Friday, 4 July 2008

The Moody Blues "In Search Of The Lost Chord" (1968) ('Core Album #22, Revised Review 2015)




The Moody Blues "In Search Of The Lost Chord" (1968)

Departure/Ride My See-Saw/Dr Livingstone, I Presume/House OF Four Doors (Part One)/Legend OF A Mind/House OF Four Doors (Part Two)//Voices In The Sky/The Best Way To Travel/Visions OF Paradise/The Actor/The Word/Om

'Be it touch, sound, smell or sight, there's something inside we just have to write, the scent of a sound or the breath of a bird, the struggle to come up with meaning in every word, the wonder of albums that were covered and then to burst up, through the haze of forgotten years and scratchy secondhand records, onwards to the sun again, to fly to the skies on heavier wings, to wait for your lunch when you hear your toaster go ping, to sift through all these things in our attempt to survive as we search for the lost chord at... Alan's Album Archives *demented scream as Max The Singing Dog enters riding a see-saw!*

The lost chord is out there somewhere, the Moodies told me it would be - and unlike some bands out there I believe every word they say (I even left the room for an hour when they sang 'Go Now'). The lost chord sounds so beautiful and so pure that all of our troubles will be solved and mankind can live together as one listening to it in rapture. The Moodies know, they’ve been searching for it through every song on this album, if not their career. Well, even if we never find it that’s OK by me – because I’ve got a copy of this album instead, which is more or less the same thing. I've long had a soft spot for this album, because what else is our website if not an attempt to do what The Moody Blues do here: sift through all the sounds of the universe, detail the good and the bad, try to make patterns out of it to live your life by - and discover at the end that you're still no better off than when you started. The phrase was thought to have been first coined back in the Victorian era in a poem by Adelaide Ann Proctor, most famous for being 'borrowed' by James Joyce for a scene in Ulysses and turned into a song by Arthur Sullivan (the thinner half of Gilbert and Sullivan) - both of whom turned into a discussion of death and what happens after life (a very AAA cause: other albums on our site have life variously recorded as a mistake, a joke, a test for the next life, a world of possibilities that never quite happen and a fallen paradise - equally the next world has been full of everything from visions of paradise to form-filling bureaucracy; typically Moodies, though, Mike Pinder later commented they got the idea from a music hall parody of Sullivan's song). The test of an awful lot of great art (and an awful lot of awful art it has to be said) is how well it fulfils this role of answering the greatest of life's questions and by coming up with at least fifteen different answers (if you include all the 'Four Doors') 'In Search Of The Lost Chord is in many ways the ultimate AAA album, a guidebook to the soul. However the point that many reviewers miss is how much closer The Moody Blues are to the spirit of the original poem, which is less about a chord transcending you to Heaven at a certain time when all your notes have been 'played', but more a discussion of how music is the eternal giver of life ('I have sought but seek it vainly, that one last chord divine, which came from the soul of the organ and entered into mine').

As a result 'Lost Chord' is packed with more music and more instruments inside a minute than The Spice Girls have managed across a whole career (twenty, all played by the band members - and we're not talking thirty-three different makes of drum either, check this list out: John - bass, acoustic guitar, cello, snare drum and tambourine; Ray - C and Alto Flutes, Soprano Saxophone, Oboe; Graeme - Drums, Timpani, Tambourine, Tabla; Justin - 12-String, Acoustic and Electric Guitars, Sitar, Tabla, Piano, Mellotron, Bass, Harpsichord, Percussion; Mike - Mellotron, Piano, Harpsichord, Cello, Acoustic Guitar, Bass, Auto-harp). One of the biggest reasons why Moody Blues albums always sound so huge and symphonic is the care that went into the textures of each of their records. When the band were at their biggest and could pretty much take over Decca studios for months at a time they used to rent a spare studio and fill it with every instrument under the sun, however obscure or forgotten they were, and if they were looking for a certain sound for a record they used to go rummaging through the collection until they found it or its closest possible sound. Given an hour or two to some up with something, the Moodies took it in turns to work out a part for the solos in each song, a collaborative idea that really paid off during the recording of their original seven albums and makes them among the most genuinely in harmony bands on this list, despite their later fall-outs and difficulties.

