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The Moody Blues - The Magnificent Moodies CD (album) cover

THE MAGNIFICENT MOODIES

The Moody Blues

 

Crossover Prog

2.29 | 61 ratings

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tarkus1980
Prog Reviewer
3 stars After owning a cheap knock-off version of The Magnificent Moodies for a number of years, I finally decided enough was enough and that I needed to get something that came closer to the original version of the album. I went out and purchased a CD version with this album, with bonus tracks and everything, and figured this would be all that I would need to become acquainted with this incarnation of the band. Unfortunately, I later realized that I hadn't grabbed the best possible version: while a remastered version of the album exists that also contains all 26 tracks this lineup officially recorded, it turns out that I'd grabbed a version that only has 16 songs, and which apparently doesn't even contain all of the tracks that were on the original album. And so, I'm reviewing a version of this album that doesn't exactly match what other (e.g. well-informed) people will have available to them should they wish to purchase this, or would have bought for themselves already. Sheesh, it's hard enough to get people to pay attention to this version of the group: it's made all the more difficult to take its existence seriously when there are so many conflicting versions of the album floating around (like what also happened with all of the different versions of the first Genesis album). It doesn't help that my version is missing a few tracks that are minor classics; I had to hunt down "Boulevard De La Madelaine" on my own later.

Still, I can only review what I have, and this does feel like less of a patchwork release than does that Time is On My Side album I've owned for so long, so I press onward. The truth is, I don't totally get why some people praise this version of the group so vehemently (aside from possibly overreacting in dislike of the "regular" version of the group), but that doesn't mean it's not without strong merits. The band doesn't rock very hard, even by 1965 standards (of course, the later band didn't rock very hard by any standards, not that that was a major problem), but the band isn't sloppy either, and it sounds pretty tight and snappy. The vocal harmonies are different from the classic sound, what with having no Hayward or Lodge and having Denny Laine, but Pinder and Thomas are around, and they sound just as distinct now as they would later. The instrumentation is fairly standard, apart from a few bits of flute here and there, but Pinder presents himself as a solid R&B pianist, and the band shows a decent knack for generating excitement and for showing a flair for the dramatic.

So yeah, the band had a few good things going for it. As far as the songs go, there are only a few major standouts, but most of them are at least decent. As mentioned in the last review, the big highlight is "Go Now," which somehow manages to have a huge, anthemic sound despite terrible production. Heck, maybe it's partially because of the terrible production; the song ends up feeling like it's somehow existed forever, and that if it didn't exist the universe would be worse off. Of course, it's not actually that amazing, but it's got great vocal harmonies, a decent enough lead vocal from Laine, and a bunch of soulful piano lines, so it's still a pretty great song.

As easy as it would be to dismiss this just "Go Now" and filler, though (and technically that kinda sorta was how it happened), a few of the other songs definitely stand out as well. The opening James Brown cover, "I'll Go Crazy," has some silly call-and-response action going on in the beginning, but it also has a really fun piano-driven groove and a bunch of great start-and-stop vocal parts, so it can stick around. "Something You Got" might have gone down as unremarkable filler otherwise, but for some reason just adding a flute to the sound gives it a slightly exotic sound, and it kinda works. Another James Brown cover, "I Don't Mind," features a nice Pinder vocal, and as mentioned before, it's tons better than the Who cover of the same song. An original song, "Stop," is one of the first betrayals that the band would eventually move away from standard R&B, thus passing the Rubber Soul test (roughly speaking, if a song was released in 1965 or afterwards, but sounds like it belongs in 1964 or earlier, I say it fails the RS test; otherwise, a song passes), and it's a good one. Ray Thomas gets a great vocal spotlight in a cover of a Gershwin song, "Ain't Necessarily So"; it's a good reminder that Ray, aside from being the flautist and the band's caretaker of childlike whimsy, was a fine tenor in his own right. And finally, "It's Easy Child" would have made a really great 1963 Beatles song, and that's ok by me.

The rest of the tracks are just kinda okayish, but except for a couple of them being really boring, they're at least passable. So overall, this is a decent enough album, and while regular fans of the band would have no reason to bother picking this up, "pop music historians" who happen to like the group would get some value out of this. If that's you, get it.

PS: I have to say, though, that the liner notes to this album have to be one of the obnoxiously pissy things I've ever read. The bulk of it is useful information about the band during this time, but it's largely ruined by whining that the later version of the band ("lite psychadelia" for "aging baby boomers") became popular while this one faded into footnote territory. Uh, not to sound too snarky about an album that I more or less like, but maybe if this version of the band was more interesting and distinctive, it wouldn't be a footnote ...

tarkus1980 | 3/5 |

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