Threshold Records, 1972
REVIEW BY: Dan Smith
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/01/1999
The Moody Blues are largely ignored these days, and it's a pity. Their psychadelic-tinged progressive pop journeyed through some fairly uncharted territory in the late 1960's, and up until their breakup in 1972 they continued to style catchy and pleasing pop music while at the same time keeping a standard of innovation--in many ways, they followed the lead of Beatles' records like Magical Mystery Tour and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. But all good things must come to an end, and for the Moody Blues that end came with their five-year hiatus following Seventh Sojourn's release in 1972.
Though drummer Graeme Edge described it as the most difficult Moodies album to create, mainly due to friction between keyboardist Mike Pinder and other band members, Seventh Sojourn is undisputedly one of the group's finest accomplishments. It eschews the more twee elements of their style (spoken-word segments, unnecessarily silly lyrics) and concentrates on building solid pop songs with great singing and playing. The star is bassist John Lodge, who contributes two of his greatest musical accomplishments--the gentle symphonic "Isn't Life Strange" and the thunderous "I'm Just A Singer (In A Rock And Roll Band)," one of the group's most instantly recognizable songs.
Not to be outdone, Pinder channels his seeming unhappiness with the group into two absolutely heart-rending songs, the very emotional "Lost In A Lost World", which is carried by Mellotron/Chamberlain swells and some really nice singing. Although it is clear that Pinder, never the most aesthetically pleasing MB in terms of voice, has lost a bit of range, he uses what he has quite well here. "When You're A Free Man" is an expansive piece that allows the band to explore a bit instrumentally, in the style of earlier Pinder compositions like "Have You Heard/The Voyage" and "Melancholy Man".
Flautist Ray Thomas kicks in one of his better efforts, the lovely sea chanty "For My Lady", a pretty if slightly limp pop tune. Justin Hayward contributes yet another lovely vocalized pop gem in "New Horizons", which to my mind measures up to anything he'd ever written, including "Nights In White Satin".
Unfortunately the other tracks just don't live up to this considerably high level. "You And Me" is a silly country-tinged tune that just doesn't go anywhere special, and "The Land Of Make-Believe" is pretty ugly as well.
Seventh Sojourn isn't on that level of first-rate pop with albums like Abbey Road and the Byrds' Fifth Dimension. However, it's not far off, and is probably the least dated of the "classic seven" Moodies albums. Either way, it's a good listen for those who enjoy well-crafted if light pop and imaginative instrumental segments, and makes a decent introduction to the Moodies' late 60s-early 70s music.