The original Moodies hail from the Birmingham area of Erdington. Ray Thomas, John Lodge and Michael Pinder were in local R&B groups while guitarist and singer Denny Laine and manager/road man/drummer Graeme Edge, alongside short lived bass player Clint Warwick, dabbled with various possible band names based around the regional M&B Brewery name before settling on Moody Blues, then honing their skills in Birmingham’s night club scene. The initial blend of Merseybeat and R&B was well caught by producer Denny Cordell on the mono only LP The Magnificent Moodies and the single Go Now launched them as worthy competition for the beat group boom.
In 1966 Laine quit to go solo but the band reconvened with new additions Justin Hayward and John Lodge completing the classic second stage or Mark 2 line-up. The decision was now made to move away from cover material and embrace a symphonic sound. The new identity evolved perfectly and just in time for the psychedelic revolution with the album, suitably entitled in the circumstances, Days of Future Passed, whose conceptual tale takes place within a day. Pinder had introduced The Beatles to the Mellotron and they repaid the favour by backing the Moodies desire to feature the London Festival Orchestra. The strings on ‘Nights in White Satin’ were groundbreaking for the time, even if tinny transistor radios and rudimentary monophonic sound systems struggled to cope with the sonics therein. To some extent the Moody Blues led the way in persuading fans to update their stereos since the efforts they went to demanded an enhanced aural experience.
With Tony Clarke on board as producer and ‘sixth Moody’ (he worked with the band for a number of years) the album also made headway on ‘Tuesday Afternoon’, a lovely pastoral piece, and ‘Dawn is a Feeling’, but all the tracks are designed to stretch listeners and take them ‘out there’.
In Search of the Lost Chord (1968) was inspired by LSD and the works of acid guru Timothy Leary - though one doubts whether the majority of their audience needed to be attuned to that fact. Nor should it matter since tracks such as ‘Voices’ and ‘Om’ – with Hayward experimenting on sitar after George Harrison’s example, and Mike Lodge’s ‘House of Four Doors’ were matched to Ray Thomas’s song poems.
Live concerts began to match the progressive expertise of the group and suitably emboldened they released the magnificent On the Threshold of a Dream in 1969. This is a total mind blast album that encapsulates everything the Moody Blues can do. Hayward’s ‘Lovely to See You’ and ‘Never Comes the Day’ are commercial gold while Thomas excels with ‘Dear Diary’ and ‘Lazy Day’. The ‘Dream Sequence’ itself and Pinder’s elegiac ‘Have You Heard?’ are post-psych gems as is his classical instrumental ‘The Voyage’. Perfect music for the space race era.
Talking of which, To Our Children’s Children’s Children (later in 1969) begins with an Apollo rocket thrust on ‘Higher and Higher’ while ‘Watching and Waiting’ and the glorious ‘Out and In’ must have been a huge influence on Genesis. They stand out as consummate examples of how progressive music would benefit from the FM revolution that was still three years away.
A Question of Balance (1970) was designed to simplify the esoteric approach of the previous album and make for a sound that could be reproduced in concert halls at a time when sound systems were apt to pack up at the drop of a roadie’s screwdriver. By now the Moody Blues have established a European following for themselves and their status in markets like France and Germany will be as vital as their superstar status in America. In Britain, of course, we simply hold them dear as our own chosen sons. The stand out single ‘Question’ and Pinder's ‘Melancholy Man’ pulled all the pieces together and they appeared triumphant at the Isle of Wight in 1970.
Every Good Boy Deserves Favour and Seventh Sojourn cemented their place in the States as a major export success. The former, named after the musical mnemonic for the standard chording EGBDA, contains ‘Story in Your Eyes’, one of Hayward’s unsung classics, his equally ambitious ‘You Can Never Go Home’ and drummer/poet Edge’s ‘After You Came’, all showcasing the group’s gloriously flexible harmonies, a facet of their sound that shouldn’t be overlooked. The Sojourn album finds them utilising the new breed of electronica – Chamberlin keys, electronic drum kits, plenty of phase and giving full weight to Thomas’s rapid mastery of flute and sax. This album is renowned also for the tracks ‘Isn’t Life Strange; and ‘I’m Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band)’ that elevated the parent disc to the top five in Britain and a Christmas number one in America where it outsold all competition for six weeks.
The compilation This is The Moody Blues followed a two year sabbatical and reminds everyone of what they’re about in the interim. Absence didn’t dampen public demand, since it was another huge seller. A double album at the time it includes the otherwise hard to find single B-side ‘A Simple Game’.
