Monday, 25 July 2016

The Moody Blues - Live/Solo/Compilation Albums Parts Two: 1979-2015

You can buy 'New Horizons - The Alan's Album Archives Guide To The Moody Blues' in e-book form by clicking here!

"Live At The Coliseum, Seattle"

(**, Recorded May 1979, Released as part of the 'Timeless Flight' box set 2013)

Steppin' In A Slide Zone/Twilight Time/The Day We Meet Again/The Story In Your Eyes/I'm Your Man/Driftwood/I'll Be Level With You/Gypsy/Survival/The Balance/Nights In White Satin/Legend Of A Mind/Question/Ride My See-Saw

"The mist of time is lifting - see it rising in the air - but like the shadow I was chasing when I looked it wasn't there"

Another of the live albums to date only available as part of the epic concrete monolith known as the 'Timeless Flight' box set, this album was recorded for posterity as one of the shows from the band's reunion tour back when it still wasn't clear whether 'Octave' was a one-off or a full 'comeback'. Considering that the band had been touring for about six months by now it's a surprisingly rough and ready live concert (an earlier gig from Houston in December 1978 features a much tighter band, oddly enough) and again probably best to have been kept back in the vaults at the time of recording though it's an interesting document for fans nowadays. This is the first tour with Patrick Moraz taking over from Mike Pinder and though he's quieter and rather more respectful of the older material here, he's still a tad intrusive, turning old friends from the 1960s into updated 1980s synth horrors that sound overproduced even though the rest of the band are often raw and out of tune! Not that the set is useless or worthless, though, with more going for it than any of the 1990s or 00s live Moodies sets for instance.

The band are still taking some risks with the setlists: it's great to hear 'Twilight Time' performed for the first time since 1968 and it's a song that suits both the rough edges and the scary synth effects Moraz adds; 'I'll Be Level With You' curiously absent from the 'Octave' CD re-issue which features the other four 'Octave' tracks performed here, works well on the live stage even if the song threatens to collapse several times across the song; ditto 'Survival', which is a struggle but less so than the 'Slippin' In A Slide Zone' that made the re-issue; the biggest shock of all is a revival of 'The Balance', the last song any fan expected to ever see played live, with a squeaky Graeme reciting over Moraz's best psychedelic keyboards. The old standards are given a rough old night though: 'Gypsy' sounds more like a refugee fleeing from a war than ever, 'Nights In White Satin' sounds drunk, 'Legend Of A Mind' is extended to a painful twelve minutes with 'comedy' synth interruptions, 'Question' is a mess and 'Ride My See-Saw' is a horrible noise, with used to be a carefully constructed and distinctive rocker turned into a free-for-all jamming session. In other words, The Moody Blues haven't quite got it together just yet and though this set has some interesting moments it's far weaker than the 'Blue Jays' show of 1975 of the 'Forum' band show of 1983 additionally included in the 'Timeless Flight' set. One wonders why the band didn't use the superior show from Houston from near the beginning of the tour: that was the sound of a band genuinely thrilled to be reunited - this is the sound of a tired band grimly trying to keep these songs together before they collapse and it's not always a pretty sight (or sound).

"Out Of This World"

(K-TEL, October 1979)

Nights In White Satin/Question/Ride My See-Saw/Tuesday Afternoon/The Story In Your Eyes/Isn't Life Strange?/Steppin' In A Slide Zone//I'm Just A Singer (In A Rock and Roll Band)/Voices In The Sky/Floating/Eyes Of A Child/New Horizons/Driftwood/Lovely To See You/Melancholy Man

"Earth falls away, new world exists, with the eyes ofa child you must come out and see..."

Interestingly primarily for offering a slightly different selection of album tracks rather than just the singles, this slightly tacky looking advertised-on-TV album was a cheap and welcome means of collecting the band's classic material back in the days when the albums were a decade old and beginning to become difficult to track down. The front cover doesn't feature the band at all but a shot of the 'Earth' surrounded by the 'triangles' logo from 'Octave' while the title is clearly a reference to the old idea of the band being 'the first in space', although curiously of all the seven 'Justin and John' albums the space-age 'To Our Children's Children's Children' is the one that's least represented (by blooming 'Floating' of all tracks). Still, there are some excellent under-rated songs here that don't always get a look in including 'Melancholy Man' 'New Horizons and 'Eyes Of A Child', while the album is split roughly fifty-fifty between Justin songs and those by the rest of the band. Not so much out of this world as a little ordinary, perhaps and very cheap in all senses of the word, but a more useful collection filler than some Moody best-ofs. 

Justin Hayward "Night Flight"

(Decca, June 1980)

Night Flight/Maybe It's Just Love/Crazy Lovers/Penumbra Moon/Nearer To You//A Face In The Crowd/Suitcase/I'm Sorry/It's Not On/Bedtime Stories

CD Bonus Tracks: Bedtime Stories (Single Edit)/Forever Autumn (Live)

"Lop sided loving it got me in the end"

You can, I suppose, give Justin Hayward a little lee-way for this album. The guitarist had been one of the band members who found the solo albums process the most painful and yet was also the one who had had the most success. 'Songwriter' as an album and 'Forever Autumn' had proved that, if necessary, Justin didn't need the Moody Blues to have a career. Although there was never really a danger of someone with Justin's character pulling a 'Rod Stewart' and dumping the rest of his band to strut around at the front of the stage, he must also have wondered what his alternate career path might have been like if he'd released a second solo LP in place of 'Octave' (Hayward's four songs for the reunion album are amongst his best - well, three of them anyway). The best way of finding out was to make another album on the side, whilst still keeping The Moody Blues as his 'day job'. The trouble is Justin is all written out and provides only four of his own songs to an album where - for the only time in any Moodies career outside the later similar 'Classic Blue'  - the cover songs outnumber the originals. The choice of producer seemed obvious: Jeff Wayne had been desperate to work with Justin again after the success of 'Forever Autumn' and this album is a much a 'Wayne's (War Of The) World' as a Hayward haven this time around, full of cosmic posing pop-rock songs and a similar orchestral-with-synths overtone to much of that concept record (though oddly these songs are closer in style and feel to 'Eve Of War' than 'Forever Autumn'. The album even uses many of the same players such as Jo Partridge and Herbie Flowers, who are professional but not particularly powerful

You've already seen what I think of the 'War Of The Worlds' album, dear readers, and it's not a pretty sight (I'm fully expecting a war of the words about it with a few of you later!) Nor is this album, which makes the even more heinous crime of making Justin sound like an extra on his own record, with Wayne songs (originals and favourites) that the producer had lying around and aren't particularly suited to his voice. It's no surprise that there's nothing up to the level of 'Forever Autumn' here - what's even more worrying is that there's nothing even close to the level of 'Silverbird' the more famous so-so collaboration between the pair released on Justin's third album 'Moving Mountains'. Few songs stand out and even those that do show a little promise (Justin's basically) have all the life taken out of them thanks to a cold synth backing that makes Patrick Moraz look like Mozart. The recording was, reportedly, not an altogether happy one, with Justin used to getting the basic tracks down quickly while he laboured long and hard over the overdubs; with a fellow perfectionist in Jeff Wayne (who now had the confidence to boss superstars around a bit more) every turn of the process was elongated, with multiple takes of everything. Though people think of The Moody Blues as a carefully orchestrated band who spend years perfecting their sound, there is usually a kernel of 'truth' in there too - a funky Graeme Edge drum part or a screaming Hayward guitar solo that's instantly accessibly raw. 'Night Flight' has been so finely tuned that it's taken all the roar out of the engine and left Justin's oh so expressive voice in stand-by mode for most of the record. Fans will of course have their different 'favourite' sounds by every artist and if the more over-cooked 'I Know You're Out There Somewhere' is more your cup of tea than the raw but sizzling 'Nights In White Satin' then you might well enjoy this record which has nothing that awful on it but nothing that stands out either. For me, though, it's one of Justin's worst, to rate alongside 'Classic Blue' as 'reasons why The Moody Blues were the perfect band for Justin' thanks to their ideas and directions helping to shape his ideas; left to his own devices, with a strong vision in the control room that wasn't necessarily good for him, Justin wilts. If you ever wanted to know what a truly unremarkable and forgettable Moody Blues album sounded like then 'Night Flights' is it - at least 'Keys To The Kingdom' and 'December' had the good grace to fall flat on their faces occasionally; this album doesn't dare take enough of a stride to risk even that.

The first of two Jeff Wayne songs on the album, title track 'Night Flight' is typical late 1970s prog pomp and circumstance, with the narrator a high flying eagle soaring over both the world and a slick disco beat. Think Abba without the wit or The Eagles without the harmonies. The song lasts for some five minutes and tries hard, but it's idea of two soulmates coming together by meeting on a plane ('Letting secrets out of their cages but wanting to remain perfect strangers') has no real resolution and has been better done by many other bands. The fact that the lyrics are so warm and the backing so sterile and cold doesn't help matters much either, nor the aggressive shriek Justin's been pushed into (and whose attempt to cover it up with double-tracking only makes it sound worse). Not a good start at all.

'Maybe It's Just Love' by Mike Silver is a little bit better, with some nice flamenco guitar from Justin and a melody that's much closer to his natural 'unfolding' emotional style. However, there's a reason why a song like 'Nights In White Satin' took off in such a big way and perfectly manufactured fodder like this gets forgotten - there's nothing 'real' here, no sense of urgency or drama and though Justin is committed he's not enough of an 'actor' vocalist to burrow deep into this song's inner soul. Superior karaoke, but nothing more.

Justin's own 'Crazy Lovers' is a relative album highlight, with the catchiest chorus on the album and lyrics that while not that inspired do at least sound 'real'. This is a typical love song for wife Marie (of which there aren't many in the band's canon but lots in Justin's future solo catalogue). Justin is awestruck by how reliable this relationship is in his life - that he can rely on his wife as much as the stars in the sky and thrilled that when she tells him her love is eternal that 'eternity has such a long time to go!' However there's a hint that this is a couple that have only just found each other and are eloping on a 'midnight train' to begin a new life away from the crazyness of the rest of the world. If Justin ever does a synth-less remix of this song I'll be first in the queue but sadly this sounds as if he's singing from inside a blender (given some of Jeff Wayne's weirder ideas, perhaps he is?!)

Billy Nicholls, the author of next song 'Penumbra Moon', should have been a big star, His lone late 1960s album 'Would You Believe?' sold a pittance at the time but thanks to the promotion of Record Collector magazine in particular became a cult favourite when re-issued on CD at last. Orchestral and epic, yet simultaneously humble and small, he should be a good choice of songwriter for Justin to cover. Alas, though, 'Moon' is one of Nicholls' lesser songs, a clichéd song about being struck by a beautiful stranger in the moonlight. Wayne probably chose the song for its sci-fi connections ('I want to take you on a starship!') but this tinny distorted production of a clod-hopping song is too earthbound and too slow, with Justin sounding lost as he tries to interpret a song full of metaphor and surrealism so far from his usual style.

Justin's 'Nearer To You' is alas a candidate for the nadir of his own songwriting catalogue, of a similar standard to the album's flimsy cover songs. It's an all-out disco song, full of funky beats, cymbal crashes and chiming anonymous female chorus while the lyrics are atrocious ('You know it's true my heart turns blue without you, so come what may I'm going to stay...'). Saturday Nights In White Satin? Tuesday Afternoon Fever? I know there's s tune in here somewhere? This is an experiment in contemporary pop too far and a style that really really really doesn't suit Hayward at all.

Thankfully 'A Face In The Crowd' is another Hayward original that, though sloppy and chaotically produced, features a song that performed the 'normal' way would have been rescuable. Ironically it's a song about never being afraid to brave the wild because stepping off the beaten track will teach you something you wouldn't learn repeating yourself - I doubt, though, that the lyrics meant the advice as 'record a pop/disco album like everyone else is' which is what happened. Interestingly  you can just about imagine this song morphing into 'The Voice' - though this is a happy-go-lucky song there's an underlying threat in the unusual chord changes and harmonics and references to a 'voice' telling you things will 'be alright'. The superior Moodies song of the following year is perhaps what happens when that voices tells you you 'won't' be.

'Suitcase' is the final Justin Hayward composition and if it sounds like anything else it's his theme tune for 'The Shoe People' later in the decade. A silly song with a synth part that sounds like an out of tune doorbell and an 'aah-aaah-ahhh' chorus it doesn't stretch Justin much at all but does at least feature something resembling a melody you'll remember once the album is over. The lyrics never mention 'suitcase' by name but does appear to be a 'long distance love song', as a couple forced to be miles apart try to do their best filling in the time until they meet again.

'I'm Sorry' is a so-slick-we're-sliding-down-dow-n-down-to-mediocrity cover of Hall and Oates' misguided rocker (it's from their first album 'Whole Oats' if you want to hear the original, but on this basis I doubt very much you will). At least Ray Thomas manages to sound faintly genuine when he pleads to be forgiven 'my yesterdays' for 'The Present' in three years time - this stupid song about a man harassing his woman into forgiving him (yeah, like that's going to work!) is as cynical as can be and is the closest any Moody Blues recording came to sounding like Chas and Dave.

'It's Not On' is a Jeff Wayne collaboration with Gary Osbourne and no, it's not on - how did the writing team behind as clever and moving a song as 'Forever Autumn' come with this shluck, while the same singer struggles to find anything in these lyrics he identifies with himself. There are many bad moments across this LP but this just might be the worse: slow, lumpy, cliched, unmelodic and pompous all at the same time. Justin can usually move mountains with his voice but he can't move this disaster an inch.

Thank goodness for something to get excited about with the closing song 'Bedtime Stories', a cover of a song by Colin Still. Sounding like it belongs on the soundtrack of 'The Princess Bride', this is a tongue in cheek children's song sensibly picked as the album's single (and which nearly made the charts too). Sexier than most Hayward songs, it was probably picked for the idea of the lovers waking up under their 'satin' covers as the lovers try to lull each other off to sleep with 'bedtime stories; of how happy they will be in the future. It's a cosy song turned drama thanks to some aggressive synth work and the return of that defective doorbell which chimes incessantly throughout. It is catchy though, with an honest to goodness melody and Justin sounds more 'right' here than he does on most of the album, enjoying the song's romantic yet self-mocking tones.

Overall, though, this album is painful to listen to and more like a nightmare than a bedtime story. Though Jeff Wayne will work with Justin again, the pair will never attempt a whole record such as this and it is perhaps significant that nothing from this album will make its way into Justin's solo sets. One of the biggest unmitigated disasters in Moody-dom, 'Night Flights' is no 'Nights In White Satin' and 'flight' seems like the most natural response for Moody Blues fans to have (even the name isn't original - The Walker Brothers' 1978 reunion album got there first!) The CD issue added two extra times - a single edit of 'Bedtime Stories' (which sounds a little odd heard immediately after the album cut, which runs about 1:40 longer) and a live rendition of 'Forever Autumn' which despite being rough and echoey is still the best thing here by a country mile. Personally I'm surprised the much-derided 'Night Flights' was ever given the chance to see the light of day again. 

"Live At The Forum, Inglewood"

(Threshold, Recorded December 1983, Released as part of the 'Timeless Flight' box set in 2013)

CD One: Sitting At The Wheel/Gemini Dream/Tuesday Afternoon/The Voice/Steppin' In A Slide Zone/The Story In Your Eyes/Hold In The World/Under My Feet/Painted Smile/Reflective Smile/Veteran Cosmic Rocker/Driftwood

CD Two: Talking Out Of Turn/Running Water/Gypsy/Isn't Life Strange?/Blue World/I'm Just A Singer (In A Rock and Roll Band)/Nights In White Satin/Legend Of A Mind/Question/Ride My See-Saw

"The changing of the Autumn tide, the hopes that live, the hopes that die"

Not, strictly, speaking a separate release but we've reviewed it that way to break down the mammoth 'Time Traveller' box set into bite-size pieces. A two hour twenty track concert taped during the same time as 'The Present', this is a surprisingly entertaining show with new boy and keyboard whizzkid Patrick Moraz turning the band into a much tighter and fuller sounding band than the Moodies had been on their 1978/79 reunion tours. 'The Present' has always been my favourite of the Moodies reunion albums and it's great to hear so many of the album songs played live in such a different way to the polished (perhaps over-polished) record. Even the wretched 'Sitting At The Wheel' sounds far better played live by a 'real' band rather than having the song overdubbed into submission, while 'Under My Feet' is balanced just right between being rough and being like the record, 'Blue World' lacks the bass riff but gains from a ticking-clock synth part and a rather breathless Justin Hayward still manages to prove his worth on a pretty version of 'Running Water' played with less keyboards and more Ray Thomas flute. Sadly Ray himself struggles horribly with Graeme's rather challenging 'Going Nowhere' live, but marks for effort and the struggles with the notes only enhance the narrator's struggles with loneliness anyway. The older songs fare slightly less well, with a rather obvious bunch played with the usual anonymous professionalism, but there are highlights here too: a slightly faster and messier 'Driftwood' still manages to be beautiful and a wonderfully wonky ten minute epic version of 'Legend Of A Mind' restores Ray's reputation with an inspired flute n guitar jam that's downright scary and surreal. You can see why this album wasn't considered for a release originally - there are bum notes throughout which would have taken an age to tidy up and the set is besieged with technical gremlins throughout, especially John Lodge's microphone which comes and goes all night. However it's all a nice antidote to the note-perfect but the same-note-perfect-every-night shows of the later Moodies concerts and the band are right on the cup of being a nostalgia act and a contemporary band still with plenty to say here. It's the sort of live set you need to be a fan to appreciate and to make allowances for, but that's ok - given the hefty price of the 'Time Traveller' box set I doubt many non-Moodies fans are going to be giving this show a try anyway. One of the real highlights of what remains the single priciest box set in AAA history.
"Voices In The Sky: The Very Best Of The Moody Blues"

 (Threshold Records/Decca, November 1984)

Ride My See-Saw/Talking Out Of Turn/Driftwood/Never Comes The Day/I'm Just A Singer (In A Rock and Roll Band)/Gemini Dream//The Voice/After You Came/Question/Veteran Cosmic Rocker/Isn't Life Strange?/Nights In White Satin

"Though your voice is faint I be listening to voices in the sky..."

