The Moody Blues Blast Back
Cordo | USA | 08/31/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Must admit, I stole the title from a People magazine article on the Moodies that came out on their 1981 tour. It is appropriate, however.
This was a crucial album for the Moodies. Not only had Mike Pinder left the group after the recording of "Octave," long-time producer Tony Clarke (he produced the Magnificent 7 albums and all of their solo work to that point) quit just before the album was finished, leaving the group to finish it off themselves. "Octave" was released to great expectations but lukewarm reviews and decent but not spectacular sales. In order to make a go of their reunion, the Moodies had to hit a home run with the next one.
Boy, did they. As other reviewers have noted, there is not a dud on it. John Lodge's "Nervous" comes closest, but only just. They are crafty. The album opens with a synthesizer run-up like something from the Magnificent 7 (maybe to provide a link with the past), then the syntheziser blast of "The Voice" kicks in, and we are off. LDV establsihed the pattern for all subsequent Moodies albums, opening with a mellow Justin Hayward rocker. "The Voice" dispenses with the rhythm guitar, the beat being carried along by John's bass and Graeme's drums (also a hallmark of his later openers). With this ablum, they also solidifed the mode of "he who writes the song sings all the parts." This worked against Ray later. John's "Talking out of Turn," one of his best, follows, and slows the pace, with orchestra giving punch to the song. One of their best rockers. "Gemini Dream," Justin & John's song about touring again, blasts off with that great bass into, and Justin's "In My Wrolds, with its heavily layered acoustic guitars and voices, finishes the first side of the vinyl. In this song, Justin's slide guitar makes its first appearance.
The second side of the vinyl began with "Meanwhile," another medium Justin rocker, which is carried along mostly by his acoustic guitars, then Ray & Graeme take over. Graeme's "22,000 Days" is sung by Ray & John (sounds like) and really thumps. Justin shreds out with possibly his most rock-ish lead ever. Ray's voice is very prominent. John's "Nervous" (for me) drags the pace down, but
Ray takes over with his suite "Painted Smile/Reflective Smile,/Veteran Cosmic Rocker." The first is a clown-as-tragic-figure song, with Patrick Moraz' (Mike's replacement) swirling synths giving a circus atmosphere. Spacey noises accompany "Reflective Smile," and then the synthsized orchestral blast of "Veteran Cosmic Rocker" kicks in leading to another blast at the end. The song is a poke at their cosmic image. When I saw them in Reno in 1986, Ray said he got the title from a reporter who called him that in doing a review of one of their earlier concerts, "so we decided to make some money off 'im." Ray rocks harder than he ever had or would, using his voice, flute, and harp (people forget the Moodies started off in 1964 as a blues band with two harp players -- Ray & Justin's predecessor, Denny Laine) to propel the song. The words are somewhat recycled from his solo song "One Night Stand" from 1976, but the whole group sings, and they are really having a good time. Ray would never play such a dominant role again, fading into invisibility by 1988's "Sur la Mer."
Every so often the Moodies seem to get into a "back to nature, it's where we belong", as Justin would sing on 1991's "Say It with Love," mood. The sparer production on "A Question of Balance" was a direct reaction to the elaborate production on "To Our Children's Children's Children." LDV is no exception. "Octave" was over-produced and sounded a lot like a collection of their solo efforts (Ray's two contributions sound like out-takes from his second solo album). Except for John's "Stepping in a Slide Zone" and Justin's "Top Rank Suite," that album never really moved along. The same cannot be said for LDV. From the first fanfare of "The Voice" to the final blast of "Veteran Cosmic Rocker," the album moves right along, the songs compliment each other, and the listener is not ready for it to end.
A major disppointment in any Moodies re-issue is the lack of extras. Here we just get the single edit of "The Voice," which had been released before. Surely there must have been some live recordings available. Even the re-issue of "Octave" came up with several live versions of some of the songs. Unlike groups like The Who or The Kinks, who recorded prolifically and worked out their ideas in the studio, the Moodies did all that before recording began and left little extra stuff. Minor quibble. LDV may be the best album of the later edition of the group. It is largely shorn of the cosmic gobbledygook that trade-marked, and occasionally marred, the Magnificant 7. The songs are of such high quality that the Moodies still perform "The Voice" and "Talking out of Turn" in their shows (they have inexlicably dropped "Gemini Dream"). LDV certainly is worth a listen for anyone who enjoys thumpng good rock and roll."
An 80's surprise.
Joseph M. Perorazio | Columbus, OH USA | 11/10/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Who would have believed this aging hippie band would reappear in the early 80's with one of their best albums ever? 'Long Distance Voyager' remains to this day one of the classic MB albums, and is an excellent update of their sound without sounding like a sell out. Side 1 is especially good, with the classics "The Voice" and "Gemini Dream" along with the standout cut "In My World." This was probably the last great Moody Blues album, as the 80's and 90's saw them churning out rather treadmill releases, capitalizing on their name recognition and 60's icon status.