Friday 4 July 2008

The Moody Blues "Every Good Boy Deserves Favour" (1971) (Revised Review 2015)

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The Moody Blues "Every Good Boy Deserves Favour" (1971)

On which every good band deserves favour and gets it too…

Track Listing: Procession/ The Story In Your Eyes/ Our Guessing Game/ Emily’s Song/ After You Came// One More Time To Live/ Nice To Be Here/You Can Never Go Home/ My Song (UK and US tracklisting)

'For some short time you and I for a while were joined by eternity, then we split in two back to me and you like the rain rising from the sea"

Ugh! Bah! Guh! Ooba! Ulla! Bah!...Me say placing heap big Moody Blues into time travel circuits heap um bad idea...Ye idea had feemed like fuch a nobleffe and ftrong one at ye time too...I mean the Moody Blues were the first in space wo, verily, shy not travelling across time too?...Unfortunately thoughest dearest hearted LP 'Every Good Boy Deserves Favour' was not, pray to tell, the one to choose..Our time machines works by means of an 'evolution' counter you see which can date any album to a particular moment in time based on how evolved the writing is...And I'd forgotten that 'EGBDF' is a concept album about all of evolution so we've just sped through three thousand years of evolution in one go...And yes, it makes perfect sense that The Moody Blues is the sound of the future not just our recent past (they always were a little ahead of their time weren't they?!)... 3 gd e8 3js ka s937halsnc xbvcjsksdhsklhdhdsd;gerpguwp';.papas[]eohr739ndml!

Phew! Co-ordinates have been re-set and I seem to be back in 2008, dear readers, which is near enough to our own times zones for me to continue writing (well so I thought - nobody seems to know who Jeremy Corbyn or David Cameron are in this time zone yet - do they even in ours thinking about it? - and nobody seems to be talking up Barack Obama's chances of becoming American president just yet). Anyway, as you might have guessed by now 'Every Good Boy Deserves Favour' is not like other albums - even other Moody Blues albums. It is perhaps the most Moody Blues album of all, with the ambition of an opening track that distils two thousand years into a little under five minutes, a closing song that is the most other-worldly and space age the band ever made (never has a single instrument sounded more apocalyptic than the mellotron does here) and songs in between that take in doubt, birth, paranoia, isolation, industrial progress and a frog with a banjo. Talk about eclectic! Though other Moody Blues albums will all be more...something ('Future Passed' is more accessible with more 'novelty' songs, 'Lost Chord' is weirder, 'Threshold' is more of a range of extremes, 'To Our Children's has a tighter concept, 'Balance' has an even rockier sound and successor 'Seventh Sojourn' is sadder)' 'EGBDF' sounds a little like all of these albums thrown into a blender. I've always considered this a 'sampler' record or a litmus paper test or even a Rorscarch blot: this is the one 'core' Moody Blues album that doesn't include any concept whatsover (well..maybe a half one we'll get on to later) and as such seems like a summing up of the rest of the band's canon. If you're a newcomer and you love this album then chances are you will love The Moody Blues (and if you hate it then, well, not sure how to tell you this but you might just be reading the wrong book! Refunds might just possibly be available if you're very very nice to me and compliment our canine mascot Max on his top hat) and depending what part of the album you fall in love with then chances are you will love that particular aspect of the Moody Blues. Love the sheer sonic weirdness? 'Lost Chord' it is. Love the juxtaposition between rocking and thinking? You want 'Threshold'. Wish the concept of man's evolution had been just a bit tighter and wondering where to fly off next? Then how about the moon! (Not literally sadly - a quick listen to 'To Our Children's will have to do for now, unless you're Moodies fan and astronaut Robert 'Hoot' Gibson anyway). Love the clear stinging sound of Justin Hayward's guitar? 'Balance' it is. Or, alternatively, fallen in love with this album's curious inherent sadness and loneliness? Stick around for 'Seventh Sojourn'. This album has everything and while other Moodies albums have more of each particular ingredient this is perhaps the band's most rounded and complete listening experience.  

