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The Moody Blues - Long Distance Voyager CD (album) cover


The Moody Blues


Crossover Prog

3.32 | 222 ratings

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3 stars This is the second album following the band’s first hiatus after the release of Seventh Sojourn in 1972. After the contentious release of Octave in 1978 Michael Pinder left the band and was replaced by Patrick Moraz, who was himself on a ten year hiatus of sorts from Yes. I can’t say as the change is really all that noticeable, except that the keyboards here are even more poppish than on Octave, and quite far removed in elaboration and complexity from the lush Moody albums of the 60s and 70s. Also, the rhythms on several tracks border on disco at times, and the orchestral backing the band was so renowned for on early albums is scaled back to mostly strings in what seems to be mostly a cursory role.

Long Distance Voyager did manage to yield the band their second and final #1 album in the States (and their third in Britain), along with hit singles in “The Voice” and “Gemini Dream”. This mostly is more a reflection on the desperation many of us felt in trying to find anything new in progressive music than it was any actual progressive tendencies in the music. Both are pop-oriented arrangements with annoyingly repetitive and trite lyrics, both traits of most 80s popular music.

Some of the other tracks were more interesting, particularly the Justin Hayward composition “In My World”. With its gentle acoustic guitar, mellow and moody strings, and emotional lyrics and harmonic vocal accompaniment, this one calls to mind older tracks like Pinder’s “Lost in a Lost World” from Seventh Sojourn, and Ray Thomas’ “And the Tide Rushes In” from Question of Balance.

John Lodge’s “Talking Out of Turn” has some funky keyboards and only mild string orchestration, and really comes off as an attempt at a mellow pop love song in the vein of Gino Vanelli, Rod Stewart, and about a hundred other singer-songwriters of the late 70s. Not a bad tune, just a bit ordinary for a band with this much potential. Kind of sounds like it was phoned in to the studio, so to speak.

“Meanwhile” is another song that wouldn’t have sounded all that out-of-place on Seventh Sojourn, an understated ballad-like tune with some sporadic but pleasant piano from Moraz. Overall this one had enough of the feel of a Moody’s classic that it could easily be played in a car’s tape player on a summer evening while trying to seduce a lady (and I can testify it worked).

The first time I heard “22,000 Days” I actually thought it might have been a holdover studio reject from Octave. It has that same feel of an awkward meter and dirge-like vocals set to an almost circus-like keyboard/guitar rhythm. The guitar riff is classic Hayward, so much so that I still find myself pointing it out when I hear it on numerous other older Moody songs.

“Nervous” on the other hand sounds like something Jeff Lynne would have written, and it wouldn’t surprise me even today to find out he had some hand in that song. Check out the affected vocals and choppy string accompaniment around the four minute mark and tell me you don’t think that sounds like something off of A New World Record.

The last three songs form some sort of trilogy about the carnival-like aura of a rock concert. Or so I’ve been told – not sure. I actually like the sound of “Painted Smile”, even though it sounds like something from a Broadway musical soundtrack. The lyrics are kind of sad, but the carnival sounds and what sounds like a tuba pretty much force a smile out of you regardless. The spoken-word short interlude “Reflective Smile” plays on that old tradition of the band to include poems and spoken themes in their early albums. But here the effect is simply used to form a transition to “Veteran Cosmic Rocker”. This final track must have been intended for a hit single, and has a rocking rhythm and upbeat tempo that was so prevalent in the hair-band genre around this time. But the Moodys can’t help but put their own stamp and sound on it, and the almost middle-eastern keyboard tracks in the middle made this stand out on the radio in the summer of 1981.

This definitely doesn’t rank among the Moody’s finest work, but considering it came out during the progressive drought known as the 80s, it should be given a bit of slack when it comes to critical review. I remember how happy I was to buy this in the early summer of 1981, and also that I must have played it at least 100 times that summer and into the fall. It has worked its way progressively backwards in my pile of old cassettes since then, and only gets played on nostalgic rainy nights when there’s not much else to do any more. Three stars anyway since I sure thought it was great at one time, but this is definitely not on par with the band's seven brilliant works released between 1967 and 1972.


ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |


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