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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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4 stars The Moodies, throughout most of their history, have tried to distance themselves from this album. In fact, they have refused to play any songs off of it since the The Other Side of Life tour in 1986. However, this knowledge should not be taken as an indictment of the album itself, but rather of the circumstances surrounding it. Afterall, the guys were all in their late 30's now, and they were coming to grips with the fact that their youth was slipping away. In particular, Edge was enduring his second divorce (correct me if I'm wrong), but that was just an extreme case. And, knowing the Moodies as we do, this couldn't help but result in a very introspective, but also very mature sound.

I think that the biggest problem that several fans have with this album is a direct result of that fact; whatever traces of 'rock' that could be found on their older albums are completely gone, replaced with a solid mixture of various pop elements and, of all things, some country. Well, all I can say is this; as people get older, their musical tastes tend to mellow. The Moody Blues were about as mellow as any group around, and that was before they got old. Country is a mellow genre. Therefore, it should be expected that their would be some country elements in their sound.

It's not as if these elements are everywhere, though. Moraz is still very much alive and kicking, and his keyboards and matching production are definitely abundant throughout. In other words, nobody's going to confuse this with a Hank Williams album anytime soon. I'd say only three of the ten tracks have any country in them at all, and they're all good tracks. For starters, we have Lodge's absurdly catchy "Sitting at the Wheel," a half-pop/half- rock/half-country/half-something that sounds like almost nothing else the band had ever done before nor would ever do again. The lyrics are memorable, ESPECIALLY the chorus, the synths actually help out, and Hayward's guitar solo at the end is this neat slide thing with a really cool tone. And apparently, it sounded awesome live; it's too bad that there's no official release of it. In any case, following is one of Edge's best songs, his loneliness anthem "Going Nowhere." Thomas' deep vocals help provide a sorrow that he might not have been able to create ten years previous, and the vocal melodies and harmonies are simply classic. Maybe it's a bit long, with Moraz going a bit far with random wanking at the end, but I still enjoy it to death. Finally, the third country song on the album (not to mention the one where the influence is most obvious), is Hayward's sad "It's Cold Outside of Your Heart." Say what you will, but it's pretty, and the laments for "someone waiting for me" ... wow. Just wonderful.

In any case, the rest of the album is mostly just various pop songs with '83 production, but that doesn't mean they suck or anything. The only song on the album that could be called bad is Lodge's "Under my Feet," which has never really done anything for me one way or the other. But even that has a solid introduction, the memorable instrumental "Hole in the World." Now, military marches aren't really the group's forte, but the really pull it off, with Edge's drums, Hayward's guitar, and Moraz's keys coming together to form an authoritarian, regal atmosphere. Meanwhile, the opening depressing "Blue World," my favorite song from the band in the 80's, is a terrific number, with a hooky bassline, a superb vocal melody by Justin, and it manages to create the general atmosphere of, well, a blue, saddened world. Next, Justin and John combine to create the wonderful, absolutely beautiful "Meet Me Halfway." Everything works in this song. It's sad yet cheerful, and the hopeful "won't you meet me halfway" pleas will tear at your heartstrings.

Moving onto side two, we find another beautiful Justin song, the gorgeous "Running Water." It's a very simple song, and yet ... it just works. I have no idea how else to do it justice. The lyrics, the melody, and the keyboards all pull their part superbly, especially the line, "we'll live to love another day." Nothing particularly brilliant about it, I suppose, but I love it. So there. In any case, we close out things with two Thomas ditties. The first is a strange pseudo-universalistic 60's style voice of God number entitled "I Am." Lots of flute on this one (enjoy it while it lasts; it's going away for a few years), and it is here that one can truly appreciate just how much better Ray's voice has gotten since he began. The second ("Sorry") is better, though. As cheesy as the lyrics can be, with Ray talking to his lover about her afterglow, the melody rules, and regardless of how much corny production there is, it just doesn't get in the way. And, as usual, the song definitely falls into the 'mature' category.

In short, this is a very solid album that has the fault of being a product of its time. This album is terrific, and their last great album for several years.

tarkus1980 | 4/5 |


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