There is, however, one thing that makes this album unique: the link that runs through this album isn't lyrical but musical. The title 'Every Good Boy Deserves Favour' isn't just a cute idea for a typically bonkers Phil Travers LP design (an old man, possibly a wizard, offering trinkets to a small boy across an expansive - and no doubt - expensive fully illustrated gatefold sleeve, while two faceless boys reach out behind the scene, clutching a teddy bear and a rose - even though there's no sign of the dreaded alien vacuum cleaner this time around). No sirree, it's the pneumonic for remembering how to read sight music and is the 'normal' way of writing the right-hand (treble) part for most instruments including piano and guitar (for some reason I've never understood 'they' - meaning musicalogist Guido D'Arrezo in the 10th century AD and his followers - put the note 'B' in the middle, a note below 'middle C', just in case interpreting black dots and lines that look like scrawled semaphore wasn't difficult enough and a poor enough substitute for the hugeness and colour of music). The easiest way of remembering these notes from the bottom up is by remembering the letters 'EGBDF', which is most commonly lengthened to 'Every Good Boy Deserves Favour' so that people can remember it (however there are other ways of remembering these lines: my favourites include the Mudhoney song 'Every Boy Deserves Fudge', 'Elvis' Guitar Broke Down Friday' and the shocked 'Even George Bush Drives Fast'!) In case you're wondering the bass cleff (the 'left' hand usually) is simply 'FACE', which is much easier to remember (I used to get ticked off for the size I wrote my sheet music out in - even then I was a fan of 'Small FACEs'). The Moody Blues, of course, would have known this well even though technically none of them could read sheet music but it did at least lead to a new idea: repeating the 'EGBDF' note phrase over and over. Now that’s quite hard to hear on the album as a whole, it's nothing like as 'obvious' as when the band repeat lyrics and thinking about it a majority of songs are composed from these five notes repeated anyway, but like a jigsaw puzzle you can have fun studying this album and slotting the pieces together (you can hear the idea best on the opening 'Procession', the middle 'One More Time To Live' which re-uses many of the same phrases and the closing mellotron swirls of 'My Song' although it is there in other songs: the 'Story In Your Eyes' riff is based around going up and down all five notes in quick succession, John's bass part on 'Nice To Be Here' plays all five notes descending in order and the xylophone solo in 'Emily's Song' is (almost) entirely played on these notes too. How typical, though, of the band to use a 'theme' idea that very few of us even noticed.

In terms of actual lyrics, this album is also notable for being perhaps the band’s most ‘introspective’ album (twinned with 'Seventh Sojourn' to come), with worried, rather troubled words that don’t have the Moodies’ normal sense of optimism permeating through the short-term sadness. At first glance that seems rather odd, given that The Moodies were at the peak of their success in this 1971 period, having finished their career-biggest tour, recently created their own fairly successful independent record company Threshold (which still exists – sort of – to this day) and having finally broken the lucrative America market in 1970 (EGBDF is in fact their best selling album in the US with a peak of #2, despite the fact that the Moodies’ current standing in that country is by far higher these days than in their own) and the only non-compilation to knock Simon and Garfunkel's 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' off the top spot across a period of nine weeks. If this was any other band (e.g. what The Who were up to at a similar point in time) The Moodies would have been living it large, spending and partying and enjoying their sudden success while they could. On the advice of their accountant and business managers, to some extent they did: 1971 was the year of the Moody Blues' own private jumbo jet, specially built to contain its own fireplace which to most bands would have been 'harth-warming', but to the Moodies only made their fame seem ridiculous. (the band, tellingly, huddled together in the smallest rooms on the plane, leaving the huge lounge with fireplace and modern gadgets simply for show, leaving the plush trappings for press people and band guests to enjoy). Though often spoken of as the band's 'unhappiest' time, there were also no blazing rows between any members of the group in public or private (at least not yet). The problems seems to be more one of self-questioning and doubt, the difficulty in accepting that high record sales and global tours was 'all' there was and that six albums into their big adventure the band had no more idea of how life worked and what to do with it than they started, still searching for the lost chord that would make them - and by osmosis their fans - 'happy'. Of all the bands in the AAA canon (perhaps along with CSN and The Kinks) The Moodies were about 'truth' above all else - and they felt guilty for having so much material success when all they felt they were doing was searching for answers to big questions the same as their audiences were. This feeling will lead to the bittersweet farewell 'I'm Just A Singer (In A Rock And Roll Band)'; for now it manifests itself in lonely, despairing songs like Justin's 'You Can Never Go Home' (because fame has made it impossible), John's 'One More Time To Live' (where success is only part of a wider cycle that ends with devastation and tears), Ray's 'Our Guessing Game' (where the flautist feels no nearer an answer to his questions than when he started) and Mike's 'My Song' (where he's seen how brilliant life can be in his imagination - and the reality is sadly lacking, even with material riches and a jet with a fireplace).

