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KEYS OF THE KINGDOM

The Moody Blues

Crossover Prog


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Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars "And the wheel keeps on turning"

A comparatively recent release from the band, who by this time were somewhat less prolific than in their earlier years.

Overall, "Keys of the Kingdom" is a pretty good offering, with some tracks which stand up well alongside the band's classic works and some which are simply Moodies-by-the-numbers.

On the plus side, "Bless the wings that bring you back" is a powerful mid-paced track, which affords Patrick Moraz slightly more than the usual exposure he enjoys with the band. The keyboards have a very modern, almost synthetic sound, more akin to a melodic rock band than a prog one.

"Celtic Sonnet", which Ray Thomas composed and takes lead vocals on, is a traditional sounding air, with a simple but infectious chorus. Once again not exactly prog, in fact this is more like Runrig(!), but pleasant and enjoyable.

"Never blame the rainbows for the rain" will never win any progressive rock song of the year awards, since it is a pretty straight forward ballad. This Ray Thomas/Justin Hayward song strikes a chord with me though, both in terms of the quality of the song, and its performance, it is quite beautiful.

By the time of this album, any remaining suggestions of the Moody Blues being innovative or indeed prog, had long since gone. It is however a quality product, containing much to enjoy.

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Send comments to Easy Livin (BETA) | Report this review (#15768)
Posted Friday, May 21, 2004 | Review Permalink
Atkingani
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4 stars THE MOODY BLUES are always surprising; when one thinks they're dead, they re-appear in a great mood! They should change their name to The Moody Phoenix or something like it. Well, that's the case with "Keys Of The Kingdom", a nice extra temporal work, not really progressive but honestly agreeable and tasteful.

But even trailing the pop-rock way it's easy to discern a bunch of beloved prog tunes and chords here and there which brings a feeling of inebriating satisfaction - they're always tied to their past and their roots. Album tracks are all average to say the least, if seen from the mentioned pop-rock view - some are great, no doubt about it. Musicianship and general production are flawless, in fact something truly expected from this bulwark of the contemporary music.

'Say it with love' opens the album with hard guitars and impressive vocals while 'Bless the wings.' pushes the climate to the radio sphere, with that characteristic MB signature. 'Is this heaven' is only a hearable and clean romantic song, good to close album's initial segment.'Say what you mean, pts 1 & 2' is really interesting, probably the best song here. The funky brass part is enjoyable and provides a pleasant touch to the track. Fading effect between parts 1 & 2 goes directly to prog hearts and the final keyboards section is appreciable.

'Hope and pray' is a charming soft-rock while 'Shadows on the wall' brings some memories to band's songs of late 60s and early 70s.'Once is enough' is a bit disturbing: the song seems boundless even adorned with good vocals and instrumentation.'Celtic sonant' starts the final segment with catchy folk tunes, followed by the plain 'Magic' and the cheesy 'Never blame the rainbow for the rain'. These three last tracks aren't special but worth a listening.

Considering that we had to wait an entire decade, since "Long Distance Voyager" their 1981 output, to hear a undeniable and well-balanced stuff released by THE MOODY BLUES, I believe that "Keys Of The Kingdom" may fit well in any music collection, prog included. Final rating: 4.

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Send comments to Atkingani (BETA) | Report this review (#119518)
Posted Monday, April 23, 2007 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars IMO, this album holds only a couple of good songs. A typical Moodies ballad, full of romanticism, class. All the elements that made their reputation. Catchy melody and crafted music. I'm talking about "Bless The Wings".

I also would like to include "Lean On Me". Somewhat Beatles-esque which means a very catchy melody, nice arrangements as well as enjoyable vocals. A good ballad by all means. Which is exactly what is expected from the band. "Shadows On The Wall" is following the same pattern, but is not as well achieved. The mellow closing number is not bad either to be honest. At least this ballad prevents us from another painful electro beat one.

