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The Moody Blues - The Present CD (album) cover


The Moody Blues

Crossover Prog

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4 stars first I must say beautiful front cover, Blue World fantastic moody song, entire album is full of beautiful melodies , arrangments are rich ,clarity of sound just fit here perfect. Very good pop record.
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Posted Tuesday, March 9, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
1 stars I vote that this band changes its name to The Moody Blunders after 1974. They hed reformed after a four year break with a technically-superior Moraz replacing Pinder and made an unispired Octave, then a few years later they came came back to the charts forfront with the atrocious Long Distant Voyager (mostly due to MTV videocip exposure).

With this album , they will hit an all-time low in their carreer and also scrape the crud at tyhe bottom of the Marianna Trench (- 14800 meters below the sea level) but still managed selling a bunch of them albums by the thousands. Bravo Moody Blunders. Living proof that cruddy and crappy albums can be brainwashed into the public.

Ugly and tacky artwork sleeve too!

Report this review (#15753)
Posted Wednesday, March 17, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars A much maligned album/CD that shows the Moodies doing the progressive rock thing in the 80's. Older fans might not care for the synthesized sounds, but for those of us introduced to the Moody Blues at this era, it is still a great album. Unfortunately, even the group were dissapointed and did not play the songs after the tour was over. All in all, one of my favourites though. Best song is Blue World with Sitting At The Wheel a hit for the album when it was introduced.
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Posted Saturday, May 29, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars After a disastrous experience with the most recent post-Pinder album, Strange Times, I was wary of trying another album outside the "Classic Seven". However, The Present proved to be a treasure in disguise. If you are only used to the Classic Seven, or typically dislike 80s music, you may have a hard time making the adjustment, but with effort, The Present becomes very likeable indeed.

Nothing about The Present is as it appears. Particularly difficult to get used to are the keyboards of the 80s--at the beginning of most songs, you may even be appalled by the strange sounds that were once at the cutting edge of synth technology, but as the songs get going, you start to appreciate that like Mike Pinder working with the cranky Mellotron, PAT MORAZ is doing the best he can with what he has. To his credit, he creates an ethereal sound that fits the futuristic space motif in the album's artwork. His senses of melody and placement are wonderful, and once past the initial adjustment, you'll hardly want each song to end.

Vocally, the MOODY BLUES are in fine form, even if some of their styles seem atypical of them. Still, there are instances of the old, beautiful harmonies. Also, "Blue World" has the type of JUSTIN HAYWARD singing found on the excellent "English Sunset", one of the few superb tracks from Strange Times. RAY THOMAS in particular is in fine form, and participates on three of ten tracks (writing two, singing on GRAEME EDGE's contribution), and the short track "I Am" is particularly stunning--something I could play over and over and never get sick of. His magnificent, Broadwayesque vocals are amazing, even if much louder than usual.

As on the Classic Seven albums, some of the songs flow directly into each other, creating the true MOODY BLUES sonic experience. Some of the titles even indicate it. The two most notable sets are JOHN LODGE's "Hole in the World"/"Under My Feet" (even musically unified), and RAY THOMAS' "I Am"/"Sorry". In terms of guitar, this actually seems to be one of HAYWARD's best efforts. Overall, although the album doesn't make the smoothest transition to the 21st century, it is still a solid effort that should be in every MOODY BLUES fan's collection. I would not, however, recommend it for the more casual fan.

Report this review (#15756)
Posted Sunday, December 26, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is the last good Moody Blues record record! If you don't have it, you should get it!

Unfortunately, this is followed by a string of albums that just don't measure up. This one, however, is nearly as good as Long Distance Voyager and stands well with their best from the sixties and seventies.

While there's nothing here that I don't like, my two clear favorites are the Ray Thomas tunes "Going Nowhere" and "I Am/Sorry". Wonderfully orchestrated, meaningful lyrics and beautifully sung.

Another highlight for me is "Hole in the World/Under My Feet".

The oft-mentioned "Blue World" is fine, but dims somewhat compared with these other songs.

This is a good listen, well worth owning.

Report this review (#36004)
Posted Friday, June 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars After the refreshing breeze of previous "Long Distance Voyager" and when everyone was thinking that MB could return to their best prog days - at least, partially, the band seemed to give a step backwards with "The Present", also a pretentious name since this title is now much more a 'past' than the 'future passed'.

Hearing this album I remember John Lennon saying that McCartney was specialized in composing 'granny songs'; yes, there's a bunch of granny songs here, but I also realize that our beloved grandmothers deserve a Moodie work only for them.

Otherwise, if songs aren't that great other MB's feats are still present: singing, playing, cover art, general production, etc. There are no disappointments in these fields. The entire work is highly audible, seeing from a popish perspective.

However, from a prog point I think that this work should receive a 2 star rating but one splendid song itself add an extra star to the album: "Blue world", one of the best Moody Blues ballads ever. So the final rating is good, but non-essential. Total: 3.