Even the music on this album sounds 'isolated'. The only 'real' band performances across the whole LP take place at the beginning, as part of the art rock concept 'Procession' (a drama poem that, in a repeat of 'House Of Four Doors' from 1968 tries to tell the story of human civilisation to the present day through two thousand years of music - almost all of which is communal from cavemen grunts through to the Renaissance and present day) and 'The Story In Your Eyes' (about as contemporary as the 'core era' Moodies ever were, performed with the 'muscle' and paranoia of the new style of the day, heavy metal (quite convincingly too - only the slightly hippie lyrics and massed 'aaahs' give away the fact this group is more comfortable in prog rock slippers than holding a dead bat). You could maybe make a case for the imagination of 'Nice To Be Here' too, although Justin performs one of his one and only 'solos' in the song - kindly 'written' for him by Ray so it would be all on one note. Oh and Graeme's 'After You  Came' in which all four members except the drummer sing overlapping lines, although even this sounds more like a 'competition' than the band's usual democracy (for the record Ray's wobbly vibrato and John's pure rock screech steal the day). The other songs, though, are very different to the previous five records (six if you include 'Magnificent Moodies', which very few people ever do) and sound more like solo performances. Ray's 'Our Guessing Game' is the epitome of isolation, with only Mike's occasionally wafting mellotron to enhance the sound until a delayed powerpop chorus belatedly kicks in. Except perhaps for 'One More Time To Live', which swells in angry despair with Ray's flute one tiny lone voice against the fattest mellotron part you'll ever hear, Or perhaps 'My Song' in which Mike virtually solo drifts away sadly inside himself in order to maintain his equilibrium. And perhaps especially Justin's 'You Can Never Go Home', the saddest song written by a band who knew a thing or two about sad songs and in which even Justin's usual switch of gears (used on every almost song including 'Nights In White Satin' and 'Question') isn't enough to keep him upright. Though titled 'Every Good Boy Deserves Favour', 'Even Great Bands Despair Frequently' is closer to the truth. If happy-go-lucky Moodies if you're thing then, well, you're a bit out of luck I'm afraid (have a download of 'Ride My See-Saw' and 'Lovely To See You' and that's about your lot I reckon - maybe 'Tuesday Afternoon' at a push), but if you think like I do that the Moody Blues were at their best when they were gloriously achingly heartbreakingly 'real' then you're going to be best friends with this record for a long time to come. Nearly a whole record of the last album's 'Melancholy Man' writ large, it feels at times like it almost comes with an 'apology' for not being what the band think listeners want - and yet, for the most part, this is exactly what fans wanted (we don't want answers so much as someone to put the same questions that concern us so eloquently and believably).

