Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Moody Blues - A 'Gemini Dream' & Beyond

The five members of the Moody Blues reconvened for business in 1978, and recorded the platinum selling album ‘Octave’ (UK#6/ US#13/ OZ#16), which yielded the hit single ‘Steppin’ In A Slide Zone’ (US#39).  But the band had re-emerged into the maelstrom that was disco music, not to mention the tail end of punk, and burgeoning new wave movement.  Would they be able to recapture the commercial prosperity of the early 70s?

Keyboardist Mike Pinder didn’t hang around to find out as he left the band during their post ‘Octave’ tour, replaced by ex-Yes keyboardist Patrick Moraz.  The Moody Blues then kept their heads down once more during 1979 and 1980, perhaps wisely awaiting the departure of disco from the crowded stylistic scene.  In 1981, they popped their heads up once more with the album ‘Long Distance Voyager’ (US#1/ UK#7/OZ#7) which topped the U.S. charts and voyaged into top ten territory the world over.  In critical terms though the album was lambasted in some quarters as being out dated and lacking any real drive at originality.  In my view, the album worked a treat.  It was recorded at the band’s own Threshold Studios, and found the band in fine form.  ‘The Voice’ was an inspiring piece (US#15/OZ#91), whilst Hayward, Lodge, Thomas, and Edge all contributed worthy tracks to the album.  For mine though, the stand out track on the album, and arguably my favourite Moody Blues song, is ‘Gemini Dream’ (US#12/OZ#36).  It does have a touch of the E.L.O.s about it, which surely can only be a good thing, but its harmonies and melodic hooks are what work for me.

1983’s album, ‘The Present’ (OZ#16/ UK#15/US#26), was a less successful outing.  Aside from ‘Sitting At The Wheel’ (US#27), it’s only charting single was ‘Blue World’ (US#62), which deserved to fare considerably better.  Some were wondering at that time whether the Moody Blues could rediscover a mainstream audience in the era of glitzy MTV styled acts.

The answer came in the affirmative with the 1986 top ten hit ‘Your Wildest Dreams’ (US#9/ OZ#20), a Hayward penned song that introduced the Moody Blues to a whole new generation.  The song itself was a superbly crafted slice of melodic pop-rock, nostalgic in tone, and was accompanied by one of the finest promotional videos of the year, directed by Brian Grant. It featured the fictitious Mood Six, playing the Moody Blues at a younger age back in the 60s (with a focus on Justin Hayward as the main character), telling the tale of young love, a first love, and the lament of that same love lost, then found again for about ten seconds, then lost again, with a hint of ‘to be continued’.  The source album, ‘The Other Side Of Life’ (US#9/ UK#24/OZ#34) revived in part the band’s early 70s sales form.

But gone were the prolific album a year days, instead the Moody Blues focussing on an extended tour followed by an extended period of writing and recording for their next album.  They returned to the world of album releases with 1988’s ‘Sur La Mer’ (UK#21/ OZ#35/US#38 - I purchased the album on CD some years later).  The album featured the lead out single, ‘I Know You’re Out There Somewhere’ (US#30/ OZ#38/UK#52), which I purchased on CD single.  The song was a stylishly produced companion piece to ‘Your Wildest Dreams’, with the promotional video carrying on the on again, off again, and eventually on again love affair between Hayward and his muse over time.  Nostalgia and melodic hooks draw the listener into the story beautifully, and deliver one of the Moody Blues’ more memorable hits.  I purchased the follow up single, ‘Here Comes The Weekend’, on vinyl 45, completing a trio of format purchases from just one album.

By the early 90s, Moraz had left the band, leaving the core duo of Hayward, Lodge, Thomas, and Edge, to try and carry the story of the Moody Blues forward.  1991’s album, ‘Keys To The Kingdom’, proved to be the band’s lowest selling album to date (UK#54/US#94), but a boost in their touring fortunes arrived the next year with a sell out tour for the 25th anniversary of the ‘Days Of Future Passed’ album.  The band was supported by a full orchestra, and the tour was captured and released as ‘A Night At Red Rocks (Live)’ in 1993.

Whilst their catalogue of past albums continued to sell in very respectable numbers, the Moody Blues didn’t release another album of new material until 1999’s ‘Strange Times’ (US#93), by which time the musical landscape must have seemed strange indeed to a quartet of musicians having ridden the wave of success for over thirty years.  Thomas retired from band duties in 2003, but Hayward, Lodge, and Edge continued to tour well into the 00’s as a trio, with hired hands to back them.  But for the Moody Blues, the timeless flight of days passed was limited to thoughts of nostalgia.

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