinkly, but they could still kick up a storm. Listen to how fast those drums are played! And Hayward lets another one rip with his guitar. What an excellent player! Even those synth-horns rule. Usually synth-horns suck, but these play one wicked groove!
Nights in White Satin A+
Well, they're performing their ultimate masterpiece, so you know that the concert must be nearing its conclusion. I wonder if they get tired of playing it? ...Eh, I certainly never get tired of listening to it, so I'd imagine they still like singing it. It sort of goes without saying that this is far from the definitive version of this song, but wow! Justin Hayward can still make those notes soar with majesty. That alone is worth the admission price to the concert. (Which I'm sure is the #1 reason these guys make a point of performing this!) The instrumentation isn't anything to make my knees buckle, although I do like the female singers that come along at the heaviest moments of the song.
Now, it's the encore, I guess... But cool! They're playing one of their songs that—starts out, anyway, as one of their most ferocious rock tunes. But when it gets into ballad-mode, it's tuneful as always, and uplifting—especially as those synthesizers start to flare up. ...Man, why is it that these guys are still good? And... Is it just me, or are these live cuts better than the more respected A Night at Red Rocks?
Ride My See-Saw A
Whoah... They close this live set with this upbeat, hippie classic. And, just like everything else here, they go completely to town with it. The riff is loud and catchy, the drumming is rapid and danceable. As always, the melody is memorable and it soars. Several of the singers join in for the singing all at once, which gives it an enjoyable party-time atmosphere. And of course there's tons of whistling and audience mayhem at the end of it... which goes to show that they enjoyed the hell out of it. As they should!
Live at the BBC: 1967-1970 (2007)
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Fly Me High B
What a weird song to start this album off with! At first I thought it was from the Denny Laine era. ...But as awesome as the BBC was, they weren't awesome enough to include any Denny Laine era tunes. Instead, you'll find the original tacked on in the Days of Future Passed bonus tracks. ...Remember that album? It was ages ago when I reviewed it! So anyway, this is a good song, but … er … there's a pretty good reason I completely forgot that I already listened to it when I reviewed Days of Future Passed. Because it's FORGETTABLE. Just an ordinary upbeat pop-rocker with guitars and drums. They layer their vocals on top of one another nicely. I like the hand claps. Blah blah.
Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood B
Whoah! Another song from the bonus tracks in Days of Future Passed. I don't want to seem ungrateful, but … when are they going to play something that we know? ...But to be fair, this is another nice song with the drums and guitars. There's some piano there. (Hi, Mike Pinder! It's been awhile since I've heard from you!) The chorus is pretty nice. I like the flute, too. Nice to see that Ray Thomas is doing well. (...I must be completely unaware that this was recorded in 1967. I'm reviewing this right after I reviewed one of their live albums recorded in 2005.)
Love and Beauty B+
Yet another song from the bonus tracks in Days of Future Passed. Glad to see they were milking some of their finest material for inclusion in this BBC compilation! (I guess the BBC liked putting these songs in chronological order, or something. Like this was some sort of catalog...) I only gave this a B in my original review, but I'm revising that to say that this song is just a little bit better. I like the fluid-like way that chorus flows and also the minor-key verses. I think I'm also hearing some weird orchestral things in the background. ...Like a Mellotron or an organ, or something! But I also hear someone playing a piano. ...Were there two Mike Pinders????
Leave This Man Alone B+
Another song that I've never heard of before!!! (...Except briefly when I wrote track reviews for the bonus tracks of Days of Future Passed and then completely forgotten about them the next day...) But I like this song, because it has an upbeat rhythm to it. It's not as ROCK'N'ROLLIN' as some of their late '60s and early '70s songs were, but … hey! It has a rhythm!
Peak Hour A-
Hey listen! I know this song!! It's from Days of Future Passed and it's WONDERFUL! It also rocks better than the previous song did, which is a huge boon going in its favor. The drums are fast, the bass is rumbly, and Pinder plays some cluttery organ. ...But then of course they slow things down in time for that churchy part. (Oh, what would this song ever have been like without that section that makes me think I'm in church?) The recording quality is good, but for some reason not as good as any of the previous four recordings.