I don't get it! What voices in the sky? Are the voices telling us this album? Or talking to The Moody Blues? Why not name the album 'Tuesday Afternoon' if you're going to just start randomly naming things? And why reduce such a colourful band to a boring picture of a blue sky?! Erm, that rant over, this isn't actually a bad compilation containing pretty much every track you'd expect to come across on a single disc Moodies compilation (including semi-unusual picks like 'Ride My See-Saw' and 'The Voice') along with a couple of real oddities in 'After You Came' (good move!) and 'Veteran Cosmic Rocker' (the jury's still out!) to make sure Ray and Graeme are represented too. However since writing the above paragraph I've noticed that 'Tuesday Afternoon' is missing which seems like a bit of an oversight; equally it seems odd not to have 'Steppin' In A Slide Zone' here and once again this is effectively a Justin and John era best-of, with no Denny Laine era tracks (not even 'Go Now'). Even more oddly 'Voices In The Sky' itself is missing, which must have led to several new fans scratching their head over the daft name even more than me! The compilation never was released on CD and has since been superseded many times - there's a lot worse to be had though in terms of track listing and you should be able to pick this up cheap on vinyl if 45 and 33.3 rpm are what your heart rotates to. 

Justin Hayward "Moving Mountains"

 (Towerbell, September 1985)

One Again/Take Your Chances/Moving Mountains/Silverbird//Is It Just A Game?/Lost and Found/Goodbye/Who Knows?/The Best Is Yet To Come

CD Bonus Track: The Lights Are Low

"Love can move mountains. If you're in love, fly over them. If you're not, just take the ski-lift"

Caught somewhere between the brilliance of debut solo effort 'Songwriter' and clumsy sequel 'Night Flight', Justin's third record was pieced together slowly across a few snatched sessions here and there across a five year period. Though no other Moodies appear on the record, Justin called in lots of favours from over parts of his life and the record includes collaborations with such names from the past as 10cc's Eric Stewart (who had become friendly with Justin and John after backing them on their 'Blue Guitar' single back in 1975), Jeff Wayne (the first time Justin had worked with the man behind 'Forever Autumn' since their brief sessions back in 1976), Martin Wyatt (who produced parts of the record and around this time was busy creating the children's TV show 'The Shoe People' featuring Justin's theme song) and most surprisingly of all Peter Knight (the conductor who'd turned 'Days Of Future Passed' from a simple rock album into a neo-classical magnum opus - well sort of...) Thankfully Justin was back to writing his own material again, with a couple of notable exceptions, and is back in good voice so this record is a much better 'fit' for his talents than 'Night Flight' had been. The best of the material even challenges the majority of what Justin had released on 'Long Distance Voyager' and 'The Present', even if the worst of it and the often horrifically overblown production values already point at the excesses of 'The Other Side Of Life' to come.

The biggest 'link' though is to the Moodies twinset to come: 'Your Wildest Dreams' and 'The Other Side Of Life'. Like those songs, Justin is in a reflective mood with much of the album set at night as deep dark thoughts flit through his head: did he make the right choices? Would he have been happier with his past loves? Are they happier without him? It's probably not a surprise that so much of this album reflects 'Nights In White Satin', in tone if sadly not execution, with Justin trying to express the inexpressible and writing songs as letters, never meaning to send. Sometimes these unexpressed thoughts are brilliantly revealing: 'Take Your Chances' is a classy rocker about making the most of a fleeting relationship as two souls pass in opposite directions and meet for one night only; 'Just A Game' is a sweet Hayward love ballad that's more interesting than some; 'Lost and Found' is a pretty song about having discovered purpose thanks to someone else - and worrying that you'll lose it again when they leave; 'Goodbye' is a classy pop song where Justin keeps returning to a loved one's comments as they walked out of his life forever (though she's ready enough to say 'goodbye', he refuses to let the partnership die, dragging up old ground as if it has hidden purpose); the lovely single-that-shoulda-been 'Who Knows?'  that has Justin still peering through crowds of faces looking for someone from the past who can take all his hurt away and make life living again; and finally the poignant piano cover 'The Best Is Yet To Come' where Justin longs to find the magic he once felt again. In contrast to this sits the title track, the one song that promises better days lie ahead and that love can conquer anything, 'the sands of time on our side' as long as the narrator and his partner are together. Though the song contains more sugar than a kilogram packet of Sugar Puffs dipped in chocolate, the sentiments and performance are 'real' enough to withstand the cutesy clothes. Clearly something has happened to unsettle Justin and, private as ever, we never quite found out what it was. The amount of deflected love songs on this album would normally indicate some form of marital discontent and even as long and as happy a marriage as the Haywards was surely not immune. However it's not my place to pry and there may anyway be a more interesting cause: However it's interesting to compare this album's similar sense of hurt and heartbreak to the 'Blue Jays' record, with a half-theme of people moving on and ending up with the 'wrong' person. Is this record a series of messages intended for Mike Pinder again? Or possibly  producer Tony Clarke, who by this period has also jumped ship? Whatever the cause, those who like Justin's more fragile, vulnerable side will find much to love in this album.

Unfortunately fans of Justin's use of period technology will find an almost equal amount of things put here just for them. There are, quite possibly, fans of the 1980s digital synths out there just looking for an album like this one to treasure - however for the rest of us 'Moving Mountains' reliance on mid-80s technology is the album's big sticking point. Like 'The Other Side Of Life' and 'Sur La Mer' the technology should be making things easier for the musicians so they can get on with the 'important' stuff like concepts and lyrics. Unfortunately, it's all too often used to cut corners or to fill in silences that would have been better off being kept quiet. Like the Moodies albums to come, there's none of the sense of space and thought on this record the band used to have. Sometimes that's not a problem given that there's comparatively little thought in a record that's mainly about 'spectacle' like 'Long Distance Voyager' anyway. However 'Moving Mountains' isn't that kind of a record (well, only on the all-singing all-dancing all-flying 'Silverbird', which even against some stiff competition may well be the prog-rockiest moment in this book). It's a sad, gentle, thoughtful one that should by rights have been treated like the sensitive ballads on 'Blue Jays' - a bit of guitar, a slight orchestra and lots of harmonies. Putting this sensitive bookish album into a bright Hawaiian shirt and shining a spotlight of digital sequencers at him is not only counter-productive but off-putting; we do end up having to 'move mountains' in our mind when we play this record, but only so we can hear these tracks for what they should have been. Even so, there is at least half an album of strong material here and the best of the album is a match with anything the Moodies did post-1978 reunion. Justin sounds great - the few times we're actually allowed to hear him, the collaborations are fascinating - by and large and the songs are deep and thoughtful - albeit noisy. 'Moving Mountains' is a record that you have to make a lot of allowances for but there is gold in them there hills if you know how to look for it. Huh, take no notice of Justin's sleevenotes ('Your part is easy - just sit back and listen!')

'Take Your Chances' rushes out of the blocks like 'Tortoise and the Hare' on speed. An urgent, insistent riff is hammered home by some heavy drumming by ex-Fairport Convention percussionist Dave Mattacks and the opening few bars (which sound like a sped-up version of 'The Voice') is amongst the punchiest Moodies-related album openers in years. The sudden upsurge into the chorus is pretty memorable too as the song goes from rocker to singalong pop. Alas, though, like so much of the album the song has used up all its winning hand by the second hand of the song and has nowhere to go except repeat itself.

'Is It Just A Game' has the opposite problem: the song sounds like one of those ordinary two-a-penny Justin ballads when it starts but grows into a really lovely song once you reach the lengthy band-chorus-filled-chorus. Justin's clever lyrics are ambiguous enough to be more than just another love song, but a debate on how pure and how common true love is, Justin sighing that 'once in a thousand years joy will come along' yet still looking forward to the moment when it will arrive. He also turns in a rather lovely double-tracked guitar part in a lengthy solo that adds some real grit and soul to another slightly faceless backing track.

'One Again' sounds like a trial run for the 'Other Side Of Life' record the following year and is a synthesiser workout for Justin in duet with Colin Frechter. It's a shame this wasn't kept for the band, actually, as it's the most contemporary-Moody here complete with digital flute part that might have sounded lovely in the hands of Ray Thomas rather than an android double of him. The tune is slightly gormless by Justin's standards, though, with only the main keyboard motif ringing in your ears the way good music should, while the lyrics are fairly simplistic too and try to find comfort telepathically with a partner who doesn't say much.

The charming ballad 'Moving Mountains' is the album's one song to make the Hayward-lovers weak at the knees and is one of his best unashamedly soppy love songs. The track has long been a favourite fir Justin and would surely have been a big hit if released with the Moodies name, with a pretty melody that unfurls bit by bit over a backing tracks that's a real mixture of the 'classic' 60s age and the contemporary, with synths sounding like a mellotron and an 'Octave' style sax part. Like all the best Hayward lyrics this song promises to be the light in the darkness for someone suffering and though simple is clearly heartfelt and powerful. Only a slightly lifeless Hayward vocal prevents this from being a first-rate song - even so it's pretty close.

'Silverbird' is one of those songs that changes the more you hear it. The one track on the album that's noisy rather than subtle, it's a production epic that's much closer to what the adventurous prog rock style Moodies would have been expected to be doing with period technology. The song marks the only post-'War Of The Worlds' collaboration Justin made with that album's key composer Jeff Wayne and is closer to his style than Justin's with an epic digital production that builds and builds, a sea of female backing singers that sounds like they've raided seven gospel churches and noisy percussion part that. The lyrics are more ambiguous and opaque than usual for a Justin song and like 'Forever Autumn' share an obsession with the weather, although it's actually an 'opposite' song with the narrator's love, his 'Silverbird', 'walking away' (shouldn't she be flying away?!) It's a track that tries hard, but the more you hear it the more you realise how repetitive it is and at nearly eight minutes it's not a song you go back to for pleasure very often.

'Lost and Found' is the start of a better run of songs, a sweet and rather simpler Hayward love ballad that features a lovely rolling keyboard riff and a very Beatley backing melody. Perhaps mirroring his early songs of loss and darkness from the first Moody albums  'You Can Never Go Home' and 'I Never Thought I'd Live To Be A Hundred/Million/Quindezillion', Justin sings with memory of how lost back then before his love brought warmth, comfort, shelter and love. Though very commercial, with the most mid-1980s keyboard part Duran Duran didn't license, it's also very heartfelt and moving, clearly a 'real' song to a certain extent, with Justin back to his vocal best again too.

My favourite song on the album, though, is the one that started the project off, the excellent 'Goodbye'. Justin had stayed good friends with 10cc's Eric Stewart since making 'Blue Guitar' together (intended as a solo Justin single in 1974 before the Blue Jays took it over instead). Eric's career had taken off wholesale in the interim and a planned sequel was much delayed while both men were busy. However they got a bit of snatched time in 1980 in a lull between albums for both of them. Justin had half a song which Eric proceeded to perform in his usual multi-instrumentalist way, a sweet ditty about a reluctant goodbye when his other half decides to leave him, pondering all the ways he could have made it work. A clever melody then does the same as the words, going over and over old ground as if searching for a release and only finding resolution by accepting that the relationship really is over and there is nothing to be done, a realisation met with a sea of burning oohs and aahs.

'Who Knows?' saw the long awaited return of Peter Knight to the Moodies canon, although the feel and sound of the song is closer to the conductor/arranger's work on 'Blue Jays' than 'Days Of Future Passed'. In common with the album's half-theme of searching for someone, Justin is desperately pounding the streets searching people's faces and looking for 'the one'. Like so many other Hayward songs though, from 'Who Are You Now?' through to 'I Know You're Out There Somewhere' it's a figure from Hayward's past that he used to know well he keeps coming back to and not a new random stranger at all. This song gets noisy fast, reaching a peak into the first chorus and just getting uncomfortably loud from there, but the melody is a strong one and the haunting chorus is very Hayward. An under-rated song.

The album originally ended with the album's one cover song, Clifford T Ward's lovely but slightly saccharine piano ballad 'The Best Is Yet To Come'. The song fits the mood of rejection and dejection nicely and with comparatively fewer instruments to get in the way Justin delivers a superb vocal, haunting and fragile. Peter Knight's warm duvet of a string arrangement is one of his best for the band, a tad over-lush perhaps but fitting to the needs of the song. You need a sweet tooth to withstand this recording, but with its theme of sadness intermingled with hope makes it a good and fitting end to the original album.

The CD end with a bonus track 'The Lights Are Low', first released as a B-side to the title track when it was released as a single. A re-write of sorts of 'Nights, Winter, Years', the two songs share a similar melodic DNA and the same refrain 'How can something so wrong feel so right?' (plus another Blue Jays song 'This Morning's longing sigh 'I need you so'). However the artificial digital backing, in which even Justin's guitars sounds robotic, puts this desperate sounding song about a relationship falling inexorably apart in a quite different place where Justin's lost and lonely vocal is the only 'real' part of a world he doesn't understand anymore. It deserved to make the album proper, although it's not up to the very best of the album.

Overall, then, 'Moving Mountains' is another strong Hayward solo album, closer to 'Songwriter' than 'Night Flight'. Like many an AAA album of the period, though, I would love to hear a remixed version one day (similar to the John Lennon 'stripped down' mix of 'Double Fantasy') where the songs can shine without the listener having to adjust their expectations for the clattering tinny drums or the big thick woolly jumpers of synths. I'm willing to bet many fans would be surprised by just how strong an album this really is, high on songs about love and loss that are the equal and occasionally the superior of Justin's songs for The Moody Blues in this era. However in order to hear them, first you have to move mountains - big thick 1980s digital ones.


(London, October 1987)

Fly Me High/I Really Haven't Got The Time/Leave This Man Alone/Love and Beauty/Cities/A Simple Game/Gimme A Little Somethin'/Please Think About It/Long Summer Days/King and Queen/What Am I Doin' Here?/Late Lament

"Maybe people would look hp and realise the hit songs are the only ones alive"

A sensible little compilation, rounding up for the early CD-era all the non-album Moodies material from the John and Justin years that was becoming increasingly hard to track down twenty years on as well as the 'plus five' from 'Caught Live'. It makes for an interesting look-back at the years when the band were just about to hit big - hence the name - and captures the band right on the turn between R and B cover merchants to psychedelic geniuses. Justin's first song for the band 'Fly Me High' is quite unlike any he will ever write for them again (charming psychedelic pop), Mike's Fun B-side 'Really Haven't Got The Time' is a last throwback to a sound that's served the band so well for so long, 'Leave This Man Alone' is a groovy Hayward song of paranoia that's again quite unlike his future writing style and 'Love and Beauty' is the Mike Pinder hit that should have been, as great a single as any released in the summer of love. Even if the set goes downhill a little from here (and the inclusion of 'Late Lament' is superfluous and out of place), this is still a fine little set containing many of the band's most under-rated songs. Sadly the compilation is rather unnecessary now all these tracks appear as extras on various album re-issues (most of them on 'Days Of Future Passed', where they make for a better album than the original record!) and is itself rather rare nowadays, it's still a good 'un and a reminder that The Moodies didn't only record 'Nights In White Satin' and 'Question'. 

Justin Hayward "Classic Blue"

(Trax Records, October 1989)

The Tracks Of My Tears/MacArthur Park/Blackbird/Vincent/God Only Knows/Bright Eyes/A Whiter Shade Of Pale//Scarborough Fair/Railway Hotel/Man Of The World/Forever Autumn/As Long As The Moon Can Shine/Stairway To Heaven

"When all are one and one is all, to be a rock and not to roll"

Putting on my best ethereal Brummie accent I have to start this review by telling you 'it's all about perception'. Many fans come to the Moodies for different things - some find the band the only island of intelligence and thought and questioning in a world that's come to confine itself within limits placed upon it by society and monetary systems. Some come to The Moody Blues for the sheer gorgeous production of the albums, which sound so much fuller and more profound than their peers' records do. Some use the Moody Blues as existential gateways to other doorways in the mind unlocked by certain substances. And some just like looking at the album covers. 'Classic Blue' is made for fans who are by definition middle of the road - fans who don't like thinking too hard or being scared or surprised by music and who would normally run a mile at the idea of a concept album but quite liked 'Nights In White Satin' when they played it on the radio and reckon Justin has a voice that won't frighten them unnecessarily. The Moody Blues community grew by quite a lot after Justin released this collection of breathy ballads and even reached the top 30 in the UK album charts (a rarity for a post-reunion Moodies solo album), and then shrunk again almost as quickly when people realised their back catalogue didn't really sound like this. To those fans this is the best Moody Blues related recording of the lot - with rock songs performed in the style of The Carpenters or Richard Claydermen - and the only one that makes good on the promise of 'Days Of Future Past' to combine rock and roll and orchestras. To fans like me of the rockier side of the Moodies' fanbase this record is a travesty best left forgotten and buried so far back in my collection it's taken me weeks of searching to dig it out again (it probably won't see the light of day for longer than the 10,000 light years it takes between John Lodge albums either!)

To be fair, this set has much going for it. Mike Batt pops up again as producer  for what must be his dozenth showing in an AAA book  and whole sadly Justin doesn't get to sing his absolute first-class songs ('Soldier's Song' as recorded by The Hollies, for instance, which Justin would have done great) he does get to sing 'Bright Eyes', which is a close second (and very Moody-ish, actually, with its take on life and death). The re-recording of 'Forever Autumn' turns a near-orchestral song-with-synthesisers into the pure orchestral piece it's always yearned to be too. Justin is also in good voice throughout, though he sounds rather out of place at times. Even Hayward isn't a good enough singer to make a disappointingly lush version of 'Blackbird' or a treacly version of 'God Only Knows' sound good though and the madly over-rated 'classics' like 'MacArthur Park' and 'Vincent' that are only good because people think they have something to say when they don't, have no chance. However it's the orchestral MOR version of Led Zeppelin's 'Stairway To Heaven' that's the real 'what the?' moment on the record as Justin sings more like Patti Page than Robert Page. There's little that's 'classic about any of these songs and even less that's 'Moody Blue' sounding. Back in 1989, on the back of 'I Know You're Out There Somewhere', the band could afford do something a little different and still sell a lot of copies with reputation kept intact. However this record of all the sort of traps The Moody Blues had done so well to avoid for the past two decades really isn't it - at their best the band were pioneers with albums that read like books and sounded like symphonies. This is a pamphlet featuring pop songs overblown into epics and is one of the weakest entries in the Moodies back catalogue, at least for someone who knows what the band and their members  'should' sound like at their best. You hope the rest of the band teased Justin something rotten for sounding so pretentious backed by orchestral arrangements best left to lesser singers who need such things.