Report this review (#63204)
Posted Thursday, January 5, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars The Present is an overlooked and underrated album. It continues the '80s-style Moody Blues sound begun with Long Distance Voyager, but in some ways also harks back to earlier Moodies albums and Hayward & Lodge's Blue Jays album. The Present was the last really good Moodies studio album until 1999's Strange Times. For the later '80s albums the record company pushed Ray Thomas out of the spotlight, apparently deciding he wouldn't appeal to the MTV crowd. It's never good when pursuit of profits overrules art.
Report this review (#118391)
Posted Saturday, April 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Is it a gift?. Or not?

It is perhaps significant that having worked my way through reviewing all the Moody Blues studio albums, I have left this one till last. The reason is probably because it is the album I find least to say about, it is just another Moody Blues album. That is not to say it is particularly disappointing, it is not; "The present" has many of the qualities and hallmarks we have come to expect over the years.

The album title is ambiguous, offering an interpretation either of the here and now or the gift. The highly tasteful sleeve design which mixes ancient images with futuristic ones, offers little indication which is the correct interpretation.

"Blue world" is a typical Moody Blues opener, with a strong rhythm and a catchy melody. It is slightly slower and softer than tracks such as "I know you're out there somewhere" and "The voice" but very much in that mould. Unusually, we actually have three successive tracks of this type to start the album, "Meet me half way" and "Sitting at the wheel" being a simple case of more of the same. John Lodge sings lead vocal on the latter, which is even more upbeat but completely lacking in any sort of character.

It is only when we get to Graham Edge's "Going nowhere" that things relax slightly. The criminally underused Ray Thomas provides lead vocal on the verses here, his strong quivering voice setting the song apart. There is no question that Justin Hayward is a superb singer, but it would have been wonderful to hear the now retired Thomas singing on the band's albums a lot more than he was allowed to.

The second side of the album opens with a brief instrumental "Hole in the world" which builds through a marching drum beat, spacey guitar and synth sounds to provide an extended introduction to "Under my feet", another rather prosaic John Lodge led song. For me Lodge is the weakest of the three singers in the band, his song writing on later albums also being rather average. Justin Hayward returns to centre stage for a brace of his typical romantic ballads, "It's cold outside of your heart" and "Running water". The latter is a particularly melodic song which is pretty much a solo rendition by Justin.

In another unusual twist, the album closes with a couple of Ray Thomas songs. The brief "I am" harks back to the band's earliest days, while "Sorry" would have fitted in well on either of Thomas's excellent solo albums. The track builds from a gentle start to an upbeat rock song, Moraz keyboards and Thomas's flute adding fine colours to the song. Throughout the album, Patrick Moraz contributions are very much designed to create a big overall sound, any solos being simplistic and brief. The production by the noted producer Pip Williams is clean and uncluttered.

The ordering of the tracks on the album is rather odd, with songs of a similar type being put sequentially together. With the song writers by and large retaining full control of their own songs this tends to give the album a rather piecemeal flavour.

As I said at the outset, this is not a bad album, but in the context of the band's fine catalogue, it is undistinguished.

Report this review (#132081)
Posted Monday, August 6, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars What a variety in ratings! For me it's easy to rate Present in the middle: it's miles from THE Moody Blues in their glory days and also I find it maybe the most pleasing post-classic era Moodies album. Patrick Moraz was hired to play keyboards but he's not involved in the song writing. His bright and airy playing gives a nice fresh touch. It's completely different from Mike Pinder's warm keyboardism, but it fits into these songs very well. For example the opener 'Blue World' sounds good, even if as a composition it's basically not far from the later mediocre pop hit stuff by Hayward/Lodge. Another good thing is that flautist-singer Ray Thomas is not yet pushed in the background as completely as in the later works. His contributions end the album gorgeously.

But despite all good things, in the terms of songwriting Present hardly wasn't a giant leap forward from the Long Distance Voyager (1981). Two songs following 'Blue World' give an impression of the sameness. Side Two, starting with a short unusual instrumental 'Hole in the World', has a wider spectrum and leaves a good taste, even if 'It's Cold Outside of Your Heart' is a zaccharine love song you get overdose of in their later albums. Another tender Hayward ballad 'Running Water' is slightly better. But this time it's Ray Thomas that lifts up the final weight of Present. If you want just one album of the later Moodies, this would be a good choice.

Report this review (#133170)
Posted Wednesday, August 15, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars The last interesting MOODY BLUES album.

'The Present' reprises 'Long Distance Voyager' and ends up as a younger, less capable relation. There are a number of entertaining songs: 'Blue World' is eminently pleasing pop, a vehicle for JUSTIN HAYWARD's voice and a solid rhythm section, along with PATRICK MORAZ's keyboards. 'Meet Me Halfway', 'Hole In The World', a rare instrumental in this later phase of the MOODIES' career, 'Going Nowhere' and 'Running Water' evoke the band at their best, though they rely more and more on memories - and that ultra-sharp production. Other tracks are merely competent, and would not (and possibly did not) make the cut for the previous album. A special mention for RAY THOMAS and his songs, two of them appearing at the end and again making the album something more than a HAYWARD/LODGE or BLUE JAYS effort.