Nights in White Satin A
What does that song title even mean? It's funny... I've been listening to this song for years and I never really thought about that before. Knights in White Satin would make more sense to me. Or maybe they're talking about people wearing white satin at night? ...Or maybe I completely forget the question whenever Justin Hayward gets to that part when he sings “OH HOW I LOVE YOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU---AAAAAHHH!!!” What a distraction! They not only sing this beautifully, but the instrumentation is all on track. ...Now, they're playing it as closely as they could to the studio version, even to the point where Thomas' flute solo is exact. Therefore, this is good listening! But... don't we already have this song?
Fly Me High B
Man, I'm seven songs into this thing and they're already repeating themselves. But I guess if you're one of the two people on the planet earth who really wanted two different versions of “Fly Me High” in the same place, then you're in luck! ...I do like the recording quality, at least. Those guitars sound as clear as crystal!
Twilight Time (Evening) A
In other words, it's TIME FOR SOME STEPHANIE MEYER!!! (...what?) Here's their second song from their most classicest album of them all, and it's coo'. When I was listening to this album earlier today, it dawned on me how much this trippy melody sounds like early Pink Floyd. That's cool, also! The recording quality once again is brilliantly clear. ...But what's with the fade-out?
Dr. Livingstone I Presume A
What? They already made it to the Lost Chord era and they didn't perform “Dawn is a Feeling?” What sort of weird planet were they living in during the '60s? I thought that was their favorite song, or something! ...But anyway, this is one of the great ones from Chord, and they do their finest to perform it almost exactly how I remember it from the original. ...Except the original didn't have a goofy radio announcer on it! At least this performance sounds waaaay better than the stuff that was captured on Caught Live. Especially that pretty ripping electric guitar solo, and those rock 'n' rollin' Mellotrons.
Voices in the Sky A-
How could I have only given this a B+ in the original? This is a lovely song! ...Oh well, maybe it doesn't sound all that great where it's situated in that album. ...And maybe that dreary flute riff doesn't always rub me the right way. But anyway, I like the pretty melody here that's accompanied by Ray Thomas' flute that sounds like he was trying to emulate a bird call.
Ride My See-Saw B
Did you see Saw? (...Oooh, I got that joke from The Office! ...Yes, I watch that stinkin' show!!!) ...And for crap's sake, I know how much I complain when I listen to live rendition of songs that are played EXACTLY like they were in the studio. But when I run across a version of a song that sounds almost nothing like the studio counterpart, I pretty much hate it. ...To be sure, the melody is intact, but this freaking fast and thumpy drumbeat they adopt throughout this annoys the CRAP out of me. Fortunately, by the end of this thing, the Mellotrons flare up distracting me from that horrible beat and Hayward takes a brief moment to let a few licks of his guitar take a flight.
The Best Way To Travel B+
I would like to travel via a racing snail, like that Oompah Loompah on The NeverEnding Story uses. ...Also, am I going crazy, but am I still hearing that thwacky drum rhythm at the beginning of this? ...I have a theory: That was their pot drug dealer playing that rhythm. Pot was expensive and they let him do that for a discount. ...But at least it's not a distraction at all! This is a nicely solid rendition of this classic old song. The melody is beautiful and the recording quality is fabulous. It seems cleaner than the original, which could explain why I've given this a slightly higher rating. (I'm basing this purely on memory! I'm not about to go and re-listen to old records! I must be forward-bound in my reviews!)
Voices in the Sky A-
What the heck??? Didn't I JUST listen to this song? ...WELL. This is still a great little tune. The recording quality is quite a bit cleaner than the other one, which I'm sure we should all appreciate. Hear how especially scrumptous Ray Thomas' bird calls come in your speakers! Maybe they're a little bit too clean! And those flaring Mellotrons. Mmmm! (I still hear that thumpy instrument in some spots of this. It must've been some sort of bongo. What a bunch of doodie.)
