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The Moody Blues - Keys Of The Kingdom CD (album) cover

KEYS OF THE KINGDOM

The Moody Blues

 

Crossover Prog

2.80 | 53 ratings

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Einsetumadur
Prog Reviewer
2 stars 5.5/15P. A collection of different types of candy floss: partly unbearably sweet, partly tasting of synthetics, but sometimes quite relishable.

Keys of the Kingdom is the first album I really perceived as a real album, listening to it completely many times when I was a child. I certainly liked it more in those days than I do now, but that could be a reason why I am relatively fond of it. A real big part of the album is predictable and meaningless, showing a band which sells its soul to be aired in the radio. But from time to time some fine ideas shine through, particularly in the department of melody and production.

At first, there is a set of really bad songs which can only serve as a source of malicious joy about a band with such a low self-esteem that they do every possible thing to be in vogue. Never Blame The Rainbows for the Rain, although written by Hayward and Thomas (the duo which provided the terrific Watching and Waiting), is on the same level as many tearjerkers of German volkstümliche Musik TV shows and of ballads performed by Eurovision candidates; there's one particularly slimy chord change in the chorus which I really cannot stand. Interestingly, Bias Boshell programmed the keyboards and drums for this and many other songs on the album. From 1969 to 1973 he was the bandleader of the British folk rock band Trees which produced an absolutely good album in 1970. Say What You Mean, including some wanna-be funky plastic brass arrangements, is lengthy, but this is by no means a sign of quality in this case. I basically like drum machines and programmed keyboards, but I certainly don't like such stuff performed by The Moody Blues. The synthetic voice babbling somewhere in one of the instrumental parts also fails to create the sublimity which it was seemingly intended to create. Patrick Moraz, by the way, is convictable of major parts of the keyboard arrangements in this track; he - as well as Graeme Edge - don't play a lot on the other tracks of this album. Nevertheless, the the angels will walk with you parts are a bit more tuneful than the rest, but as soon as the lyrics combine overblown nature imagery with distinct sexual references things get odd again. Hope and Pray and Once is Enough are throwaway tracks as well, the former with the badly-programmed drum machine and the latter with the pseudo-funky rhythms and the vocals which signify that the vocalists seem to have certain problems with aging. Magic would actually fall into the same category, but it has an utterly effective acoustic guitar intro and a good melody in the verses - it's absolutely simple, an absolutely basic chord progression, but I like it. The chorus ruins it again, however: baby work your magic on me, combined with the James-Brown-like brass arrangements in the background. Shadow on the Wall, a John Lodge number, is apparently more reflective (although I believe it should only sound reflective), and actually makes a fairly decent impression, but it provides so few edges and corners that this impression cannot last. Say It With Love works quite fine as an okay pop rocker. It's perfectly listenable, it features a nice electric guitar solo similar in its sustained tone to Hayward's classic solos and the keyboard programming is quite atmospheric - by the means of the early 1990s, needless to say.

This leaves us with four tunes which are thoroughly good, although by no means excellent. Celtic Sonant brings Ray Thomas back into the game who wisely kept a low profile on the studio albums since 1983. This track, whilst slightly esoteric, is in the vein of Celtic anthems and succeeds with the atmospheric flutes, some tasteful keyboard pads by Patrick Moraz and a set of lyrics which rise over all of the other lyrics on this album effortlessly. Ray Thomas' voice has aged since the early 1980s, but it is still in fine form and makes this song a relative delight on this album. Bless The Wings, recalling certain moments of Seventh Sojourn, benefits from Justin Hayward's great sense of vocal and guitar melodies. Again, the keyboard sounds work out fine in combination with the multi-tracked electric guitars. Clocking at more than 5 minutes the song is a bit overlong, but stretching out a song with a solid structure is much better than making an 8 minute monster out of Say What You Mean. Lean On Me, a lullaby-type song with accordion sounds in the verses, is a relaxed and nostalgic pop number with some folk influences. While others might think it to be a few shots too sweet, I'm quite content with it. This leads us to Is This Heaven?, which in my opinion belongs to every Moody Blues compilation as a song which represents what the classic Moody Blues sound could have developed into in the 1990s. There are sitar sounds breaking through as a counterpoint at some places, the melody is really strong and sung very well by Hayward and Lodge in harmony and a brief part of live stepdancing loosens the whole affair up. This piece reveals the inspiration which had been lost completely on the Sur La Mer and big parts of this album - more material of a similar quality could have made this album a genuine 4-star candidate.

But since moments like these get lost in a poppy and commercial sonic uniformity on this album, a 2-star rating is most appropiate. There's no need to get this album unless you are fan of this group, but if you have the chance to listen to one of the four good songs, do so - it's British (and non-American) AOR-pop of a higher quality which fits well on MP3 CDs for listening in the car.

Einsetumadur | 2/5 |

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