From this brief summary it can be seen that the album's pattern echoes that of 'Long Distance Voyager' - 'Blue World' is 'The Voice', 'Sitting at the Wheel' is 'Gemini Dream' and so on. I wouldn't swap a single on of the LDV songs for any of these. The songwriting here is simply not strong enough.

So there's nothing unpleasant here, but also nothing that stirs the blood or prickles the eyes. And that, friends, summarises the increasingly sugary nana music THE MOODY BLUES offer from this point on. They do crank out the occasional interesting tune, but the halcyon days are gone.

Not quite three stars, and not an album you need purchase unless you are a fan.

Report this review (#141945)
Posted Thursday, October 4, 2007 | Review Permalink
1 stars Tchak boum, tchack boum. Oh sorry it is "Blue World" I'm listening to. A truly awful opener. I just hope it won't be indicative about the whole of this album. The Moodies turning disco.

Well, well, well. Actually is seems to go like this for a while. I guess that prog disco won't be the next sub- genre on PA. Otherwise, this album might well be the most praised one. Such jewels like "Meet Me Halfway" is so close to the great Gibbs brothers. A great experience, believe me.

Another great one is "Sitting At The Wheel". I have even heard the word "disaster" in the lyrics. An excellent way to illustrate this masquerade. I really adore the sense of humour of some bands. Because, frankly to imagine such a title for a song is hilarious. Would you believe that the next one is called "Going Nowhere". Indeed.So far, so good : the press nextT exercise is almost an Olympic event by now. Some good parts on the keys from Moraz (but frankly, what is he doing in here).

And all of a sudden, a pleasant and proggy instrumental. Less then two minutes relief with "Hole In The World". But don't worry, it will not last for long. Dullness strikes hard again. Under My Feet is a syrupy and totally uninspired tune. On par with the poorest "ELO" stuff if you see what I mean.

Under these circumstances, the ballad "It's Cold Outside." sounds almost good. Yes! A good ballad just like in the good old days. What happened here? How comes that censorship let this happen? A mystery.

And actually, "Running Water" is also of the same mould. Melancholic as they could have been ages ago. Not a phenomenal song but after such a pain, it is another pleasant song.

Total of ten average minutes of OK music for almost thirty of misery. Do the math. Mine equals to one star. I consider this as a useless effort. To say the least and to remain polite. And they must have close remationship with the Monty Python: imagine that the last title of the album is called: "Sorry". One does not invent those details. They must have done it on purpose!

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Posted Monday, April 7, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars The present album might be easily considered reworking of the previous album, "Long Distance Voyager". It exploits an almost identical formula: a decent hit song + a hideous hit song + a mid-tempo Lodge song + 2 lesser Hayward songs + an Edge song + pompous album finale by Thomas. The only diversion from this pattern is the brilliant Hayward/Lodge collaboration Meet Me Halfway in place of a slow song by Lodge (Nervous on "Voyager"). In my opinion, if we have a close ear at the respective sections, "The Present" is the winner throughout, with perhaps one exception (i.e. In My World is slightly superior to Running Water).

The decent hit song. Both albums open with a song which enjoyed a moderate chart success. The Voice is longer and boasts a quasi-prog opening which Blue World lacks, but ultimately they are both good melodies and moody enough to age rather well.

The hideous hit. This time the comparison goes definitely in favour of The Present track. Sitting at the Wheel might be off-putting at the first hearing, but it features one of the finest vocals by Lodge ever, and arguably the best guitar solo in the entire Moody Blues catalogue (played by producer Tony Visconti, by the way), and its overall energetic aura does not seem faked. Gemini Dream, on the other hand, is sheer atrocity, a piece of kitsch, the worst Moody Blues song alongside Time Is On My Side off the debut album.

The mid-tempo Lodge song. On the face of it, Under My Feet seems a blatant rip-off of Talking Out of Turn, and indeed the melody of the former is slightly less memorable. It has two features, though, which save the day. First, there is a lovely mystery intro called Hole In The World, which gets reprised towards the end of the actual song - a welcome, prog-smelling blurring of the boundaries within the tracklist. Second, Talking Out of Turn never approached the level of beauty captured in Under My Feet's middle eight (starting with the line "where were you...") - one of the 80's Moody Blues truly moving moments.

...and now, to something more inviting...

The two lesser Hayward songs. It's Cold Outside Of Your Heart resembles Meanwhile in its slightly countryish feel, and is memorable for Moraz' arpeggios. Running Water is less overblown than In My World, and slightly cheesy, but still decent. Hayward's vocals clearly grow weaker, but the very timbre is still charming and the songs are emotionally convincing, unlike the late eighties efforts.

The Greame Edge song. This time Ray Thomas takes the lead, but Lodge and Hayward sing beautiful backing vocals. This might be the best song ever written by the drummer, the chorus and the middle eight are really moving. Plus there is a rather lengthy coda, full of some clever synth noodling, a rare treat by The Moody Blues.