Dr. Livingstone I Presume A
DIDN'T I JUST LISTEN TO THIS????? God bless the BBC, but... Man, you'd have to be some sort of Moody Blues nut to not think this collection wasn't a huge waste of time! Do yourself a favor and just pick your favorite versions of each song and make a separate mix for it on your iPod! ...I'd go for this version, because it doesn't have that dumb radio announcer on it. Also, the recording quality is splendid! It sounds like Ray Thomas is singing right next to me!
Peak Hour B+
DIDN'T I JUST... Hey, apparently they're reverting back to their previous album. A British-sounding announcer who sounds like he was one of the inspirations for Michael Palin gives this song a lively introduction before letting them go off into their song. The recording quality is a lot rougher than it was in previous tracks as if they're playing in the next room... Except the stupid-sounding announcer came in crystal clear. Boo to the announcer!!!!!!!! ...But this is still a good song no matter how often I hear it. It's a lively upbeat song if there ever was one. Especially that part that's played REALLY fast. That part is awesome.
Tuesday Afternoon A
I think it would be funny if I randomly started singing this song at work at exactly 12:01 p.m. ...Based on Allie McBeal, I thought there would be more random song-and-dance routines when I got my career going. What happened? Anyway, this is a lot like the studio cut except the recording quality isn't quite as good. The drums come in just a bit too loud. But other than that, it's quite pristine, and Hayward's vocals are lovely! Also, what's with the fade-out? I want to see how they ended these things, since they're allegedly LIVE. ...Stupid BBC...
Ride My See-Saw B
Did you see Saw II? ...How many sequels did they make to that movie now? They pop those things out faster than I can pop out Pop Tarts. (...Seriously, I don't eat Pop Tarts too often.) The instrument playing is fast, but it seems a bit muckier than I would have liked. It could be partly the instrument playing and also the somewhat fuzzier recording quality.
Lovely To See You A
It's lurrrrvely to see you, guvnah! (Have I been coming off obnoxious lately? ...Oh well, you're probably used to it.) The recording quality isn't the clearest that it has been in this album... But I sort of like it, because it seems to make Hayward's voice come off a little more angelic. Did they do that on purpose? The bass and lead guitar comes off as slightly distorted, which didn't do those instruments much favors... But that voice! Yum!
Never Comes the Day A-
Another lovely live rendition of a classic Moody Blues song! The vocals are lovely, of course, and they're playing it very closely to the original. The recording quality is about average for this record. Like the previous track, the bass and lead guitar seem inappropriately louder than everything else. ...But I do at least like someone pulled out the harmonica and started chugging away, just like the studio version. What would this song be like without the chuggy harmonica?
To Share Our Love A-
Another song from On the Threshold of a Dream. Not one of my favorite songs of that album and, thus, it's not one of my favorite moments of this set. Nevertheless... this is one of the more rock 'n' rolling songs, and it'll give you an excuse to tap your foot, if you've been hankering for a reason to do that. The guitars groove along nicely, and the vocals are wonderfully passionate.
Send Me No Wine B+
Why not? Is my wine not good enough for you? ...Hey? Why am I hearing that Michael-Palin-like announcer? Didn't they fire that guy yet? ...Once again, the announcer comes through my speakers crystal clear, but the actual band sounds like they're behind a wall.
So Deep Within You A-
That's what he said. (Oh yeah... I'm capable of raunchy jokes just like the next man...) So, this is easily one of my favorite numbers from On the Threshold of a Dream, but it's so CLOSE to the original that I don't think anyone has a great reason to own this version. Especially since the recording quality isn't perfect. (Of course the BBC probably had the best live footage of these guys while they were at their peak... But that still doesn't mean there's really any point in owning a live Moody Blues album!)
Lovely To See You A
Lovely to See You! ...Again! (I really wish I could just excuse myself from writing track reviews in these Box Sets. Can't you tell I'm just filling up space?) ...But I do love this song. It's upbeat and bright and thus comes off better live than some of these other songs do. I also hear Michael Palin talking again at the beginning of this. WHY DON'T YOU SHUT UP AND START SINGING “THE LUMBERJACK SONG” ALREADY!!!!!!!!!
