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The Moody Blues - Live At The BBC: 1967 - 1970 CD (album) cover

LIVE AT THE BBC: 1967 - 1970

The Moody Blues

Crossover Prog

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4 stars Well, the only classic Moody Blues live we have before this release was the awful souding "Caught Live + Five". Listening carefully to this album give me a far better impression of the band's live sound in their prime than the "Caught Live" RoIO quality tracks. Salmacis' review is full of details about the tracks. I'll be more concise: if you love The Moodies and could buy this album by a reasonable price, do it. Unfortunatelly it covers only 5 of the 7 great albums of this band - but it still is a worth collection. I truly miss some of my fav sogs that belong to this era but were not present in this album: "Melancholy Man" and "The Minstrel's song" (from 'A question of balance"), "Don't you feel small" (from TOCCC) and the wonderful "Dawn" (from DoFP). Can't understand why we need three almost identical versions of "Nights..." (including the one that Salmacis described as a vocal overdub on a pre-recorded music). The Moody Blues were not kings of improvisation, and if the practice of showing two or three versions of the same song works with some artists to show their evolution and creativity live (like Led Zeppelin's "BBC Sessions"), this is not the case here.

Finally I'd like to show your atention to the wonderful Mike Pinder and his Mellotron. This album is a must for people who likes this incredible instrument.

All in all, a fine 4 stars Moodies album.

Report this review (#138877)
Posted Monday, September 17, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars Prior to this release, the only official album to feature live material from the classic line up of the Moody Blues was their LP Caught Live +5 released in 1977, which contained a rather rough performance recorded in 1969. So it was great to finally hear good quality versions of these BBC recordings that had been floating around on bootlegs for nearly 4 decades.

The goal here was to collect every BBC recording made by the Hayward/Lodge version of the band between 1967 & 1970 and assemble them on this double CD set. That may sound like a great idea in principle, but in this case it was a HUGE mistake for a couple of reasons. First we get multiple versions of the same songs. While it might be nice to have 3 versions of Nights in White Satin, I'm not sure about needing 3 versions of Dr. Livingston I Presume. However the real problem lies in the fact that many of these BBC performances AREN'T REALLY LIVE! More on that in a moment.

Prior to recording their landmark album Days of Future Passed, the Moodies had been a hard working live act. And it shows on the first group of recordings here. Pre-Days tracks like Fly Me High and Leave This Man Alone, along with Days songs like Peak Hour and Nights in White Satin show a really tight, well rehearsed band playing quite well together. (In addition, the inclusion here of the previously unreleased track Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood is a real treat and one of only a few known examples of the Hayward/Lodge line-up playing the old "R&B Moodies" style.) But then things began to change with their follow-up release In Search of the Lost Chord. Starting with Lost Chord the band would use multiple overdubs in the studio resulting in a catalog of music that was essentially impossible for the 5 of them to replicate live.

And that's where the problem lies with this release. Songs like House of Four Doors, Visions of Paradise, and Send Me No Wine sure would have been great to hear live. Unfortunately, these are among a number of tracks that are nothing more than remixed backing tracks lifted directly from their studio albums with live vocals. This is true of the Top Gear performance (Disc 1 tracks 18-21) the Colour Me Pop TV performance (Disc 2 tracks 3-9), and the Lulu performance (Disc 2 track 18). The Colour Me Pop and Lulu tracks work great with video, but without it are pointless. None of these tracks should have been included in this set, although it must be said that the remix of House of Four Doors for example is quite a bit different from the LP version, and therefore noteworthy, but it's not live. The other Top Gear performances (Disc 1 tracks 11-14) are interesting in that even though they feature backing tracks, the whole band is playing along. Best Way to Travel benefits greatly from Hayward's amazing electric guitar overdub which is missing from the original. Likewise, Voices in the Sky sounds incredibly lush with the whole band essentially doubling their studio parts. But can they be really classified as live?

The remaining tracks appear to actually be live and are, as I said, somewhat rough compared to their studio counterparts. In addition, 3 or 4 tracks on disc 1 have had their intros clipped in order to edit out the radio announcer. Tracks 10-17 on disc 2 are taken from a concert recorded within a few days of the one featured on the Caught Live album and are essentially identical, although 2 of the tracks (Have You Heard and Legend of a Mind) have been heavily trimmed. It should also be noted that many of the better tracks here can be found on the expanded versions of the band's studio CD's.