"Greatest Hits"

(Polydor, November 1989)

Your Wildest Dreams/The Voice/Gemini Dream/The Story In Your Eyes/Tuesday Afternoon/Isn't Life Strange?//Nights In White Satin/I Know You're Out There Somewhere/The Other Side Of Life/Ride My See-Saw/I'm Just A Singer (In A Rock 'n' Roll Band)/Question

"Beauty I've always missed with these eyes before"

Important as this compilation is - it's the first released in the CD era and thus the first to run longer than the 40 minutes a vinyl album used to be limited to - this set is rather superseded by later, better sets nowadays. Understandably Polydor are keen to promote the song the Moodies had actually released on their label so this set is slightly too 1980s-heavy for most fans, while there's only room here for the most obvious selections from the band's 1960s/70s classics. The track listing is all a jumble too, switching from 1986 to 1981 to 1971 to 1967 across the opening five tracks (which really jars) and the packaging is bizarre - a globe sticking out of the Earth with a box sticking out of it, all filled out with the band and album name like it's a high school art project. A high school for blind children. Who failed to pass that year and got held back. fans do however continue to search for this album because of the bizarre decision to re-record two of the songs whose rights were still owned by Decca, 'Question' and 'Isn't Life Strange?' Although any idea of a re-recording on a 'greatest hits' set always seems daft to me (do they think that even newbie fans who've bought these records precisely to hear the songs they know from the radio won't notice?) they aren't quite the travesties they might have been. Both songs are recorded in new arrangements provided by arranger Anne Dudley and performed by The London Symphony Orchestra. This is the first time fans had the chance to hear the band's post-'Days Of Future Passed' material played with an orchestra and was popular enough to lead to a whole gig of this stuff performed live with an orchestra. Personally though I think the orchestra works better here, with 'Question' especially taking on another layer of symphonic-ness while 'Isn't Life Stra-a-a-ange?' almost sounds listenable the way it's done here! (why not include these songs on 'A Night At Red Rocks' as an 'extra' though - goodness knows it's been re-issued enough times with other stuff - this set is becoming increasingly hard to track down nowadays!) Later Moody Blues comps are generally better than this, though.

(Pickwick Music, '1989')
Voices In The Sky/Out and In/Candle Of Life/After You Came/For My Lady/Cities/A Simple Game/Fly Me High//Steppin' In A Slide Zone/So Deep Within You/I'll Be Level With You/Leave This Man Alone/Dr Livingstone I Presume/Gimme A Little Somethin'/Please Think About It/Question

"Wonders of a lifetime, right there before your eyes"

Back when I was a green Moody Blues fan and hadn't yet turned purple at the way their back catalogue was being treated or red at the prices I had to pay for it, I fell in love with the band primarily through 'EGBDF' and 'Blue'. As far as I knew back then, this was a compilation set which for some reason happened to be missing the famous Moodies songs I knew, which was a bit weird but not as weird as thinking that this was one of those best-ofs that only includes the rare stuff. I mean, a song as good as 'Candle Of Life' or 'For My Lady' had to be international #1s right? Songs that good don't grow on trees after all. 'Nights In White Satin' and 'Tuesday Afternoon' must have been missing for copyright reasons ('Question' is here after all) and I must have just somehow missed these guaranteed hits. Imagine my shock when I discovered that not only did this quirky compilation go out of its way to avoid the hits instead of the lesser known album material, it often included the most obscure stuff possible: B-sides of flop singles and album outtakes released on a non-band sanctioned live record in 1977. Many of these songs have continued to grow with me down the years to the point where almost half of my own personal Moodies top ten (Candle Of Life/For My Lady/Leave This Man Alone/Out and In) which means that I was the perfect audience for this tastefully made budget compilation: a fan at the start of a journey rather than the end of one. I must, I think, have been a minority audience - few people my age had ever heard of the Moody Blues and less cared about collecting their records, while the band's main audience already had everything on this set at least twice (I discovered this set before the similar but more comprehensive rare singles collection 'Prelude'), for instance). For most of you, interested enough in the band to have got this far through a book by an author you've never heard of, you clearly don't need this compilation - not least because it's now a quarter century old and rarer than most of the actual albums and singles this set was taken from. But this is a salutary reminder to your reviewer that all these compilations could be right for someone if they find them at just the right time and I remind exceptionally fond of it. My older, more critical reviewer self has a few questions to ask: not least about 'Question' being on a collection of 'rarities', the random non-chronological order, the inclusion of two songs from 'Octave' (with 'I'll Be Level With You' not the obvious choice by any means) which sounds very out of place amongst the other fourteen and why Mike's and John's outtakes from 'Caught Live+5' are here but not Justin's superior trilogy. The more I got to know the source material, the clumsier the edits seemed too, lopping off the segues at the beginning and end (a perennial trouble with most Moodies records). However for a newbie this was the key to the kingdom, the back door to a catalogue that everyone else only knew from the front door and this compilation gavce me a far better sense of what The Moody Blues were all about than any 'greatest hits' could have done. The track selection is still one of the best out there for fans who want to dig a little deeper than just the hits and 'Blue' remains one of the best single-collection Moodies sets out there you can buy.

 "A Night At Red Rocks"
(Polydor, Recorded September 1992, Released March 1993 and again in 2001)

Overture/Late Lament/Tuesday Afternoon/For My Lady/Lean On Me (Tonight)/Lovely To See You/I Know You're Out There Somewhere/The Voice/Your Wildest Dreams/Isn't Life Strange?/The Other Side Of Life/I'm Just A Singer In A Rock 'n' Roll Band/Nights In White Satin/Question/Ride My See-Saw

Deluxe Edition: CD One - Overture/Late Lament/Tuesday Afternoon/For My Lady/Bless The Wings/Emily's Song/New Horizons/Lean On Me (Tonight)/Voices In The Sky/Lovely To See You/Gemini Dream/I Know You're Out There Somewhere/The Voice
CD Two - Say It With Love/The Story In Your Eyes/Your Wildest Dreams/Isn't Life Strange?/The Other Side Of Life/I'm Just A Singer In A Rock 'n' Roll Band/Nights In White Satin/Legend Of A Mind/Question/Ride My See-Saw

"A turn of the page can be like before...and it makes me want to cry cry crrrrrrry!"

It was a magical night, apparently. 'Covered in pixie dust' according to Ray Thomas' sleeve-notes. Everybody who was lucky enough to be there in Colorado raved about what a great night it was. Certainly it was a landmark night for the band, who finally admitted defeat after losing Patrick Moraz and went back to using an orchestra full-time for the first time since 1967 in place of keyboards, with the chance to hear many of the band's old classics performed the way they would have been back in the day had Mike Pinder not single-handedly beat every orchestra hands down with his ever-busy mellotron. The trouble is actually being at a concert and hearing the playback are two very different things. Those pixies don't always sprinkle enough of their magic dust down the microphones and equipment feeding back into the mixers. Fans who know the significance of this event after decades of pleading for the Moodies to go back to using an orchestra have been known to cry hearing back this gig and what it means to them. Everyone else just wonders what all the fuss is about, with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra doing to the band's career what Peter Knight's once did to 'Days Of Future' - smothering these songs with so many treacly strings they can't breathe. The Moody Blues always existed on a thin line between warm and pompous and on this album they pass it - this is 'snob rock' where the high-falluting thoughts and cold intellect take over from the warmth and emotional beating heart that represent the band at their best.

As a one-off this album is quite an interesting experiment I suppose, simply so the band could stop being asked about using orchestras in their work and bow to the inevitable so they could get on with their musical lives. The singing is excellent throughout, about the last time all the Moodies will sound great on a live concert all at the same time. A couple of the tracks, such as a lovely rare live performance of Ray's masterpiece 'For My Lady'  and an intriguing scary jaunt through 'The Voice', do sound good with the orchestra more than a match for the accompaniments of the original. But the three minute 'Overture' that starts the album isn't even as well played as the one on 'Future Passed' (not to mention shorter), 'Tuesday Afternoon' has changed key for the sake of the orchestra which leads to Justin sounding like he's giving birth during the painful middle section (Aaaaaah, wo-aahhhhh!') and songs that were borderline sweet like 'Lean On Me (Tonight)' now sound so syrupy they should be given away with greetings cards (the sort you send to people you don't like).

On the ninth (?!) anniversary (why not wait for the tenth?!) the band finally got round to releasing the entire concert as a 'deluxe' album. Against all odds, it turned out to be a much more interesting listen courtesy of lots more rare songs added back into the band's live set such as 'New Horizons' 'Emily's Song' and 'Say It With Love' (plus Ray's showstopper 'Legend Of A Mind' curiously absent from the original given that it gets the biggest cheer of the night and is particularly well suited to the strings). None of the songs ever sound better than the originals without the orchestra but they do at least make more sense on some of these songs ('Emily's Song', for instance, is a tall order to manage without the strings although it did hang around in the setlist for a couple of tours after this). Even so, I struggle to understand what all the fuss is about with the Blues at the Red a case of the wrong idea for the wrong band in a venue that, as with the Albert Hall on 'Caught Live', has the wrong acoustic for their sort of a show to be recorded properly. There is if you're really into this sort of thing a DVD which features 19 of the full 23 songs played that night, but to be honest with Moraz' jumping replaced by a very static orchestra there's even less reason to watch this gig rather than listen to it. Still, if you were enough of a fan to be there, I can see why this would be a nice souvenir, although for the rest of us this sounds like a party we never got to join with and the CD and DVD are no substitute.  

"Time Traveller" (Box Set)

(Polydor, September 1994)

CD One: Fly Me High/Love and Beauty/Cities/Tuesday Afternoon/Nights In White Satin/Ride My See-Saw/Legend Of A Mind/House Of Four Doors/Voices In The Sky/The Best Way To Travel/The Actor/In The Beginning/Lovely To See You/Dear Diary/Never Comes The Day/Are You Sitting Comfortably?/Have You Heard?/The Voyage/Have You Heard? Part Two

CD Two: Higher and Higher/Gypsy/Eyes Of A Child Part One/I Never Thought I'd Live To Be A Hundred/Beyond/Out and In/The Candle Of Life/I Never Thought I'd Live To Be A Million/Watching and Waiting/Question/Don't You Feel Small?/It's Up To You/Minstrel's Song/Dawning Is The Day/Melancholy Man/Procession/The Story In Your Eyes/One More Time To Live/You Can Never Go Home/My Song

CD Three: Lost In A Lost World/New Horizons/For My Lady/Isn't Life Strange?/You and Me/I'm Just A Singer (In A Rock and Roll Band)/This Morning/Remember Me My Friend/My Brother/Saved By The Music/I Dreamed Last Night/When You Wake Up/Blue Guitar/Steppin' In A Slide Zone/Driftwood/The Day We Meet Again

CD Four: Forever Autumn/The Voice/Talking Out Of Turn/Gemini Dream/Blue World/Sitting At The Wheel/Running Water/Your Wildest Dreams/The Other Side To This Life/I Know You're Out There Somewhere/No More Lies/Say It With Love/Bless The Wings (That Bring You Back)/Lean On Me (Tonight)/Highway

Limited Edition Bonus Disc: This Is The Moment/A Night At Red Rocks (Tracks Cut From Commercial Release): The Story In Your Eyes/Voices In The Sky/New Horizons/Emily's Song/Bless The Wings (That Bring You Back)/Say It With Love/Legend Of A Mind/Gemini Dream

"Looking for a road where the seed was sown and the harvest was young"

If I really was a time-travelling Moodies fan you wouldn't see me for dust - there are just too many fascinating eras to explore. Frustratingly, though, the moments this box set spends the most time on are the ones I'd leave to the end of my holiday - the 1980s albums in particular and a bizarre obsession with the 'Blue Jays' album of which only two songs are missing (and which isn't even strictly speaking a Moody Blues album! Annoyingly one of the two missing, 'Who Are You Now?', is the album highlight). By Comparison such classic albums as 'Every Good Boy Deserves Favour' gets pruned to just five songs (one of them the avant garde opener 'Procession', which makes sense at the start of an album but not at all as track sixteen on a twenty-track CD), while even fan revered classic 'The Days Of Future Passed' is only represented by the two album singles. Moreover there seems to be some debate about which Moody Blues this set covers. Though the slightly over-inflated sleevenotes harp on and on about the wonderful Denny Laine era the set begins only when Justin and John have joined the band (and it's not a rights issue either - both bands were on Decca subsidiaries). Equally the box set claims Justin's 'Forever Autumn' single as enough of a Moodies song to feature, even though every fan after this box must already own it - why not go the whole way with an extra disc containing the nest of the solo Moodies albums for fans? ('Autumn' 'Songwriter' 'Adam and I' 'Broken Dreams, Hard Road' and 'The Promise' along with the best of the Blue Jays record all on the same album sounds good to me!; ironically the only solo song not already released on Decca rights-wise is, would you believe 'Forever Autumn', which Decca/Threshold would have had to pay someone for using).

Though no two Moodies fans share the same list of best songs, I have to say this track selection is particularly poor, neglecting most of the better ones. No 'Peak Hour'? No 'Deep Within You'? No 'And The Tide Rushes In'? No 'When You're A Free Man? No 'Land Of Make Believe'? But space for 'Sitting At The Wheel' 'Procession' and the whole six minutes of 'House Of Four Doors'? Are you mad?! There is one welcome aspect of this set though at least and that's the fact that the compilers have successfully understood that The Moody Blues was a five-way democracy. Though Justin Hayward still gets more audio time than the others, it's a more 30/20/20/20/10 way split (drummer Graeme, who did less writing anyway, getting the lowest) which is much fairer than any of the compilations ever are and which offer a much more complete sense of The Moodies as a band. There are the occasional rarity here too, including the first CD release of early singles 'Fly Me High' and 'Love and Beauty', mini-classics both, plus the rare 'Say It With Love' B-side 'Highway', which may well be the best thing recorded at the 'Keys To The Kingdom' sessions and makes for a very fitting coda. However even this isn't exactly an overflowing endorsement: some box sets (the CSN one for instance) are nearly half and half released and unreleased and there's nothing here that was 'exclusive' to this set.

Well, not on first release anyway. Controversially this full-price set was re-issued not only three years later with an added fifth 'bonus' disc to entice more people into buying it. Though it's nice to have for the contemporary song 'This Is The Moment' (released, would you believe, on an album of football songs: I'd have thought 'Melancholy Man' would be a better choice for most teams, or 'Living In A Land Of Make Believe') the outtakes from 'Red Rocks' are less essential, doubly so given that a deluxe edition CD of that show with all these extras was released only a few years later anyway. The Moody Blues do seem to struggle to get their box sets right - a complete (probably over-complete) seventeen disc set officially replaced this one in the catalogue in 2013 and that didn't quite get things right either. Perhaps the Moodies just aren't a band that translate well to box sets - each album was, after all, very much made as a stand-alone creation rather than an on-going progression like some bands and we very much recommend in their case that you hear the albums as albums rather than pulled apart like this. My time-travelling self in a parallel dimension had a much happier time than I did, especially when he went into the future and the band finally got it right in the eighth attempt in 2167 with a full DVD of the Denny Laine band in France, the band at the Isle of Wight in 1970 and some stunning outtakes: personally I'd wait for that one!

Mike Pinder "Among The Stars"

 (One Step Records, '1994')

The Power Of Love (Can Survive)/You Can't Take Love Away/The Best Things In Life/Hurry On Home/When You're Sleeping/Fantasy Flight/Among The Stars/Upside Down/Waters Beneath The Bridge/The World Today

"True freedom's spread around us, it's right here right now - mankind's forgotten  how"

I'd love to have known where Mike's work might have gone had he stayed with The Moody Blues across the 1980s. Perhaps the most spiritual of all the band, it would have been fascinating to see how more 'cosmic' the 80s Moodies might have been with Pinder pulling them another way alongside the more  commercial sound they used (I can see the Moodies becoming more like 'Marillion', with warmer sounding synthesisers for starters). However that widening divide was one of the reasons Pinder bailed out in 1978, when the markets changed and left his mellotron sounding like a period piece rather than the timeless sound of the future it had been till now - alongside wanting to bring up a family and to not have to tour again. Mike, honourably, bided his time until his children had reached their teens before making a tentative comeback to the business and thankfully skipped the whole of the 1980s sound that wouldn't have suited him anyway; instead his comeback during the mid-1990s (when the 1960s was a time to be looked up to rather than sneered at) can be considered excellent timing. Even so, though, few fans ever got to hear about this record which came out on a minor record label mainly based in the States (and mainly bought through mail-order catalogues - what a shame it didn't come out on the band's own 'Threshold' label, still just about going strong in this time, and which would have been a kind gesture to an old friend) and wasn't given much publicity from Pinder, bar a fascinating hour long talk on  the US chat show 'Talk Of The Town'. The album sadly died an even bigger death than 'Keys To The Kingdom', but not for the first time in Moody history it was the world's loss.

What impresses me most about this album is that it immediately sounds more in keeping with the 'old' Moodies 60s style than any of the reunion albums, despite being made using period technology and with half an eye on contemporary sounds. Though Pinder has largely kept his mellotron in the loft the digital keyboards he chooses to use are of the warmer, more psychedelic variety so that most of the songs could easily have been released in 1967. Critics could and did sneer that Pinder hadn't moved on from his band's heyday (and there are quite a few spoken word pieces that verge on the embarrassing), but viewed in the light of the 90s trend for new age and ambience music (Enya, Clannad and co) the record makes a lot more sense.. If at times this album sounds a bit under-budget and all too obviously made in Mike's home studio, it remains a much more likeable sound than the over-blown pompous mess his colleagues were reduced to in the 1980s and 1990s (especially 'Keys To The Kingdom'). It's the vocals, oddly, that are the albums sticking point: Pinder always sounded in the past as he believed every word he sang and the Moodies harmonies made him sound great - here his vocals often sound weedy and thin and sang as with a bemused smile over who would ever listen to him eighteen years since his first solo LP. The fact is though that there's a lot here worth hearing and it would only have taken a tweak or two (or a guest band appearance or two) to make it sound fully great.

'The Power Of Love (Can Survive)' is, however, a bad idea. The most contemporary Moody-ish track on the album, it's a noisy retro rock album which doesn't even feature a keyboard part and sounds too much like everyone else. At least the lyrics are good, though, a sweet look-back at the band's early years (not unlike the 'story' going on in the 'I Know You're Out There Somewhere' video) swapping between being 'worried and then laughing at ourselves, as we had little money and tried to put food on the shelves'. Mike sighs that 'it wasn't easy to hang on to the dream' but he's grateful he did as the power of love has worked for all the band in different ways.  Had this song been made in more of the Denny Laine era R and B it might have been an album highlight - alas it just sounds like so many disposable power rock songs.