Nights in White Satin A
When I was a kid, I couldn't tell the phonetic difference between “satin” and “Satan.” There was some J.C. Penny's commercial, or something, advertising fabric, except I thought it was the Devil's fabric. (I must have been a dumb kid.) ...The only problem with this live version compared to the others is that Mike Pinder gets a little bit carried away with that horn mellotron and completely drowns out Justin Hayward at the pivotal crescendos. ...It's still a great song, though!
The Morning: Another Morning A
Is it just me, or are The Moody Blues totally reliving their former glories now? ...Oh well. Give the people what they want, right? ...Also, I really like this one! The drums come in hard and crunchy, which coupled with the nicely deep sounding bass and the gleaming flute, it's an especially nice moment to tap your foot to!
Ride My See-Saw A
Did you see Saw III? This performance was taken off of a program called Colour Me Pop. God, do you know how jealous I am of people who grew up in England in the '60s? They not only got Dr. Who, but they also got programs called Colour Me Pop. ...And if you're going to slim this album down a little bit for iPod purposes, I'd pick Saw III over all the others. Not only is this recording quality PERFECT, we get some of their psychedelic spoken-word poetry at the beginning of this. Most importantly, that subdued, rumbly groove they keep going throughout this whole thing is just AWESOME.
Dr. Livingstone, I Presume A-
How many times did Dr. Livingstone go and lose himself? This was taken from the same program as that previous track, but somehow I think the bass is worse off. ...Maybe this bass is too bouncy here? Well we all love the bouncy groove from the original, but they mixed it properly in the studio album! ...Oh, this is why we don't buy Moody Blues live albums, right?
House of Four Doors B+
This is kind of an unfocused mess... just like the original was! But I'm amused as hell that they included that door squeaking sound. It makes me wonder if they had an actual creaky door they were playing with on the program? ...Based on the fact that it sounds a bit like an elephant with a stomachache, it's probably just a recording.
Voices in the Sky B+
This is the THIRD time I've heard “Voices in the Sky.” Am I going schizophrenic or something? This is inferior to the second version. The Mellotrons and flute don't come in as clearly. ...If you disagree with that, then you're stupid. (Sorry for insulting you, but I don't really have anything else constructive to say about this SONG.)
The Best Way to Travel B+
...Is by flinging yourself by the straps of your overalls with your thumbs... Have I ever told you that that bendy Mellotron noise Mike Pinder makes sounds a lot like Kraftwerk's supposedly visionary Autobahn? (...OK, Autobahn was still visionary. What would Sur La Mer have sounded like if it weren't for Kraftwerk? ...Good?)
Visions of Paradise B
The good news is that I haven't heard this song done in this album yet. The bad news is that it's not really one of those songs I had a hankering to hear them do again. The gentle texture they create is quite nice, but I'm still comparing it too much to the original. ...It also probably could have stood to be longer than 1 minute. Most songs are still warming up at that point!
The Actor B+
Just two minutes? ...Oh, I see what they're doing. A medley! ...Eh... I don't care much for them. It surely seems more fully baked than the previous song (mostly because it was a more inspired song to begin with), but I also don't quite seem to be ready for it to end after less than two minutes. ...Just play the whole things!
The Gypsy A
'allo, 'allo, 'ALLO! Now they're playing songs from To Our Children's Children's Children, which is by far the best Moody Blues album. If you disagree with that, then YOU'RE STUPID. Or maybe not stupid, but have a differing opinion than I do. But with a song like this, being totally tuneful and also with some driving rock 'n' roll POWER behind it, shouldn't everyone at least consider it a close candidate? The recording quality isn't crystal clear, but in this case I kind of like the rougher sound of those guitars grooving away behind those Mellotrons and that flute!
The Sunset A
Still with stuff from Days of Future Passed? If they could now only play songs from To Our Children's Children's Children, why would they even bother? …Oh wait, I gave this song an A, so I must like it! ...Well, this sounds really cool. The Mellotrons have a caramel texture, and that Middle-Eastern bongo rhythm and bass combo has a CRUNCH to it. Mike Pinder has a funny sort of growl to his singing. He wasn't as high as when he sang it on Caught Live, which I suppose means that this is the more family-friendly version.