No wonder that producer Tony Clarke recalls in his original sleeve notes that he thinks of his protégés as 'the smallest symphony orchestra in the world'; what strikes you most about 'Lost Chord' is how much sound is packed into it even by Moody Blues standards. I'm intrigued, though grateful, why the band chose to end their relationship with arranger Peter Knight which had become so prosperous: he may simply not have been available (Knight  seemed to be working with a new act most weeks back in the 1960s - everyone from Scott Walker to PInky and Perky - and his diary may have simply been too full; or perhaps The Moodies - reluctant participants in the 'rock and roll version of classical music' idea anyway - decided they now had enough clout within Decca to do what they wanted. Either way, though we occasionally give them stick for recording rock and roll the same way as classical pieces, Decca responded brilliantly in this period - acknowledging that the band were 'right' about their idea all along and giving them free reign and little pressure for this second album. Better yet the band were free to record whenever they wanted, with a studio full of instruments from all walks of life lying around (there are tales in this period of John Lodge abandoning the bass to see how different his ideas sounded on a cello, while Ray was given a 'lunch-time challenge' to come up with a suitable part for a song when the others left for lunch one day - the flautist may have gone hungry that day but it was worth it for the enhancing effect it gave the record). Though 1967/1968 were key times for experimentation by every band, no other record I own has such an exotic range of styles from rock and roll to classical to woodwind to Indian instruments (Justin playing the memorable sitar parts on this record himself, while Graeme assists on tabla). The only thing missing from the credits on the back cover is a kitchen sink - and one or other of the band probably played one of those at one stage too.

The biggest development though is that The Moody Blues no longer need an orchestra linking their music - they are that orchestra. The biggest player in all of this is Mike Pinder, who can re-create every noise possible worldly or other-worldly out of his new purchase of a mellotron. Though 'Days Of Future Passed' hadn't used the mellotron much, Mike had been using his new toy since at least the first half of 1967 and was eager to put it on record, where it and it's close colleague the chamberlain would become a key part of the Moody sound right up until their split in 1973 (meaning that this album's first recorded song, 'Legend Of A Mind', is effectively the debut of the 'real' Moody Blues music). It's worth pointing out here how different the sound still was in 1968 and how badly the instrument was still being played (have a listen to 'Star Collector on The Monkees' 'Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones LTD' of December 1967 to hear how pioneer Paul Beaver intended the instrument to be played - as a quirky squeal of sounds played the same way as a piano). By contrast Pinder's playing is elegant and flowing, full of washes of colour that really set the tone throughout most of the songs on this album. It's also a very different style to the pure R and B piano chops Mike had been playing not so very long before.

However 'Lost Chord' isn't just about the sounds but the words, being very much amongst the  thinking man’s psychedelia of 1968. With textures to die for and songs that veer between comic stupidity and deep philosophy, heavy riffy rockers and deep passionate ballads, and with all five members of the group writing and singing lead vocals at some point Lost Chord is also one of the band's more varied albums, full of very different attempts . Flautist and vocal lynchpin Ray Thomas seeks out very different figures of modern society, from Elizabethan, Victorian and early 20th century explorers such as Columbus, Dr Livingstone and Captain Scott to then-contemporary 60s ‘counterculture’ figurehead Timothy Leary, both songs performed tongue-in-cheek though with an element of 'truth' in both of them. Bassist John Lodge looks both inward and outward, telling us about his own private battles to overcome a sense of hopelessness and pointlessness at school in 'Ride My See-Saw' only to delve deeper into the human life cycle and the ‘four doors’ of evolution that man has passed through so far (which takes in almost every 'note' mankind has made from the Renaissance to the present day - the Moodies will save their caveman grunting until 'EGBDF'). Guitarist Justin Hayward studies the human psyche looking for answers, exploring the facades and masks that humans hide behind in their day to day lives on The Actor before asking advice from nature (Voices In The Sky and Visions Of Paradise). Keyboardist and mellotron expert Mike Pinder then looks into the human mind for answers, scouring the human intelligence for answers on The Best Way To Travel – thinking is the answer, by the way – and meditation and consciousness on Om. Drummer Graeme Edge, meanwhile, has two of his characteristically confusing monologues on the album, exploring the evolution of man on Departure and its possible flowering in the future on The Word. With these five very different visions the Moodies set out on their journey for us, often armed with only a mellotron and a drum-kit for company, seeking out the answers to questions that intelligent music naturally raises: where are we going? When are we going? Why are we going at all?    

