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

BLUE JAYS

Hayward & Lodge (The Moody Blues)

 

Crossover Prog

4.15 | 61 ratings

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Joolz
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars By 1974 the (real!) Moody Blues had been together for 7 long intense gruelling years. After 7 top-drawer albums and now a seemingly everlasting world tour they were jaded and more than ready for a break. Justin Hayward convened with Mike Pinder at Mike's ranch in USA to initiate some recording, but after both John Lodge and then Tony Clarke had become interested, Pinder dropped out of the project. Thus was born the Blue Jays, a Moodies spin off album that would keep us more than happy for a while.

It has rightly been opined that Blue Jays is the missing link between Seventh Sojourn and Octave. Like a true Moodies album, it fits nicely into the gap, being perhaps a little more free flowing than Seventh Sojourn yet not as disjointed as Octave. Perhaps the key is the presence of long time producer Tony Clarke whose unique style helps to root Blue Jays firmly in the Moody Blues camp. Yet some key elements are absent: Ray Thomas's rich deep voice; Mike Pinder's Mellotron; and a more varied songwriting. In their stead we are treated to an orchestra, three members of a string quartet (violin/cello/viola) and a pianist all of whom add some wonderful textures to the album.

I must here applaud the remastered CD (Decca, 2004) for its amazing clean sound quality and superb clarity courtesy of Paschal Byrne. Numerous small details become apparent, even down to bows rasping across cello or viola strings, and individual voices in harmonies. A brilliant job which really involves you in the music. This is not such an easy task because of a typically full and busy production, especially the trademark multi-layered vocals of Hayward and Lodge. But nothing is sacrificed, those gorgeous rich sounds are still there and as enticing as ever.

This Morning gets the ball rolling, a soaring Hayward speciality with a complex multi-sectioned developing structure full of vitality and energy, yet that mournful catch in his voice exuding pathos and heartache. It is both the best song on the album and also a statement of intent, laying out their stall for the next 40 minutes or so. Hayward's guitar work on this track, as indeed on the whole album, is amongst the best he has done.

After such a fantastic start, Remember Me brings the adrenalin level down a couple of notches to a more gentle song with a lovely melody and the 'string quartet' in evidence, though I find over-repetition of a simple chorus has me hovering over the FFW button. My Brother, too, is a fair song, apparently a barbed note aimed at Mike Pinder, another mid-paced romp in similar style to This Morning but not so majestic. So far the main voice heard has been Hayward's, but You brings Lodge to the fore for the first time. This is a typically gentle Lodge song, made memorable by an excellent sympathetic arrangement on which both musicians play lead guitar.

Nights Winters Years is the first of two big voice-with-orchestra songs, featuring orchestrations by Peter Knight. This is Hayward's contribution and my least favourite track on the album. It is done exceptionally well of course, but it goes on a little too long for my taste. Saved By The Music is a stonking return to form from John Lodge. Fundamentally an up tempo song very reminiscent of In Search Of A Lost Chord, yet it features a slow quiet verse building into a wonderful ensemble piece full of swooping guitars, flute and cello.

Hayward's I Dreamed Last Night initially drops the pace again to a quieter lilting level, before slowly building throughout a long verse structure to a final crescendo complete with orchestra. Who Are You Now is another timeless Hayward classic, essentially an acoustic arrangement in the mold of I Never Thought I'd Live To Be A Million but with the addition of an excruciating blissful cello solo and some stunning vocals. Next is John Lodge's turn to sing along to the orchestra on Maybe, which has a more adventurous arrangement than Hayward's effort, though the orchestra can be a little overpowering.

The finale of the album proper is yet another classic. When You Wake Up has Hayward drifting "a little further to the stars", initially with some acoustic instruments but building to a great rousing climax awash with Moodies trademark sounds, and topped by guitar soloing in an extended coda to fade. Of course, the 2004 re-issue doesn't finish there, as Justin Hayward's solo single Blue Guitar is tucked on at the end as a bonus. This too is a fine song in its own right, though somehow it doesn't quite belong here ....

So, does Blue Jays sit comfortably alongside the Moodies discography as a prized and highly recommended piece of work? Definitely! Do we miss the other three musicians? Well, sadly, no not really. The very high standard of songwriting on show, and the energy with which Hayward and Lodge undertook this project, suggest the others may have diluted the effort had they been present, that Hayward and Lodge felt a sense of release from the shackles of the parent group, to enable all this extra creativity to burst forth.

The saddest thing about Blue Jays is they didn't repeat it, deciding instead to go on to solo projects before resurrecting the old band. In my opinion, only once more would they come anywhere near the heights of creativity and excellence achieved here. This therefore remains as a little enigma, almost the last flowering of the great period of Moodies world domination. It is, of course, absolutely essential to all Prog lovers!

Joolz | 5/5 |

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