Never Comes the Day A-
This is the song with the chuggy harmonica, which must mean that I've heard it once before in this album already. The harmonica here seems a bit too loud, so I'd choose the previous version over this. But I like both versions anyway, because it's alternately a pretty ballad and a danceable rock 'n' roll song. It's crazy how hippies did stuff like that.
Are You Sitting Comfortably? A
I'm slouched in my chair a little too much right now, if it's any of your business... It's funny how it doesn't dawn on me completely how much I love this song until I start to hear Justin Hayward talking about Merlin. ...Incidentally, I saw on The History Channel that Merlin was real and actually an extra-terrestrial. Now, how can you argue against that? Also, Christopher Columbus totally had a UFO encounter. I guess extra-terrestrials are history buffs just like us! Anyway, the recording quality here is very very good. I can hear those gentle acoustic guitar textures perfectly, and the voice comes in at just the right volume, too. And the flute? RICH!
Poem: The Dream B
Oh! That solves that then! Sometimes in these massively length box sets, I have trouble coming up with a least favorite song. But I only had to read this title to know exactly what I was going to pick! ...But at least I like those trippy Mellotron noises in the background.
Have You Heard? B
I've heard that this song wasn't really that good. Just a whole lot of overblown psychedelic nonsense. ...But I do sort of like this thing. Very overblown and unfocused, but at least Mike Pinder sounds like he had one of two puffs of silly weed before he started singing lead vocals. Maybe he sounded the same way in “The Sunset,” but it was slightly less obvious!
Nights in White Satin A-
NIGHTS IN WHITE SATIN!!!!!!!! I wonder if these BBC performances track The Moodies drug useage through the ages? They're getting SOOO carried away with the crescendos on this one that they come very close to maxing out the speakers. And Justin Hayward can hardly be heard in the chorus. ...And yet despite the mess-ups, this is still a great song!
Legend of a Mind A
Oh wow, in this parallel universe, I apparently like “Legend of a Mind” more than “Nights in White Satin.” You see where drugs will get you? (I'm not the one on drugs... THEY are.) For you see, this song works pretty well as a weird, trippy, variable mesh whereas “Nights in White Satin” relies too much on carefully constructed crescendos. ...Then again, it could very well be my imagination that these guys seemed more like they were on drugs as these performances got later in their chronology. (I've been preconditioned to believing as much!) But anyway, this sounds excellent. I especially love Ray Thomas' fluttery flute solo, which—to me anyway—reinforces the idea that he was far superior than his '00s replacement.
They made it all the way up to their A Question of Balance era and only managed to perform one song from To Our Children's Children's Children? ...Maybe they weren't as wildly popular by that time, or something? But at least we get to hear them perform this excellent piece, which is easily one of the most rock 'n' rolling things they've ever done. (And despite the common perception of them, that is saying something.) I can hear that bass pumping away, but it doesn't quite give me the same high that the original does! Also, I really wish that drum was mixed in more loudly. Nonetheless, those acoustic guitars are furiously going at it, and it's hard not to get caught into the spirit. ...Of course the slow ballad section is here, and it's just as sweet and uplifting as it's always been. …......So there it is. I wonder how useful it was of me to write track reviews of EVERYTHING, since I doubt very many people read them all. But anyway. I bestow these track reviews onto the world...
Live at the Isle of Wright 1970 (2008)
Read the full review:
“Gypsy,” baby! And no, I'm not talking about that lame-o Bette Midler musical! I'm talking about The Moody Blues song from To Our Children's Children's Children, which proved once and for all that these guys could ROCK with the best of 'em. And it's kind of a cool song to start off the set, also, since it gets the audience up on their feet dancing around to the infectious riff. (Oooh, and see the year that is attached to this album title—those '80s pop songs that The Moody Blues like starting off their concerts with these days were a full decade away!) So anyway, what do you want me to say about this? It was 1970, so the recording quality wasn't crystal clear. But they also evidently had the recorder on the stage since the crowd noises are crept to a minimum. So, I like it! The electric guitars rock, the vocals are spirited; I especially like those falsettos I hear in the background... the Mellotrons sound a little weird, but they also rock. It's a lot rougher than the studio version; especially Hayward's verrrrry wobbly and rocky vocals. But it was a live performance! This is to be expected!
