...but I feel that The Moody Blues are vastly underrated. When people speak of classic rock bands, they mention Beatles, Stones, Doors, Who, Pink Floyd, Led Zep, Eagles, Aerosmith, Police, Van Halen - but rarely The Moody Blues. The fact is, the MB's were an important presence on rock radio from the late 60's to the mid-80's, producing work that spanned a staggering variety of musical styles, most of it done with utmost complexity, precision and taste. I'm ashamed to admit that I remember hearing some of these songs through the years without even knowing they were by the MB's.
The first track on this collection, "Go Now", is a bluesy pop tune which announced their arrival in the British Invasion but provides not a clue of the brilliance to come. It is simple in style and the sound is rather primitive. But the second cut, "Tuesday Afternoon", puts us on the right track. From their very unique concept album "Days Of Future Passed", it fuses orchestral music with rock, the thing to do in that psychedelic era, as does "Nights In White Satin", also from that album. Moving on, I won't try to describe in detail every track, but just to summarize them while pointing out the similarities and differences the listener will encounter. The prevailing sound can be heard in "Ride My See-Saw", "Question", "The Story In Your Eyes", "I'm Just A Singer In A Rock And Roll Band", and "The Voice". They have in common a driving beat, an abundance of classic rock guitar blending with classical instrumental sounds, and excellent vocal harmonies. Still, they have their own identities. "Question" contains a slower mid-section, then returns to rock. "Story In Your Eyes" and "I'm Just A Singer" feature more prominent piano. "The Voice" includes intricate whispers of synth sounds. Of the other tracks, "Isn't Life Strange" is very strange indeed. It is slow, starting out achingly fragile, like pre-Disco Bee-Gees, but later alternates that with stronger, louder sections. "Blue Guitar" is also slow, with guitar that makes you think Eric Clapton might have wandered into the session. "Steppin' In A Slide Zone", once it heats up, leans toward folk, without losing its rock basis. "Forever Autumn" is also folk-like and really quite beautiful. "Gemini Dream", absolutely one of my favorite tracks, ventures into new territory. It has a VERY heavy beat, with instrumentation and vocalization perhaps influenced by the Disco of the time. I say this because to me the track has as much in common with Donna Summer's "Hot Stuff" and late-70's ELO as it does with previous MB recordings. "Blue World" is smooth and glossy, with prominent synth, again leaning toward a dancier track. After a few years' absence, the band made a nostalgic return in the MTV era with "Your Wildest Dreams" and "I Know You're Out There Somewhere". These are similar to "The Voice" in overall style but lighter in a mainstream way, probably tailored for the new public, which included "maturing" fans as well as younger fans not so accustomed to the creative sophistication of the MB's prior work. Finally, the only track I really don't like is "Voices In The Sky", which I find too soft and sweet for my taste.
I've tried, and maybe failed, to describe the variety and excellence this band achieved; only by hearing the music itself can you appreciate what I am feeling and trying to say. If I had to describe them in a few words, I would say "poetic, mysterious, spacey, dramatic, philosophical". I always heard that ELO was what The Beatles would have become if they had stayed together, but I think The Moody Blues would also be contenders for that distinction.