'You Can't Take The Love Away' is much more like it, a haunting 'Melancholy Man' style ballad which makes good use of the period technology with a golden sweep across the synth strings full of warmth and hope so unlike the Patrick Moraz style. With lyrical references to 'Share Our Love' it sounds as if Mike is trying to make peace with his Moody mates.

'The Best Things In Life Are Free' finds Mike counting his blessings on a song not unlike Hollies classic 'The Air That I Breathe' (only, oddly, the rhyme here is 'honey from bees'). It's another sweet song so unlike what the rest of the band were up to in the 1990s.

'Hurry On Home' is a strangely teenagery song whereby the musician waits anxiously by the telephone to hear a loved one's voice. Even an hour apart 'seems like an eternity' as Mike tries to take his mind off things but sighs 'there's nothing on TV'. This is one of the more generic and forgettable songs on the album.

'When You're Sleeping' is the Pinder family song to go alongside John's 'Emily's Song' and Graeme's 'I'll Be Level With You'. Though Mike's eldest was sixteen by the time this album was released, you can just imagine the immediately post-'Promise' Pinder sitting down to write this song when his brood were very young imagining all the 'lots of things to do' as they grew old together. This recording, though, is clearly made with the older Pinder's voice and takes on quite a different feel, with a sense of regret that dad didn't do more with his family in their childhood.

'Fantasy Flight' is one of the album highlights, a more ambitious song wondering where the narrator and his wife's shared night dreams might take them. It's a little like Justin's 'Night Flight', but less cliched with a journey through the stars along the way.

Talking of which, title track 'Among The Stars' is a poem set against a wash of delightful synthesisers that make for a lovely new agey sound. You almost wish the tone poem didn't come in to interrupt in fact although it's a lot better than 'The Seed' from 'The Promise': 'We learn to live the dream, suspended here in time and space, projections on a screen, we move through love to reach the light which shines within us all, the knowledge of the universe, live love instead of war'.

'Upside Down' sounds not unlike the songs from 'Strange Times' with the same MOR-style backing mixed to lyrics about paranoia and fright. It's a great song full of Pinder's characteristic depth until the rather silly pop chorus comes in and takes the song somewhere else, the problem that hampered so much of 'The Promise'. That Pinder synth sure sounds lovely, though, and only the saxophone solo and air guitar moment in the middle are truly unlistenable (it's as if Mike is making up for missing the 1980s by including all the cliches he can in this one song - thankfully we stop short of the 'robot dancer'!)

'Waters Beneath The Bridge' meanwhile skirts dangerously close to lift music, a tacky instrumental piece dominated by a keyboard on piano setting. The track improves when a swell of keyboards starts to leave the mothership of a riff and goes through some dark and scary places, but even so this is a bridge I wish we really hadn't crossed.

Thankfully the album ends on a better note with 'The World Of Today', in which Mike despairs of all the 60s dreams that never came true and how things have got worse in the intervening thirty years despite the Moodies' best efforts. There are several haunting images here, juxtapositions of things that should never have happened (fattening cows to feed the Western world, while third world countries go without anything). The Moodies, famously apolitical, finally break that spell here as Mike sneers 'Politicians, contradictions - always seem to lead us astray'. However, always one to offer hope in his writing, Mike ends by saying that we still have a choice and can think for ourselves despite the corporations and companies telling us how to act. Though other bands have made the point better, it's good to hear one of the Moodies heading towards the protest movement.

Overall, then, 'Amongst The Stars' is a bit too inconsistent to be excellent - which is odd for an album built up over such a long period of time - but does have many lovely moments. It is arguably the Moodies-related album with the most similarities to the 'old' sound made after the 'Octave' comeback years and for that reason alone is welcome enough. If only, though, Pinder had been just that little more comfortable with sounding like his old self this could have been the comeback of the decade. Instead it's another Moodies 'nearly' album, not quite amongst the stars like the old days perhaps but at least unlike 'Keys To The Kingdom' it manages to get off the ground.  

Mike Pinder "A Planet With One Mind"

(One Step Records, October 1995)

A Spark In The Dark/The Legend Of The Indian Paintbrush/The Butterfly Boy/Old Turtle/The Rajah's Rice/Why The Sky Is Far Away/All Of You Was Singing

"From  your eyes the Gods made springs of cold water, from your mouths they made the deep caves and echoing caverns"

If I had to pick the voice of one of my AAA band members to record a talking book to send me off to sleep (and I go through a lot of them, dear readers, with my me/cfs condition!) then Mike Pinder would be high up my list - along with The Beach Boys' Carl Wilson, Lindisfarne's Ray 'Jacka' Jackson and The Monkees' Micky Dolenz (though personally I can't wait to hear Liam Gallagher reading out his autobiography one day complete with rants and swearing or Neil Young talking about his collection of cars). Pinder has one of those warm velvety voices that makes everything sound alright (even Graeme's poetry!) and who could be reading out the phone book for all we care - it's his soothing delivery that counts. So imagine out excitement when Pinder surprised us all by taking a year to follow up his second album (which came out eighteen years after the first one) with a collection of children's stories. The seven fairytales/fables are taken from seven different cultures from around the world (including Native American Indian, China, African and European) and all sound something like Aesop's Fables (a writer already references in the Moodies' own 'The Tortoise and The Hare'.

These stories clearly aren't for everyone - some of them are a bit (brothers) grim and too scary for younger children, while few pre-teens I know think that a mellotron is the perfect accompaniment to a storybook. However as family listening this is a strong set, with the added bonus for longterm fans that Mike plays his signature sound often and well behind the stories, with the effect being very Moody Blues, as if we're listening to one of Graeme's creations and the band are about to break into song at any moment. Impressively, Mike manages to make each song sound different, adapting his choice of instruments to whatever country the tales come from (his style particularly suits the Chinese legends, for instance, and it's nice to hear him go back to using the sitar again for the 'Ommmm' style Indian pieces).  Fans of new age music and fairytales will love it, though the cleverly titled 'A Planet With One Mind' (a line from the Moody Blues track 'My Song') is a sort of 'bonus' extra you might like to have if you like this sort of thing rather than an essential buy-it-now life-changing set. A small triumph that's never childish, this might not be as good as having another album of music but is arguably more traditionally Moody Blues than any record the rest of the band have made since the reunion!
All seven stories are similar and many reflect Mike's interests in the stars and space. 'A Spark In The Dark' is a Navaho Indian tale of why the stars ended up in the sky in the first place (not to spoil it for you but 'Fire Man' was startled by 'Coyote' and dropped the fire he was trying to build - there's a bit more to it than that). Tomie De Paula's  'The Legend Of The Indian Paintbrush' is based on another native American Indian tale about a boy who yearned to paint the multi-coloured 'sunset' he saw every night but ran out of paints to do the sight justice so had to 'dream' it instead.  Chuang Tzu's Chinese folktale 'The Butterfly Boy' is the ancient philosopher's interpretations of his surreal dreams and a debate about whether he was a man dreaming of being a butterfly or, in another state of mind, a butterfly dreaming he was a man. Europe is represented by Doug Wood's tale 'Old Turtle', about the debate between different species of animals what God looks like and whether he is made in 'their' image - God then introduced man to their paradise world and chaos ensues. 'The Rajah's Rice' takes us to India and is the oddest story of the seven, with a 'Scheherazade' style character  evading capture by using mathematics to prove her points that her village is worth 'saving' from an evil ruler. 'Why The Sky Is Far Away' comes from Nigeria and is a very Moodies tale of greed and envy, as the people eat so much of the edible planets given to them by God that they faded away into the sky never to come close to the Earth again. Finally 'All Of You Was Singing' is an Aztec myth about how music was first brought to Earth after a complaint that the wind and sun had so much pretty music of their own. The most heartwarming tale of the seven, with links back to the 'Lost Chord' album about music being a gift from our 'creator', it's a strong finale and uses a similar clipped storytelling tone to Graeme's contributions to Moodies albums. In all, a strong set though fans need perhaps to be of the 'same' open mind for this album to be truly powerful. A limited edition sequel, 'A People With One Heart' features another seven short story/poetry readings but is only available through Mike's own website so isn't included here an 'official' release; Mike has long spoken about this series being a 'trilogy' so another may yet follow (basically if you love this album you'll love the sequel one too - and if you hated it then this one isn't for you either).

Justin Hayward and Friends "Sing The Moody Blues' Classic Hits" aka "Moody Blues Unplugged"

(Phantom Sound, '1996')

Nights In White Satin/Question/Forever Autumn/I Know You're Out There Somewhere/Running Water/New Horizons/Blue World/Isn't Life Strange?/The Voice/Blue Guitar/I'm Just A Singer (In A Rock 'n' Roll Band)/Voices In The Sky/Your Wildest Dreams/In My World

"If you could see what it's done to me, to lose the love I  knew could safely lead me through"

Who are these so-called 'friends' and what have you done with Justin???? Included here for the sake of completion, this is a bonkers covers album which only features Justin on 'Forever Autumn' most of 'Blue World' and 'In My World' and half of 'Nights In White Satin', none of them particularly stunning and in fact pretty darn ropey by Justin's usual high standards (although they're easily the best thing here). This record could have delivered so much more - there is after all some unusual song choices in the mix such as the lovely 'Running Water' and 'New Horizons' - and the Moodies' material is strong enough to be done any number of different ways. The use of the 'Frankfurt Rock Orchestra' (probably not one with a long pedigree you sense from the name) ought to offer a new way of looking at these songs, though the release of 'Red Rocks' a couple of years earlier made this a scarier prospect at the time than it otherwise would have been. Some of the cover artists, from the bands Saga and The Atlantic Rhythm Section do have a musical pedigree - not the strongest pedigrees perhaps but enough of a career, you would hope, to hok,d a tune once in a while. However it's all a ghastly mix of over-blown under-sung heavy metal ballads with some of the tackiest orchestrations ever. 'Nights In White Satin' isn't performed, it's murdered. 'Question' isn't answered, it's crucified. 'I Know You're Out There Somewhere' has never sounded more lost. 'Blue Guitar' has never made me bluer. 
'Forever Autumn' becomes a permanent nuclear winter. 'Running Water'? It's sprung a leak! 'I'm Just A Singer In A Rock and Roll Band'? In your dreams sunshine, this is not singing it's yelling! 'New Horizons', meanwhile, gets turned from the most gorgeous songs ever written, fragile wistful and delicate, into a hybrid monster with seventeen heads, all of them singing out of tune while an octopus on acid plays eight sets of drums. This album is a real mess and should have been strangled at birth and listening to this album as a Moodies fan makes you feel strangely dirty. You sense that Justin - usually so careful with his money and career choices - made a really bad one or somehow got blackmailed into making this album (perhaps he was just too nice to say 'no'?) Even the album cover is a boring off-colour white picture of a bit of satin (oh how original!) and my sympathies go out to the poor engineer who had to 'digitally remaster' this mess as the CD proudly claimed from the date of its very first release!

Justin Hayward "The View From The Hill"

(CMC International, June 1996)

I Heard It/Broken Dream/The Promised Land/It's Not Too Late/Something To Believe In/The Way Of The World/Sometimes Less Is More/Troubadour/Shame/Billy/Children Of Paradise

"All we need is freedom and all we ask is peace and all we ask is no one on their knees - but I'm only dreaming..."

Released in the 'five years on' gap after 'Keys To The Kingdom' where a Moody Blues album would normally have been, 'The View From The Hill' largely picks up where the band left off with a similar poppy feel and a less synthesised feel that continued the style of the best of the album ('Say It With Love' is a good litmus paper test - if you think like me it was the best song on the album then you'll like this album too, which features a very similar drum pattern throughout most of the record). Thankfully the songs are much stronger this time around, with few going the way of 'Bless The Rainbows' or 'Bless The Wings' and the album's biggest highlights such as the dreamy 'Broken Dream' and the thoughtful 'It's Too Late' are Justin's best song in years. Like many of the recent Moody Blues albums you can't help but wish that we could hear a work-in-progress mix as the production sound still twinkles away a little too loudly, but the view from this particular hill is the best it's been for years.

There's a subtle theme across this album of suffering. Not Justin so much - this is probably his least 'confessional' of all his non-covers solo albums - or even those around him but the sense that Justin wants to be a voice for those around the world who don't have one (very Moodies). Other writers would have made this sound more obvious, thrown in a few angry stinging rockers in there and put a charity donation page on the back sleeve. But Justin is a subtler writer than that: he wants to help by offering comfort and hope to hopefully make a 'connection' with those who need it. Of all the many albums that Justin has released to date, this is the one that most uses his favourite trick of contrasts, with many of these songs starting off sad but being comforted by an uplifting chorus (the poppy 'It's Not Too Late' is the single most Hayward song since 'Question', showing off both the hopelessness and the warmth in one pocket pop song that can't help but make you feel better and which they should offer on the NHS). Hayward isn't egocentric enough to insist he can help everybody though: by far the most un-Hayward song here (the most adventurous Hayward song in years) is 'Billy', the tale of a suicide victim whose suffering is so great that even Justin can't help him. Of course Justin spends seven minutes trying to anyway, trying to take comfort from the fact that other people might be stopped before going the same way - but the death of Billy and all the other Billies clearly unsettles Justin. The Moody Blues at their best were always about helping people, but this is the solo record where Justin really takes that thought conscientiously and offer comfort.
Though the poppy commercial keyboards still get in the way even on the 'mute' button (comparatively speaking to the 1980s albums) and Justin's natural ability with a melody seems to have deserted him slightly across the 1990s (the sublime 'Broken Dreams' being the album's one big exception), 'Hill' is one of those albums that never pretended to be perfect in the first place and it's easy to overlook its flaws because of its strengths. 'Hill' is an album with a big heart you can't help but love once you get to know it, even if your ears might struggle a little to get to know it the first few times you play the record. It's almost as if all that Moodies warmth has been stored up for all the years the band were trying out a different sound with those cold detached synthesisers and thankfully that warmer sound will survive into the next band album 'Strange Times' in 1999. Though this record isn't for everyone and received mixed-erring-towards-positive reviews on release, to my ears this is the best Moodies-related release since 'The Present' in 1983.

Opener 'I Heard It' is actually one of the lesser songs, simply because it's one of the few tracks here that sounds as if it could have belonged on one of the band's synth-demonstration records of the past few years. This song is still superior to most of what came immediately before it, though, with a lovely prog rocky 'whistling keyboard' opening that recalls both 'Steppin' In A Slide Zone' and 'War Of The Worlds'. Justin is out driving when he suddenly heard a voice telling him to stop and look back so he does - and gets struck again by the glory of nature as a whacking great sunset goes down behind him, which gets his creative juices flowing. Justin realises he's heard the voice before - always 'on the start of some great adventure' - and wonders if other people have heard it too. Justin sure did hear something on this sweet pop song, although unfortunate he happened to hear it in terms of 1980s pop. A re-write of 'Bless The Wings' via 'The Voice' perhaps, but a superior re-write (well 'Bless The Wings' anyway).

'Broken Dreams' is however, Justin's single best song since 'Running Water', maybe even his great ballads from 'Octave'. Many fans took to calling this a 1990s 'Nights In White Satin' and while the album's single isn't quite that inspired or haunting, it is nevertheless very beautiful as the single best use of post-Pinder synths in the Moodies catalogue sweeps in and out of the song the way the old mellotron used to, warm-blooded and supportive at last rather than cold and distant. Justin has again caught himself thinking of a past love, a passing fancy which 'opened the floodgates and now I'm helpless'. Though most of the song is content to drift around dreamily in the same hazy state as 'Who Are You Now?' a gorgeous middle eight suddenly sweeps in to toughen the song up as 'Out of the dark I stumbled, into the light', Justin running to the arms of the girlfriend he did marry. It's a very moving song and while perhaps not quite 'Nights In White Satin' is arguably up to 'I Know You're Out There Somewhere' with some clever imagery and a very fitting melody full of warmth and longing. Justin's even gone back to using flutes again, starting a now twenty-year partnership with Ray Thomas' future replacement Norda Mullen.

'The Promised Land' switches the mood to one of joy, as Justin tries to offer hope and comfort to the refugees fleeing the many, many terrible genocides that occurred in the 1990s and sought a new life back in Europe. The rumours of the 'promised land' turn out to be just that as the immigrants offer to share their own culture and ideas only to have it thrown back in their faces. The mood is still upbeat, though, as an uplifting chorus full of happy voices join Justin's chant that humanity isn't this cruel so things will sort themselves out, demanding 'A better way'. Justin himself sings as a refugee in the first person in the middle of the song to up the ante a little bit, while the unusual slightly oriental-but-still-Western-Pop backing does a good job at trying to combine two very different sounding styles. In a funny way it recalls 'The Sunset' from 'Days Of Future Passed'. A good song, less patronising than most in the same spirit, although it runs out of steam long before the seven minutes are up and fades on a two minute instrumental passage, something the band didn't even resort to in the 1980s!

'It's Not Too Late' is another gorgeous Hayward ballad and another album highlight. A dissection of the hippie dream, Justin is cross that so many of his peers seem to be dismissing the peace and love they sang about in their youth as 'silly'. Justin believed every word he sang and still does - 'somewhere' there will be a better day if we keep hoping long enough. A nice uplifting song that's nicely in the Moodies tradition.

'Something To Believe In' is one of the album's rare low spots, if only because it repeats the ideas we've already heard instead of offering something new. It's all a little too soap opera-ey as Justin looks at the generation growing up in the 1980s and compares it to his own, figuring that the difference is the people of this era have nothing to believe in like he once did. The highlight of the song is an angry (well, for Justin) middle eight that rants on their behalf 'Caught in the void of no hope or chance...' Justin talks about the younger generation as if they're his 'younger brothers and sisters' sharing the planet with him like family members, which is sweet. The melody's a tad forgettable though.

'The Way Of The World' is a more 'moody' song in all senses of the word, with the same beat as 'How Is It We Are Here' and a dense-but-never-cluttered backing track that suits this song's metaphor-filled lyric about the suspicious state of human nature and always being convinced that someone is out to hurt us. Justin reflects that actually all this time he's been worrying unnecessarily - he's come to realise that 'we are all equal, under the sun'.

'Sometimes Less Is More', which is just as well because there's not much here. A near-solo acoustic 'n' flute song it features Justin remembering falling in love for the first time and wanting to take things slowly while straining at the leash to experience all of it. Though this is the sort of thing I've long wanted Justin to do, sadly it's not that memorable with something of a non-tune by Justin's standards while the lyric isn't quite as inspired as it ought to be. Sometimes more is actually more.

