Days of Future Passed
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Days Of Future Passed (Deluxe Edition)
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Audio CD, Original recording remastered, July 15, 2008
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2008 reissue of their Moody Blues first seven album releases, each with bonus content. From their first landmark album release, Days Of Future Passed, with creative members Justin Hayward (guitar, vocals) and John Lodge (bass, vocals) coming on board plus the classics 'Nights In White Satin' and 'Tuesday Afternoon' finding instant success with radio and record buyers, their appeal became instantaneously widespread worldwide. Each release in this set of their first seven evolutionary albums includes a varying number of special mixes or versions of songs that are also represented in their final form on the respective albums from their highly spectacular career.
The Moody Blues' second album was also their first of what would be a succession of "concept" albums. Inspired by the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper and utilizing the London Festival Orchestra primarily for epic instrumental interludes between songs, Days of Future Passed moved the Birmingham band away from its early R&B roots (as displayed on its debut album with soon-to-depart future Wings member Denny Laine) into uncharted rock territory, making them the early pioneers of both classical and progressive rock. The concept of the 1967 release was very simple, tracing a day in the life from dawn to night, from awakening to sleep. The seven tracks spawned two hit singles--"Tuesday Afternoon" and "Nights in White Satin" (which hit No. 2 four years after the LP's original release) and a prog-rock cottage industry. --Bill Holdship
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The helpful liner notes for this edition explain well the manner in which the Moody Blues metamorphosed from the northern-English blues-rockers who recorded "Go Now" to the progressive rock band that made "Days of Future Passed." That metamorphosis involved a couple of personnel changes; guitarist Denny Laine and bassist Clint Warwick left the band, to be replaced by guitarist-vocalist Justin Hayward and bassist-vocalist John Lodge respectively. (Don't feel bad for Denny Laine, though; he later worked with Paul McCartney, and enjoyed plenty of success as a core member of the band Wings.)
Aside from personnel changes, the other great change that the Moody Blues underwent between "Go Now" and "Days of Future Passed" was a change in sensibility. The liner notes quote Hayward as saying, "We had been playing music that wasn't suited to our characters. We were lower middle-class English boys singing about life in the Deep South of the U.S.A. and it just wasn't honest. As soon as we began to express our own feelings and to create our own music, our fortunes changed." Also explained in the liner notes is the manner in which what the band's label wanted to be a rock redaction of Antonín Dvorák's "New World Symphony" evolved instead, fortunately, into something else entirely. Some hint of what such an album might have sounded like can be found in Emerson, Lake & Palmer's 1971 album "Pictures from an Exhibition," in which ELP did a fine job applying rock instrumentation and techniques to Modest Mussorgsky's 1874 orchestral suite of the same name. But I'm glad the Moody Blues stuck to their artistic guns and recorded "Days of Future Passed" as they did.
"Days of Future Passed" is a concept album; but like the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," released in the same year, it is a concept album with a relatively loose concept. As "Sgt. Pepper" took for its concept a very simple idea -- that of a talented and versatile music-hall band playing a live concert for an appreciative audience -- so "Days of Future Passed" seeks to capture the cycles of human life through focusing on the course of a single day. This is worlds away from the kind of "rock opera" cantata or song cycle that would come to be characteristic of later concept albums -- from The Who's "Tommy" (1969) and "Quadrophenia" (1973) through Genesis's "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" (1974), Pink Floyd's "The Wall" (1979) and, many years later, Green Day's "American Idiot" (2004) and "21st Century Breakdown" (2009) -- but it works well.
The London Festival Orchestra (house orchestra for Decca Records) starts the album off with "The Day Begins," an instrumental piece that includes leitmotifs from various songs that the listener will later hear, including "Dawn Is a Feeling," "Another Morning," and "Nights in White Satin." "The Day Begins" also features the first of drummer Graeme Edge's spoken-word poems that would become a famous, or notorious, feature on the albums of the Moody Blues' classic period. It's not particularly distinguished as a poem -- "Brave Helios, wake up your steeds/Bring the warmth the countryside needs" -- but it was a bold expedient for its time, and Edge's spoken-word poetry would grow in complexity and nuance over time.
A hopeful-sounding orchestral interlude segues into the album's first actual song, "Dawn Is a Feeling." This song, composed by keyboardist-vocalist Mike Pinder, is sung in alternating movements by Hayward and Pinder. The parts sung by Hayward have that sense of romantic melancholy that has so often characterized his work with the band; the parts sung by Pinder center around a series of descending piano chords that look ahead to much of Pinder's work from the Moodies' classic period. Another orchestral bridge then leades into flautist-vocalist Ray Thomas's "The Morning: Another Morning." This cheerful tune, centered around an upbeat flute melody, has more of a pop than a rock feel to it (except for the song's dynamic middle 8), but with its lyrical references to how "Time seems to stand quite still/In a child's world, it always will," it serves its purpose of advancing the album through the next part of its archetypal day.