That brings me on to one point about this album I don't think quite works though. Almost every other Moodies album - especially the 'core seven' Justin and John originals - turns a promising collection of songs into a work of art thanks to the clever running orders which segue one track into another with aplomb. On this album, though, the links just don't quite work: the first side curiously runs between songs by Graeme-John-Ray-John-Ray-John, the second Justin-Mike-Justin-Justin-Graeme-Mike. Future Moodies albums do so well because the tracks are more or less equally spaced between composer, offering contrasts and complements between the five. This album is too spaced together - and yet conversely would have sounded even better if we'd 'explored' each idea one by one, writer by writer (perhaps with Graeme's entries left where they are): for me the excitement of leaving school days and rules behind  on 'See-Saw' belongs next to the 'centuries of musical programming now turned loose in the 1960s' as heard on 'House Of Four Doors' (which all belong together: 'Legend Of A Mind' is no more a 'door' than anything else on the album). Ray's tales of discovering Dr Livingstone and Timothy Leary would have then had greater clout together (and the final eerie note would make an excellent question mark to raise again on side two). Justin's 'Voices' lead well to his becoming 'The Actor' who then cleanses his soul after witnessing 'Visions Of Paradise'. Which leaves Mike with the tale of how 'he' got there: that thinking is the best way to travel and leads him to inner contemplation on 'Omm', moving in little bit by little bit from outsiders with belief systems to individuals to understanding the ego to a form of collective unconscious. Was this a deliberate 'split' the Moodies worked out between themselves as they did via the 'times' on 'Future Passed'? Or just a reflection of their natural writing styles? (Mike has always written about inner thoughts so that's a given, but the others never quite fit to the 'stereotype' here again).

Another aspect of the album that's never quite worked for me is the front cover. Artist Phil Travers, who created all seven 'Justin 'n' John album sleeves, will go on to create some of the cleverest concepts in rock, but his idea for 'Lost Chord' suggests he was either having an 'off-day' or hadn't actually heard the album before putting pen to paper. What should be a picture of discovery - of the outer world leading slowly to a 'core' centre - has been turned into a ghoulish portrait of a buried foetus and skull both fading into the ground as the sun reaches out with several arms giving life. My guess is that Travers heard the album title and based his imagery around the 'Arthur Sullivan' idea of a 'lost chord' as the bringer and taker of life, rather than as what The Moodies' intended - more of a 'concept' that offers the meaning of life but can only be found 'inside'.

Forget the intellectual debate running through this album if you want to however or the packaging if you can – the music is first-class almost all of the way through and these tracks, more than any other Moodies album, also work as fine songs in their own right. Ride My See-Saw, the album’s best known song, is one of the rockiest roughest-edged songs the band ever recorded, celebrating the freedom of thinking your own thoughts with one of the catchiest hooks ever written. Legend Of A Mind, House Of Four Doors and Om are true prog-rock epics, with philosophical musings held together with flute solos, sound effects and a great amount of musical sticking-tape. Visions Of Paradise is one of the most ethereal, beautiful ballads the band ever recorded, with Hayward’s lovely voice held aloft by a cushion full of Ray Thomas’ flutes. And Dr Livingstone and Voices In The Sky are some of the catchiest, singalong pop songs the band ever wrote. Whether you enjoy the music, the concept or both, there’s much to recommend about this record and the fact that Lost Chord is itself a bit of a ‘lost chord’ among collectors these days.