So, all in all a mixed bag really. A few gems scattered throughout. I have it on good authority that this is one of the worst selling CD's in the Moodies catalog. It really should have been a single disc. I think both the band and its fans would have benefited.

Report this review (#407596)
Posted Thursday, February 24, 2011 | Review Permalink
2 stars 7/15P. Good music - hectic versions. Inessential.

Many bands were able to work perfectly well in the BBC studios. The Pink Floyd, for example, who recorded lots of (sadly unreleased) sessions for the BBC, Syd Barrett who inexplicably recorded two sessions which were more 'together' than most of his studio work, or the Steeleye Span, whose great BBC recordings have only survived as lo-fi private recordings from medium wave transmissions.

What you'll find here are primarily short sessions, mostly consisting of two to three songs each. There's only one of the legendary BBC In Concert recordings here, which was recorded around New Year's Eve of 1970.

Depending on the DJ and the purpose, the BBC spent a variable amount of work on the different sessions on this compilation. Some of them, the more interesting ones, were recorded live - for instance the 1967 session which also spawned the unexpected Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood cover. Others were just live vocals recorded on the studio playbacks, such as House of Four Doors and one of the many Ride My See-Saws, which even has the studio Departure left in place. Sometimes, as in Voices In The Sky, it's hard to decide which parts of a recording are really live. Of course, this aspect doesn't change a lot about the quality of the music, but it affects the artistic relevance of this particular compilation.

A point which really deprives the music of their listenability is that factually all of the included recordings seem quite hurried. This effect occurs in several degrees. The least stressful case is when the pieces immediately fade in (and fade out) without taking the time to let the notes arise (or decay) - this occurs in actually all of the recordings. A bearable situation is when the tracks are faded out earlier, such as in Lovely To See You from the first CD. The worst case are the pieces which were disposed of certain instrumental parts or stanzas to fit into a certain time frame. This makes sense in the context of a radio programme in which certain pieces are needed to bridge the time between a documentary and the news, or in a music programme in which many bands want to be played, but those recordings don't really work on a CD compilation. Even the 1969 In Concert recording, a brief concert by the band, suffers from this time pressure. The complete Have You Heard/The Voyage/Have You Heard set is shortened to 5:42min, Legend Of A Mind is 4:34min long (including frantic applause) and Nights In White Satin merely takes three minutes. Mostly one chorus or one stanza get lost, but especially in Nights In White Satin the loss of the flute solo is very painful. The setlist is identical to the Caught Live+5 album, albeit obviously shorter - no huge additional benefit, expect for it being one of the rare early Moody Blues live recordings. Apart from Caught Live and the fairly messy Isle of Wight 1970 gig, the BBC sessions are the only way to listen to the live Moody Blues in an adequate sound quality.

Whilst on CD2 there is a The Actor and a Visions of Paradise of 1-2 minutes each, there curiously are versions of Voices in the Sky and The Best Way To Travel which are about twenty seconds longer than the original recordings. Adding to this situation that parts of these recordings might be taken from the studio album sessions I'm pretty sure that I'll never understand how these sessions exactly worked.

So, for what reasons could you bother buying this album? First and foremost for reasons of nostalgia, especially when you were an avid BBC listener in those days. There's lots of utterly warm and utterly cozy reverb on the vocals, plenty of analogue compressors and many radio moderators impolitely speaking polite announcements right into the beginnings of the songs. This is how music sounded in the radio in those days, and the exhaustive approach of putting all BBC sessions on the compilation ties in well with this 'journey through time' idea. The extensive booklet with lots of pictures adds to this effect, too. And, again, it's always nice to hear how Mike Pinder competently tackled the erratic Mellotron live.

Of course, you cannot listen to these 2CDs from the beginning until the end. Most of the songs appear in at least two versions, which are mostly pretty similar to each other as well. But I found out that it's pretty entertaining to put some of these recordings in the MP3 collections which I sometimes put together for the car.

Since most of the recordings are part of the deluxe re-issues of the studio albums, which most fans surely own by now, I find it hard to recommend this set to anyone. Those who like the Moody Blues and/or the BBC, and who do not own the deluxe re-issues, however, could try to get it cheap. Live At The BBC 1967-1970 is definitely not bad, actually it's an ideal example of how to release radio sessions of any band, but at least after the re-issue series it's become mostly inessential.

Report this review (#933647)
Posted Thursday, March 21, 2013 | Review Permalink

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