A Question Of Balance
REVIEW BY: David Bowling
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/14/2011
The Moody Blues returned in August of 1970 with a release that was somewhat different than their four previous efforts. It has been chronicled that the group was having trouble reproducing their sound live and that some songs just could not be presented at all.
I saw The Moody Blues in concert during the early 1980’s and, from what I remember, they had no problems recreating their studio sound, but maybe technology had advanced far enough by that time so that it had become possible. Whatever the reason, A Question Of Balance leaves behind much of the cosmic atmosphere and complicated instrumentals in favor of a more stripped-down sound. The album would resonate with the record-buying public, reaching number one in England and number three in the United States.
Also missing on this dic is the exploration of one cohesive theme. While several songs take up the meaning of life and identity, they are not as unified as on their former releases.
The Moody Blues veered from their past by placing a Justin Hayward track as the lead-off song rather than a Graeme Edge composition, as had been the norm on previous releases. “Question” became a hit single in England and in the USA and remains one of the group’s signature songs. This straightforward and catchy rocker also had a little political bite as it dealt with the issues of the Vietnam War, which was raging at the time. Justin Hayward’s guitar playing that connects the track’s two halves is particularly memorable.
Ray Thomas’ “And The Tide Rushes In” remains one of my top five or so favorite Moody Blues songs. This pensive but beautiful piece is a philosophical exploration of the wrongs and problems of life, which are ultimately washed away.
John Lodge’s first contribution, “Tortoise And The Hare,” is in some regards a typical rocker by his standards, but he also simplifies the sound and it adds up to a fun listen. “Minstrel’s Song” features one of the better vocals of his career – plus, the guitar work by Justin Hayward and the drumming by Graeme Edge are first-rate.
The two Mike Pinder songs are less successful than much of his past work. “How Is It (We Are Here)” is a dark song about the environment and starvation. Likewise, “Melancholy Man” has an ominous feel to it.
This time the album concludes with an Edge/Thomas composition in which the lyrics are spoken. “The Balance” contains wonderful imagery and is probably the closest they come to sounding like their past work.
A Question Of Balance would be a standalone album, as The Moody Blues would return to their former style with their next release. Still, when I think about their catalogue, this would be the album that I have probably listened to the most, except for possibly Days Of Future Passed Nearly forty years after its release, it remains thoughtful as well as interesting and should be a part of any progressive rock collection.