This Is The Moody Blues

The Moody Blues

Polydor, 1974

http://www.moodybluestoday.com

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/22/2013

There are several Moody Blues collections on the market, both single- and double-disc, but they all cover the group's entire history. This is the only one that focuses squarely on the seven albums that comprise the band's psychdelic period of 1967 to 1972, the period of inventiveness, bombast and emotional songwriting that caused people to either love or hate these guys, with no middle ground.

More than most bands of the time, save for fellow prog- and psych-rockers, the Moodies were album-oriented, selecting a specific theme and writing the music and words around it. The cycle of life from To Our Children's Children's Children and the daily routine of Days of Future Passed are the most obvious examples, while Seventh Sojourn and On the Threshold of a Dream are linked musically. Mixing up album tracks and hits from all these albums renders this disc a bit jarring, sort of like eating a peanut butter, ham and tuna sandwich. Could be good together, but feels like they might belong somewhere else.

Still, as an overview of these seven albums, this collection gets it mostly right, and remains a great way for casual fans of the early stuff to dig deeper without investing in all seven albums, because there is a fair amount of filler and dated stuff on those albums that may test the modern listener's patience. Days Of Future Passed is pretty well overlooked, with only the two major hits -- "Nights in White Satin" and "Tuesday Afternoon" -- offered, and these are available on rock radio and any of the other hits collections. One would hope for more album tracks such as "Twilight Time" or "Peak Hour," but the singles are indeed the two most accessible songs from that wonderful album.

The strident psychdelic rock of "Ride My See-Saw," the overly complex "Legend Of A Mind" and the masterful ballad "The Actor" (featuring some of Justin Hayward's finest singing) come from my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 In Search Of The Lost Chord, with only "Voices In The Sky" a puzzling absence. "The Word" is also here as one of three examples of drummer Graeme Edge's overblown poetry recitals, an oft-derided feature of the band's early albums.

On The Threshold Of A Dream continues the piles of instruments and the lush, individual sound of the band, manifested in "Lovely to See You" and "Never Comes the Day," with the "Have You Heard/The Voyage/Have You Heard Pt. 2" suite closing out the first disc. "The Voyage" is a particularly interesting piece, a Mellotron-heavy instrumental with a haunting piano theme, the whole thing a pretty cool trip if you're into this sort of thing. Also present are "Dear Diary" and the stupid instrumental "In The Beginning," a one-note waste of space that could have been filled instead with another album track like "Lazy Day" or "Send Me No Wine."

To Our Children's Children's Children was the last of the overly orchestrated studio creations that could not be re-created live, but while a fan favorite, the album is mostly forgotten here, with only the dull "Eyes Of A Child" and the moving ballad "Watching And Waiting" here. A full grade is docked for not including "Gypsy," one of the band's all-time great songs, but little else from the album warrants inclusion. The simpler A Question Of Balance gets in the tricked-out acoustics of "Question," Ray Thomas' morbidly depressing "Melancholy Man" and the divorce piece "And the Tide Rushes In." Only "Tortoise And The Hare" also should have been here, as it was a piece the band absolutely killed live, and perhaps "How Is It (We Are Here)" as a minor gem.

Most overlooked of these seven albums is Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, which offers the rocker "The Story In Your Eyes" and nothing else. This is not a bad decision save for "One More Time To Live," a socially conscious piece with a contrived but catchy chorus hook and enough Mellotron to fill a cathedral. The band's final album of this period, Seventh Sojourn, is very good in its own right, and the solid triptych of "Isn't Life Strange," "For My Lady" and "I'm Just A Singer (In A Rock And Roll Band)" represents it adequately, although "Lost In A Lost World" and "When You're A Free Man" are actually better songs. One bonus song is included in the set, Mike Pinder's "A Simple Game," a non-album single that is solid but unremarkable.

Granted, longtime fans will quibble with what is left out vs. what is here in terms of album tracks, and the collection mostly plays it safe in that regard, picking more accessible songs to surround the hits instead of the oddball detours that the albums frequently took (save for "In The Beginning" and the poetry pieces). As with Led Zeppelin, King Crimson, Yes and other similar bands of the period, the best way to experience the Moodies is the individual albums. For the uninitiated, This Is the Moody Blues does a pretty good job of summarizing the five band members (all equal songwriters) and capturing the prime period of the band's existence.

Rating: B+

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