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The Moody Blues - Days Of Future Passed  CD (album) cover

DAYS OF FUTURE PASSED

The Moody Blues

 

Crossover Prog

4.14 | 526 ratings

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James Lee
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars With Justin Hayward and John Lodge replacing Laine & Warwick, the MOODY BLUES made a radical shift from a pleasantly forgettable british R&B band to a more free-thinking approach in tune with the lysergic times; whether they singlehandedly started progressive rock or not at this point is debatable but no one can deny that they made musical history. "Days of Future Passed" sits with "Dark Side of the Moon" and "Fragile" as the progressive rock album most likely to be found in non-prog music collections, and is one of the more unique and significant achievements in a decade full of rock firsts.

"Sgt. Pepper" established the concept album, brought an orchestra into the studio, and dabbled with "A Day in the Life"; mere months later, THE MOODY BLUES went several steps 'furthur' by originating symphonic rock and illustrating an entire day from start to finish. While the psychedelic era lured many musicians towards improvisation and general sonic weirdness, the MOODYS actually created quite a disciplined, structured expression in "Days of Future Passed". If the overall sound seems a bit different even from the band's succesive orchestral offerings, it's mainly because the symphonic elements were not quite a band product. The record company suggested the idea that they do a version of Dvorak's "New World Symphony" to showcase Deram's new stereo imaging technology. Luckily, the band (known collectively as 'Redwave' in the credits) took the idea in a different direction and submitted the individual songs to Peter Knight, who then arranged and conducted the orchestra atop the rock material. We'd have to wait until 1992 to see the band and the orchestra play this all together...

I imagine more good trips than bad accompanied the album- the lyrics are full of the characteristic 60s virtues of wonder, optimism and freedom. This is a blessing and a curse; only near the close of the album, in brief lines of "Nights" and "Lament" do we hear any troubles expressed- there is very little 'moody' and no 'blue' to be found. This led many critics to question the depth of the band, often using words like "saccharine" and "breezy" or even "'easy-listening". It's certainly not hard on the ears (unless you're very sensitive to the dated sound) but along with the soundtrack atmosphere and lighthearted vocals comes a pioneering, progressive spirit. Pure opinion follows: I find the band's majestic wonder and naivete (which for the most part endured well into the 80s, if not to this day) genuine and engaging- childlike rather than childish, if that makes sense. And this is the essential example- an album you can listen to without being bothered by world-weariness, as if there were no dark Altamont/ Manson sides to the human potential. It's idyllic and nostalgic, and I can forgive its flaws (Pinder's pretentious poetry bookends, for example) for the unmatched effect. The classical influence is more textural than compositional- occasionally seeming a tad contrived when linking the separate movements, but generally working with the rock instruments and vocal harmonies to create a lush and evocative atmosphere.

My five stars comes with an obvious disclaimer: it rarely rocks and there's no real instrumental dazzle, so if that's your thing, you're out of luck. But you should still own this album, even if you don't end up loving it like I do, because it is the reason we're all here; progressive rock started with this masterpiece. Add this to COMUS' first album and any MOTHERS OF INVENTION release, and you have the essential extremes of the late 60s psychedelic progressive rock spectrum.

James Lee | 5/5 |

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