The finale by Thomas. This time we get two, not three songs to end the album with, but as Painted Smile was rather dispensable, the only contestant for Sorry is Veteran Cosmic Rocker. The two songs are totally different as for their mood and message, as Rocker was a slightly self-mocking statement and Sorry is only another love song. Still, the latter has an elaborate multi-part structure, and again the melody and the arrangement (backing vocals!) are better. Seemingly this was the last outburst of creativity from Ray Thomas, his three efforts from the nineties (Celtic Sonant, Never Blame The Rainbows For the Rain, and My Little Lovely) being somewhat less inspired. And I Am beats Reflective Smile to death, though it is mostly a spoken word set to music, the music is brilliant, arguably the closest to the core-7 sound among all the post-Pinder efforts,

The diversion. Meet Me Halfway has got nothing to do with Nervous, and though the latter was by no means a failure, this time we get a truly haunting original, its feel never to be repeated on later albums. Indeed, the power of this track does not primarily draw from the melody (though all the tensions are built all right), but rather from the arrangement (the perfect balance between the synth and guitar licks plus the unexpected seventies-like tambourine), the rendition (the magnificent high-pitched middle eight resolutions by Hayward), and the overall ominous aura deliciously contrasting with the hopeful lyrics. And there is the dreamy coda, full of comfort. The best Pinderless Moody Blues track, for me.

As far as the songwriting and performance are concerned, this is a mature, good Moody Blues album then. The only remaining question concerns its progressive value. The Moody Blues had never been true prog-rockers, of course, but whatever happened to their art-rock ambitions? For me the approach is still there, there is a feel of endearing pomposity in I Am, Sorry, Hole in the World, Going Nowhere, and even Blue World is more than contemporary pop rubbish. Nevertheless, the sound IS contemporary, sadly, so I do not recommend the album to someone who cannot stand the layers of eighties synthesizers. Weak four stars then.

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Posted Sunday, July 20, 2008 | Review Permalink
Prog-Folk Team
3 stars After the commercial success of "Long Distance Voyager", the Moody Blues only waited 2 years to present a sequel. Interestingly, other than "Sitting at the Wheel", it does not appear to have interest in capitalizing on that commercial success, or perhaps it was a case of mismanagement.

The opening couple of tracks are quite good, but in a laid back sort of way. Nothing screams out hit single. I especially enjoy "Meet me Halfway". In spite of the 1980s production and synthesizers, these songs are very understated for the group, thanks to the earnest and tasteful singing by Justin Hayward. The group has now clearly established a post 1972 sound for themselves and it only took a decade! I actually enjoy "Sitting at the Wheel" a good deal more than "Gemini Dream" off the previous album. Two gentle and restrained yet emotional ballads also enhance the offering: "Running Water" and "It's Cold Outside of Your Heart".

While "The Present" lacks a standout track like "The Voice" or the two powerhouses from its successor, it is my favourite latter day effort by the Moody Blues, still only worth 3 stars, but solidly so. Given its date of release, "The Present" is a gift.

Report this review (#192236)
Posted Sunday, December 7, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars The Moodies, throughout most of their history, have tried to distance themselves from this album. In fact, they have refused to play any songs off of it since the The Other Side of Life tour in 1986. However, this knowledge should not be taken as an indictment of the album itself, but rather of the circumstances surrounding it. Afterall, the guys were all in their late 30's now, and they were coming to grips with the fact that their youth was slipping away. In particular, Edge was enduring his second divorce (correct me if I'm wrong), but that was just an extreme case. And, knowing the Moodies as we do, this couldn't help but result in a very introspective, but also very mature sound.

I think that the biggest problem that several fans have with this album is a direct result of that fact; whatever traces of 'rock' that could be found on their older albums are completely gone, replaced with a solid mixture of various pop elements and, of all things, some country. Well, all I can say is this; as people get older, their musical tastes tend to mellow. The Moody Blues were about as mellow as any group around, and that was before they got old. Country is a mellow genre. Therefore, it should be expected that their would be some country elements in their sound.

It's not as if these elements are everywhere, though. Moraz is still very much alive and kicking, and his keyboards and matching production are definitely abundant throughout. In other words, nobody's going to confuse this with a Hank Williams album anytime soon. I'd say only three of the ten tracks have any country in them at all, and they're all good tracks. For starters, we have Lodge's absurdly catchy "Sitting at the Wheel," a half-pop/half- rock/half-country/half-something that sounds like almost nothing else the band had ever done before nor would ever do again. The lyrics are memorable, ESPECIALLY the chorus, the synths actually help out, and Hayward's guitar solo at the end is this neat slide thing with a really cool tone. And apparently, it sounded awesome live; it's too bad that there's no official release of it. In any case, following is one of Edge's best songs, his loneliness anthem "Going Nowhere." Thomas' deep vocals help provide a sorrow that he might not have been able to create ten years previous, and the vocal melodies and harmonies are simply classic. Maybe it's a bit long, with Moraz going a bit far with random wanking at the end, but I still enjoy it to death. Finally, the third country song on the album (not to mention the one where the influence is most obvious), is Hayward's sad "It's Cold Outside of Your Heart." Say what you will, but it's pretty, and the laments for "someone waiting for me" ... wow. Just wonderful.