Octave (1978) is their ninth album though the title refers to the Mark 2 variance and is the last album with Mike Pinder before Patrick Moraz replaced him. Although it represents a band in hiatus and arrives when punk and disco have taken over as staple sounds it doesn’t reflect at all badly on the group. Hitting platinum in America and making the Top 10 in Britain, Octave is one of the albums in the MB's catalogue that deserves to be reconsidered. ‘Steppin’ in a Slide Zone’ and ‘Driftwood’ are full of characteristic Moody magic and the Remastered and Expanded editions will set a precedent for many future albums in their catalogue here. In this instance there are live American recordings to enjoy.
Long Distance Voyager and The Present follow that format so that fans new and old will get exceptional value for money. The former features Moraz (ex-Refugee and Yes) and the title track is destined to be an American number one while the cuts ‘Gemini Dream’ and ‘The Voice’ will keep them on the airwaves through 1981. That’s B.J. Cole on pedal steel and the strings are from the New World Philharmonic. Business as usual in Moody land.
The Present (1983) is particularly notable since it is arguably the first compact disc to be released on a worldwide basis (the format began in Japan but took a surprisingly long time to take hold). ‘Blue World’, ‘Sitting at the Wheel’ and ‘Running Water’ astounded those who could then hear the new technology and they sound equally magnificent today.
Now enter producer Tony Visconti for The Other Side of Life (1986) who persuaded the band to move from symphonic rock/pop to pure synth drenched sounds. Incorporating the de rigueur electronic drums of the time this is one of those albums that polarised opinions while still selling bucket loads. The single ‘Your Wildest Dreams’ proved that Moody mania was abroad in America and ‘Rock’n’Roll Over You’ (as featured in The Karate Kid, Part 11) both capitalised on smart use of drum sequencing. For a group who were always keen to explore an artistic vision of the future it seemed that their prophecies had come to pass.
Sur la Mer sticks to Visconti’s synth template with Hayward and Lodge bossing the writing and continuing to locate the commercial nerve ends on ‘I Know You’re Out There Somewhere’ and ‘No More Lies’. Keys of the Kingdom is a sea change disc from 1991 with plenty of sumptuous horns and pop gems like ‘Say it With Love’ and ‘Bless the Wings (That Bring You Back)’ to satisfy listeners from any generation.
New era Moody Blues arrives with A Night at Red Rocks with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. The band has now wisely aged up - to celebrate their 25th anniversary since the Days of Future Passed announced their arrival as something truly exotic. This is available in original format and in the recommended Deluxe Edition, which contains many extra captures and functions as a fantastic account of the Moody Blues entire career.
Alongside the various anthologies and best of documents of this wondrous group we’d warrant that you’d still find room for Strange Times (1999), and point anyone to check out the forgotten classic ‘English Sunset’, one of Hayward’s most emotional and charged up forays into progressive synth rock. This is sadly the last album to feature Ray Thomas, in which case it’s a fitting swan song for the man’s wit and flute.
December (2003) is an oddity, yet a pleasant surprise. A collection of Christmas themed numbers, albeit with no lip-service to the usual fare, this manages to succeed by tackling the John Lennon and Yoko Ono anthem ‘Happy Xmas (War is Over)’ and setting it alongside airs by Bach and Holst, as well as Hayward originals and a marvellous interpretation of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas.
To complete our comprehensive array of Blues beauties we have Nights in White Satin – The Collection, a most user friendly set of Moody standards, as is The Very Best Of, and the more far reaching Timeless Flight series (available as a 2 part and 4 part anthology) which is designed to provide a truly rounded listening experience for completists as well as those curious enough to check out a massively important group from their beginnings to their present day incarnation. You could say that they’ve bossed their patch from the outset – the journey from Dansette to FM and beyond will provide you with untold pleasure. Imagine – you are standing at the threshold of a dream.
Words - Max Bell
The Magnificent Moodies is the 1965 debut album by The Moody Blues, first released in the UK, and the first and only album featuring their R&B line-up of guitarist Denny Laine, bassist Clint Warwick, keyboardist Mike Pinder, flautist–percussionist Ray Thomas, and drummer Graeme Edge. Lead vocals were shared by Laine and Thomas. The album is a collection of R&B and Merseybeat songs, including the cover of "Go Now", produced by Alex Wharton, that had been a Number 1 hit single earlier that year. For the US release, on London Records, with the title of Go Now – The Moody Blues #1, four songs were replaced and the tracks re-ordered.
In Search of the Lost Chord is the third album by The Moody Blues, released in 1968 through Deram Records.
On the Threshold of a Dream is the fourth album by The Moody Blues, released in 1969 through Deram Records.