The Moodies, after all, were not ‘stars’ in the traditional sense and had never set out to make money or receive fame for anything except their music. As even a short subscription to the very fine Moody Blues official fan-club will tell you, the Moodies do not behave like stars. Their songs are about being ‘human’ and vulnerable, not about being super heroes in the Marc Bolan mould or eccentrically different from mere mortals in the David Bowie form and most of the articles officially sanctioned are more about the band doing 'normal' stuff than driving cars into swimming pools and insisting on packets of M and Ms with the (moody) blue sweets removed (I have half a scrapbook filled up with just John talking about his house!) Refusing most interviews at a time when record promotion was king, filling up record sleeves with illustrations rather than photographs of themselves and doing as little promotional material as record sales and record company demands allowed; even today many causal fans wouldn’t know a member of the band if they walked up to them and said ‘lovely to see you again my fan’. Most fanclub newsletters are full of how your favourite band met the Queen for tea, did charity work with African children who hadn’t got a clue who the celebrity was and then went to a grand opening of some new exhibit and got mobbed by thousands of screaming fans—even when the photographs in said publication make it clear that the screaming hordes consisted of the fanclub secretary and her bemused family. The Moodies, on the other-hand, potter about doing a bit of golf for local charities, attend fanclub Christmas lunches where they spend a couple of hours chatting to fans about their families and mildly complain about reporters going through dustbins for juicy stories when they keep telling everyone how they live in perfectly ordinary circumstances. EGBDF ought to have been the band's triumph - it certainly is in terms of sales with only the 'extra' boost 'Days Of Future Passed' suddenly got thanks to the (un)timely re-issue of 'Nights In White Satin' in 1972 pushing that album higher. But instead of feeling pleased, the Moodies felt decidedly uncomfortable. Things were, they felt, quickly getting out of hand. EGBDF, then, is that rare beast of a record – an album from a group of musicians who have finally ‘made it’ into the big league, writing songs about the confusion of it all and—far from working out what grand message they can give to the world next—are doubting whether they really have anything to offer us at all.

Questioning was always the key theme of Moodies’ albums and – even though there is no formal link between the songs – the lyrics of this album question life even more than normal. As early as the second track we’re being told of mankind’s crossroads between love and harmony on the one hand and death and destruction on the other; track three questions our role in the ‘guessing game’ of life, where decisions always seem to be a mixture of wrong and right no matter how hard we try to make the correct decision; track four questions the sense of growing up and becoming an adult; track five questions whether the lure of fame is worth it when you get there; track six questions whether mankind’s evolution is as evolutionary as he thinks or whether he’s simply going round in circles; the seemingly innocuous track seven questions whether fairies and goblins and the like exist out of our eyesight and what we’ve learnt about the world around is really true after all; track eight is perhaps the Moodies’ greatest self-questioning song, doubting everything about the narrator’s character; even track nine - the one that finally seems sure of its own identity by talking about songwriting craft and speaking in the first-person– has the line ‘the change in these past years has made me see the world in several different ways’ to ponder. Unsure of what the ‘truth’ in life was in the decreasingly happy world of the early 1970s and unsure of themselves in their role as the intellectual rock fans’ spokespersons, the Moodies suddenly sound very doubtful indeed. They were wrong to doubt their own talents though  – all five members are on top form here, offering at least one song each that was destined to become at least a minor Moodies classic and the characteristically exotic range of instruments and the clever arrangements are all there in force too.

One of the few things that The Moodies all seem to agree on about this album nowadays is that EGBDF was recorded as a true follow up to the scatter-brained album number five A Question Of Balance, written deliberately simply so that every single song could be played live by their basic line-up (the band were understandably tired of struggling to reproduce the electronics and sound effects of On The Threshold Of A Dream and To Our Children’s Children’s Children, although the tapes of live shows of the period sound pretty good to me). Compositionally, the Moodies succeed – The Story In Your Eyes might have some fiendishly tongue-twisting lyrics but musically its as funky and basic a rocker as the Moodies ever got; Emily’s Song and Nice To Be Here are similarly simple, almost nursery rhyme-ish ballads. Having heard this album’s production values however, from the massed choir on Our Guessing Game, the reverberating sound collage of One More Time To Live and the ghostly sound effects on Our Song, and you begin to doubt if the Moodies’ have ever actually listened to this album since it came out to make such a statement. In truth EGBDF is The Moodies’ most epic production record, bathing the generally muted songs into luscious productions that desperately try to fulfil the Moodies’ sudden mega status, even though at their heart they are self-questioning, sparse and sad.

