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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

The Moody Blues

Days of Future Passed

Review by Steve Alspach

Few bands make a quantum leap in musical style the way Moody Blues did between 1965 and 1967. After mapping the charts with "Go Now," the Moodies picked up a young, silky-voiced singer and nimble guitarist in Justin Hayward, and in John Lodge they picked up a most competent bassist whose vocal prowess would be a trademark. This modified quintet then discussed their next album with their record company. The label wanted a rock-orchestral version of Dvorak's "New World Symphony," but the Moodies were keen on utilizing their own compositions. A compromise was struck, and the end result was Days of Future Passed, a landmark album that, some 40 years later, deserves credit for its groundbreaking ventures into rock and classical. If you can find the digitally remastered copy of Days…, by all means, pick it up. The symphonic sections are simply stunning.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
The Day Begins
This is an orchestral overture to the rock pieces on the album, written and arranged by Peter Knight. The spoken poem, a harbinger of things to come in this and future Moody albums, was written by Graeme Edge and read by Mike Pinder.
Dawn: Dawn is a Feeling
After a brief introduction with light flutes, the piece then introduces the Moodies, mellotron and all. Hayward gets vocal duties on the verses while songwriter Pinder sings over the bridge. Had the band stayed the course musically, this song would have made its place on whatever album they would have recorded.
The Morning: Another Morning
The prelude is a light-hearted march, and Ray Thomas gets center stage with this paean to childhood.
Lunch Break: Peak Hour
The prelude is fast-paced but doesn't age well - it's a bit of pop muzak. But the rock part features the Moodies at their punkiest, sounding almost like the Who in that era. John Lodge didn't usually write hard rocking songs (well, he did come up with "I'm Just a Singer"), but this one, with it banging guitar and thumping drums, is perhaps his hardest rocker.
The Afternoon

Forever Afternoon (Tuesday?)
Here we venture into the "classic" part of the album. For the first time the band gets the leadoff part in the song. Hayward's wistful "Tuuues-daaaay" was actually inspired by the dog he had as a child named "Tuesday" and his mother standing on the porch to call him in. This was the single from the album (and a 2:00) edit at that). The band fades out as the orchestra picks up the 12/8 rhythm and goes into a flourish that incorporates other themes from that piece.
(Evening) Time to Get Away
Lodge's composition is a bit darker in the verses, but things pick up in the chorus. You also get to hear his don't-try-this-at-home falsetto in the bridge.
Evening

The Sunset
The intro sounds like Mike Pinder may have been watching quite a bit of Baliwood when he wrote this - the eastern influences are there for all to hear, right down to the flute's descending riff and finger cymbal. This is perhaps the only track where strings accompany the band, emphasizing a melodic line that may have been too much for the then-fledgling mellotron to handle. The orchestral bridge that eventually leads to "Twilight Time" is done seamlessly.
Twilight Time
That aforementioned bridge wastes little to no time in introducing the second part of this suite. Possibly Ray Thomas' first foray into psychedelia, this short piece has its emphasis in the vocals, especially the slightly disjointed backing vocal lines.
Night: Nights in White Satin
Ranking up there with "Freebird" and "Stairway…" as one of the most overplayed songs in FM radio, Nights made a surprise hit single in 1972 after other stations picked up on a California station that played it as the sign-off song at midnight. You've heard it before - the Sinatra-Riddle-like lead-in, Hayward's just-the-right-touch-of-drama in the vocals, the blowout chorus, Ray Thomas' simplistic flute solo, and the big build-up before "Late Lament," the spoken piece (half of which appears in "The Day Begins" making this a nice reprise), and the big symphonic coda, and the gong that, in the late 60s or early 70s, could make quite an impression for those either swept away in the music or under various influences - or both.
 
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