Like the band's preceding two albums, On the Threshold of a Dream follows a concept. It explores dreams, especially on the second side, which climaxes with the "Voyage" suite, inspired in part by Richard Strauss's Also sprach Zarathrustra. The piece, by Mike Pinder, features mellotron orchestration and flute. The album begins with a poem accompanied by electronic sounds, and similar sounds finish the album as well; LP editions of the album were pressed to continue these sounds into the album's run-out groove, causing them to play continuously until the record player's tonearm is lifted. (Tape and CD versions of the album end with these sounds slowly faded out).
A Question of Balance, released in 1970, is the sixth album by The Moody Blues. The album was an attempt by the group to strip down their well-known lush, psychedelic sound in order to be able to better perform the songs in concert. In order to be able to play as many new songs as possible from their new album live, the group decided (temporarily) to abandon their method of heavy overdubbing for A Question of Balance.
For the first time, The Moody Blues used political strife as a basis for songwriting with the British number two hit in May 1970, "Question", which dealt with the controversy resulting from the ongoing Vietnam War.
Every Good Boy Deserves Favour is the seventh album by the Moody Blues, released in 1971. The album was the last to feature only the Mellotron, as it would be assisted by the Chamberlin (another device that uses recorded tape to generate sound) on the Moody Blues' next studio album, 1972's Seventh Sojourn.
This album featured the only track to be written by all five members of the band. The opening "Procession" was a piece that was intended to describe the history of music from the beginning of time up until the album's recording. The only three words heard in this track --"desolation," "creation," and "communication"—were similarly used (along with many other "-ation" words) in "One More Time to Live."
Octave is the ninth album by The Moody Blues, and their first release after a substantial hiatus following the success of the best-selling Seventh Sojourn in 1972. The album proved to be the last for the group with keyboardist Mike Pinder, who departed during the album's sessions, and declined an offer to tour with the group. Pinder had just started a new family in California, and found that he was not getting along with his bandmates as he had. As a result of Pinder's departure, Justin Hayward and John Lodge were forced to play some of the remaining keyboard parts themselves, and Pinder would be replaced by former Yes keyboardist Patrick Moraz in time for their 1979 tour, beginning a new era in the band's history.
Octave was considered a departure from previous Moody Blues albums, mainly because the group's use of lounge-style organs and synthesisers in place of a Mellotron or Chamberlin (Pinder's song "One Step Into the Light" referenced the Mellotron). Real strings were used on three songs: "Under Moonshine" and "I'm Your Man" (both written by Ray Thomas), as well as "Survival" (written by John Lodge).
The Present is the eleventh studio album by The Moody Blues, released in 1983. It is the second album of the Patrick Moraz era. It had three minor hit singles, "Blue World" (#62), "Sitting at the Wheel" (#27) and "Running Water". The album itself features strong compositions, but with a track order designed to capitalise on the legacy of the more successful Long Distance Voyager, with Justin Hayward's songs at the beginning and Ray Thomas' as finales.
The Present also became, in 1983, the first compact disc manufactured worldwide. In November 2008, the album was remastered and released on CD with two extra tracks.
The cover is a pastiche of Maxfield Parrish's famous painting Daybreak, with some subtle details: The "X" that the standing child is giving to the other is said to symbolise the Roman numeral "X", this being the Moody Blues' tenth album (with Lodge and Hayward).
Keys of the Kingdom is the fifteenth album released by the rock band The Moody Blues in 1991. Although some of the tracks recall the songwriting on Sur La Mer, the failure of Keys of the Kingdom to produce any major hit singles would mark the beginning of the Moodies' decline in popularity with mainstream audiences after their success in the MTV video generation. The album saw the band beginning to return to a more airy rock oriented sound (similar to The Present), rather than the previous two albums' forays into synthesiser pop. Flautist Ray Thomas plays more of a substantial role on this record, with his first ambient flute piece in eight years. The album was recorded and mixed at four London studios: Olympic Studios, RG Jones Studios, Mayfair Studios and The Hit Factory (not to be confused with the NYC-based studio of the same name).
Strange Times is the sixteenth album by the rock band The Moody Blues, released in 1999. By this time it suited the band to release a very airy and generally more minimal-sounding album, with a slower pace. The sound features acoustic guitar, slightly processed electric guitar, light organ, flute, and string arrangements. The exception may be the opening track "English Sunset", which is arguably one of the fastest, most emotionally-charged, and synthesiser-laden Moody Blues' songs ever recorded. This was the last Moody Blues album to feature longtime flautist and vocalist Ray Thomas.
The Best of the Moody Blues is a compilation album by the progressive rock band The Moody Blues, released on 28 January 1997. The album was also the Moody Blues' first compilation album to feature "Go Now", a song recorded in 1964 with then lead singer Denny Laine, who was replaced by Justin Hayward shortly after.