Overall, then, though the Moody Blues clearly didn't think so, this was probably the moment when they came closest to doing what they were put on this planet to do: record albums that were just that bit thoughtful without sacrificing the hard edges, which packed the 'novelty' of the early years into one OTT song, which explored the themes of isolation with solo performances against tough rock songs about uniting humanity and in which every song went somewhere new, though somewhere fans could recognise from one or other of the five albums that came before it. Though the Moodies themselves don't recognise their talents, with a feeling of guilt and of being fraudsters because everyone assumed the band all the answers, this is as close as the band ever got to containing all of them. Though this isn't quite the best Moodies album out there perhaps ('To Our Children's is the best in terms of concept and consistency, while I'm a sucker for the pure mournful sadness of 'Seventh Sojourn') it is another colossal work that remains one of the most overlooked albums of the decade, never mind the Moody Blues. A sign of a good album is that it keeps changes depending on the mood you're in when you hear it and there are few albums that holds more true for than 'EGBDF', an album that's just happy enough not be depressing, realistic enough not to be joyous, emotionally rounded enough not to satisfy at any time. There are times, listening to this record, when I think that I've found the truth. There are times when I know that I'm wrong. But all of these times in the company of the Moodies is time well spent. Every good band deserves favour - and at their best The Moody Blues were a truly mind-boggingly heart-warmingly stupefyingly ground-breakingly great band. 

For instance, I doubt even the adventurous Moodies ever expected to play their group-composed opener Procession live. The song is nothing less than a quick recap on mankind’s musical progress to date in just five minutes, going right back to the stone age. If you think that sounds weird, well, you haven’t heard the song yet – caveman grunts, renaissance harpsichord, sixties moog synthesiser, the works. The Moodies’ futuristic, pioneering air, created without the sacrifice of beauty or feelings to go along with the brains, made them one of the few bands who could pull off this sort of prog rock trick, but even they struggle to find a groove on this near-instrumental which remains the most ambitious of all their ambitious tracks – and possibly the most disappointing of them too. As ever with The Moodies, though, even their worst songs are interesting. Listen out for the drums on this track in particular, as they were one of the world’s first examples of ‘electronic percussion’, played with the help of an early computer about 20 times the size of the Human League’s 1980’s version (the Moodies’ original of which reportedly blew the circuit-breaker on drummer Graeme Edge’s house every time he tried to practice with them!) These effects sound a bit tinny and primitive now, but in 1971 it must have sounded revolutionary - well, if you were into drum sounds, anyway. The album’s overall theme of ‘desolation, creation, communication, compassion, solution’ is also heard here first, suggesting that mankind’s progress to date has only come through working together in harmony and overcoming obstacles of devastation and chaos. It’s not hard to see where the band were coming from here in the troubled year of 1971, with America’s craziest pre-Bush president (Richard Nixon) about to fall to the Watergate scandal and the Vietnam war still dominating the news in the band’s new ‘adopted land’ of America. Just compare this album to the last Moodies record included on this list (To Our Children’s Children’s Children’s, no 33 on the list) and look at how drastically the optimism levels of the group have changed in just two short years.

The Story In Your Eyes takes up that message of warning, suddenly switching the band back into rock mode for one of Justin Hayward’s tougher songs about the day of Armageddon he can see looming over the horizon. As a result, the track merges seamlessly with the previous track as evidence of what mankind could be throwing away in his haste to progress as fast as he can, despite it being recorded several months before. As ever with the Moodies, there is a way out and a chance for some briefly held optimism that the tide is turning towards peace and away from war – for ‘the love we have inside us now is still the same’ – but the hope at the core of this song is lost amongst a sea of noise that represents the band at their most nihilistic and downright scary. Hayward’s stomach-churning guitar riff cuts through the song like a knife, whipping the whole song up into a sea of minor-key mellotron ghostly noises, a rumbling uncontrollable bass and some aimless, frantic backing vocals that seem to have arrived from the depths of hell itself. The song itself is thankfully clear enough to steer its way through these distractions and indeed the tune and particularly the riff it’s built on are classic Hayward and are a logical progression from his similar relentlessly urgent songs Gypsy and Question. 

