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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

The Moody Blues

Voices in the Sky: The Best of the Moody Blues

Review by Gary Hill

I wouldn’t want to be the one to have to put together a “Best Of” package for an act like The Moody Blues. I mean, these guys have had so much great music how do you pick? Certainly “Greatest Hits” is much easier because it’s objective. The problem is so profound that I know there are at least two different versions of this CD with different tracks on each. Well, I think this version works quite well.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Ride My See-Saw
This quick paced number seems to combine a 1960’s sound with the more symphonic progressive rock elements of the Moody Blues. This is a catchy and energized tune. The guitar solo segment on this in particular is full of psychedelic trappings. It’s also quite tasty.

Talking Out of Turn
Here we get a gentle ballad that still has some of the symphonic elements of the Moodies – although I doubt anyone would really call this progressive rock. The closing instrumental section, though, might get that qualification.

Driftwood
Another ballad, the progressive rock elements are far more prominent here. This has always been a favorite of mine. It’s gentle yet powerful and poignant. The lyrics are insightful. The instrumental arrangement gets quite involved at times.

Never Comes The Day
Here we get the best of both worlds. The first section of this is another symphonically arranged ballad, but then it kicks into higher gear with a more fast paced treatment along the lines of “Ride My See Saw.” The song progresses by alternating these two premises, becoming more powerful as it carries along. The result is the most dynamic cut we’ve heard so far.

I'm Just a Singer (In a Rock & Roll Band)
I’ve always loved how this song starts with a slow percussive element that builds like a spring being pulled taut. This is one of the hardest rockers the band has ever done and it’s a great tune. It still has plenty of their symphonic prog sounds and frankly, it still holds up as a true classic even today. Does it sound a little dated? Yeah, but not enough to feel like a remnant of past era. It still feels vital. It’s a safe bet that pretty much everyone reading this has heard this song so, we’ll leave the description at that.

Gemini Dream
I have to preface this by saying that I like this song a lot. It’s a high energy jam that works quite well. Alright – let’s get to it. The rhythmic structure of this is disco – plain and simple. The arrangement is far more ELO than it is The Moody Blues. As a song it’s a good change of pace and it’s quite entertaining, but those two factors will be ringing in your head the whole way through. The thing is, despite that this still gets me going.

The Voice
I’ve played this song in pretty much every progressive rock cover band (well, even the ones that did both covers and originals) I’ve ever played in. It’s a song that is positive and potent. It also manages to be catchy. It’s got a fairly simple ABACAB structure, but what they do with that is what makes this magical.

After You Came
The hippie elements of flowers and love are all over this musically. It’s got some cool rocking moments and a great vocal arrangement. There’s a riff on this that reminds me of Steve Miller.

Question
This fast paced rocker really represents the best of The Moody Blues. It’s a rocker with a 1960’s bent to it. It’s also got deep, far reaching universal lyrics. It has some great multilayered vocal treatments. We get fast paced louder segments counterpointed with mellow ballad motifs for contrast. There are hints of the symphonic textures the group is known for. Overall it’s got an uplifting feeling to it. This is a song that belies a quest for spiritual knowledge, but also a hopefulness.

Veteran Cosmic Rocker
In many ways I think of this as the sequel to “I'm Just a Singer (In a Rock & Roll Band).” It’s a very prog infused jam with a hard rocking arrangement. This is a fun piece of music. I wouldn’t consider it necessarily a highlight of the disc, but it’s quite cool. There’s a great “gypsy” sort of element to the instrumental movement and it gets quite powerful.

Isn't Life Strange
This is a unique and very intriguing song. The verses has have an echoey vocal line and are pretty much purely symphonic in musical arrangement. The chorus is powered up in a very dramatic and powerful motif that just plain rocks, but still maintains a healthy dosage of the symphonic textures.

Nights in White Satin
Here it is, the biggie! This track is a masterpiece. It’s not often that the best known piece of music from an artist is also an extremely high quality piece that might well be the best they’ve ever done. This is one such case. The powered up anthemic ballad motif certainly influenced generations to come. It is a near perfect merging of symphonic elements and synthesizer driven progressive rock. It seems likely that anyone reading this has heard the song. Do me a favor. Give it a new listening if you haven’t heard it in a while. You’ll be astonished just how good this is – and just how well it holds up even today.

 
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