In any case, the rest of the album is mostly just various pop songs with '83 production, but that doesn't mean they suck or anything. The only song on the album that could be called bad is Lodge's "Under my Feet," which has never really done anything for me one way or the other. But even that has a solid introduction, the memorable instrumental "Hole in the World." Now, military marches aren't really the group's forte, but the really pull it off, with Edge's drums, Hayward's guitar, and Moraz's keys coming together to form an authoritarian, regal atmosphere. Meanwhile, the opening depressing "Blue World," my favorite song from the band in the 80's, is a terrific number, with a hooky bassline, a superb vocal melody by Justin, and it manages to create the general atmosphere of, well, a blue, saddened world. Next, Justin and John combine to create the wonderful, absolutely beautiful "Meet Me Halfway." Everything works in this song. It's sad yet cheerful, and the hopeful "won't you meet me halfway" pleas will tear at your heartstrings.

Moving onto side two, we find another beautiful Justin song, the gorgeous "Running Water." It's a very simple song, and yet ... it just works. I have no idea how else to do it justice. The lyrics, the melody, and the keyboards all pull their part superbly, especially the line, "we'll live to love another day." Nothing particularly brilliant about it, I suppose, but I love it. So there. In any case, we close out things with two Thomas ditties. The first is a strange pseudo-universalistic 60's style voice of God number entitled "I Am." Lots of flute on this one (enjoy it while it lasts; it's going away for a few years), and it is here that one can truly appreciate just how much better Ray's voice has gotten since he began. The second ("Sorry") is better, though. As cheesy as the lyrics can be, with Ray talking to his lover about her afterglow, the melody rules, and regardless of how much corny production there is, it just doesn't get in the way. And, as usual, the song definitely falls into the 'mature' category.

In short, this is a very solid album that has the fault of being a product of its time. This album is terrific, and their last great album for several years.

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Posted Saturday, April 24, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars The Present is a great Moody Blues album.

Let me recap. They had just had a comeback album two years earlier, 'Long-Distance Voyager', that was really successful. Patrick Moraz was now part of the band and his Synthesisers helped modernise their sound, and this ultimately carried them through the 80's. This was the follow up to 'Long-Distance Voyager'.

Well, at least this album is as good as the cover might suggest, and is as every bit as science-fiction sounding as the inside sleeve paintings imply. The whole album is drenched in outer-space synths, Moraz really bringing these songs to life. I enjoy the sonic sounscapes, but the material is very strong too. More complex than the repetitious 'Voyager' and more heartfelt too. Highlights are the opening 'Blue World', which is catchy, 'Hole in the world/under my feet', a groovy John Lodge number that has an extended instrumental solo, and two heartfelt Justin Hayward ballads, the Country-ish 'It's cold outside of your heart' and 'Running Water'.

Ray Thomas also ends the album on a high, with 'I Am' and 'Sorry'. 'I Am' is a quirky, Eastern flavoured song that is essentially an intro into 'Sorry' a scathing song about his wife that starts off as a slow acoustic song and builds into a dramatic 'science-fiction boogie' if you could imagine it.

The album is enjoyable for those who like dramatic sonic effects and prog-pop. A very melodic album that comes highly recommended, four stars.

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Posted Tuesday, December 21, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars I hadn't listened to this in many years, an album which, I think, stands up quite well and is certainly better than many of the more disparaging reviews it has received.

What you will not get is pure prog from this album. Instead this is The Moodies, a band who always crossed the boundary between pop and prog anyway, in full blown 1980's mode. If you hated all things musical in that decade, this one will not persuade you otherwise. If, however, you appreciate well written and well performed pop/rock/prog crossover music, this one has plenty to please you.

The opening track, Blue World, is a rollicking track in the finest tradition of the band, and a great way to open proceedings.

Going Nowhere is a marvellous track, featuring Ray Thomas on lead vocal. Patrick Moraz, who was to leave the band under a massive cloud, shines on this.

For pure prog fans, the most bitter disappointment is that the wonderful instrumental, Hole In The World, only lasts just short of two minutes. The band could have done so much more with this track, and maybe providing the following sequed track Under My Feet with more flesh to beef up what is undoubtedly a brilliantly performed piece of music, but ultimately a little shallow.

The star vocally, as throughout the band's lengthy career, is the gold tonsiled Justin Hayward, and he shines on Running Water, a wonderfully melancholic track which moves the band to their earlier work, with modern production values and a superb keyboard backdrop by Moraz to augment.

My favourite track, though, is another Thomas piece, the woefully short I Am, full of wondering flute, eastern promise, and symphonic vocals, and, again, a track which really should have been developed far more in terms of length and execution. Instead, to follow, we get Sorry, which, to these ears, returns Thomas to the worse of the 1970's music of his which has, in my opinion, dated so terribly in the intervening years.

Elsewhere, what we have is decent pop/rock, the highlight of which is Sitting At The Wheel, an enjoyable romp.

By 1983, this band really didn't give two hoots what critics threw at them. They had made a fortune (the stockbroker's rock band being the official custard pie to chuck at them), and were still selling out relatively large venues. However, with The Present, as with preceding albums post-Pinter, this was the sound of a band still striving to create new, and relevant, music.