Though all 'core seven' records continue to be rated highly, 'Lost Chord' tends to be an album that gets one of the lowest straws, with most people claiming that it's 'dated' much more than the others. While admittedly the meditating sitar-fest 'Omm' couldn't be any more'1968' if it was wearing a kaftan, that seems an unfair brush to tar the rest of the album with: the whole point of this  album is that it's about 'every' era, uncovering every stone in a search for a lost chord (with 'House Of Four Doors' alone spanning some five hundred years' worth of music). Unlike some psychedelic albums which are all about the 'here' and now', 'Lost Chord' never claims that the current crop of music is the only or even the best place to search; it is after all an album filled with music hall in 'Dr Livingstone' and the very Beatley early 60s 'Voices In The Sky', while the charge of 'Ride My See-Saw' would be pure 1950s if not for the groovy mellotron. For me what impresses most about 'Lost Chord' is the range and breadth of the musical choices - and you don't get 'range' or 'breadth' on an album that's only trying to be fashionable to one particular year. It's worth noting too that the album ends with 'Omm' not so much as 'the' answer (as posed by 'The Word's question) but as 'an ' answer - with meditation as yet the closest the band have come to finding the truth. It's worth pointing out that of all the 60s 'fads' it is meditation that has lasted longest: the band could have chosen drugs, they could have chosen Maharishi-style gurus, they could have chosen hippies (which is probably what I'd have done - hippies still represent the height of modern culture to me); instead they chose, well, a 'yantra' to be picky (the gatefold sleevenotes proudly tell us that 'it's like a mantra...something which can hold the mind to a form much as in the less organised way one can see pictures in the glowing embers of a fire or cloud'. See, you learn everything from this record! I've just seen a dog in a top-hat wearing a pair of earphones while writing this and basking in the music...wait that image was real, down Max!) In other words it's the perfect solution to a Moody Blues album: after all that searching, questioning people who went to exotic lands to seek out the unknown, after all the asking questions from other people and after all the see-saw riding that the modern world will allow, the answer was 'within' our minds all the time, 'patterns' individual to all of us. Far from being the greatest 'Moodies clunker of all time, 'Ommm' is the only possible way this album can end, proof that thinking really is 'the best way to travel'.


Before we finish, our usual look-back at what the 'deluxe re-issues' of these albums had to offer in addition to the original album. The Justin Hayward ballad 'What Am I Doing Here?' as released on 'Live+5' was taped early on in these sessions and sets the tone for much of the album - a questioning soul-searching song, it's a piece that marks another stage in Justin's songwriting development on from the romantic questioner in 'Nights In White Satin', lost and alone as love fades away and his plans come to naught. It's a song I actually prefer to all three of Justin's songs on this album and though not a direct fit for the record 'belongs' more than any of them it sounds to me. Almost as good, though not as good a fit for the album, is another Justin ballad released on 'Live+5' 'King and Queen', a more mainstream love ballad clearly written to be another 'Nights' with similar bursts of sudden adrenalin and heart, though it comes over as slightly contrived compared to its glorious predecessor. Another period song never intended for the album made the CD re-issue: 'A Simple Game' is in effect the 'sampler' from this record, a Mike Pinder track that goes from questions to answers and discovers that life is 'simple' when you understand the key to reading it. Later turned into a hit for The Four Tops, it's too good a song to leave in the archives although the band sound oddly unsure how to play it (their final version with the song's composer on lead is quite Motown-ish and probably why the Four Tops picked it; an earlier outtake with Justin sounding lost on a lead vocal that treats the song as a similar detached-turning-powerful vehicle as 'Nights In White Satin' also makes the CD). There are also five radio sessions the band recorded for the BBC across 1968, four of them songs taken from this album: 'Dr Livingstone' is chirpy with a fanfare mellotron riff added, 'Voices In The Sky' sounds more MOR than ever with a louder mellotron part added, 'Thinking Is The Best Way To Travel' is slower and more, well, 'normal' with Justin's guitar covering much of the mellotron part played on the record and finally 'See-Saw' is already much more like the live version, starting with a heavy thudding drum track and a yelled manic count-in, although the vocals are impressively tight given this recording is 'as-live'. There are also five additional mixes of album songs: 'Departure' and 'The Word' feature a much louder mix of the mellotron behind both Graeme and Mike's recitations and end with a 'proper' end instead of running into the next tracks; 'The Best Way To Travel' is listed as 'additional vocal mix' and does include more of Mike's double-tracking used more sparsely on the record. However it's the ending of the song that's so different, with the track continuing on with it's lovely guitar riff as Mike's mellotron beeping fades away and leading into a killer Moodies jam that really should have made the record, with Graeme making the drums louder and louder until the song finally flows away again, running some forty-five seconds longer in this version; 'Legend Of A Mind' is less interesting, mainly consisting of double-tracked Ray Thomas vocals throughout and a slightly - but only slightly - different flute solo; 'Visions Of Paradise' is simply the backing track without the vocals - beautiful, yes, but less fascinating as, say, 'Ride My See-Saw' would have been without vocals as you can pretty much work out how it would have sounded anyway; finally 'Ommmm' simply consists of an extra thirty seconds of 'aah-ah-ah-aaaaaaaah!' ing with the band finally rounding off on the same note, presumably conducted to a halt by Tony Clarke in the production room. Still, while not everything is particularly different, there are a lot more discoveries within than some of the band's 'deluxe' re-issues, with lots of 'lost chords' that departed in the editing suite now back intact!