An orchestral bridge with musical elements from "Another Morning" then leads into bassist-vocalist John Lodge's "Peak Hour." The song's title means to many Britons what "rush hour" means to Americans, and the energetic feel of the song matches well with its subject matter. Of all the Moody Blues, Lodge seems like the one who always most enjoyed rocking out; and this song has a fine, down-to-earth quality to it. Lodge's voice has an urgency that lends itself well to rock-and-roll, and "Peak Hour" shows all the band members mixing it up well. Pinder's Mellotron provides supporting texture, Hayward's guitar and Lodge's bass move the song forward with appropriate intensity, and Edge's drumming really shines here. "Peak Hour" slows down for a bit, but then speeds up in a pulsing manner, right through to the song's big finish that originally marked the end of Side 1 of the album.
Side 2 begins with a two-part song suite titled "The Afternoon." The first part of the suite, a Hayward composition, has the formal title of "Forever Afternoon (Tuesday?)", but no one really calls it that. "Tuesday Afternoon" it has been since the album's release, and "Tuesday Afternoon" it remains today, a Moody Blues classic. A catchy Mellotron melody by Pinder leads into Hayward's rich, emotional vocals, with Lodge's energetic, mobile high-register bass providing strong support. A long-held note by Hayward leads the song into a rollicking barrel-house piano interlude by Pinder, as the song changes pace; and a flute solo by Thomas makes a nice contribution as well. Another orchestral interlude then leads into Lodge's "(Evening) Time to Get Away," a slow, melancholy-based piece centered around low-register piano, with Mellotron and acoustic guitar in support. I'm not crazy about the falsetto vocals in the middle, but this song contributes well to the album.
What follows next is another two-part song suite, titled "Evening." This suite begins with Pinder's "The Sun Set," a song that sounds very Eastern and mystical from the moment one hears the finger cymbals at the beginning. Here, one gets an initial hint of the mysticism that would characterize much of Pinder's work with the band: "Take a look out there/Planets everywhere." But Thomas's flute and Pinder's Mellotron work well together, and the mysticism of the song does not seem as forced as it sometimes would on Pinder's later work with the band. The second part of the suite is Thomas's "Twilight Time," a direct, piano-based rocker in which Thomas's low, restrained vocal is well-supported by fine harmonies. It's a very fine song. I only wish Thomas had written more songs like this, and fewer self-consciously whimsical tunes about hobbits tripping through the meadow and whatnot.
And then comes Hayward's "The Night: Nights in White Satin." A classic. Hayward's deft guitar and rich, emotional vocal works well with Lodge's contrapuntal bass and Pinder's Mellotron. A moving flute solo by Thomas adds to the brilliance of this unforgettable love song. I saw the Moody Blues play live once, at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland, and after the band played this song, the applause went on for at least ten minutes. Hayward looked down at the stage floor, and seemed somewhat embarrassed by all the fuss. Another spoken-word poem by Edge brings the album to its official close -- again, his poetry is not as deft here as it would be on later albums, but it recalls well the album's larger themes, with its references to the moon as a "Cold-hearted orb that rules the night/Removes the colors from our sight." A big finish, with a gong, brings the album to a close.
This CD release is a particular treat because it includes several extra songs, in which one gets a sense of the band groping for an identity. A cover of the Animals' 1965 song "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood," originally played on the BBC's "Saturday Club" program, features Hayward on vocal, with Thomas's flute playing the riff for which the Animals used guitar. It's an interesting experiment, but the Moodies' ethereal harmonies don't really match well with this song. Hayward's "Fly Me High" is an uptempo rocker with high harmonies that complement well Hayward's vocal and acoustic guitar and Pinder's low-register piano. Pinder's "I Really Haven't Got the Time" is an energetic rocker with barrelhouse piano and doo-wop harmonies in the background. It has a bluesy piano solo and first-rate harmonies. Quite frankly, I wish Pinder had spent less time leading us to the mystical mountaintop of enlightenment, and more time rocking out, as he does on this song. "Love and Beauty," another Pinder composition, features low-register piano with Mellotron in support, nice harmonies, and some excellent bass-guitar work from Lodge. It's characteristic '60's Britpop, but well done. Hayward's "Leave This Man Alone," an energetic guitar-driven power-pop song, almost sounds Who-esque, and the way in which Hayward's electric guitar and Lodge's bass work together does make me think of Pete Townshend and John Entwistle from the time of, say, "Call Me Lightning." And Hayward's "Cities," an interesting, pensive, vaguely menacing piano-based piece, served well as the original B-side for the 45-rpm single version of "Nights in White Satin"; but urban social criticism? From the Moody Blues? Again, these bonus songs give the listener a sense of a band in search of -- not the lost chord, but the identity they eventually found.
Alternate versions of "Tuesday Afternoon," "Dawn Is a Feeling," "The Sun Set," and "Twilight Time" show how fine these songs are, but also indicate how much the songs gained a sense of unity by being linked via orchestral interludes. Again, I'm not sure if the Moody Blues fully realized what a sea change they were bringing to popular music when they released "Days of Future Passed." This album was a masterpiece in its time, and it is a masterpiece now.