Regrettably, it was often as much miss as hit. Three stars for this. A good album which really could, and should, have been much better.

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Posted Saturday, July 30, 2011 | Review Permalink
Prog Folk Researcher
2 stars 'The Present' would chart in both the U.S. and UK when it released in 1983, and thanks to heavy promotion worldwide it charted lots of other places too. But in reality the band was on a significant downward slide creatively by this point, and the sales were likely just residual name-recognition for casual pop fans thanks to the recent commercially successful 'Long Distance Voyager', supplemented by purchases of older fans who hadn't quite given up on the Moodies just yet (after all, what else were they going to buy in 1983?).

I'd given up on them though and didn't add this to my collection until many years after it was released, and then only because I was snapping up CD remasters at a rather frenzied pace.

The overall sound is a lot like 'Long Distance Voyager' with an emphasis on guitars and rhythm over keyboards and strings, and in fact there aren't any real strings on this album and not even many fake ones coming from Patrick Moraz' keyboards. The real problem is that the songwriting isn't anywhere near as good as 'Voyager'. Justin Hayward in particular seems to have lost his muse, and his songs that are clearly intended as hit singles ("Blue World", "Meet Me Halfway") are also pretty trite when you start dissecting the lyrics. For some reason "Blue World" vaguely reminds me of a tune called "Fade" that Cyndi Lauper recorded with her first band Blue Angel around 1980 or so. Not sure why, but talk about random!

Ray Thomas' stuff is as predictable as ever, slow, sad and both nostalgic and nautical- sounding. "I Am" and "Sorry" close the album and are obviously meant to evoke a sentimental mood with the listener as the album winds to a close. A neat trick apparently pulled off by producer Pip Williams who did something similar on both 'Long Distance Voyager' and Barclay James Harvest's 'Ring of Changes'. It must have worked on the uninitiated listener since the album managed to sell in most markets, but listening to the last few bars of "Sorry" today doesn't sound nostalgically melancholy, it just sounds sad.

The one song on this album that kind of resonates is the choral-draped "Going Nowhere", a rather plodding thing but possibly the most engaging song the band would record after 1981. There's a hint of an earlier time when the members were still really trying to make good music, not just popular music. Too bad there couldn't have been more.

Much as it pains me I have to say this album will probably only appeal to really serious fans and collectors (collectors of what I'm not sure). Since that's the definition of a two star album I have to close by saying that's what I'm rating 'The Present'. There would be one more decent record from the Moody Blues before they threw in the towel (hint, it's not the one after this one). Otherwise this is just the first in what would become a string of mediocre performances.


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Posted Saturday, December 17, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Perhaps a half-tick in quality below its predecessor, "Long Distance Voyager", "The Present" is nonetheless an incredibly enjoyable way to spend 40 minutes or so. It's probably the most organic-sounding album of the Patrick Moraz era, and the songs within are tuneful, emotionally-charged and well-arranged.

If I could find any real room for complaint, it would be that Ray Thomas's presence seems to be diminishing further. There was precious little room for his flute playing on either "Octave" or "Long Distance Voyager", and that remains true here - he only contributes anything instrumentally or vocally on the two songs he wrote (the ambient "I Am" and the final-straw finale "Sorry") and the Graeme Edge-penned "Going Nowhere", where his vocals punctuate the lyrical melancholy of the song's protagonist nicely. No other vocals, lead or backing, anywhere that I can detect - which unfortunately would be a precursor of the band's next two albums, where he gets backing vocals one one track TOTAL between the two albums, no leads, and no instrumental contributions whatsoever.

Still, at least Thomas is around for this recording, and the material as a whole is strong enough to make his absences a bit less frustrating (though it would have been a nice counterpoint to have him play some flute in the John Lodge march bit "Hole in the World", play flute instead of having Moraz's synth flute on "Blue World" or add his vocals to "Meet Me Halfway"). "Blue World" and "Meet Me Halfway" are always enjoyable and among the band's best work (the latter is a particularly positive, rousing track); "It's Cold Outside Your Heart" is a beautiful lament, "Under My Feet" is a catchy if perhaps slight piece of John Lodge drama, and "Sitting at the Wheel", though seeming perhaps a bit ordinary on early listens, somehow gets better with time (not a classic, but not nearly as unsubstantial as one might initially think). Thomas's compositions are probably his best since the "Core 7" albums, and while "Running Water" may be a bit too fluffy for some it's nonetheless pretty in a way the band would struggle to repeat in coming years.

After the synthpop of "The Other Side of Life" and "Sur La Mer", the band would try to get back to this more organic sound. Unfortunately, the results were not nearly as even as they were here, but it was perhaps heartening in a way to see that they realized that this was a good direction to go in based on the sounds and moods in this little gem. Four stars, without reservation.

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Posted Friday, March 15, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars 11/15P. High time to praise this close-to-perfect record - a major surprise inbetween a bunch of albums which were hardly decent at best. The 1980s sound is omnipresent, but there's lots of atmosphere everywhere on this album.

