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The Moody Blues - The Present CD (album) cover


The Moody Blues


Crossover Prog

3.02 | 115 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Is it a gift?. Or not?

It is perhaps significant that having worked my way through reviewing all the Moody Blues studio albums, I have left this one till last. The reason is probably because it is the album I find least to say about, it is just another Moody Blues album. That is not to say it is particularly disappointing, it is not; "The present" has many of the qualities and hallmarks we have come to expect over the years.

The album title is ambiguous, offering an interpretation either of the here and now or the gift. The highly tasteful sleeve design which mixes ancient images with futuristic ones, offers little indication which is the correct interpretation.

"Blue world" is a typical Moody Blues opener, with a strong rhythm and a catchy melody. It is slightly slower and softer than tracks such as "I know you're out there somewhere" and "The voice" but very much in that mould. Unusually, we actually have three successive tracks of this type to start the album, "Meet me half way" and "Sitting at the wheel" being a simple case of more of the same. John Lodge sings lead vocal on the latter, which is even more upbeat but completely lacking in any sort of character.

It is only when we get to Graham Edge's "Going nowhere" that things relax slightly. The criminally underused Ray Thomas provides lead vocal on the verses here, his strong quivering voice setting the song apart. There is no question that Justin Hayward is a superb singer, but it would have been wonderful to hear the now retired Thomas singing on the band's albums a lot more than he was allowed to.

The second side of the album opens with a brief instrumental "Hole in the world" which builds through a marching drum beat, spacey guitar and synth sounds to provide an extended introduction to "Under my feet", another rather prosaic John Lodge led song. For me Lodge is the weakest of the three singers in the band, his song writing on later albums also being rather average. Justin Hayward returns to centre stage for a brace of his typical romantic ballads, "It's cold outside of your heart" and "Running water". The latter is a particularly melodic song which is pretty much a solo rendition by Justin.

In another unusual twist, the album closes with a couple of Ray Thomas songs. The brief "I am" harks back to the band's earliest days, while "Sorry" would have fitted in well on either of Thomas's excellent solo albums. The track builds from a gentle start to an upbeat rock song, Moraz keyboards and Thomas's flute adding fine colours to the song. Throughout the album, Patrick Moraz contributions are very much designed to create a big overall sound, any solos being simplistic and brief. The production by the noted producer Pip Williams is clean and uncluttered.

The ordering of the tracks on the album is rather odd, with songs of a similar type being put sequentially together. With the song writers by and large retaining full control of their own songs this tends to give the album a rather piecemeal flavour.

As I said at the outset, this is not a bad album, but in the context of the band's fine catalogue, it is undistinguished.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |


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