The six minute epic 'Troubadour' is a lovely song though, a semi-autobiographical song about Justin remembering why he started out this 'gypsy life' of living out of suitcases and making music in the first place. The guitar riff sounds more like Mark Knopfler, while the twinkly slide riff is the same 'doo-doo-der-doo' riff from 'I Know You're Out There Somewhere'. The lyrics are great too: Justin remembers being a 'little boy' when he first heard 'the voice' (the one from 'I Heard It' perhaps?) telling him that this is what he ought to do with his life (probably when he inherited his grandad's music collection). Writing feverishly at night while the muse's piper plays into his head, Justin reaches out his hand and offers to take 'us' where music has just taken him. Don't know about you but when Justin writes as well as this there's nothing I'd rather do.

'Shame' is one of the more adventurous songs on the album and as close to political as Justin has ever got. Out on tour Justin is struck by how much suffering and poverty he sees everywhere thanks to the early 1990s recession (yes we have had them before you know...)  Sensing the hopelessness around him, from the streets from the radio and television, Justin feels helpless and wishes he could do something about it all. All Justin can do is remind us that he also feels the 'love' washing over him from the audience every time he plays and he knows that in the end love will win out. This is another track that starts off spiky and cold before opening up into brilliance with the lovely singalong melody.

The one track that doesn't come with a cheery chorus is the sad tale of 'Billy'. If this was the Victorian days you'd call this a 'melodrama', as poor Billy feels so alone and helpless he leaps to his death from 'the nearest tallest building'. Justin feels for his character across seven long minutes as he tries to feel his pain, 'the anger in your heart and the sadness in your eyes' before sadly reflecting that the world is full of little Billies. So Justin makes a pact: though Billy's friends and family won't listen, though the church he prays to before he leaps won't listen, Justin will. Though the song skirts close to schmaltzy, there's enough of a big heart and enough of a melody in the chorus to get this song by. There's a nice Irish feel to this song too which makes for a refreshing musical change.

The album ends with 'Children Of Paradise', which sounds not unlike the quieter intro to old partner Lodge's 'Children Of Rock 'n' Roll'. A slightly drippy hippie song, about being awake to the wonders if the universe, it comes across as more of a parody of what Justin used to sing but the melody is another strong one and it's nice to hear Justin play acoustic again, with some nice string quartet backing.

Overall, 'The View From A Hill' is a lovely strong album, more the sort of thing fans had been wanting the Moody Blues to record since their reunion. Just as the production is timeless, so are the songs with reflections on how little the world has changed since the 1960s in terms of suffering and sadness - and yet how much the world's optimism has changed since Justin was young. A warm healing hug to a world that the guitarist knows needs it badly, this is a lovely album full of several moving songs that's far closer in spirit and sound to the old days than anything the band had released since 'Octave'. Though the record sold well, it deserved to do even better - a fan favourite that's far stronger than 'Night Flight' or 'Moving Mountains' and only a synth-solo and a dodgy lyric behind 'Songwriter' as the best in Justin's solo canon. If only the Moodies' own albums had sounded more like this one, the world truly would be a much happier place.

 "The Best Of The Moody Blues"
(Polydor, January 1997)

Go Now/Tuesday Afternoon/Nights In White Satin/Ride My See-Saw/Voices In The Sky/Question/The Story In Your Eyes/Isn't Life Strange?/I'm Just A Singer (In A Rock and Roll Band)/Blue Guitar/Steppin' In A Slide Zone/Forever Autumn/The Voice/Gemini Dream/Blue World/Your Wildest Dreams/I Know You're Out There Somewhere

"When the music plays I hear a sound I have to follow, once upon a time..."

Another decade another best-of, with the usual lack of album tracks or detailed packaging. However there is a major plus point in this compilations' favour: it's the first to feature the Denny Laine-era hit 'Go Now' as part of the track listing (a song that was rather in limbo, being the only real hit the early incarnation of the band ever had) and in addition it's the longest-running Moodies compilation since 'This Is The Moody Blues' twenty-three years earlier, finally extending the usual run of track to CD-length. It's still probably the best one-stop shot for Moody Blues if all you want are the hits and nothing else, with the band's seven hit singles from the 'classic' era all present and correct alongside radio hit 'Voices In The Sky' and every hit single any of the band had after this (including 'Blue Guitar' by the Blue Jays, 'Forever Autumn' from 'War Of The Worlds' and the highest charting five songs from the band's 1980s singles - though sadly there's no room for the most recent charting entry 'Say It With Love'). The album was successful enough to be re-issues with a new cover, although the bland 'M/B' logo against a blue cover isn't exactly much of an advantage over the original shot of a dove of peace over a night sky, both images curiously low-key and frivolous for such a visual band (the 'Hall Of Fame' gig from 2000 was also later re-issued with this album as a double-pack; a curious idea in that the excellent studio originals made the weak live versions sound even more bland and tedious). If you are a Moody newbie then I still recommend getting 'This Is The Moody Blues' over this - or better still just choosing one of the 'original seven' at random.

The Moody Blues "Anthology"

(Polydor, October 1998)

CD One: Go Now/Tuesday Afternoon/Nights In White Satin/Ride My See-Saw/Legend Of A Mind/Voices In The Sky/Lovely To See You/Never Comes The Day/Gypsy/Candle Of Life/Watching and Waiting/Question/Melancholy Man/The Story In Your Eyes/Lost In A Lost World/Isn't Life Strange?/I'm Just A Singer (In A Rock 'n' Roll Band)

CD Two: Remember Me My Friend/Blue Guitar/Steppin' In A Slide Zone/Driftwood/Forever Autumn/The Voice/Talking Out Of Turn/Gemini Dream/Blue World/Sitting At The Wheel/Your Wildest Dreams/The Other Side Of Life/I Know You're Out There Somewhere/Say It With Love/Bless The Wings (That Bring You Back)/Highway

"The sounds we make together are the story in the music in your eyes"

A sort of halfway house for those who want more than just the usual greatest hits but can't afford the box sets (who can?) or the full series of albums in CD, 'The Moody Blues Anthology' is a fair attempt at trying to capture the Moody Blues life story into two CD-length albums. The longer running time means that we get 'Go Now' restored to the Moodies history at long last (despite the fact it sounds so deeply unlike 'Tuesday Afternoon' to follow) and fan favourites that never usually makes 'greatest hits' sets like 'Lovely To See You' (which seemed to start getting an awful lot of radio airplay round then I seem to remember!), 'Candle Of Life' 'Gypsy' 'Lost In A Lost World' and 'Melancholy Man'. The B-side 'Highway' is a surprise but welcome addition too, a sweet farewell which - at the time of release - was the most recent Moodies song and rather apt for a nostalgic retrospective. There is arguably far too much here from the 'reunion' years - though the split between discs of 'old' and 'new' is a clever one, I don't many fans who share the idea that the six reunion albums (up to this point) are worth as much time as the 'core seven' and including 'Sitting At The Wheel' and 'Bless The Wings' on the same set as 'Nights In White Satin' merely shows up how far the band fell from grace. Most fans would prefer non hits like 'In MY World' 'Running Water' and 'Veteran Cosmic Rocker' over quite a few of these 'semi-hit' singles too.

I'd be slightly upset if I was Ray or Graeme too: though the band were a democracy on album, the band most definitely isn't on CD with Ray getting just 'Legend Of A Band' to his name and Graeme nothing (where are 'For My Lady' 'And The Tide Rushes In' 'After You Came' or 'You and Me'?) Mike does rather better, which is kind given that he's so often airbrushed out of history and technically never wrote a 'hit', although predictably both he and John are still swamped by Justin who writes a good half of this entire set. As ever, it's a shame that more space isn't given over to the solo Moodies material as a bonus for collectors  too, although the Blue Jays do get two songs at the start of the second disc and Justin's 'Forever Autumn' is here too. Overall, though, this flawed set is still a welcome re-appraisal of a band who always had too much going for them to be limited to a single CD and which, hopefully, did intrigue more than a few newbies into checking out this most fascinating of bands. You're still better off picking one of the 'core' seven albums if you're new to the band, though, which offer a full meal rather than the pic-and-mix you get here.

Justin Hayward "Live In San Juan Capistrano"

(Nightswood, '1998')

Your Wildest Dreams/Lost and Found/Living In The Land Of Make-Believe/Blue Guitar/Children Of Paradise/Troubadour/The Way Of The World/Forever Autumn/The Actor/Watching and Waiting/Something To Believe In/Broken Dream/The Story In Your Eyes/Billy/It's Not Too Late/Tuesday Afternoon/Nights In White Satin/Raised On Love

"Trying to find myself, I was out on my own"

In 1998, just before the 'Strange Times' tour, Justin took to the road again for a belated tour of his 'Hill' album, with a cracking band in tow - none of the original Moodies but most of their 'extra band' - keyboardist Paul Bliss, drummer Gordie Marshall and a new bass player in Mickey Feat. To be honest a lot of the songs from that record - and there are a lot of them here - sound so near enough identical to the studio record that they're not really worth your while. However the small collection of Moodies songs and especially the other Hayward solo songs that aren't often heard and are all performed by Justin solo with just his guitar are very welcome additions to his back catalogue indeed: 'Raised On Love' from 'Songwriter' sounds very pretty as an almost entirely acoustic song that loses the tacky children's choir; an 'unplugged' makeover for 'It's Up To You' is an excellent new makeover of an old friend; 'Forever Autumn' works well as an all-acoustic number without all the synthesised ooh-la-ing robots; 'Watching and Waiting' on its first live performance ever sounds like a very pretty and under-rated ballad; while 'Lost and Found' from 'Moving Mountains' sounds like an entirely different song with the instrumentation shifted from the digital 80s into the throwback acoustic 90s. Justin is clearly having the time of his life re-discovering his songbook freed of the rather static Moody setlists of the past two decades, though he's still far from a natural live performer - his introductions to the songs are nervy and shy and his eyes light up when he's playing not speaking (and I say that based on the evidence seeing the rather static DVD of the shows released later - I didn't travel back in time to see him or anything).  All in all it's a nicely chosen setlist that digs a little deeper than the usual Moody-related concerts of recent years and though some things from 'The The View From A Hill' is over the hills and far away, this is an enjoyable set all Justinians will treasure.

"Hall Of Fame"

(Ark 21 Records, Recorded May Released August 2000)

Overture/Tuesday Afternoon/English Sunset/Words You Say/The Story In Your Eyes/I Know You're Out There Somewhere/Haunted/Your Wildest Dreams/Isn't Life Strange?/I'm Just A Singer In A Rock 'n' Roll Band/Nights In White Satin/Legend Of A Mind/Question/Ride My See-Saw

"It doesn't matter to me, chasing the clouds away, Aaaaaaah, Aaaaaaah, Aaaaaaah!"

A sequel to 'Red Rocks', with the Moody Blues again appearing with an orchestra on an album so similar it will bring back several acid flashbacks and a sense of deja vu. The only real difference is the addition of three new songs from the 'Strange Times' album - sadly not the three strongest (what no 'Swallow'?!) although all three benefit from the slightly rougher edges of the live stage, sounding much more 'real' and heartfelt. Though Ray Thomas will hang around until the 'December' Christmas album this is his official goodbye to the live albums and thankfully this record's 'Legend Of A Mind' is an improvement on the last few, with a few extra 'twinkly bits' from the orchestra although Ray is as always very under-used and only gets the one song (which is, at least, one more than Graeme gets). Frustratingly, the Royal Albert Hall is a notoriously hard venue to record a live album in (many AAA bands have tried and failed down the years) and while the performances are better than on 'Red Rocks' the sound isn't, muddy and echoed and leading to Graeme's drums and the backing singers swamping much of the sound. Justin is having a bit of a rare off-day vocally too and an OTT version of 'The Story In Your Eyes' is the closest he's ever come to being unlistenable; John holds this show together for once although even he hits his share of wrong notes. In other words there's some good stuff here but as usual The Moodies sound a lot more at home in the studio than they ever did on stage and the muddy sound, quantity of long slow orchestral ballads and the odd rum performance make this closer to the bottom end of the band's live album pile than the top; less 'The Hall Of Fame' than 'The Hall Of Shame'. Though Ray will be sorely missed, the sequel 'Lovely To See You Live' features a much more on-form band performing a much more interesting selection of songs. For some reason a cheaper 'budget' re-issue of this album was released in 2010 re-titled 'The Moody Blues At The Royal Festival Hall'. It's the exact same concert with the beginning and end chopped off, so you don't get the 'Overture' for instance or 'Legend Of A Mind' for some reason (I can live without the first, but why take out one of the highlights of the set just because Ray isn't in the band anymore? Seems a bit mean...)

Various Artists  "The Journey Into Amazing Caves" (Film Soundtrack)

(**, March 2001)

To Extremes/Search For Daylight/Arizona/Water/Crystal Chamber/Blue Cathedral/Frozen In Time/Home Of The Mayan Gods/Horizons Turn Inwards/We Can Fly

"Waiting for the light, steal away the darkness, take me home tonight"

I'm not quite sure why the makers of a film about cave-explorers turned to The Moody Blues (specifically Justin and John) for help putting a soundtrack to their low budget documentary film about exploring the grand canyon (perhaps they'd seen the inside cover of 'To Our Children's where the band are in a space-cave?) I'm even less sure why The Blue Jays said 'yes', breaking the silence between 'Strange Times' and 'December' with a soundtrack album that, frankly, could have been by anyone. To be fair, The Moodies have always been big on atmosphere and the soundtrack album has a nice prog-rock tone of epic-ness that the reunion projects would have done well to follow, being made with 'real' instruments by and large rather than just anonymous keyboards. However, with the film lasting just 38 minutes and the soundtrack album even less, it's hardly worth the cavers getting their muddy boot on and even less reason for Justin and John to waste their time recording snatches of vaguely new-age instrumental swirls that never come close to reachong a full-blown song. As with the similar project by rivals Pink Floyd ('The Endless River'), the album is best treated as a long laidback guitar solo in search of a tune and interesting more for the chance to hear the band jamming without a destination in mind rather than as a satisfying musical experience in its own right. There, are though, some standout tracks here: 'The House Of The Mayan Gods' is the most Floydian the Moodies have ever got and could have been an excellent song, with Justin's stinging guitar at it's best, while 'Water' sounds like an unfinished backing track from 'Octave' with its army of synthesisers and massed harmonies that's really quiet effective. These highlights are few and far between, however, with most of the writing done by outsiders Daneil May and Steve Wood, with Justin getting co-credits for about three quarters of the album and John just two songs (the better songs). In many cases the 'songs' have little to do with the band anyway except 'stealing' motifs from past songs: 'Horizons Turn Inward', for instance, is a new age 'Nights In White Satin' and 'Crystal Chamber' a little like 'Isn't Life Strange?', which is nothing else makes for an entertaining musical game of 'Where's Wally/Waldo?' Like 'The Endless River', this record finally ends with a 'proper' song and 'We Can Fly' is a sweet duet in a similar line to 'Sooner Or Later' with Justin and John crossing vocals. However it's a minor reward after the rest of the album tests half an hour of your patience. This is one of those albums that should perhaps have been buried back in the caves and understandably became one of the band's poorer sellers. At their best the Moody Blues reached for the stars - this one has the band (or parts of it) literally as low as they've ever been. 


(Threshold**, '2003')

Nights In White Satin/Tuesday Afternoon/Voices In The Sky/Never Comes The Day/Watching and Waiting/Dawning Is The Day/For My Lady/New Horizons/Isn't Life Strange?/Blue Guitar/Driftwood/Forever Autumn/Your Wildest Dreams/Lean On Me (Tonight)/Haunted/I Know You're Out There Somewhere/Nervous

"I've shattered the illusion of fortune and of fame, I'm waking up, I'm reaching up, I'm getting up from this game"

This is one of those marketing ideas that must have looked great on paper: 'What can we do to make this Moodies compilation a bit different? I know, let's divide their back catalogue in half - we can release, I dunno, say the ballads now and if it sells keep the rock songs left over for another day!' Which all makes perfect sense until you come to analyse how many Moodies songs fall between two stools: take 'Tuesday Afternoon' for instance - it's not fast, it's not a 'rock song' like 'Story In Your Eyes' is, but it's not exactly a ballad. Ditto one of the band's biggest hits 'I Know You're Out There Somewhere', which might read like a ballad but is actually quite a fast paced aggressive little animal. Perhaps with the record label realising their mistake, both songs are bunged in here anyway even though they patently don't fit - along with 'Forever Autumn' (not strictly either),'Your Wildest Dreams' (which makes for the noisiest ballad I've heard in many a long year) and  'Blue Guitar' (which I'd have labelled as more of a 'rocker' myself). Perhaps in a sense of desperation, several rarer songs from the Moodies' canon are trotted out that don't get a look in and in some cases that's welcome ('New Horizons' especially deserves another hearing) but in some cases is just daft: why include the rather average 'Haunted' 'Lean On Me' and 'Nervous' when you have a back catalogue that includes such great under-rated gems as 'For My Lady' and 'In My World' (now those are real ballads they are!) Additionally, I don't really understand a marketing campaign that re-issued this album a mere year after first release and replaced it as a double-set with the new 'December' album. If you're the sort of fan who wants to own the Moodies' hits you really don't want a load of poorly conceived Christmas songs as well and if you're enough of a fan to want to buy a bah humbug stocking filler than you own all these songs at least six times already anyway. Yes there is some truly gorgeous groundbreaking music here and yes there are far worse track listings around on Moodies best-ofs. But this is a terrible idea for a compilation 'theme' and the record should never ever have got further than acetate stage. The cover - three blue butterflys over a night background - is pretty yuk too, having nothing whatsoever to do with The Moody Blues (at least if they'd added some 'white satin' to the cover it would have made some sense!) A lack of sleevenotes or even a picture of the band anyway suggests that this set was made in a great hurry, all of which means you shouldn't be in a hurry to buy it either.

(Polydor/Universal, March 2005)

CD One: Tuesday Afternoon/Nights In White Satin/Ride My See-Saw/Legend Of A Mind/Voices In The Sky/Lovely To See You/Never Comes The Day/Gypsy/Candle Of Life/Watching and Waiting/Question/Melancholy Man/The Story In Your Eyes/Lost In A Lost World/New Horizons/Isn't Life Strange?/I'm Just A Singer (In A Rock 'n' Roll Band)

CD Two: Remember Me My Friend/Blue Guitar/Steppin' In A Slide Zone/Had To Fall In Love/Driftwood/Forever Autumn/The Voice/Talking Out Of Turn/Gemini Dream/Blue World/Sitting At The Wheel/Your Wildest Dreams/I Know You're Out There Somewhere/Say It With Love/Bless The Wings (That Bring You Back)/Strange Times/December Snow

"I was captured, I wanted to stay and hear that kind of music every day!"

