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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

The Moody Blues

Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970

Review by Gary Hill

The Isle of Wight Festival in 1970 saw the Moody Blues play in front of half a million people. I’m sure many people then (as today, even) thought of the Moody Blues as a strictly studio band. Well, they came out and showed the crowd that they were definitely capable of being a vital and powerful live presence. Much of the music here is rawer than the lush studio arrangements, but that brings its own charm with it. I like this disc a lot. The recording technology in 1970 left a lot to be desired for live recordings, but this really sounds pretty good. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nothing like modern standards, but it’s not a bad sounding recording. You can hear some issues here and there with the stage amplification, though. If you are a fan of the studio productions on the group’s music, you might want to steer clear of this. However, if you like hearing alternate performances of your favorite tracks, then this is one to pick up for sure.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Gypsy
This has far more of a raw, psychedelic rock texture on the intro than what I remember on the studio version. The vocals tend to be a little raw, mostly due to the amplification, I think. This is an intriguing version of the track and really has a lot of energy. It feels faster than the studio take.
Sunset
Here we get a much more stripped down arrangement, at least at first. The early portions of this are very much in a rhythmically dominated motif. Lush musical elements come over the top as they carry on. Once again, I hear psychedelic textures that I really never heard in the studio recording. The slight sound issues that seemed to affect the opener appear to be gone here. At times this track even reminds me a little of early Hawkwind. The closing jam is particularly strong.
Tuesday Afternoon
Now this is more like the version we’re accustomed to. The mix is hit with a bit of feedback, but it’s not to the point of being obtrusive. I’ve always liked this piece a lot, so it’s no surprise that it’s a standout.

Minstrel Song
Musically and lyrically this is a hippie rocker. It’s definitely a piece that is quite tied to its times and doesn’t hold up as well in retrospect as a lot of the other music here.

Never Comes the Day
This rocker still has some of that psychedelic element to it. It’s an energized number that holds up quite well, both in terms of the time passed since its recording and this particular performance.

Tortoise and the Hare
With a lot more psychedelic rock meets the blues feel (think Canned Heat turned more progressive rock – or perhaps early Jethro Tull), this is a good number, but not really a standout.
Question
A chimey sort of guitar sound leads us out here. This is more classic Moody Blues material and this version has more of a raw rock and roll feeling to it than does the studio take. It’s a nice change of pace. The mellow drop back segment works quite well here. When they bring it up with more melodic, anthemic ballad type section it has more of that rawer texture to it.
Melancholy Man
This slow moving number has always been a favorite of mine. The performance here is one of the best of the set and this is definitely a highlight of the disc. It seems that the band were perhaps hitting on all thrusters a bit more here than on some of the earlier tracks and the sound itself is better. This is a dynamic cut and very evocative and beautiful. It does get a bit noisy as they turn it out into the harder rocking jam that ends it.
Are You Sitting Comfortably
A balladic piece, this works quite well here. It’s a great tune but tends to drag on a bit too long.
The Dream
One of the poetry readings that were such a big part of the Moody Blues sound, this is accompanied by some keyboards.

Have You Heard (Pts 1 and 2)
This is another classic Moody Blues song. The early, ballad-like section seems a little raw here. When it drops away and is rebuilt the effect is both beautiful and powerful. This is one of the highlights of the CD.
Nights in White Satin
Well, here it is – the biggie! I’ve always felt that this track is a bit different from most bands’ best known number in that it’s of a quality level to make it deserving of the status. It really is a great song and this live rendition is quite powerful. It seems likely that anyone reading this is familiar with the song. Seriously, if you are a fan of classic rock and progressive rock how could you have missed this one? So, suffice it to say this is an excellent live showing of a masterpiece.
Legend of a Mind
Another Moody’s classic, this one feels a bit awkward at times here. Still it’s a great tune.

Ride My See Saw
I really like the raw texture this live telling brings to this Moody’s classic. It’s a great way to end things.
 
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