The Music:



Graeme Edge’s spooky spoken word passage Departure is an instant reminder of how fantastically prog-rock the Moodies could be (that really is a complement, by the way, now put those ELO and ELP albums down and stop waving them at me in disgust!) Accompanied by demented shrieks, a great crashing chord played on several instruments at once and Mike Pinder having fun with a mellotron, Edge tells us how every human has some yearning, burning need for something they do not yet have. Comparing mankind to flowers that ‘rise up through tarmac to the sun again’, he sees us as always searching for our lost Garden of Eden paradise, even if that’s a journey that seems to involve building lots of all too-heavy civilisations and towns. One of the scariest openings to any album (that loud crashing chord at the beginning following a quite enticing strumming of a harp has caught out more than one collector over the years!), its an interesting scene-setter for Lost Chord that like many 60s monologues sounds terribly dated and yet still resonates enough to let its final line of using ‘all these things in our memories hoard to help us find…’ -SHRIEK-) give us more than a few sleepless nights.



Segueing hurriedly into the rocky but equally-scary Ride My See-Saw, this is one of John Lodge’s career-best songs, with his propelling bass doing its best to hurry its narrator through the troubled school years talked about on the opening verses and into the free open sunshine of that ‘ahh-ahh-ahh-ahh’ middle eight, one of the loveliest pieces of music the band ever recorded. Lodge has revealed in later interviews that his reasons for writing this song were both his sudden realisation that his education actually wasn’t prepared to ask the bigger questions in life he thought needed to be asked and his joy at escaping an ‘ordinary’ life by joining the dying embryo of the Moody Blues in 1966 and watching it turn into one of the best intellectual bands around, one that could literally do anything and go anywhere. The song contrasts that feeling heavily with the rigid, largely one-note verses that seem locked forever into their structured prisons and mimicks the lives of his poor unfortunate friends who seem to be stuck facing the same repetitive events in their chosen careers. Offering up his ‘seat’ to anyone who wants it, Lodge tells us he is getting off the ‘see-saw’ of life because he realises by now that his expanding mind is being stifled, in short that ‘he should have grown’. One of the band’s better singles, this track’s criss-crossing counterpart harmonies and swirling Justin Hayward guitar lift the spirits like nothing else and the full-blown band harmonies throughout the song are some of the best in the band’s large catalogue, especially that glorious middle eight where Mike Pinder’s downscaling aahs meet the joyous harmony of Thomas, Lodge and Hayward head-on. Turning to the listener in the last verse, Lodge asks us to come with him to ‘find another place that’s free’, inviting us for a stroll through the album, an offer that can surely not be refused after hearing this near-perfect track.



Ray Thomas’ Dr Livingstone, I Presume is another candidate for the Moodies’ at their poppy best, a gloriously comic song that works far better than most of its author’s tongue-in-cheek offerings on later LPs. Turning to figures of our past, Thomas explores mankind’s urge to know the unknowable and discover what has never been discovered before, searching for Dr Livingstone in the jungle, Columbus on the world’s oceans and Captain Scott at the North Pole. Telling us that they were both ‘looking for someone’ in the verses, a rapturous chorus then reminds us how we are all in the same boat, ‘looking for someone’ in the unknown unfolding drama of our lives to share out futures with. A The backing track for this song is one of the band’s more traditional ones, albeit Lodge’s bass is busier than most and fills in the sound where most bands would place a rhythm guitar part. Pinder’s chirpy mellotron and Justin Hayward’s electrifying guitar solo are also at their best here, while Thomas’ lead, moving from worldy-wise philosopher to  Brummie joker in the blink of an eye,  is impressive too. Like many Moodies songs and unlike those by most other bands, this song works equally well as a paen to the creator of life and as a romantic gesture, along with its dual role as joyful pop rocker and something a little bit deeper.



