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Hayward & Lodge (The Moody Blues) - Blue Jays CD (album) cover

BLUE JAYS

Hayward & Lodge (The Moody Blues)

 

Crossover Prog

4.16 | 60 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
5 stars J is for..Just sensational!

Between 1972 and 1978, the Moody Blues took a break from recording together. While "Seventh Sojourn" had been an excellent album, it had apparently been "difficult" in terms of the internal relationships within the band. They continued to tour together, but chose to work on solo albums, and collaborations with others outside the group.

While the Moody Blues were nominally a band of equals, Justin Hayward and John Lodge always dominated the song writing, and performances. These two decided to continue to work together going on to create an album called "Blue Jays" (a play on the name of the band plus the first letter of Justin and John).

"Blue Jays" is the best album the Moody Blues never made. Despite the absence of three of the band members, it has all the hallmarks of a Moodies album, Hayward's distinctive vocals and guitar work, perfect harmonies, strong melodies, and even orchestration by Peter Knight (who had first worked with the band on "Days of Future passed"). There is a coherence and magic to the album which sets it apart as a criminally under recognised masterpiece of its time.

Usually, I choose to mention a selected number of key tracks from an album, to give a flavour for the contents. Here though, every track is worthy of note.

"This morning" an appropriate title for an opening track, is composed by Hayward, who writes or co-writes all but three of the tracks. The song has a deceptively complex structure which builds twice through three distinct melodies to a harmonic climax. A clever twist is used here, whereby the guitar work is used to pull back from the vocal crescendo, and return the music to a softer starting point from which to rebuild. The track runs off with some superb guitar work from Hayward, before it segues into "Remember me my friend". The use of segues to merge tracks on Moody Blues albums is one of the distinctive qualities of their albums, and continues to be used to great effect here.

"Remember me my friend" is the first of just two compositions to bear joint song writing credits. It combines punchy but sparse verses with a great hook in the chorus. The track ends with an increasingly fast guitar solo which too quickly fades. Strangely, on the cassette version of the track the solo is allowed to continue for more than a minute longer before fading.

"My brother" is a slightly softer ballad, with a really strong melody which led to it being released as a moderately successful single. It differs from the first two tracks in that it has a constant pace throughout. "You" is the first solo Lodge composition on the album. It has a slightly softer but strongly melodic vein, with more of Hayward's fine guitar work. In fact, those who find Hayward's guitar sound to be among the best in the business will find "Blue jays" to be something of a holy grail.

"Nights winters years" closes the first side with a "Nights in white satin" style ballad by Justin Hayward with powerful orchestration, and a climactic finale.

"Saved by the music" once again has a multi-part structure. Starting softly, with gentle verses, it gradually builds to a much faster chorus akin to "I'm just a singer" from "Seventh Sojourn". The pace is dropped for each of the three verses, the final one being a brief refrain from the first which then builds more dramatically to the final chorus. That final chorus is then delayed by a flute segment (a cameo by Ray Thomas perhaps?) before finally bursting through and concluding with Hayward and Lodge singing "This time we're... Saved", holding in a high harmony on the word "Saved". Oh and Hayward slips in a wonderful guitar solo between the second verse and chorus too! My words here do not adequately describe the wonderful structure and performance of this track, but hopefully give a hint of the magic at work here.

Hayward's vocals are at their most emotional on "I dreamed last night". The song has echoes of the earlier works of the Moody Blues, around the time of "In search of the lost chord", being supremely melodic, with classic harmonies. It flows seamlessly into "Who are you now", a brief soft ballad, haunting in its simplicity and with a beautifully reflective lyric to match.

"Maybe" is in the mould of "Isn't life strange" with slow sparse verses building to climactic choruses. Peter Knight's participation comes to the fore here , as he unleashes the full spectrum of the orchestra to bring the track to a climactic conclusion.

The final track on the original album, "When you wake up", drifts in with floating verses with an almost lullaby feel. these are abruptly interrupted by the louder, lyric free choruses. Hayward and Lodge display the full force of their classic harmonies one last time as the album fades to a glorious conclusion.

The CD version of the album includes "Blue guitar" as an extra track. This was recorded by Justin Hayward assisted by 10CC, and released as a single under the "Blue Jays" name. It fits in well with the album, with some beautifully melodic guitar, and of course Hayward's fine vocals.

As you'll have gathered by now, this is a mightily impressive album. The luxurious gatefold sleeve of the LP presented one of Phil Travers most beautiful illustrations. The album also contained a fold out lyric sheet with a further Travers illustration. Had it born the Moody Blues name, which it could easily have done, "Bluejays" would undoubtedly have ranked as one of their best, if not THE best. If you enjoy the music of the Moody Blues, this is an essential album.

Easy Livin | 5/5 |

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