'Gold' was Polydor's name for a long-running series of 'greatest hits' compilations featuring their artists, the equivalent of EMI's '20 Golden Greats' but (usually) even longer. Though few of the other bands on Polydor were worth hearing even a single disc set of (Sarah Brightman and Elton John? Hmm, think I'll save my money there...) when you do like an artist the 'Gold' sets are an excellent way of getting to dig below the surface of most greatest hits sets with double the space and double the songs! Presumably the commercial idea is that if you like the whole run of a band's career then you're more likely to buy up all of the albums - although in The Moody Blues' case that's a bit of a sticking point given that most of them were still out on 'Decca'. The plus points are the 'extra' songs you get from the band's 'classic' years: as well as the usual tired hits there's room for hidden gems like 'Never Comes The Day' 'Candle Of Life' 'Gypsy' 'Watching and Waiting' and 'New Horizons' which to some fans like me are actually better than some of the 'lesser' hits like 'I'm Just A Singer' 'Isn't Life Strange?' and 'The Story In Your Eyes'. The other plus points are the addition of two of the better 'Blue Jays' songs, Justin's 'Forever Autumn' and two of the less irritating songs from the most recent Moodies albums 'Strange Times' and 'December Snow'. Everything is in strict chronological order too at last, so a big hurrah for that! (no odd uncomfortable segues from 'Your Wildest Dream' into 'Tuesday Afternoon' - the two songs that perhaps most sum up the very different years of 1967 and 1986 here!) The lesser points are that the packaging is flimsy, bordering on absent (even the album cover is a strangely off-centre reproduction of a mid-80s publicity photo with poor Ray nearly squeezed out the shot and clearly 'edited' to cut out Moraz), the run of awful near-hits from the 1980s ('Sitting At The Wheel' and 'Bless The Wings'? On a best-of?!) and the lack yet again of anything from the Denny Laine era (not even 'Go Now') or the band's solo years (bar Blue Jays and 'Forever Autumn' - I still say there's a strong compilation to be made featuring the best of Ray, John and Mike's, maybe even Graeme's albums, along with more from Justin on a separate disc and all records until 1985 are on Threshold so the rights shouldn't be a problem). In other words, it's a nice place to start but it's still not quite perfect - 'Bronze' maybe?

"Lovely To See You Live"

(Image Entertainment, November 2005)

Lovely To See You/Tuesday Afternoon/Lean On Me (Tonight)/The Actor/Steppin' In A Slide Zone/The Voice/Talking Out Of Turn/I Know You're Out There Somewhere/The Story In Your Eyes//Forever Autumn/Your Wildest Dreams/Isn't Life Strange?/The Other Side Of Life/December Snow/Higher and Higher/Are You Sitting Comfortably?/I'm Just A Singer (In A Rock 'n' Roll Band)/Nights In White Satin/Question/Ride My See-Saw

"Lovely to see you again my friends, walk along with me to the next bend..."

The Moody Blues' setlist had been set in stone more or less since 1988 and was in desperate need of an overhaul by 2005, so good on the band for dropping some of their perennials and adding some evergreens instead. It's good to hear the band reaching so far back into the past with the revivals of songs like 'Lovely To See You' (amazingly never played live by the original band), 'The Actor' and especially Graeme's centrepiece 'Higher and Higher' (now turned into an all out jam which at last adds some spontaneity to the setlist) and unbelievably this is the first time the band have ever performed 'Forever Autumn' as opposed to Justin on his own (well to be fair he's nearly one on this version, but you know what I mean). However it's also sad not to have Ray here on stage, this being the first tour without him there, and the stage somehow looks a bit empty even if the flautist was doing less and less as the years go by (the Moodies do the obvious thing by bringing in a young glamorous girl as his replacement, though to be fair Norda Mullen is a very talented flautist too). Personally I think I prefer the live Moodies without an orchestra too, which was getting in the way a bit on the last two tours. The Moodies also remain a band who struggle to condense everything that made them great on the records into a live setting, sometimes sounding painfully over-rehearsed, sometimes even more painfully under-rehearsed.  However the track listing is good, Justin and John sound great, Graeme finally gets something to do rather than just drum and The Moodies sound like a much tighter, brighter band than they did the last time round on 'Hall Of Fame'. Both the CD and DVD of this set are an improvement, of sorts, and this remains the best live Moodies recording since 'Caught Live' back in 1977. 

"An Introduction To The Moody Blues"

(Fuel, August 2006)

Go Now/I'll Go Crazy/Something You Got/Can't Nobody Love You?/I Don't Mind/Stop!/It Ain't Necessarily So/Bye Bye Birdie/Steal Your Heart Away/Lose Your Money (But Don't Lose Your Mind)/I Don't Want To Go On Without You/Time Is On My Side/From The Bottom Of My Heart I Love You/Everyday/This Is My House/Life's Not Life/Boulevard De Madliene/People Gotta Go

"Things you do I admire and I'm in love with you, but you gotta realise baby that every day our love grows"

Now here's an interesting set - not so much an introduction to the Moody Blues as most people know them as an extended band introduction taken solely from the Denny Laine eras. There are, by the way, a ridiculous array of ways of buying this material on CD, usually under misleading names (my copy is titled '16 Unforgettable Hits', which is a ridiculous title for an album where only 'Go Now' made the top twenty!) and misleading covers (most of them feature Justin and John on the front). We've skipped most of them from this book because they just feature some (though not all) of the debut album 'Magnificent Moodies' and a seemingly random selection of the earlier and later singles. This is a bit more professional looking though, with an outtake from the front sleeve photo sessions from the first album on the front and a far more thorough and better track selection than most. Early classics like 'Stop!' 'It Ain't Necessarily So' 'Bye Bye Birdie' and of course 'Go Now' are all here intact, but so are comparatively rarer songs like 'This Is My House' 'Boulevard De Madeleine' and 'Life's Not Life', minor classics all. The set even included the - at the time - deeply rare EP track 'People Gotta Go' only ever released in France and making its debut on CD, which at the time was exciting enough for longterm fans. However, good at is it is, this set has now been superseded by the longer and grander 'Magnificent Moodies' deluxe CD which includes all of the songs here plus a lot more.

The Moody Blues Re-Issue Series (2006-2008)

'Days Of Future Passed': Tuesday Afternoon (Alternate Mix)/Dawn Is A Feeling (Alternate Take)/The Sun Set (Without Orchestra)/Twilight Time (Alternate Take)/Nights In White Satin (Single Mix)//Fly Me High/I Really Haven't Got The Time/Love and Beauty/Leave This Man Alone/Cities/Long Summer Days/Please Think About It/Don't Let Me Be Misunderstand (BBC)/Love and Beauty (BBC)/Leave This Man Alone (BBC)/Peak Hour (BBC)/Nights In White Satin (BBC)/Fly Me High (BBC)/Twilight Time (BBC)

'In Search Of The Lost Chord': Departure (Alternate Mix)/The Best Way To Travel (Alternate Take)/Legend Of A Mind (Alternate Mix)/Visions Of Paradise (Backing)/What Am I Doing Here?/The Word (Mellotron Part)/Ommmmm (Unedited)/A Simple Game ('Justin' Version)/King and Queen/Dr Livingstone I Presume (BBC)/Voices In The Sky (BBC)/The Best Way To Travel (BBC)/Ride My See-Saw (BBC)/Tuesday Afternoon (BBC)/A Simple Game ('Mike' Version)

'On The Threshold Of A Dream': In The Beginning (Unedited)/So Deep Within You (Unedited)/Dear Diary (Alternate Mix)/Have You Heard? (Unedited)/The Voyage (Unedited)/Lovely To See You (BBC)/Send Me No Wine (BBC)/So Deep Within You (BBC)/Are You Sitting Comfortably? (BBC)

'To Our Children's Children's Children': Gypsy (Unedited)/Candle Of Life (Unedited)/The Sun Is Still Shining (Unedited)/BBC Radio Concert (Full 1969 Show Reviewed Elsewhere)

'A Question Of Balance': Mike's Number One (Unreleased)/Question (Unedited)/Minstrel's Song (Unedited)/It's Up To You (Unedited)/Don't You Feel Small? (Unedited)/Dawning Is The Day (Unedited)

'Every Good Boy Deserves Favour': The Story In Your Eyes (Early Version)/The Dreamer (Unreleased)

'Seventh Sojourn': Isn't Life Strange? (Unedited)/You and Me (Backing Track)/Lost In A Lost World (Demo)/Island (Unreleased 1973 Recording)

'Octave': Steppin' In A Slide Zone/I'm Your Man/Top Rank Suite/Driftwood (All Live In Seattle May 1979)/The Day We Meet Again (Live In Houston December 1978)

'Long Distance Voyager': The Voice (Single Edit)

'The Present': Blue World (Single Edit)/Sitting At The Wheel (Remix)

"A thousand pictures can be drawn from one word, only who is the artist? We've got to agree"

We've already dealt with the 'extras' from the 'deluxe' CD re-issue sets on the individual albums, but it's worth a quick recap here for more general collectors who are after a good deal rather than a specific album. The Moody Blues' material has been made available on CD several times, including a rather good late 1990s series that included some excellent band interviews relevant to each album, sadly cut from these later sets. However the 'deluxe' editions, though pricey, do trump all the others - the sound is much warmer and more detailed even on CD, though where possible each of the albums initially mixed into 'quadrophonic' sound back in the day (the mid-70s craze for four speakers not two, which bankrupted quite a few fans and never quite became a 'thing') have been mixed into 'DVD-Audio', which is even better. The packaging is sound but not spectacular, with odd sleevenotes that seems to assume that fans will only buy their favourite albums and so insist on re-capping the full story up to a particular album (this is ridiculous by the time you get to 'Seventh Sojourn', leaving barely any space for the actual album). I would have welcomed more notes about what was actually found in the vaults and why it's here rather than the same essay on how great these new mixes are too, although even that is full of fascinating detail for the technophile. Each booklet does at least come with gorgeous photographs, many of them unseen and the early records specially show a great deal of 'action' shots of the band in play in the studio which are great to see after all these years. For the price, though, I would have still liked a bit more - a complete set of lyrics across all the CDs would have been nice for starters.

The first three albums in particular also have a wealth of bonus tracks: though 'Days Of Future Passed' is far from my favourite Moodies album it is now the best single album on CD thanks to the inclusion of some terrific extras taken from BBC sessions, outtakes previously released on 'Live+5' and period singles which makes for a great mini-album on the second disc; 'Lost Chord' almost features as many extras in all shapes and form and 'Threshold', a single disc, has an impressively long running time thanks to yet more BBC recordings. Less palatable, though occasionally fascinating, are the 'unedited' mixes of the album songs, which basically consist of the full takes of the songs with the complete starting and end points intact. Though occasionally fascinating to hear ('So Deep Within You' and 'Don't You Feel Small?' are the un-missable ones which sound quite different to what you might expect) most of them just make you wonder why you've paid so much extra money to hear five or ten seconds' worth of material that sounds more or less the same as the parts that made the album anyway. Occasional extras from the vaults do ease the blow ('The Sun Set' and 'Nights In White Satin' minus the obstructive strings, an alternate version of Mike's 'A Simple Game' with Justin on lead and a fascinating glimpse into how 'Have You Heard?' and 'The Voyage' were actually recorded in two separate blocks and only later edited together), though the list of amazing differences is a little on the lean sign given what we were led to believe when these were first discussed. The fact that the two-disc versions retailed at around £18 and the single ones at £14 also makes these sets a nice extra to have if you can afford it, rather than a must-have, mortgage-your-house-and-auction-off-your-signed-AAA-books-which-have-added-all-of-5p-to-the-value essential purchase.

The rest of the CDs in the series aren't even that good. 'To Our Children's is the last of the double disc sets featuring a BBC concert we've reviewed separately elsewhere (in a nutshell, rather unnecessary given that 'Live+5' recorded five days earlier features a longer and better performance of the same live set) and three more of those blink-and-you-miss-them full edits (though the ending of 'Gypsy', which descends into wild chaos and wry Ray Thomas chuckle and a 'Sun Is Still Shining' that just won't stop and runs for an extra minute at the end, are the best of the bunch). 'A Question Of Balance' returns to the single discs, adding another four full-takes and a feisty first take of 'Question' that's like the finished version but simply not as food but essential for owning the first of the series' run of completely unheard Moody Blues songs: 'Mike's Number One'. A moody Pinder song about brotherly love, it's well worth waiting for. So is the urgent paranoid 'Dreamer', a collaboration between Ray and Justin that's the best thing about the single disc re-issue of 'EGBDF'. Alas a chaotic early take of 'Your Story In Your Eyes', in which nobody seems to have learnt the song yet, is the only other thing here. 'Seventh Sojourn' is the best value CD in the series after 'Future Passed' with four glorious extras in the shape of instrumental demos for 'You and Me' and 'Lost In A Lost World' that completely change the way you see the originals, a full unedited take of 'Isn't Life Stra-a-a-ange?' that re-instates the instrumental middle that turns out to be the best part of the whole flipping song and the only song the band completed for an aborted eight album, Justin's isolation anthem 'Island' which points to how good - if depressing - a further 'classic' Moodies record would have been.

The deluxe re-issues of 2006 and 2007 were successful enough for the band's final three albums linked to Decca to get their own re-issues. However, just as the music is more streamlined and commercial, so are the CDs coming in straightforward boxes rather than the digi-paks of the others. Though the packaging is actually better despite being less elaborate (more photos than ever and less history to run through this time, the bonus tracks are a very rum deal. 'Octave' includes four patchy live recordings from the reunion tour (though an emotional 'The Day We Meet Again' is unmissable), 'Long Distance Voyager'  a mere single edit and 'The Present' two alternate mixes, none of which add much to your enjoyment of the record (the seven minute bombast of 'Sitting At The Wheel' actually marrs your enjoyment of the record, which isn't the purpose of 'bonus tracks' surely?) This is a shame because, while we don't know everything that survives in the vaults, we do know that there was more than this (a 1983 Ray Thomas song named 'Burning Gas, Smoking Grass' for instance, which is eccentric but worth hearing and surely somebody somewhere kept a mix-in-progress of the albums as they went along?) The end verdict then: these are the best ways of hearing these albums to date with several things going for these albums (especially the first and seventh in the series). However, unlike some AAA re-issue series out there which have so many extras it's worth buying the albums up again (The Kinks, The Who or at a push The Monkees) if you already own these Moodies albums on anything (good quality vinyl even) you don't really need to spend £200 to own all of these albums again for a handful of interesting extras and a lot of uninteresting ones. Something I found out the hard way...These sets do remain, however the cheapest way of buying up a complete set of band material up to 1983 without resorting to the 'how much???' outrageous capitalism of the 'Time Traveller' box set.

"Live At The BBC 1967-1970"

(Deram, March 2007)

CD One: Fly Me High #1/Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood/Love and Beauty/Leave This Man Alone/Peak Hour #1/Nights In White Satin #1/Fly Me High #2/Twilight Time/Dr Livingstone I Presume? #1/Voices In The Sky #1/Ride My See-Saw #1/The Best Way To Travel #1/Voices In The Sky #2/Dr Livingstone I Presume? #2/Peak Hour #2/Tuesday Afternoon/Ride My See-Saw #2/Lovely To See You #1/Never Comes The Day #1/To Share Our Love/Send Me No Wine/Sop Deep Within You/Lovely To See You #2

CD Two: Nights In White Satin #2/Another Morning/Ride My See-Saw #3/Dr Livingstone I Presume? #3/House Of Four Doors/Voices In The Sky #3/The Best Way To Travel #2/Visions Of Paradise/The Actor/Gypsy/The Sunset/Never Comes The Day #2/Are You Sitting Comfortably?/The Dream/Have You Heard?/Nights In White Satin #3/Legend Of A Mind/Question

"I've still not found what I'm looking for..."

How amazing this lengthy double-disc set - the longest AAA BBC set yet - might have been had it been released a couple of years earlier when everything was unreleased and none of it had been heard since the dates of original broadcast. Alas most of this set's thunder had already been stolen with the BBC recordings scattered across the recent 2006 and 2007 re-issues of the original seven albums (including the full 1969 BBC concert released on 'Children's'). Instead of a thrilling set containing forty-one rare and archival recordings we get fourteen - and most of those are simply very similar-sounding repeat recordings taped in some cases mere weeks after the other BBC sessions (there are for example three versions of 'Nights In White Satin' - all are good, but you have to be a real fan to tell the difference). Annoyingly too a whole string of songs at the beginning of the second disc are taken from the soundtrack of the band's performance 'Colour Me Pop' plugging 'In Search Of The Lost Chord' which happened to be largely mimed (and in practical terms meaning you're listening to half a dozen songs in slightly poorer sound than you can on album, just for the sake of a handful of short tacky introductions - though occasionally the band do sing along to the records so I guess they're kind of 'half live'). Frustratingly bootlegs reveal that there are an awful lot more BBC recordings in the vaults that could and should have fleshed this set out - especially from the Denny Laine years - so not for the first or last time this millennium you can't help but think that The Moody Blues are short-changing their fans and that there'll be another updated version of this set along in a few more years anyway. Also, while I'm willing to believe that getting the rights to the BBC sessions can be a nightmare, did this set really needs to have been released a mere year after fans had already splashed out on these identical recordings? Collecting so many together with a few extra may fly me straight as a fan, but it doesn't fly me high as it would have done a few years earlier (it would have made much more sense to have the BBC set out complete and then add the choice tracks as extras).

However, not for the first or last time this millennium either, the talent of the band in their prime make up for the music business shenanigans of the present. The star of the show is undoubtedly Mike Pinder – how he ever got his mellotron to play in tune, in synch with the rest of the band and against the ever-present BBC time limit when most musicians couldn’t get the darn thing to work with endless hours of studio time I’ll never know.  If you don't own the Moodies re-issue series then this is a great way of hearing some excellent and powerful songs: a Justin-led cover of 'Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood' exclusive to the BBC songs, a cracking 'Love and Beauty' which pushes the band to their limits when played 'as live', a terrific version of rare B-side  'Leave This Man Alone', a powerful rocking version of 'Peak Hour' that knocks spots off the more timid version on 'Days Of Future Passed' and a mesmerising ten minute live rendition of what was originally the closing quartet of songs from 'Threshold Of A Dream' starting with Graeme's tone poem (as read as usual by Mike). Of the 'new' material, the highlight is a cracking rendition of 'Question' from Lulu's TV show (with Justin singing along live to the record) and a gorgeous 1969 performance of 'Nights In White Satin' which is the best of the three on the set (and, weirdly, the only one not previously issued). That's about it though: despite the set looking incredible through sheer volume if nothing else, this is actually arguably the weakest entry in the AAA BBC discography, with only around a quarter of the songs here really offering anything different to the original recordings and almost all of those having been previously released anyway. 

