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CLASSIC ARTISTS: THE MOODY BLUES

The Moody Blues

Crossover Prog


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Joolz
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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is a DVD documentary chronicling the Moody's career, from their genesis in the late 50s Birmingham (UK) scene, through the various phases of the band's existence, pretty much up to the present time. The main documentary is contained on disc 1. While it is an interesting and entertaining presentation, don't expect too many revelations - inevitably, given the band members participation and co-operation, this is very much an 'official' sanitised biography, with many of the juicy bits left on the cutting room floor. For example, the split with Pinder and Clarke is discussed without letting too much out of the bag, but the 'Moraz issue' fails to get a mention.

Despite a lack of depth, perhaps inevitable in a 150 minute presentation which mixes narrative with interviews and live clips, the producers have done a fair job telling the band's story over five decades. The early period is particularly fascinating, showing film and photos of the guys in their pre-Moodies bands as they coalesce towards a common future. The story is linked by a narrator, but much of it is told by band members past and present. It's great to see Mike Pinder getting so much exposure during the primary part of the film (ie up to 1978), and even Denny Laine gets a fair hearing. Strangely, Ray Thomas does not seem to have been interviwed for the film [perhaps that's why they interviewed Ian Anderson instead!], so we only hear his views on a couple of short clips.

There isn't, to my knowledge, a good Moody's biography in written form, so this fills some of the gap. Probably nothing new for die-hard fans, but it's really nice to be reminded and to see and hear the guys tell it in their own words, while remembering that memory is fallible! Nothing too controversial, of course, though their connection with Timothy Leary is discussed openly, but I love one of Justin Hayward's little barbed comments near the end - "I'd love to meet a record executive who was as interested in our future as in our past" - I guess a lot of oldies would applaud that sentiment. Oh, and for the Mellotron enthusiasts, there is a little section showing some film of the insides at work and more.

The second disc is an 'extras' addition to the main feature. Apart from a photo gallery, it primarily consists of additional sequences from the interviews undertaken for the film [pompously titled 'Extended Interviews Of Special Importance' but really a few anecdotal extras, some quite amusing] and some nice promo videos. The third disc is a CD of material recorded by band members before joining the Moodies going back to 1959, including Justin Hayward's first single from 1965. Two unreleased Moodies tracks from 1964 are also included.

Overall, an entertaining package that should appeal to those who would like to know more about the band, as well as having a good deal to tempt existing fans. In the absence of a good book biography, this DVD can be highly recommended as a viable solution

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Send comments to Joolz (BETA) | Report this review (#112647)
Posted Monday, February 19, 2007 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
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Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars This Just In (sorry!)

The Moody Blues have never been subject to the in depth critical analysis of their work which bands such as Yes and Emerson Lake & Palmer have enjoyed over the years. The reasons for this are not immediately apparent, but perhaps it has something to so with the comparative dearth of archive footage of the band available. In any event, this weighty package of two DVDs and a bonus CD will surely satisfy even the most ardent of Moody Blues fans.

It should be said straight away that this is not a collection of performances by the Moody Blues, this is the story of the band told in all its glory by current and former band members, plus key behind the scenes people. Thus we have Mike Pinder, John Lodge, Graham Edge, Justin Hayward and Denny Laine (who preceded Hayward) all taking key parts in telling the tale. The one disappointment is the absence of Ray Thomas (apart from a couple of brief clips of him talking from some years ago). Thomas retired from the band and the music business a few years ago. This DVD though makes it clear how instrumental he was in the formation and early success of the band. It is to be hoped that he his enjoying good health in his retirement.

The story is told in superb detail right from the early days, with fellow Birmingham hopefuls such as Bev Bevan (the Move, ELO), Eric Burdon, and Marty Wilde all adding relevant and fascinating commentary. It is almost an hour into the programme before Justin Hayward arrives (recommended by Burdon) and work begins on "Days of future passed". The band are candid on their comments about later albums such as "Octave" and also about their time with Patrick Moraz on keyboards. The departure of Mike Pinder is a more thorny issue, with Graeme Edge in particular clearly still bearing a grudge ("He [Pinder] lied to us). It seems a reunion is not on the immediate horizon! Ray Thomas' retirement is explained as being primarily for health reasons.

A couple of explanations are given for the band name, with various members claiming credit. It seems to be generally agreed though that the MB initials originally came from the name of a local beer the intention being that the brewery would sponsor the "M&B" band (they didn't). Parts of the interviews with Justin Hayward, apparently filmed in Monaco, are unintentionally amusing (to me at least). Here he is talking to a diminutive man with a moustache who does not actually say anything, and gives the impression of being a stray passer who happens to be standing there. His apparent disinterest in Hayward's reminiscing makes one wonder if he even understands a word which is being said!

The second DVD contains extended extracts from the interviews with five band members used on the first disc. Here, each interview is a separate chapter, Justin Hayward for example including an acoustic guitar recital and an anecdote about Ray Thomas. John Lodge also has a tale of Thomas's misfortunes, this time resulting in him ending up sprawled among bunches of tulips.

The second disc also had 5 promo videos. The first of these, for "Go now", must surely have been the inspiration for the "Bohemian Rhapsody" video. "Stepping in a slide zone" is the only one sung live, although even here there is clearly plenty of overdubbing. The promos for "Your wildest dreams" and "I know you're out there somewhere" are absolutely wonderful. The two, which follow from one to another in terms of the visual story, are a pastiche of scenes past and present, with Hayward seeking out an unnamed old flame. Another amusing moment here as he runs into the arms of John Lodge at one stage.

The third disc in audio format contains a selection of tracks mainly by the bands who preceded the Moody Blues. While they are of historic interest, there's nothing to get excited about.

In all, an excellent package which tells the history of this great band in a level of detail not previously available. The presence of so many people who have been an intricate part of the success and longevity of the band gives the package an authenticity which other similar apprciations can lack. Recommended.

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Send comments to Easy Livin (BETA) | Report this review (#191187)
Posted Monday, December 01, 2008 | Review Permalink

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