Hello, Mike Pinder! What can I say? I missed the dude in The Moody Blues '80s albums, and I'm glad to see the three original members that stuck with it till the end didn't erase him from their harddrives. Of course, he wasn't the best singer of the band... in fact, he's singing a little oddly, like some sort of out-of-it hippie. His Mellotron also sounds like it's veering in and out of tune throughout this... which doesn't surprisingly doesn't have that much of a negative effect as I would have thought something like that would have. Other than that, the rhythm sections are crunchy, and the tune is still there. They weren't the best live band of all time, but … oh! It would have been fun to be in the audience there, wouldn't it have? Could I have been born too late and in the wrong country?
Tuesday Afternoon A-
Well, it was only 1970 and The Moodies didn't have that many albums under their belt! Of course they're going to sing a butt-load of songs from their album that made the biggest splash onto the world! ...Maybe the one nicest thing about being a Moody Blues fan over the years was that they weren't known to periodically snubbing their back-catalog like some artists have been known to doing. ...But anyway, Justin Hayward's vocals are extremely shaky. At one point it seems like he drops off and stops singing. He even sings “Sunday afternoon” at one point... which I suppose is different, but doesn't that betray the whole “week in a life” theme of the album? ...Ah well. Great song, good performance.
Minstrel Song A-
Whoah! Songs from A Question of Balance, easily The Moodies' fourth best album and the newest one at the time of this release. (People are going to argue about the ranking of Moody Blues albums for eternity... but I'm the only one with the correct opinion.) I also can't believe it, but I'd almost forgotten about this song! I sort of shrugged when I read the title. ...But as soon as I heard all the boys join in that sweet and catchy melody, I remembered it immediately. When did I review A Question of Balance? Last October, or thereabouts... ...Now, these guys weren't trying to be perfect. That is more evident here than ever. Everyone except the drummer is singing lead vocals, and they're not all on-key. But so help me—I find that charming. Those guitars and wonderfully pounding drums give it a special organic quality that the studio cut could never have achieved. ...Well, I like the studio version better, but that sort of goes without saying!
Never Comes the Day A-
Justin Hayward sings vocals a lot at their concerts, doesn't he! Well, he was the one the people probably wanted to hear the most, right? This was never one of my favorite tunes, but … it's still a good tune! I can also hear his vocals getting REALLY drowned out over that upswelling of instruments. It comes off as awkward, but if we'd already had been able to swallow his vocals dropping off in the middle of “Tuesday Afternoon,” then why not also take this? ...Ah well, if we want perfect renditions, then we should just listen to the studio versions again. This is nice!
Tortoise and the Hare B+
...Wow, this is ROUGH. Even as someone who gave them passes for some rough performances, I have a hard time with this one. First of all, it sounds like all the guys were singing at once... and independently from one another. Secondly, that Mellotron just sounds WEIRD. At some points it comes off as really loud. Other times, it just drops off. But all throughout, it's bending around like it's scoring some sort of haunted house movie. Well that's kind of cool, but doesn't really help this piece come together. But good old Graeme Edge is playing his heart out with that busy rhythm section, isn't he! ...This is a lot of fun to hear as long as you can tolerate that it's ROUGH.
The title song from their latest album! It was the song of the hour! My favorite thing of the song isn't its irrepressible energy, but that BASS-LINE. But ooooh, I can't hear the bass too well, can I! I can hear it faintly, thanks to the fact that I'm expecting it, but … well, if I wasn't expecting it, I might not have noticed it. But anyway, there's Justin Hayward giving a rough though spirited vocal performance and those furious electric guitars crunching away like there's no tomorrow. ...Of course things slow down in the middle for the ballad. The ballad part isn't as good as the fast part, but it's still sweet and of course I like the melody. After all, Hayward's singing that he wants to find someone in his life. Isn't that the what we all sing about?
Melancholy Man A
Mike Pinder is back, and he's singing “MELANCHOLY MAN!” Could that be the best song he'd ever done? ...Hmm, I'd have to think about that, but it's surely on the short list. Pinder's voice runs into the same problem that Hayward's runs into... it gets drowned out with the upswelling instrumentation. And this was a dramatic song, so there's A LOT of upswell. Though I definitely like that they still found the time to play this song with a lot of gusto right there on the stage. There was no half-assing it in the world of The Moody Blues—that's for sure!