The House OF Four Doors takes this idea of searching even further, exploring man’s evolution to date and into the possible future, telling us in a 2001-like way that our progress might well have been ushered through its different stages by some outside force. Compared to the dual-roles of pop and philosophy shared by the other tracks this Lodge song doesn’t work quite as well (the tune isn’t as interesting as the words and palls a bit by its fourth straight repeat of the same verse-chorus structure). However the lyrics are fascinating: doors one and two represent our past and, fittingly, our stages of progress to date are presented in musical terms, using art to best reflect the ideas of the day and acting as a history of music on the side as well. Queue creaking door sound effects plus a harpsichord solo and an interesting classical piece that seems to have wandered in from another record (yes it really is a mellotron!)



Door three, meanwhile, leads to the present and one of The Moodies’ most psychedelic songs Legend Of A Mind. A tongue-in-cheek salute to hippie guru Timothy Leary with an ‘astral plane’ that people can go for trips on just like an aeroplane, the song is one of Ray Thomas’ best and features one of his greatest flute-solos too. In truth the song rather runs out of ideas after the first two minutes or so, repeating its opening section all over again before gradually fizzling out. The song comes alive again on the middle eight, however, portraying Leary as a hippie at some seaside fete ‘selling thrills along the pier’ and the final section where the band suddenly kick into rock mode and come back in with crashing drums, booming bass and glorious block harmonies is breath-taking. Part sarcastic, part celebratory, its another of those perfect spoof summer of love songs that end up eclipsing the real thing and somehow seems to incorporate all that was great about the Moodies’ past as r and b merchants as well. No wonder so many of us want to go back in time and through that third door and into the 60s!  



The House Of Four Doors then ominously returns, suggesting mankind is just one step away from paradise. Telling us that he is now ‘nowhere at all’, Lodge’s narrator seems to fall into some timeless zone where ‘the past not’s life – life’s forever’ and spends the rest of the song lost outside the fourth door, trying to get in. Hmm, how disappointed John Lodge must have been to hear the dance, rap and disco crazes that really did come staggering drunkenly through music’s real fourth door!



Voices In The Sky is the opening track on side two and is one of Hayward’s prettier songs, with a yearning middle eight that adds enough sudden emotion to make up for the rest of the song, which plays things a bit safer than normal. Searching for clues to the meaning of life in nature and from ‘voices in the sky’, Justin’s narrator tells us that he can’t sleep at night because the sound of the sea is calling him and offering him answers that his ordinary civilisation-filled self can’t hear. One of those mainstream ballads that tread the thin line between being far-out lyrically and musically cosy, it sports a particularly lovely flute riff and some of Justin’s most delicate guitar picking. Its tale of birds flying up into the clouds to hear the message from the world’s creator also suits the album’s theme of an overseeing presence just out of mankind’s reach whilst still being accessible enough to work as a fine, if sales-wise disappointing, single.



An unworldly noise then suddenly springs out of nowhere and somehow manages to transform itself into a tune for the start of Mike Pinder’s The Best Way To Travel, a song which sees The Moodies’ only original songwriter (Hayward and Lodge joined the band in 1966 – Thomas and Edge didn’t start writing until later) coaxing a whole symphony of sound effects from his mellotron. Featuring a fragmented but still impressively hypnotic riff, matched by crashing cymbals and a fine rumbling bass part, the melody of this song overcomes its confusing structure, which finds the band pausing for some mellotron squeaking after every verse and chorus. The lyrics are great too, harking back to the album’s theme about how if you try thinking hard enough and train your imagination well enough you can make your mind go anywhere. Guessing that man’s future lies not so much in space travel but in understanding his own planet first, Pinder’s narrator takes on a journey ‘faster than light’ and ‘high as a kite’ without leaving the comfort of his arm-chair.