Octave had the excellent Driftwood, and a bunch of pieces were at least really good when The Moody Blues played them live. Long Distance Voyager was interesting, but was marred by some extremely uninventive songs throughout. I never really bothered finding The Other Side of Life because Sur La Mer was really horrible.

And then you stumble into this album, a totally unsuspicious record which looks exactly like all the other 80s and 90s Moody Blues CDs: a beautiful cover, songs at around 4-5 minutes length, the same line-up as before. The songs follow the Long Distance Voyager template as well: without Mike Pinder's classicistic visions everything is mostly dominated by Justin Hayward's and John Lodge's country influences. I deliberately speak of 'country influences' because they are hidden really deeply inside of these songs. At some time in music history, somehow unseen, country music sneaked into pop music and - at least that's how I see things - shaped how most (non-jazz) pop ballads sound today. When I first read reviews in which It's Cold Outside of Your Heart was described as a genuine country love song I was pretty sure that the reviewer didn't know what country music is, but after some listens I realised he was totally correct. The country leanings are present, but you actually perceive them as pop - perhaps only because the vocals lack the thick American twang. And already this aforementioned song, often described as an incredibly kitschy piece of music, totally manages to elate me. Just like in Caravan's clever The World is Yours the electric piano doubles the bass guitar and gives the song a deeply resonating fundament. Lyrics-wise it's a standard love song, absolutely pathetic - "and out of the blue it was over, and how would you think I would survive?" - but it works. The heavily sustained Gibson-ES335-notes in the beginning recall Justin Hayward's trademark guitar tone of the early 1970s, his melodies are catchy and Patrick Moraz adds some really tasteful string pads and occasional fluttering arpeggios.

Blue World, Meet Me Halfway (one of my three favorites on The Present), Running Water and Going Nowhere are all of a piece, even though they were composed by different band members. There's a certain wishfulness among them, a feeling of nostalgia streaming out of them like incense or the smell of trees and flowers in the spring. Importantly, this kind of atmosphere only unfolds if you listen to the tracks completely; after all, this is an album which is really meant to be an album and which develops from one piece to the next. Long Distance Voyager was similar, of course, but The Present is more laid-back, it's more relaxed.

Gemini Dream was a stompy upbeat disco pop tune, for instance. The pendant to this is Sitting At The Wheel, a loud and bombastic rock'n'roll song - but a song with an atmosphere, with a slight psychedelic aura shouting through the joyful mania of the reverberated vocals. Not a 1960s type of acoustic LSD trip, but rather a late 1970s glam-fueled Bowie psychedelia combined with the wall of sound production of George Harrison's All Things Must Pass 3LP. It's surprising that the Moody Blues didn't collaborate with former Bowie producer Tony Visconti until The Other Side of Life; this record sounds so much more like Visconti's acclaimed works than catastrophies like Sur La Mer. On this piece however, produced by Pip Williams, Graeme Edge's drums rattle and crash (this guy seemingly had a rebirth when Tony Clarke left the fold). In regular intervals Moraz throws in some of his keyboard pyrotechnics, and in the end Justin Hayward provides a rejoicing and playful slide guitar solo throughout the fade-out. It's definitely a hyperactive song, and maybe not the best on this album, but absolutely fine nonetheless.

Graeme Edge's ominous 22,000 Days, with the deep baritone harmony vocals singing about how many days an average man lives, always seemed to me as a novelty song from a retirement home; maybe you need to be older than 30 to understand songs like these. On this album Edge contributed the calming Going Nowhere, a song with a considerable amount of British folk hidden deep inside the song - at least when you take away the 80s synthesizers and huge drums -, which convinces me a lot more. Ray Thomas is on lead vocals, the melodies are resonant and well-suited for Thomas' voice, and the instrumental arrangements in the intro and the extended outro (including multitracked soaring electric guitars and tasteful Moog lead sounds) do the rest to ensure my pleasure. Gorgeous stuff!

Ray Thomas is again on bord with the two-part track I Am/Sorry. I Am is an esoteric piece of chant, flutes and keyboards which recalls In Search of the Lost Chord a little bit. A track like this could have been a failure on a 1980s album, but the haunting whispering in the background, Moraz' synth effects and the mighty pitch bend before Sorry (listen to it - really!) competently save the song. Sorry begins in a contemplative way with delicate finger-picking and a good melody until it turns into an uplifting rock shuffle with space to boot for harmonica licks (by Thomas) and some fiddly Moog solos in the outro (by Moraz).

