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The Moody Blues - A Question of Balance CD (album) cover

A QUESTION OF BALANCE

The Moody Blues

 

Crossover Prog

3.45 | 194 ratings

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Chicapah
Prog Reviewer
4 stars In August of 1970 the Moody Blues released their greatest album, "A Question of Balance." For once they didn't seem to be taking themselves so damn seriously and just set out to put together a collection of excellent songs performed to the best of their ability. They had reached a level of studio experience that allowed them to experiment with taking fresh approaches on how they recorded their tunes, somehow managing to temporarily shed their demeaning cosmic, "trippy" image and simply present themselves as a talented and seasoned rock and roll band for a change.

Starting an album with one of their most impressive songs, the dynamic "Questions," doesn't hurt, either. I was attending a very conservative Baptist college when this came out and when I had to pass time between classes in the student union building this tune was the only good song I could find on the jukebox. Anything deemed too wild, racy or radical wasn't allowed on that stuffy campus so I would play this one every time I was in there. It was just another way for me to wave my freak flag high, as they say. Anyway, this Justin Hayward epic goes from an exciting, energetic beginning to a serene, pensive section and then back again. The stack of 12-string acoustic guitars is gorgeous and full, the lyric content is timeless, the orchestral score is out of this world, Justin sings with an amazing amount of honest emotion and drummer Graeme Edge moves out of his usual comfort zone and puts some real fire into the rhythm track. I couldn't believe it was the Moody Blues the first time I heard it.

Mike Pinder's "How Is It (we are here)" is a pleasant little ditty where his multi-layered Mellotron performance shows his considerable expertise on the instrument. Next up is Ray Thomas' "And the Tide Rushes In," a simple folk-styled song wherein Ray's vocal is more relaxed and confident than he's ever shown before. Edge's "Don't You Feel Small" places an eerie, low whisper underneath the vocal to create a very mysterious aura for the tune. Its Latin-flavored groove and Thomas' intricate flute work make this number a real treat to hear. But the most surprising song is bassist John Lodge's "Tortoise and the Hare" because it comes off as being very much like what Pink Floyd would sound like in about two year's time. Hayward's piercing guitar licks are downright Gilmore-like!

Justin's "It's Up to You" is the real sleeper here, though, and for the life of me I don't understand why it didn't bust the charts as a hit single. It has a killer signature guitar line, it's an upbeat rocker with a catchy hook and it features Hayward's unmistakable, charismatic voice. All I can say is that someone in the promotion department at Threshold Records dropped the ball on this one big time by not getting this on AM radio playlists. Lodge's "Minstrel's Song" is another folksy air that also has a distinctive Beatles circa "Magical Mystery Tour" atmosphere about it that I find to be delightful. Hayward's third contribution to the project is his "Dawning is the Day," a beautiful tune that distinguishes itself from the group's usual sound by featuring a mandolin throughout. Edge throws in some Ringo-like drum patterns and the arrangement intertwines the Mellotron and flute tastefully.

"Melancholy Man" is not only Pinder's best composition ever, it may be one of the band's highest achievements. Starting with exquisite 12-string acoustic guitars, it draws you into the somber but identifiable world of a perpetually depressed and bewildered man overwhelmed by the society that rushes all around him. The countermelodies provided by the Mellotron's deepest tones and the band's combined voices are magnificently set against the simple but poignant vocal melody. Mike sings straight from his soul and his pained delivery at the end will pull at your heartstrings. It is an amazing piece of work that all proggers owe to themselves to experience. "The Balance" ends the album with Graeme's spoken poetry combined with one of Ray's light sing-along choruses. It's a bit too dramatic for my taste but at least they saved it for the finale.

If you were to own only one Moody Blues record this is the CD to have because it displays them at their songwriting peak. I find most of their other albums to be highly inconsistent with a few great tunes mixed in with too many mediocre ones for me to listen through from beginning to end. "A Question of Balance," however, is the exception. I can put it on and know I'll never feel the urge to skip a track. 4.4 stars.

Chicapah | 4/5 |

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