Our Guessing Game then finds Ray Thomas on top form, musing on the trouble humans have communicating with one another and trying to work out why some days he feels crushed and on others on top of the world. Unusually Ray’s vocal is accompanied by a simple, straightforward piano instead of a mellotron or a varispeeded harpsichord or something, which only adds to the gentle wistfulness of the piece. The song also returns to two of this album’s main themes; more than any other song on EGBDF, Our Guessing Game explains that, actually, the Moodies are pretty unsure when it comes to seeking out the truth in life and this third song harks back to the second with the throwaway line of apocalypse on ‘wonder why the world is turning around when in the end it won’t matter at all.’ A strident chorus seems to overcome Thomas’ self-doubt and hesitancy suddenly, being one of the most dramatic and ear-catching segment of any of the bands’ songs, what with its full choir of Moodies singing at the tops of their voices, but ultimately this too leads to confusion, as the band fade out on this chorus repeating themselves over and over again without sounding any the wiser as to how or why the world works the way it does.

Emily’s Song is equally delicate, a John Lodge song of love to his newborn daughter which mixes a suitably childish melody with some complex words of love and encouragement. I’m not sure the xylophone was such a good idea – this song gets as close to being cloyingly sentimental as the Moodies ever got – but there’s no doubting the beauty of the tune, which seems to be giving the listener a warm aural hug. Even this charming tale is not without its worrying moments however – far from asking his children to grow up and become like daddy, Lodge’s narrator seems to be asking his children if he can join them in their world, even though he knows ‘I’ve been here so long you’re leaving me behind’. Like its twin sister childhood-song - Graeme Edge’s composition I’ll Be Level With You which you can hear on the Moodies’ 1978 LP Octave – Lodge tries to pass on some advice to his off-spring and finds that actually he can’t; their childish intuition and glee seem much closer to the ‘truth’ of life than anything Lodge has learnt on his adult journey. Notably Hayward and Lodge sing in harmony here for one of the first times in the Moodies’ career – this would go on to become the band’s default sound for much of their subsequent career in the late 70s and 1980s.

Side one ends with one of only two true band performances on the album, as opposed to hours of overdubbing sessions by each member in turn, and it sounds all the better for it. After You Came is a rare rocking song, as opposed to monologue or instrumental, from Graeme Edge which features some great electric guitar work and an upbeat poppy chorus that balances the long, unwieldy verses where the band try to cram in as many words as they can (a bit like that last sentence in fact, it must be catching!) In common with his other songs for the band, Graeme doesn’t actually sing, with the vocal switching from Thomas to Pinder to Hayward to Lodge (Lodge also sings the middle eight on his own). A lot of the words on this song don’t actually make that much sense when you analyse them, but there is a general picture that suits this album’s theme of disillusionment at the fame that’s come their way and how accomplishing his biggest dreams have left the narrator still hollow and empty (“I have reached the top of my wall and all I’ve found is another way to fall”). There’s no such doubt or confusion in the performance of this song, though: the band are at their tightest here, especially on the criss-crossing vocals and the long fade-out, where similarly criss-crossing guitars singed through with feedback bring the song to a rousing finish. One of the Moodies’ better rockers, this track is a forgotten highlight of this album.

One More Time To Live starts off side two with one of those typically Moody epics that feature a song-within-a-song. Returning to the ‘procession’ idea of the first track, the song begins with composer Lodge singing quietly to an acoustic guitar and flute accompaniment about how wonderful and picturesque the Earth is. However, the bridge of the song soon opens up into something quite different. While the deeper voiced Pinder and Thomas shout no less than 21 words ending in ‘–ion’, which mirror Procession  by slowly moving from chaos to tranquillity with ‘compassion’ as our ‘solution’, Hayward and Lodge counterpoint this with some questioning, pleading phrases, offering mankind a choice of survival or destruction. The song then breaks off, turns full circle and goes through the motions again before finally returning to Lodge’s peaceful opening, reflecting on what has been saved (or lost, depending on the decision mankind makes). Quite an epic, this song is not without its faults – the repetition of the middle eight without a variant anywhere being the main one, as this section can’t help to work as well a second time when you’ve already heard it once - but it’s such a strong, unique idea which is arranged so cleverly that it does tend to stick in the ear – not least amidst all the otherwise muted songs on this album where it stands bold and proud. The Moodies’ harmonies are particularly fitting on this track, with all four extremely different vocalists working together well. Something of a triumph for Lodge and the band as a whole, the song seems to be offering second chances all round – to the Moodies in their second band performance in a row and to the world in general not to destroy their planet for ‘I have riches more than these’.