Justin Hayward "Sprits Of The Western Sky"

 (Eagle Records, February 2013)

In Your Blue Eyes/One Day Someday/The Western Sky/The Eastern Sun/On The Road To Love/Lazy Afternoon/In The Beginning/It's Cold Outside Of Your Heart/What You Resist Persists/Broken Dream/Captivated By You

CD Bonus Tracks: Captivated By You (Extended Version)/Rising/Out There Somewhere (x 2 mixes)

"The days of our youth may be behind us now, our guitars evergreen, forever blue"

At last! Just as we were beginning to despair of any of the Moody Blues releasing new music a full decade on from their last album together, Justin broke the silence with his fifth solo album. In context, it's a relief that we got any new material at all and a pleasant surprise at how, well, pleasant so much of it is. By far Justin's most comfortable sounding solo record, full of graceful melodies and well behaved lyrics, it's also just inventive enough thanks to a new direction that we've never heard Justin use much before: bluegrass. My guess is that Justin was inspired to make this record because of the 'Moody Bluegrass' tribute albums out either side of the millennia, in which a bunch of unknowns reworked the band's classic back catalogue into a whole new area of sound. It must have tickled Justin to have been reminded about where his songwriting more or less started (though slightly more folk, both the pre-Moody Justin Hayward singles out in 1966 are only a banjo away from bluegrass) and many fans commented on how well the band's usually elaborate and detailed work sounded stripped back to the basics. In practical terms too it made more sense to record this album as simply as possible with a smaller backing band than any of the other Hayward solos and though you do wish that there had been something here to break the sound up a bit, by and large it's a success. It's great to hear Justin by and large without any of the synths that have dogged his songs since the early 1980s and there's a sense of naturalness and realism about these recordings that has been missing from the band albums for far too long. There is however one rather large Moody Blue elephant in the room: after fifty years of singing like a bird Justin is now at times croaking like a frog. The signs have been coming for a while across the 'Strange Times' record and the tie in live records and the deterioration will be heard further on this record's tie in live album 'Spirits Live' which sounds more like gargling than singing at times. Though the joy of hearing Justin back with strong songs in an excellent setting overcomes the frustrations of not having him back in full voice, it's a real shame he didn't make this album even a year earlier when his voice wasn't quite this bad. Ah well, he can still sing a lot better than I can!

The songs themselves are a largely excellent bunch by the way. Many are ballads, which is no bad thing as Justin's lived-in voice sounds far better on these and while none match 'Nights In White Satin' more than a few match 'Running Water' and 'The Day We Meet Again', the peaks of his work with the reunion-era Moody Blues. Justin's knack of writing melodies is still strong and at long last he has a sensitive arranger and orchestrator in Anne Dudley (better known for her classical works than conducting) who adds dollops of colour to the songs rather than smothering Justin's original intentions a la Peter Knight. 'The Western Sky' and 'In The Beginning' in particular beats anything on 'Strange Times' or 'December' and though there's nothing quite as strong as 'Broken Dream' (the standout from last record 'The Other Side Of The Hill') or as groundbreaking as 'Billy' (the most adventurous song on that same album), song by song this album is probably better - Justin's best since 'Songwriter' in fact. As ever there's a half theme across these records, Justin's thrill at still being married Marie after forty-three years at the time of this album's release and there are even more love songs than normal, which makes more sense on a 'private' album like this one Justin knows won't sell as much as a more public 'Moodies' record. It's a neat contrast to 'Nights' and 'I Know You're Out There Somewhere' which were all about Hayward's favourite subject of lost or unrequited love, with a reflection of how lucky the couple have been to been together for so long, together with the odd song about wondering why Justin's friends haven't been as lucky and why, with so much love between couples, it isn't shown in the wider world. In other words it's exactly what you might have hoped an 'old age' Moody Blues record might have sounded like back when we were all much younger in 1967-1972 and far more in keeping with the band sound than any amount of Christmas carols or songs about watching English sunsets whilst making tea for random stray vicars. This album has spirit and it's good to have at least one of the band back to form.

'In Your Blue Eyes' is a pretty opener with a lovely sashaying electric part to go alongside a strummed acoustic part that recalls 'Question'. Justin's narrator is still troubled and haunted by dark fears, but his partner's blue eyes are the best antidote to these and blow them away every time. Simple it may be, but this is a very well crafted pop song.

'One Day, Someday' is the most Moodies-song on the album, held together by a guitar riff straight out of 'Fly Me High' and a mellotron line keeping the song together like, well, take your pick really of songs between 1967-1972. Lyrically it's a straight repeat of the past song, with Justin 'upside down and inside out', misquoted and knocked by the world and spending 'all my time trying to make it right'. But the bad times are coming to an end and he'll be with his loved ones in the morning (there's a hint that a troubled tour is coming to an end and he's going back home soon).  The best verse is the third, which in true Moodies style ponders why mankind struggles so: 'We put our faith in God and man - and one of them betrays us every chance he can', a thought brushed aside only by the truth of 'music'. By the end Justin is much happier, with the only problem left 'how to get the words 'I love you' in another song'. Another clever, well written pop song with lots of heart.

'The Western Sky' is the album's epic, more ambitious than Justin has been for a while across its seven minutes. Returning to several earlier Moodies songs, Justin and his wife are 'strangers in a strange land', navigated a world neither of them quite understand yet but with a triumphant switch to a major key as Justin vows 'we'll overcome'. Actually there's a twist in the middle which suggests that Justin is again singing to the 'lost' love of 'Nights' and 'Who Are You Now?' and 'Somewhere', meeting only in 'dreams'. A pretty orchestral part makes these thoughts sound profound and the song grows nicely verse by verse, even though the childish 'dur-dee-dah-dum' riff is rather off-putting and more like something Ray would have thrown in during the old days.

'The Eastern Sun' is folkier and sparser, a simple pretty song that only features Justin alone with his thoughts and guitar. It's a simpler and more cliched re-write of 'Swallow' from 'Strange Times' with Justin using the metaphor of a 'skylark' as he tries to find 'love's shelter' with the one he loves. Pleasant, but rather forgettable.

'On The Road To Love' is more in keeping with the 80s brand of Moodies pop, although the setting is slightly less limiting here. Catchy but not deep, it's the sort of thing Justin used to do in his sleep with slight shades of 'Lovely To See You'# in the chorus riff. The lyrics this time refer back to 'The Story In Your Eyes' and 'A Simple Game' and the song is very 'Justinny', despite being written with Kenny Loggins after the pair of songwriters found themselves staying at the same hotel and with nothing else to do decided to turn out a quick song while waiting for lunch!

'Lazy Afternoon' has the exact same sound of most of 'The Other Side Of The Hill': treacly synth strings and digital drums, but slightly more life than some of the Moodies excesses using the same things. Though the melody is laidback, the lyrics again refer to loss of an important figure in the narrator's life and a sense of betrayal that when the pair said they would 'always be true' they clearly didn't mean it.

'In The Beginning' is one of my favourite songs on the album - and the only time any of the Moodies has recorded a song in their solo work with the same name as an earlier band 'song' (though drama might be a better word for Graeme's opening to 'On The Threshold Of A Dream'). The best love song on the album, this Dire Straitsy-song makes good use of contrasts once again, with a laidback verse suddenly turning desperate and yearning with the simple chorus 'I still want you'. A tribute to the longevity of his marriage, Justin paints how green and young the pair were when they got married - but how they've both grown u together and faces everything life could throw at them , coming out the other side more in love than ever.

The bluegrass rendition of 'It's Cold Outside Of Your Heart', adapted from an arrangement Justin helped make for a Moodies tribute album, sounds rather suitable to this album. Justin had never much liked the synth-heavy version released on 'The Present' and taking this song back to basics is a good idea, with the theme of love gone cold one of the repeated themes of the album. You still miss the other Moodies vocally though.

'What You Resist Persists' is a 'new' bluegrass song, one played with some lovely fiddle work and a sea of strummed guitars. Justin sounds better than I thought he would in this new setting and his voice sounds stronger here too. Justin is 'haunted' by ghosts from the past of what could have been (though this time there are hints that there are musical not personal - is Justin still feeling the pain of Mike not being there, or maybe Ray this time?)  but vows to let them go instead of mourning any longer. Justin is still pleased to have shared some of the journey, though, sweetly singing 'I'm so glad that I walked this road with friend, try to follow your heart'.

An unexpected reprise of the best song from 'Hill' - 'Broken Dream' - in a bluegrass setting is less welcome, though. The whole point of the original song was how beautifully the piece flowed - removing that for the chug-chug-chug of the acoustic guitars seems a little pointless even if it is still a lovely song.

'Captivated By You' sounds as if it's been beamed here straight from the 'Strange Times' sessions, with the same slow-but-given-a-noisy-drumbeat-anyway-to-liven-things-up style and rather drippy lyrics. Another love song about how the narrator's life partner eases his troubles away, the best part is the chorus which asks in true Moodies fashion 'Why do we live in the shadows when there's a universe out there'.

Curiously even from first release the album came with a quartet of bonus tracks. As well as a longer but not that different mix of 'One Day Someday' there's a whole host of remixes of 'I Know You're Out There Somewhere' which, are to be frank, horrid. 'Spirits' works so well at least in part because it doesn't try to sound like the music of any era, but these nasty dance redubs of the 1988 band classic are going to sound as dated as 'The Other Side Of Life' in a few years' time and prey on the modern craze for loud booming drums and scratchy vinyl-ruining noises that give true music collectors apoplexy. The 23 second 'Rising' take on Moraz' opening keyboard riff hardly seems worth including as an extra track, while 'Out There Somewhere' is like listening to our old friend booming out of somebody's car radio really loud while somebody has a fit inside a music shop. There is no musicality here, none of the poeticness, nothing left of the old feel - just that same insistent beat that's enough to put you off the song for life. I know there's a good remix of this song to be had out there somewhere (Somewhere! Somewhere!) without all the 80s extras, but adding 21st century extras on instead is decidedly the wrong way to go. These three songs between them nearly ruin the album!

Still without them 'Spirits' is a pretty album with just enough new insight into Justin's muse and enough of a stretch musically thanks to the 'bluegrass' quartet at the end to make you feel that Justin is still creating rather than simply living in the past. The result is a class album from a class act with less painful mistakes than normal, even if the album lacks as many standout classics as earlier albums from the solo Hayward canon.

Justin Hayward "Spirits...Live"

(Eagle Records, Recorded 2013, Released August 2014)

Tuesday Afternoon/It's Up To You-Lovely To See You/In Your Blue Eyes/The Western Sky/Land Of Make Believe/New Horizons/In The Beginning/One Day Someday/The Eastern Sun/It's Cold Outside Of Your Heart/Your Wildest Dreams/Forever Autumn/Question/Nights In White Satin/I Know You're Out There Somewhere

"When the breeze between us calls love comes and lingers into our lives"

Very much like Justin's previous album, 'Live In San Juan Capistrano' this is a collection of Moodies classics with a few rarities thrown in alongside some new songs from the latest album. In a reverse of 'San Juan' the new songs work a lot better than the old classics do - Justin is really losing his voice by now, I fear, and the long held notes in 'Tuesday Afternoon', for instance, leave him croaking like a frog playing a banjo with only one string, while the closing falsetto of 'Your Wildest Dreams' make him sound as if he's being hoovered up by a giant alien vacuum cleaner, clutching a rose). The new songs, however, sound terrific with most of the best songs from the 'Spirits Of The Western Skies' album sounding so much better heard with the slightly raw feel of this live set rather than the plush synth-heavy backgrounds ('One Day Someday' especially). While there aren't quite as many surprises here as last time - 'San Juan' wins by a nose if you need to choose between the two - there are still many Moodies classics making their long awaited live debut here and all sound great despite an older Justin occasionally struggling to do them justice. A nice medley of 'It's Up To You' and 'Lovely To See You Again' is a singalong delight with both songs translating well to an acoustic guitar duet and 'It's Cold Outside Of Your Heart' is the best version yet without either the synth trappings of 'The Present' or the bluegrass trappings of 'Western Skies'. The highlights though are the long awaited return of 'New Horizons' (last heard played live by The Blue Jays) and near-unplugged re-arrangements of 'Your Wildest Dreams' and 'I Know You're Out There Somewhere' that make a nice contrast to the cluttered originals (even if they end up sounding as wee bit empty). Once again the solo Justin has surrounded himself with a strong backing band (largely the same people who played on the record) and come up with a live album that's again far more interesting and inventive than any live recording released under the band name since the 1970s. If only Justin had done this a few years earlier when his voice was still in great shape this could have been brilliant - alas in many places it will be a raw for fans used to Moody Blues perfection, though the song choices and arrangements cannot be faulted.

"Timeless Flight" (Box Set/Small House)

 (Threshold, June 2013)

CD One: Fly Me High/Love and Beauty/Cities/Dawn Is A Feeling/Peak Hour/Tuesday Afternoon/Nights In White Satin/DEaprture/Ride My See-Saw/The Actor/Legends Of A Mind/Voices In The Sky/The Best Way To Travel/What Am I Doing Here?/King and Queen/A Simple Game/In The Beginning/Lovely To See You/Dear Diary/Never Comes The Day

CD Two: Are You Sitting Comfortably?/The Dream/Have You Heard?/The Voyage/Have You Heard? Two/Higher and Higher/Gypsy/Eternity Rpoad/Beyond/Watching and Waiting/Question/And The Tide Rushes In/Don't You Feel Small?/Dawning Is The Day/Melancholy Man/It's Up To You/Mike's Number One/Procession/The Story In Your Eyes/After You Came/One More Time To Live

CD Three: I'm Just A Singer (In A Rock and Roll Band)/New Horizons/For My Lady/You and Me/When You're A Free Man/Isn't Life Strange?/Island/This Morning/Remember Me My Friend/My Brother/I Dreamed Last Night/Blue Guitar/From Mighty Oaks/I Wish We Could Fly/The Tunnel/Message/The Promise

CD Four: Driftwood/Steppin' In A Slide Zone/One Step  Into The Light/The Day We Meet Again/Forever Autumn/The Voice/Gemini Dream/Reflective Smile/Veteran Cosmic Rocker/Blue World/Running Water/Sitting At The Wheel (Remix)/The Other Side Of Life/Slings and Arrows/Your Wildest Dreams/River Of Endless Love

CD Five: I Know You're Out There Somewhere/No More Lies/Isn't Life Strange? (Red Rocks)/Question (Red Rocks)/Lean On Me (Tonight)/Say It With Love/Bless The Wings/Say What You Mean/Highway/This Is The Moment/English Sunset/Sooner Or Later (Walkin' On Air)/Strange Times/The Swallow/December Snow

CD Six: The Moody Blues Live At The Royal Albert Hall (Reviewed As Part Of The 1977 release 'Live +5')

CD Seven: The Blue Jays Live At Lancaster University 1975 (Reviewed Elsewhere)

CD Eight: The Moody Blues Live At The Coliseum, Seattle 1979 (Reviewed Elsewhere)

CDs Nine and Ten: Live At The Forum, Inglewood, California 1983 (Reviewed Elsewhere)

CD Eleven: The Moody Blues - A Night At Red Rocks 1992 (Reviewed Elsewhere)

DVD One: Beat Club/Colour Me Pop/It's Lulu/I'm Just A Singer (Music Video)/Steppin' In A Slide Zone (Music Video)/Had To Fall In Love With You (Music Video)/Driftwood (Music Video)/The Moody Blues - Nationwide (1979)

DVD Two: La Taverne De Olympia 1970

DVD Three: Gemini Dream (Music Video)/The Voice (Music Video)/Sitting At The Wheel (Music Video)/Blue World (Music Video)/Running Water (Leo Sayer Show)/Your Wildest Dreams (Music Video)/The Other Side Of Life (Music Video)/Running Out Of Love (Music Video)/I Know You're Out There Somewhere (Music Video)/No More Lies (Music Video)/Question (Live At Red Rocks)/Say It With Love (Music Video)/Bless The Wings (Garden Party)

DVD-Audio Albums: Days Of Future Passed/On The Threshold Of A Dream/To Our Children's Children's Children/A Question Of Balance/Every Good Boy Desrerves Favour/Seventh Sojourn

Frustratingly the band didn't include 'Lose Your Money (But Don't Steal Your Mind) which sums this set uip perfectly - instead we've gone with ...
"Saturation! Pollution! Confusion! Illusion! Conclusion...Starvation!"

I write this review just after the news has broken that this expensive box set has just won a 're-issue of the year' award at some big music do. All I can say is - the judges got their copy for free or are millionaires because this surely is another case of the Moodies abusing the patience of fans after 30 years of being one of the most caring bands on the planet. The set retails for nearly £200 (editor's update, make that nearer £400 at the time of going to press) and doesn't even include a complete selection of pre-split Moodies tracks (for that price I'd expect everything the band had ever done and a collection of Moody Blues dolls on a velvet cushion, not just the - admittedly very lovely - packaging). As so often happens, something seems to have got confused between whether this set was deed for Moody newbies or for long-term fans and the set is a strange amalgam of both or neither. Newcoming fans get what's virtually a 'greatest hits' run through the band's fifty year career on the first five discs and the closest these discs get to digging out a rarity is the occasional unfinished song already included as a bonus on the many deluxe re-issues. Anyone enough of a fan to buy this set at this price surely already owns them all and it's not even a particularly good track selection: Ray and John in particularly must be fuming as their songs are largely passed over for Justin and Mike's in the early days (seventeen disc' worth and still no 'House Of Foor Doors' or 'In My World' or 'Going Nowhere' and only an DVD-audio copy of 'Eternity Road'!) Longterm fans, meanwhile, can enjoy - if that's the right word - five separate live sets all originally passed over for release for not being good enough in their own ways; one of them 'Live +5' is hardly a rarity having been out since 1977 while 'Red Rocks' has been re-issues so many times you'd have to be a very new fan to have missed it. That leaves three sets which would all have been much more valuable released singly: the Blue Jays show in Lancaster is the best of them (the first time any of the band had worked with Peter Knight since making 'Days Of Future Passed' since 1967 and the orchestra works better than it ever did at 'Red Rocks, with a gorgeous 'Who Are You Now?' that beats the record and the best live rendition of 'Question' yet) although even this set is hit and miss. The 1979 Coliseum and 1983 Forum sets, meanwhile, are both plagued by technical problems and occasional collapsing performances that make parts of them unlistenable, although thankfully the best of these sets more than make up for these performances, with the occasional sublime performance (the ten minute epic version of 'Legend Of The Mind' played at 'The Forum', for instance, the best yet). However these are the sorts of things you have to be a real honest-to-goodness fan to appreciate - the sort who love this band even when they're getting things wrong and will appreciate the comparatively minor variations in arrangements and setlists down the years; newcomer fans will wonder what all the fuss is about. I could forgive this set a lot had it included all the Moodies releases so that people who missed the odd one could still catch up with them, but teasing us with extracts like this seems odd commercial practice, all the more so since the inclusion of five out of the original seven Moodies albums do appear complete on DVD-audio discs (which have all been out already, by the way) and so make for endless repetitions across the set. Too many essential songs are missing, too many rarities are absent, too many opportunities to make this truly great are passed by: what a shame, what a waste, what a slap in the face for fans who've forked out a small fortune for three measly concerts.

