A band from the Black Country – the same area that gave the world Black Sabbath, Slade, Led Zeppelin, The Move, Judas Priest – that doesn’t play metal or hard rock – how does that come about?
If the only thing you know about The Moody Blues is ‘Knights In White Satin’ or ‘Go Now’ you have a helluva shock in store – a 17 disc box set with a 120 page full colour booklet.
I have to admit that I did not expect to be reviewing the Moody Blues in 2013 and I certainly didn’t expect to be re-visioning ‘Knights In White Satin’ and actually hearing the sheer majesty of it in all its original glory rather than the anaemic single version that has been plaguing Melody FM and Radio 2 for years – drama, vision, poetry – WHAT? But it is all there and a lot more. Once you can put your prejudices aside you actually get a taste of one of the original – prog before prog and with a harder edge to their music that I ever remembered – whodathunkit?
Ok, wide-eyed wonder aside, what is the album (s) like? Well, you have to remember that this is a band whose origins are in the early days of the Beatles and Rolling Stones – 1964 predates most of the Midlands bands we hear about today and it is remarkable to hear just how sophisticated they were, even in their early days. They were one of the fisrt bands to feature mellotron and phasing and while Justin Heyward’s vocals aren’t exactly the bellow of Robert Plant or Noddy Holder they are perfect for the ethereal and Eastern tones of a number like ‘Legend of a Mind’. Tracks like ‘Veteran Cosmic Rocker’ shpow that they can get lairy on occasion as well but the best of the band is to be found on the string laden ‘Isn’t Life Strange’ which sounds as though it must have been covered by many others but is a true Moody Blues original. One that isn’t but sounds as though it should be is ‘Forever Autumn’ which was written by Jeff Wayne with Justin Hayward’s vocals in mind and is included here as well. Of course, across 13 remastered CDs there are going to be a few duff tracks but the album is a success if only because I got to listen to ‘Question’ once more and in a decent mastering.
Probably not for those who think they might like to hear a little moiré than ‘Knights.....’, you need to be pretty committed to the band to buy into the whole package but, remarkably, it is well worth a serious listen. There is a reason they have been going continuously for 50 YEARS and it isn’t hype.
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