Keys Of The Kingdom

The Moody Blues

Polydor, 1991

http://www.moodybluestoday.com

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/05/2015

Well, at least it's not as bad as Sur La Mer, but it's pretty darn close.

Yes, despite the universal hatred for that album and the fact that the music world was entrenched in alternative rock and hip hop in 1991, the Moody Blues decided to put out even more music. Just like the band's late-80s output, the vast majority is cheesy, horribly dated pop music awash with synthesizers, faux-disco beats and almost nothing resembling this once-proud band.

I know a few people in the early ‘90s weren't ready for the ‘80s to be over just yet, and these middle-aged white hippie Brits were chief among them. Apparently, Justin Hayward and John Lodge thought the public was clamoring for more second-rate pop and that the problem all along had been keyboard player Patrick Moraz. Which, to be fair, is pretty accurate; had Mike Pinder been around, he would have beaten the shit out of Moraz for how he converted this band's sound so much. But Hayward and Lodge remained the chief songwriters, and they dismissed Moraz halfway through the recording sessions. Drummer Graeme Edge, meanwhile, barely showed up at all because of the reliance on electronic drums.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

What ranks this barely above Sur La Mer is the decent midtempo rocker "Say It With Love," the lovely "Lean On Me (Tonight)" (with a string section that is warranted and helps elevate the song) and the re-appearance of original member and flautist Ray Thomas. Now, Thomas had been an acquired taste on the band's Original Seven albums, but his deep voice was one of the band's signature sounds and he could always be counted on for a decent track or two on each disc. But as the band careened into the ‘80s, Thomas was sidelined in favor of the trite pop dreck - understandably so, given the nature of his material – and for a while there he seemingly disappeared. But he returns here at the end of the disc with "Celtic Sonant," which is a fine song and a paean to fans, but so horribly out of touch with the rest of the disc that it feels tossed-on just to appease said fans (the few that remained, anyway).

As usual, then, the rest of the disc is bland love songs like "Hope And Pray," "Shadows On The Wall," "Never Blame The Rainbows For The Rain" (ugh, I want to puke just typing that) and "Is This Heaven" cut with bland, ersatz, backward-looking DOA "rockers" like "Say What You Mean," "Magic" and "Once Is Enough." I should point out that "Say What You Mean" is split into two parts for absolutely no reason other than to draw in old-school fans who mistakenly think this is a callback to the old days. Cynical, sure, but with the Thomas song inclusion, it points to a desperate band that knew its days had passed them by a second time in 1986.

Since the best tracks are available on hits collections, there is no reason to own this outside of completion. It may be marginally better than Sur La Mer, but so is dental surgery, and that's only performed when absolutely necessary. That said, the band would tour behind this disc the following year and record the Red Rocks show, which aired on TV and helped raise the band's public profile again. Tellingly, only "Say It With Love," "Lean On Me" and "Bless The Wings" made the cut, and we should all be grateful.

Rating: D+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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