Nice To Be Here is next, a failed children’s comedy song with everybody’s favourite mad uncle Ray Thomas pretending he can see a frog playing a guitar and rabbits playing drums. A sweet bit of nonsense when heard out of context, sandwiched between the other soul-searching songs on side two – some of the most serious things this most serious of bands ever wrote – it sounds like he’s just gone plain mad. The highlight of the song is John Lodge’s inventive bass work, mirroring Macca’s rule-breaking playing on Sgt Pepper’s by giving only the subtlest of hints about what the song’s key actually is and Justin Hayward’s cameo as the frog where he almost manages to play a complete guitar solo on only one note, as the song’s lyrics tell us he will. Thomas, however, is a born thinker and philosopher – despite his many ‘novelty’ songs on Moodies albums – and compared to his other fine deeper songs he doesn't have a clue how to handle this material, badly blotting his copybook with this mess. 

The Moodies are one of those bands that always sound much better when they are serious, however much fun their ‘fun’ songs are, and so they are on Hayward’s You Can Never Go Home. Featuring brooding, worried verses sung by Hayward solo and a break-out, yearning chorus sung by the whole band, its one of its composers best introspective songs, head-hangingly mournful in both melody and lyrically. The song doesn’t end there – realising that the latest set-back has made the narrator understand himself better and that he is a step closer to the prize he seeks seems to embolden him with new energy and the song picks up a gear for the second half, sounding like the sun shining through the clouds. Yet, for all of this song’s sudden optimism and hope, it noticeably turns full circle back to the self-doubting first verse by the song’s end. The song also deals with another classic Hayward theme of lost innocence and, in the words of another key Moodies song, of ‘being lost in a lost world’, and is one of the guitarist’s most moving and clever pieces as a whole in its moving switches between melancholia and hope. Fulfilling the album’s first key theme of uncertainty and self-doubt, the song also cleverly manages to embrace the second: moving away from the first person to talk about mankind as a whole, Hayward suggests that ‘time will tell’ whether the promise of mankind’s birth on the Earth will have been fulfilled or if man will be seen to have thrown it all away.

Pinder’s only song on the album, fittingly titled My Song, is a typically ambitious, self-indulgent song that’s nevertheless somehow greater than its bitty parts. Swathes of moog synthesiser (for once, there’s hardly any mellotron on this album) mesh with simple piano lines for the most part, accompanying lyrics about the narrator’s sudden insights into life and his desperate attempt to put his philosophy of peace into words for us. Somehow intimate and grandiose all at the same time, like much of the Moodies at their best, this track then widens into the narrator’s belief that there might be an answer waiting for us somewhere – whether from the help of aliens on far planets or by an inner human realisation that ‘love can change the world’. This very heartfelt and bare song then takes off into the wild blue yonder for the song’s ‘solo’. With it’s space-age sound effects and other worldly atmosphere, this song sound like it’s meant to represent mankind’s ‘future’, just as album opener Procession showed us our ‘past’ and if so then the years to come are just as eerie as the ones that have been. Realising that even after his visions the narrator still can’t express all of his thoughts at once, Pinder is left to repeat himself, sounding more unsure by every second of the song’s long fade. Epic that it is, My Song works by still keeping things simple where it can, combining the personal and the universal in classic Moodies style, although ultimately it’s more of a strong album track than the closing epic this album needs to tie up its loose ends.

EGBDF is yet another example of The Moodies’ combining their distinctive styles with pieces that are all based the same overall idea and as such this album is one of this group’s many success stories. If every good band deserves favour then make sure you add it to your wants list this year, especially given the lovely deluxe-issues that are now out of the band’s first seven albums (the EGBDF re-issue features a particularly strong out-take from these sessions as an bonus) which sound much better than the shoddy sound available on the old 1990s CDs. 

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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