In Search Of The Lost Chord

The Moody Blues

Deram, 1968

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


By fusing classical and psychedelic British rock with Days Of Future Passed, the Moody Blues had created a minor masterpiece, a resonant work of art that holds up well decades later. For the follow-up, they decided to forgo the orchestra and purchase a Mellotron, an instrument capable of reproducing orchestra-like noise. Not content with that, they grabbed pretty much every instrument they could find to add texture and layers of noise to the newest batch of songs.

In Search Of The Lost Chord is the second of the Moodies’ “classic seven” and the first to feature their signature blend of overwrought noise, semi-spiritual lyrics about finding life’s meaning, and silly, dated psychedelic curios that sounded cool in 1968 but are horribly dated today. There also are the moments of genuine beauty and superb musicianship that grace every Moody Blues album, some more than others.

The Moodies’ lyrical themes work best when not tied to a specific time period, which is why my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Days Of Future Passed, “Question,” and Seventh Sojourn work so well. In Search Of The Lost Chord is full of dated references to Timothy Leary (“Legend Of A Mind”), meditation (the dreadful “Om”), Dr. Livingston (for absolutely no reason) and a specific, acid-fueled state of mind. This is the sort of music where one gets high and then wonders about astral planes, voices in the sky, visions of paradise, colors, lost chords, and other such nonsense.

I suppose if one was to drop acid in 2013 and give this a listen, it would sound as good as it did in 1968, but listening to it straight and 45 years on is a bit of a bore. “House Of Four Doors,” “Om,” the spoken word sections of “The Word” and “Departure” and the middle section of “Legend Of A Mind” are trippy nonsense, overblown and taking themselves far too seriously.

It is when the Moodies simply play that they create solid pieces of music. “Ride My See-Saw” may be slight lyrically but is driving and intense, while “The Actor” is a beautiful woodwind-and-acoustic piece about lost love, featuring some of Justin Hayward’s best vocals. He would unearth the piece for the 2005 Lovely To See You tour and prove it had lost none of its potency; it remains one of the better album tracks of the band’s career.

The same can’t be said for “Dr. Livingstone, I Presume” and “The Best Way To Travel,” which are solid but unremarkable psychedelic “rockers.” The minor hits were “Voices In The Sky,” a lovely ballad, and “Legend Of A Mind,” which is a pretty good song if you take away the vocals and the unnecessarily trippy middle section. “Visions Of Paradise” tries to replicate “Voices In The Sky,” but the vocals and flute end up in competition with each other and neither is properly heard; worse, neither is really worth being heard.

There are a few minor nuggets to be mined here for casual fans, but the best songs are already on compilations, and only “The Actor” rises above the rest of the psychedelic pseudo-mystical bull. Unfortunately, the template of this album is one the Moodies would follow for their next two releases, and although the sheer number of instruments played is worth admiring, the album as a whole falls short.

Rating: C-

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