MOODY BLUES

important work in black

 

1965: Go Now - Moody Blues #1. 1967: Days of Future Passed. 1968: In Search of the Lost Chord. 1969: On the Threshold of a Dream * To Our Children's Children's Children. 1970: A Question of Balance. 1971: Every Good Boy Deserves Favor. 1972: Seventh Sojurn. 1974: This is the Moody Blues. 1975: In the Beginning. 1977: Caught Live Plus Five. 1978: Octave. 1981: Long Distance Voyager. 1983: The Present. 1985: Voices in the Sky: The Best of the Moody Blues. 1986: The Other Side of Life. 1987: Prelude. 1988: Sur La Mer. 1990: Legend of a Band.


The Moody Blues' flowery, optimistic fantasizing was quite the opposite of Pink Floyd's dreary cynicism. Pink Floyd's (Roger Water's) gutter-cast eyes may have been a little more hip at the time, but the stargazing pop-craft of the Moody Blues' has become more persuasive. The Moody's quintet of songwriter's could be stomach-wrenchingly sentimental, morbid and pedantic when serving up bad poetry and new age Unitarianism. But the text rode upon state-of-the-art production values, rapturous harmonies and
strong melodies; and when they eased up a little, they gave an original slant to the usual pop formula.

Tony Clarke was responsible for producing almost all of the Moody's early albums and he did some cutting-edge work. The rhythm section was excellent: John Lodge (bass) and Graeme Edge (drums) played subtle, fluid rhythms of an uncommon power. That they were buried under layers of strings, keyboards and harmonies didn't disguise the fact that they were vivacious and spirited players. The Moody Blues used their expansive instrumentation to great advantage, almost dumping guitars entirely in order to make way for sweeping keyboard, flute, sax, and string flourishes provided by Mike Pinder, Ray Thomas and Justin Hayward (Hayward was also the band's main guitar player, but he obviously conceived the music with keyboards as a primary element of the band's style). Theirs was a pop "orchestrated" style; a keyboard/vocal dominated sound that few did as well as the Moody Blues.

In Search of the Lost Chord and On the Threshold of a Dream are the Moody Blues at their most playful: there's a tongue-in-cheek quality to tunes like "Ride My See-saw," "Dr. Livingstone, I Presume," "Legend of a Mind," "Bet Way to Travel," "In the Beginning" (which is goofy in a grand manner, like Procol Harum) and "Dear Diary." As they became more seriously cosmic, the songs became preachy, sullen, or narrowly romantic. To Our Children's Children's Children sunk from this added weight: the keyboard parts had become airy and less melodic, the themes less sportive. Suddenly, the Moodies seemed old before their time. Morose rockers, the boys just worried too much. Fodder for sniping rock critics everywhere, lines like "how many times will I have to find myself" begged for retorts like "tie a string around your finger, maybe you won't lose yourself so often" (Creem magazine loved to kick The Moody Blues when they were down). It's ironic how some of our earthiest writers - Lou Reed, Richard Thompson – can seem spiritually uplifting, while the spiritual preoccupation of bands like the Moody Blues somehow makes them humanistically impoverished. There's not a whole lot of real people up there with your head in the clouds (or within your mind's eye), and the Moody Blues meditation on the cosmic often left them bereft of everyman empathy. After Children's Children, hot air and ponderous themes would typify the Moody Blues approach until Seventh Sojourn, which was a return to form (especially on the strong second side). Justin Harward's love ballads seemed (falsely) to be taking on considerable pop charm.

The return of the Moody Blues in 1978 after a lengthy sabbatical brought the dull Octave, and their career became noticeably spotty. Long Distance Voyager was better; but it was only their second new album in nine years. It's been awhile since they've peaked. The band may have become too corporate-mind to remain aesthetic contenders in any meaningful way, though a new album (1999) is pending.

 

 

For our complete listings of bands, visit our

 

King of Pop Music Reviews Index

SF Music Chronicle Home

Contact Us