As ever with The Moodies, just as you're giving up hope something great comes along to take your breath away. In this box set's case it's not the music at all but the films, with three whole discs of performances. Admittedly about half of them are replicas from other common sets - you'll be sick to death of the 'Lulu' version of 'Question' by now if you've bought them all up and most of these music videos have been round the blocks before too, although this is a more complete selection than any Moodies DVD to date. However you also get the entire half hour 1968 'Colour Me Pop' show promoting 'In Search Of The Lost Chord', a full forty-five minutes of the band live in France in 1970 and such oddities as a documentary on the Moodies' reunion as filmed for UK TV programme 'Newsnight' (a sign of how important the band were back then - alas it skips on my second-hand copy so I haven't had a chance to see it yet). Had the band released the visuals as a separate box set (perhaps with some of the other forty-odd TV performances still missing - the Denny Laine years alone could fill a nice disc!) it would have been my release of the year; instead it's a silver lining in a box set so expensive it should have made of gold. The packaging too is as lovely as you'd expect from this band and is the one major improvement over 'Time Traveller': a lovely 120-page hard backed book full of rare photos and excellent liner notes, an excellent reproduction of a strangely fascinatingly tour programme from 1970, a neat poster based on the inside cover of 'To Our Children's Children's Children' (though good luck re-folding it to fit in the box again!) and even a jean patch 'exclusive' to this set apparently. Oh and a discography, just so you can sob all over again at the great songs that aren't on this set. Best of all was the limited edition (300 copies) deluxe deluxe edition which included a replica of the Moody Blues cassette taken up into space as part of the 'Columbia' mission in 1986 (containing 'Days Of Future Passed' on one side and a 'best-of' on the other) proudly handed back to the band by the capsule's commander Robert 'Hoot' Gibson. The definition of something extra 'special' that no other band can offer, it's a tragedy that this was only available to such a limited audience (at an even bigger price!) - a set this size and at this expense deserved to include the cassette with every copy.

Overall, then, I'm frustrated. Box sets often take their fans 'for a ride', but usually at the price of four or five CDs' worth so can you consider it an 'investment'. This one - which costs around twenty for seventeen largely repetitive discs' worth - is taking the mickey and taking advantage of fans who'll buy anything at any price such is their loyalty to this band. Personally I'd stick with the deluxe editions of the albums, the 'Nights In White Satin' DVD, download a picture of the space-age cassette (you may have to knit the box set jeans patch yourself) - it's not quite as good as the real thing but it is a much cheaper option. The Moody Blues deserved something big and expensive and good - sadly only the first two of these are true (some fans point to the lovely big box the set comes in, which does look like a very good replica of a tin time capsule, however it's just as well it's so big: after buying this set it will be all you can afford to live in!) Hmm, two expensive box sets now and the band still haven't got things right yet...

"The Magnificent Moodies" (Deluxe Edition)

(Decca, January 2015)

CD One: I'll Go Crazy/Something You Got/Go Now/Can't Nobody Love You Baby/I Don't Mind/I've Got A Dream/Let Me Go!/Stop!/Thank You Baby/It Ain't Necessarily So/True Story/Bye Bye Birdie/Lose Your Money (But Don't Steal Your Mind)/Steal Your Heart Away /Go Now (Alternate Take)/It's Easy Child/I Don't Want To Go On Without You/Time Is On My Side/From The Bottom Of My Heart I Love You/And My Baby's Gone/Everyday/You Don't (All The Time)/Boulevard De Madeleine/This Is My House (But Nobody Calls)/People Gotta Go/Life's Not Life/He Can't Win

CD Two: Go Now (Alternate Alternate Take)/Lose Your Money (But Don't Steal Your Mind) (Alternate Take)/Steal Your Heart Away (Alternate Take)/I'll Go Crazy (Alternate Take)/You Better Move On/Can't Nobody Love You Baby (Alternate Take)/23rd Psalm/Go Now (BBC)/I Don't Want To Go On Without You (BBC)/I'll Go Crazy (BBC)/From The Bottom Of My Heart I Love You (BBC)/Jump Back (BBC)/I've Got A Dream (BBC)/And My Baby's Gone (BBC)/It's Easy Child (BBC)/Stop! (BBC)/Everyday (BBC)/Ray and Graeme Interview (BBC)/You Don't (ALL The Time) (BBC)/I Want You To Know (BBC)/Sad Song/This Is My House (But Nobody Calls) (Alternate Take)/How Can We Hang On To A Dream? (Two Versions)/Jago and Jilly/We're Broken/I Really Haven't Got The Time (Alternate Take)/Red Wine/This Is My House (But Nobody Calls) (Alternate Take)

"We could make a beautiful team - baby it's a beautiful dream"

At long last the black sheep of the Moody Blues family, the runt of the litter recorded in a hurry and always missed from re-issue programmes, gets treated with the respect it deserves. 'The Magnificent Moodies' might not sound anything like the albums to come, it may feature a typically 1964 mix of limp R and B cover songs and timid early attempts at songwriting, but it's an important album that's always deserved better treatment, even after a 1997 CD edition tried for the first time to include all the period singles as well. At last everything the Denny Laine era of the band recorded, released or unreleased, has been out together in a similar style to the 2006-2008 deluxe re-issues of the next Moodies albums and though the original album is maybe not as sharp or as consistently excellent as the ones to come, this re-issue may yet be the best of the bunch. Every single A side, B side and Ep track is attached to the end of the albumin proper chronological order where they make for fascinating listening, with the band edging little bit by little bit from 'Go Now' towards 'Nights In White Satin'. By the end of the set with the excellent should-a-been hits 'Life's Not Life' and 'He Can't Win' the Denny Laine band are only a crotchet away from having found *that* sound which will keep the band going for the next half century, even if it took Justin Hayward's arrival to truly click the pieces in place.

Better yet is the largely unheard material on the second disc. I was very upset when the 'At The BBC' set came out and skipped this period entirely - the Laine era band, much more than the Hayward one, suit the rough and ready rawness of playing live for a bunch of radio microphones and the band turn in several performances that are more convincing than the original studio performances (particularly a swinging 'It's Easy Child'). There are, as is the way with so many BBC sets, an awful lot more juicy goodies that could and should have been here which makes me wonder if we'll get an even fuller BBC set sometime within the next 10,000 light years, but even so there are twelve songs and one interview here that have been unheard since the time of transmission between 1964 and 1966 and that in itself is a major cause for celebration.

Even more cheers are saved for the unreleased material, split by the BBC sessions to appear at the start and close of the second disc. At the start are a collection of seven songs recorded across the band's three years together which for one reason or another were abandoned. Though for some of them the reasons are obvious (the rocking bible track 'Psalm 23' is an experiment too far now, never mind back in 1966 when the world was more reverential about these things, while the band mis-read Arthur Alexander's 'You Better Move On'), some are less so: I much prefer the tighter, slightly less hysterical 'I'll Go Crazy' and 'Lose Your Money', while the more I play it the more I've fallen in love with one of the set's crowning glories, a first take of 'Go Now' that's slower and sadder, with Denny Laine purring rather than shouting the heartfelt vocals. Better yet is the collection of outtakes from an unreleased and untitled second album in 1966 under new producer Denny Cordwell, released more as a contract filler than with any real designs of release. A chance to experiment, it proves how great the Pinder/Laine songwriting partnership understood psychedelia even before the big changes of the mellotron and the addition of Justin and John and the fuzz guitar attack of 'We're Broken' is a masterpiece, with the band firmly back on track with contemporary sounds after slightly lagging behind across 1965. There are six new songs entirely unheard from these sessions (five of them originals) as well as alternate versions of two songs the band returned to later. Truly excellent stuff that's well packaged with detailed sleeve notes and done with even more love and care (and a touch less cynicism) than the rest of the 'deluxe' series. The original album wasn't always Magnificent and wasn't always Moody (though you could argue the short running time made it Mean): however this set is Magnificent and Moody, a valuable reminder that even before 'Tuesday Afternoon' and 'Nights In White Satin', the Moody Blues were one hell of a band who lost their way through bad single choices and bad luck rather than a lack of talent. Highly recommended.

John Lodge "10,000 Light Years Ago"

(Video Music Inc, May 2015)

In My Mind/Those Days In Birmingham/Simply Magic/Get Me Out Of Here/Love Passed Me By/(You Drive Me) Crazy/Lose Your Love/10,000 Light Years Ago

"There will never come a day that will make me change the way I feel"

Dear readers, as some of you may know many of these articles were written slightly ahead of schedule so that I could spend a full year going through each vaguely finished book with a fine-tooth comb. Now that we're up to book eighteen I've noticed a definite pattern emerging - that somebody from one of the bands whose book I've just finished will release a new record unexpectedly just as I think I've finished. This has become such a running joke I've been trying to guess what it will be before I finish each work and so far it's been much as you'd expect: Mark Knopfler releasing a flipping double CD just when Dire Straits have been put to bed, a new Brian Wilson covers album and a new Paul McCartney re-issue announced almost to the hour of my last day. Even the AAA stars who have sadly passed and gone haven't been immune, with new archive sets from the likes of George Harrison and John Lennon announced just as the end of the tunnel of both books were insight. So for the first time I made a bet: Justin Hayward was sure to have a new album out by the time I finished this draft, with half-winnings if there was suddenly another Moody Blues concert from the archives and/or box set. I never thought for a minute I'd be losing money because of John Lodge! Isn't life str-a-a-a-ange?

You see, the past few decades John has never shown any great desire to release his second solo record. The Moody Blues partly stopped releasing albums because he was running dry and couldn't keep up with Justin the way he once did and a full thirty-eight years had past since his first solo LP 'Natural Avenue'. John clearly knows it too, with the witty title of his album pointing out how long ago it was the last time he was doing this on his own. On this evidence he should have got going at least 9,500 light years earlier: unlike the modern Moody Blues sets, which struggle to keep pace with changing ties while still sounding Moody-ish enough to please their fanbase, this is the most contemporary-sounding record any of them had made in decades but still with that recognisable sound. Best of all, it's a warm sound with the synthesisers sounding like they're there to enhance the emotion, not to make Lodge sound all cold and distant, closer in style to Mike's old mellotron than the Moraz bank of keyboards. Full of dramatic soundscapes, intriguing backward-looking lyrics and the sort of grandeur that the Moodies have always done so well, '10,000 Light Years Ago' is a salutary lesson in never writing bands or their members off, together with the nagging feeling that the whole of the last batch of Moodies band albums should have been more like this.

Like 'Natural Avenue' this is a surprisingly tough selection of songs, played with more fire and passion than the usual Lodge collection of ballads. Unlike 'Natural Avenue' it's also an eclectic album that reaches back to 50s and 60s styles within the very 21st century production. Chris Spedding plays the 'Justin' role on both records, despite the long gap in between with some strong guitar-work, while the album's most Moody Blues-ish song 'Simply Magic' features guest appearances by Ray Thomas (who came out of retirement to join the backing chorus) and Mike Pinder (appearing on record with an outside member of the band for the first time since 1978, only a year after 'Natural Avenue'). A welcome means of putting old wrongs right and healing old wounds, the only negative point of the whole album is how short it all is, more like 'half an album' in the modern CD age barely running past thirty minutes (the shortest album of 'new' Moodies music since 'The Magnificent Moodies' way back in 1965!) More please John, in terms of both albums and the amount of songs on them - and please don't leave it another 38 years till the next one!

'In My Mind' was compared by many critics to 'Pink Floyd', specifically their contemporary album of instrumentals 'The Endless River', but this epic opening track is far more forceful and far less directionless than the band's prog rock rivals. It's also strangely 'Moody Bluesish' somehow despite having so few of the normal ingredients, although the 'flute' style synths and Justin-ish loud yet clear guitar-work against heavy but not busy Edge-like drumming just enough to remind you of a bygone age. Impressive, without the cluttering of past Moodies records. The only lyrics: 'In my mind's eye - I can see you!'

'Those Days In Birmingham' sounds like a generic rock song a la 'Natural Avenue', but the heartfelt lyrics raise the game a little. John is in nostalgic mode, remembering his early career struggling in a bunch of Birmingham wannabe bands (including El Riot and The Rebels where he worked alongside Ray Thomas) before rising the sea-saw to fame just as he was giving up hope ('like a bolt of lightning, out of the blue'). A neat sequel to 'See-Saw', with a tale of how rock and roll changed Lodge's life for the better, it also praises all those who came before with the teenage Lodge hooked to 50s pop songs on the radio. Today Birmingham, tomorrow the world!

'Simply Magic' is the long awaited reunion between three of the old band and thankfully Lodge has chosen a suitable song for them to play along to. Mike has brought his chamberlain out of the loft, Ray has dusted off his flute and all three Moodies join in harmony for what might be one last time and for a moment it could be 1975 all over again not 2015. One of Lodge's lighter, prettier songs of recent years it's a love song to John's children and possibly grandchildren a la 'Emily's Song' that could also work as a song to the Moody Blues or even their fans: 'Just when I thought nothing could get any better than this you came along like the words of a song  I thought I'd never get to write - simply magic!' Sweet, though at 2:42 another verse wouldn't have gone amiss, with this song only having one and a lengthy instrumental!

'Get Me Out Of Here' is a dose of darkness co-written like many of the album songs with Alan Hewitt. A louder, noisier song than the others this time around this is one of the lesser moments of the album and sounds more like the clunkier writing occasionally heard on 'Natural Avenue' (or a Eurovision entry - imagine this done by a twenty-year old with a violin while not wearing much and dancing inside a box).

'Love Passed Me By' is an unexpected journey backwards to the dim and distant past not of the early Moody Blues but the roaring twenties. Played with Parisian accordion and oom-pah-pah beats it's all more European than our German English Queen and I'm still not sure what I think of it. The song is better than most similar AAA attempts to do lounge jazz without ever convincing me that any of my guys (and gals) doing this sort of thing is a good idea.

We've moved forward to the 1950s for the retro boogie-woogie wo
o of '(You Drive Me} Crazy' which starts off sounding like every other 1950s throwback song ever written before an actually pretty clever and sassy riff comes in and the whole song falls into place. At 2:38 though it's barely enough to find your plectrum and strum along!

'Lose Your Love' finds John testing his older, deeper, more lived in voice on a breathy piano ballad that's closer in style to his contributions to 'Keys To The Kingdom' and 'Strange Times'. It's not an altogether easy listen, with the odd cliched line undoing the good work of the opening, but then it's not meant to be an easy listen - this is all impressively raw if not a song you'll want to hear too many times.

Title track '10,000 Light Years Ago' is much more like it. Even though Lodge gets his science wrong and turns this into a song of the past not space (he means '10,000 years ago' - '10 000 light years ago' would put him somewhere nearer the edges of the galaxy but still in the present day) it's another strong Moody song in all connotations of that word. Full of spoken words just out of earshot, squeaky sound effects, a crazy riff and a chilling sense of oppression it's a fascinating song about all the things the Moodies should have been doing since 1972 but never got round to doing ('Never knowing which way the wind would have to blow'). Things go downhill with a Rutle-style middle eight sung through a muted-megaphone over some very Beatley piano chords, but the main song itself makes some interesting points about wondering where he 'wind' of muses will blow John in the future and the song has a way of sticking in the memory-banks for another 10,000 years. It's a strong finale to a strong album that's over far too quick, as overblown as the modern Moodies but sounding much livelier and 'real' somehow, with the production adding warmth rather than gloss.

Overall, then, '10,000 Light Years Ago' seems like a strong addition to the Moodies canon from a writer whose never really had much of a chance to shine away from the group until now ('Natural Avenue' being a bit of a disappointment). An album with just enough of the modern world seeping in but with more than enough of the old hallmarks (especially the very Moodies half-theme about the passing of time, bookending this record neatly in this tome with the similar 'Days Of Future Past', assuming this is the last before publication -for all I know there's a third Graeme Edge Band record still to come and a nest of 'Blue Jays'!) it's a step in the right direction. It just needs to be a bigger and longer-running step next time. Still, given how much the band have struggled to fill a whole CD-length album in recent years perhaps it's best leaving people more so that Lodge will be welcomed back before another 10,000 years have passed...


A Now Complete List Of Moody Blues Related Articles At Alan’s Album Archives:

'The Magnificent Moodies' (1965)

'Days Of Future Passed' (1967)

'In Search Of The Lost Chord' (1968)

'On The Threshold Of A Dream' (1969)

'To Our Children's Children's Children' (1969)

‘A Question Of Balance’ (1970)

'Every Good Boy Deserves Favour' (1971)

'Seventh Sojourn' (1972)

'Blue Jays' (Hayward/Lodge) (1976)

'Songwriter' (Hayward) (1977)

'Long Distance Voyager' (1981)

'The Present' (1983)

'The Other Side Of This Life' (1986)

‘Keys To The Kingdom’ (1991)

'Strange Times' (1999)


Surviving TV Clips 1964-2015:

The Best Unreleased Recordings 1961-2009:

Non-Album Recordings Part One 1964-1967:

Non-Album Recordings Part Two 1968-2009:

Solo/Live/Compilation Albums Part One 1969-1977:

Solo/Live/Compilation Albums Part Two: 1979-2015

Essay: Why Being A Moodies Fan Means You Can Never Go Home

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