Visions Of Paradise, the first of a handful of gorgeous Hayward/Thomas collaborations in the Moodies’ history, is a bit of a one note-song that will later blossom into the even more lovely Are You Sitting Comfortably? on the next album. Many modern critics dismiss this album as the Moodies’ ‘eastern’ record, as if that’s something to be ashamed of. Actually, this haunting ballad featuring an unusual duet between sitars (played by Hayward) and flute (played by Thomas) is one of the loveliest ballads the Moodies ever made. Also, its one of only two tracks on this album to feature any Indian instruments which rather rubbishes that idea anyway.   

A delightful stop-off at some philosophical motorway café, this song is a lovely little sojourn that nevertheless doesn’t actually add much to the album’s journey as a whole.



Hayward’s The Actor is altogether deeper, about the facades we all wear when talking to other people and is one of its authors most serious, heart-wrenching songs, especially the epic chorus that seems to stretch out for hours. Hayward’s soothing vocal and the gentle acoustic backing track are at odds with the drama going in the lyric, although the band do burst forth for the singer’s typically passionate middle eight. Harking back to See-Saw, Hayward’s narrator tells us of his real thoughts and feelings and how he hides them while he is working – only becoming himself when ‘the bell you hear’. Unable to work out how he became simply an ‘actor’ playing the role people want him to play, Hayward reflects on how he is only really himself in his sleep. The song widens in the last two verse to take in the narrator’s love interest, how the two people are staring out of a window wondering if the other felt the same spark of attraction the other did – but unable and unwilling to ask each other head on. Building up into a Nights In White Satin-esque peak of emotion, the song ends on an unresolved acoustic guitar note that simply fades away, just as the narrator seems to turn his back on his real life and turns his thoughts back to his normal life.



A short Graeme Edge poem (read by Pinder) then explores the Moodies’ search for the ‘lost chord’ in more depth. Talking about ‘vibrations’ we cannot feel and ‘sights’ we cannot see, it says again how mankind feels there is something deeper he should be thinking about and doing – but can’t find out what it is. The drummer even suggests that we are partway through the journey already – having ‘two notes of the chord’ – but are still missing too many pieces of the puzzle to truly know what life is all about.


However, the Moodies hint that Om (or Ommmmmmmmmmmmm as its pronounced) might hold an answer, or at least the possible source for one. A Pinder song about the delights of meditation (Om is the word mentioned in several ancient Eastern texts as the way of getting in touch with the Earth’s natural collective consciousness), it’s not quite developed enough to be the rousing album-closing song it tries to be. Flitting through several sections – and detouring for an over-long sitar solo somewhere in the middle - This song may well be the most dated of the Moodies’ back catalogue and compared to the rest of the album hasn’t worn at all well. Having said that, its nice to hear Pinder and Thomas’ vocals over-lapping each other every other line (sadly the pair never do work like this again in the Moodies’ canon) and the closing harmonies, with all five Moodies double-tracked and trying to musically reach up to the stars in unison, is still quite magical.


Nice one Moodies, you can come back from your expedition now, we have about all the data on life that we need for now and a good few extra notes for that lost chord of yours somewhere too I should think. The perfect philosophical band for philosophical-minded fans, there is more magic from them on the way on this list soon. Now, what was that chord again?!?


 Other Moody Blues-related articles from this site you might be interested in reading: 

'The Magnificent Moodies' http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/the-moody-blues-magnificent-moodies.html
‘A Question Of Balance’ (1970) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/the-moody-blues-question-of-balance-1970.html

'Every Good Boy Deserves Favour' (1971) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/review-49moody-blues-every-good-boy.html

'Seventh Sojourn' (1972) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/review-53-moody-blues-seventh-sojourn.html

'Blue Jays' (Hayward/Lodge) (1976) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2009/07/news-views-and-music-issue-38-blue-jays.html

'Songwriter' (Hayward) (1977) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2011/09/news-views-and-music-issue-112-justin.html


'Long Distance Voyager' (1981) http://www.alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/the-moody-blues-long-distance-voyager.html

'The Present' (1983) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2011/05/news-views-and-music-issue-98-moody.html

'The Other Side Of This Life' (1986) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/the-moody-blues-other-side-of-life-1986.html

'Sur La Mer' (1988) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/the-moody-blues-sur-la-mer-1988.html

‘December’(2003) http://www.alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/the-moody-blues-december-2003.html






No comments:

Post a Comment