The real big surprise, however, is John Lodge's mini-epic Hole In The World/Under My Feet/Hole In The World (reprise). Again, about two thirds of the seven minutes (namely Under My Feet) are pop rock - probably a less successful example of pop rock by the means of this album, weren't it for the great sense of melody in Hole In The World and the competent harmony vocals in the chorus of Under My Feet. Hole In The World is a tight instrumental march with a monotonous percussive synthesizer drone and fat drums, used as the basis for an excellent guitar solo by Justin Hayward which is partly echoed by some synthesizers. (If the Icelandic prog band Ţursaflokkurinn weren't totally unheard-of, I would have accused John Lodge of copying their 1981 piece Ranimosk.) The rejoicing fanfare, however, at 1:28, with the lead guitar being dangerously close to the threshold of emptying in amplifier feedback, is a truly magic moment - and this moment is wisely revisited after the last chorus of Under My Feet until the extended fade-out. A little piece of trivia: at 3:34 Moraz adds a little burst of Hammond organ to the mix. As far as I'm concerned this is one of the shortest Hammond organ contributions to any rock album I know, and - apart from the intro of Procession and the weird French TV gig from 1970 - the only Hammond organ use on any Moody Blues album.

All in all I enjoy listening to this album quite a lot - especially during a warm summer evening's reverie, using the record as an activator of both real and fictive memories. There are no disco moments which could wake me from the sweet harmony of this album, it's totally consistent and full of intelligent and well-crafted pop music. I really think that The Present is absolutely able to stand up to the classic seven Moody Blues albums, although - of course - it cannot top masterpieces like To Our Children's Children's Children. Get it if you like the Moody Blues, but if your disappointed by the other Moody Blues records of the 1980s and 1990s. This one truly makes a difference!

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Posted Thursday, March 21, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars "The Present" is The Moody Blues' eleventh studio album and it was released thirty-one years ago in 1983. The band, then seems to be in a good state of mind after their last wonderful record from 1981. Like many times before the band, chooses to present their music with an extraordinary beautiful cover picture. This time the motive was antic. I looks like Greek statues beside an urn and in the background we can se a high mountain and in the top leaves. The same line up is represented here as last time with Justin Hayward, John Lodge, Ray Thomas, Graeme Edge and Patrick Moraz.

I would say the saound of this music had been more pop than on last record and it sounds more like music from the eighties. The compositions are a bit more happy and fast and less complicated. I don't either find the sound as rich as before. Still there is good keyboard work that points out sometimes but I often miss Michael Pinder's organ. Perhaps it's significant that the best song, also is the shortest: "I am" is beautiful, with clear vocals and a majestic atonal feeling(8/10). Beside that track four other is worth the be mentioned. "Going nowhere" has intentions and a appreciate the vocals, the strings, the guitar and the keyboards. It's a song with interesting details(7/10). Also the short march "Hole in the world" has value(7/10) as well as "Running water", a quick pop song which is a good example of this record's eighties pop(7/10). Finally "Sorry" is agood certainly good song where the melody is varied and the keyboard stands out(7/10). On the last record I found that the vocals sometimes sounded like Greg Lake. On this record I found similarities with both Pye Hastings(tracks three) and a hint of 10cc. Two tracks couldn't get my attention: "Under my feet" and "It's cold outside your heart" were quite boring but the rest unmentioned tracks are cosy.

This is overall a good Moody Blues' album which some highlights, even it those peaks aren't so high. It is even as almost every record by this band yet and I think you will enjoy your time. I don't know what will happen later in the 80s but I like what this band has done until now(Until "The Present).

Report this review (#1114473)
Posted Tuesday, January 14, 2014 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Daybreak

The Moodies eleventh album "The Present" was released with the wind of "Long Distance Voyager" at its back. Patrick Moraz was now settled in and the band had now successfully reinvented itself for a new fan base, a new decade, and a streamlined new 80s art pop sound. My perception back in the day was that this was a pretty weak effort but I no longer believe that. With the benefit of some hindsight I think the Moodies began the 80s with more mature and timeless material than some of their more acclaimed prog peers who shall remain nameless. Call it art rock if you need to-whatever gets you through the night. I for one am enjoying the Moodies more than I ever used to. I do take issue with some of the production choices of the time, the programmed drum sounds and the economical production choices. But the uplifting spirit of the band members and the catchy qualities of the music make The Present another very enjoyable listening experience. The arrangements are really quite lush and inviting in typical Moody fashion despite being so much more "commercial" than their early material. The mix of Hayward's velvety voice with Moraz's more fully realized contributions yield great success in presentation.

The opening selections "Blue World" and "Meet Me Halfway" tick all the boxes that were so successful on LDV while pulling in the vibe of the famous Parrish painting that is used (if modified) on the album cover. Catchy choruses with lovely harmonies and tasteful guitar parts. Ray Thomas delivers his usual beautiful contributions, if not quite as flamboyant as before, on "Going Nowhere" vocals and on this own closing piece "Sorry", which features a cool flute intro. Side two is even more succulent with some very solid Lodge/Hayward tracks. "It's Cold Outside" is so typical Hayward, very upbeat and filled with the kind of optimism he has expressed in later years. Same with "Running Water" which moves me with its lyrics of hope and love, again, very tasteful lead guitar and keyboard background to Hayward's smooth vocal. I'll be honest and admit there is that cynical streak buried in me which could give this album one star and rip it for its disposition and sweetness, but I can't do it. I'm not that person anymore. I enjoy The Present nearly as much as Long Distance Voyager and the band were on a bit of a roll again.

Report this review (#1162174)
Posted Wednesday, April 16, 2014 | Review Permalink

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