Are You Sitting Comfortably? A
I'm laying down on my bed right now, typing this, if you can believe it. (Why wouldn't you? Why would I lie about such a thing?) But anyway, here's that song that Justin Hayward about Merlin casting his spell. ...Maybe I should ask them to play this song at my funeral? ...Or maybe I should just make people a mix-tape and just skip the funeral, because I freaking HATE funerals. For once, I want someone to die and for there to not be a funeral. Let it be me! ...But not until the distant future, hopefully! I have 10,000 albums to review before I die, after all. ...So anyway, this could be one of my top favorite moments of this album. It's the sweetest ballad EVER and without the constant crescendos, the vocals sound perfectly clean and wonderful through my stereo. Oh what a pretty song! I bask in it like a summer day! (A summer day that's not Seattle, since they're usually quite cool around here...)
The Dream B
Oh, this is a spoken poetry part, and it isn't “Higher and Higher,” so I'm technically supposed to hate this. ...I don't know if it was me actually seeing a Moody Blues concert a week ago, but I just won't bring myself to disliking it. Yeah, spoken poetry means that they're not giving us a melody. But I sort of find it funny hearing Mike Pinder read that poetry in that goofy, hippie voice of his while playing that bendy Mellotron. ...That was a freaky instrument, wasn't it?
Have You Heard (Pts 1 and 2) B
Uh oh, this is Mike Pinder's epic from On the Threshold of a Dream! It's a nice song for sure, but it was never exactly one of my favorite moments of theirs. (But then again... how can I snub something that was from one of their classic albums?) I also find it almost excessively amusing to hear him play that Doppler Effect on his Mellotron right there on the stage. ...I wonder how many Mellotrons that guy went through, 'cos I hear it rumbling kind of unnaturally there! That couldn't have been good for it! ...Anyway, just like the studio version, this song has its ups and downs. Usually it makes a nice listen, but other parts just seem to drag. ...So, after sitting through this, I believe the time is right for a little bit of—
Nights in White Satin A
WoohoooOoOoOoooOOO!!! Man, it's like CLOCKWORK to hear this song done at the end of their shows! Considering Days of Future Passed was the first album of the classic line-up, it must've been like this since the beginning of time! Well, what can I say about it that hasn't been said 1,000,000 times already? (Especially since I just got off reviewing three live versions of it on Live at the BBC?) Hayward sings his heart out like he always does. It does sound shaky, but it's the SPRIT that matters, dang it! And man! That chorus still packs a punch, even when it's in the roughest of forms!
Legend of a Mind A
Whoah... Ray Thomas gets to sing his song... ABOUT TIME!!! But they like to save the best for last, don't they? For all time, this is going to be one of my favorite Moody Blues songs, and it's fun to hear here... in quite possibly the roughest form that has ever been captured on tape. His vocals, similarly to Hayward's, don't always hit the right notes at the right times. But I do like his singing voice. Pinder's bouncy Mellotron sounds kind of silly here, too. ...But I gotta say that even though this song's catchy melody is one of its strong points, maybe my favorite moment is when Thomas stops singing and plays those mystical notes with his flute? ...Oh yes, I must've drunk the Kool-Aid to like that psychedelic flute! ...But really, who wouldn't like the flute?
Ride My See Saw A
Did you see Saw IV? (Seriously, how many of those movies are they going to make? I mean, why does Hollywood purposefully make movies that they know there's no chance in Hell that I'll ever see?) Just like the Moody Blues concert I attended just last week, they closed it out with this song! ...And maybe everyone in the audience had it stuck in their heads long after The Moody Blues left the stage, just like I was? Oh, the performance is ROUGH, but it ROCKS, so I don't think anyone will care. ...Well, maybe that extremely busy drum line is a little more intrusive than I would have liked! But it has plenty of energy to it. And I still get that charming quality from the guys all joining in the vocals all at once. We all love this song, right?
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