But this is only an island in an ocean of dreadful music. Flat, dull, repetitive like "Is This Heaven" (the band has definitely a great sense of humour). The nadir of this is without doubt "Say What You Mean". In this one the disco/electro is hard to bear. Press nextT. In the same vein "Hope & Pray" (which is what most fans should do to get something better) is also pretty bad. And they just keep going on with "Once Is Enough". I told you : once is enough! And there is absolutely no magic in "Magic".

It is obvious that the best songs from this album are soft ballads. Anytime that the band tries to change direction, it is to release some poor songs.

This album deserves a bit more than three out of ten. I upgrade it to two stars.

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Send comments to ZowieZiggy (BETA) | Report this review (#166530)
Posted Sunday, April 13, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars So, this is 1991 and the Moody Blues are still around, this time delivering some cutting edge techno music and spiritual power ballads.

On Keys of the Kingdom, the Moody Blues get their heads down and wrote a strong set of songs that have solid, well placed hooks, are enjoyable and will touch your heart. The sound is almost Indian in its spiritualism (helped on by the beautifully layered sound and well chosen synths), depth and pleasing melodies. There are many styles coming together here and the use of textures is well executed. There's plenty of that long-lost/long-distance relationship theme form Justin on this album. The first six songs are all excellent, and it falls away a bit after that but comes back when Ray Thomas returns with his masterful 'Celtic Sonant', one of his best songs. my favourite track is 'Hope and pray', an energetic techno song with a haunting melody and a soul-baring lyric.

And don't count out the mystique and inventiveness of the dance track 'Say what you mean' which you get the feeling should have been a dance hit. I think it's really cool that these old rockers (well, rockers?) were making cutting edge music in contemporary styles this late in their career. The song itself has a symphonic quality and swirling appreggio's from Patrick Moraz on the keyboard.

As a note of trivia, Moraz only played on 'Say what you mean', 'Lean on me' and 'Celtic Sonant', the band fired him and said he was never part of the band, a loophole for having to pay for royalties, or rather not having to. So much for "Faith, Hope and Love"!

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Send comments to Brendan (BETA) | Report this review (#281750)
Posted Thursday, May 13, 2010 | Review Permalink
ClemofNazareth
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars There's more programmers listed in the credits for this album than on some Playstation games I have in my collection, but even so this was the best Moody Blues album in a decade when it released in 1991. It almost seems like 1989 was a watershed, with several bands finally shedding their stupid outfits and mid-life crisis haircuts and deciding to grow old gracefully, playing decent music that befitted their stature rather than the sort of tripe so many major record labels spent those years trying to shove down our throats.

The biggest and most pleasant surprises on this album were the return of Ray Thomas and his sappy flute playing (he also contributed a couple songs), and the presence of an actual orchestra backing the band on some of the tracks. "Bless the Wings (That Bring You Back)" sounds like the sky opening up after a spring rain compared to anything the band had done in years, and "Lean on Me (Tonight)" is a song I could actually see the group including on a Best-of collection, assuming that was a 2-disc set anyway. Sounds a bit like something Jeff Lynne would have had a hand in, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Not everything is rosy though. There's still an awful lot of programmed drum tracks, and even though less than half the songs have actual drums the band still felt the need for some reason to enlist someone named Andy Duncan to play half of those. And there are still flashback moments to 'The Present' and the horrid 'The Other Side of Life'. "Say What You Mean (Parts I & II)" can't be saved from its laughable backing vocals even with the guest horn section, and "Magic" just sounds, well, awkward. Patrick Moraz left (was fired) midway through the marathon recording period for this record, so there are several guest keyboard players that seem to account for the lack of general continuity on the album as whole.

But the closing "Never Blame the Rainbows for the Rain" is as close as the group would get to a cohesive Moodies ballad ever again. This one has everything; strings, Hayward's cozy voice and guitar fingering, strings again, and pretty decent backing vocals that sound like the Hayward, Thomas and Lodge of better days gone by. It's a very decent closing to a modestly good album and something of a swan-song on the band's career.

I'm going out on a limb by saying this record deserves three stars. If this had been released any time between 1967 and 1973 it would have merited no more than two, but given the damage done by the eighties this is a respectable recovery of sorts and should be acknowledged as such. Not a classic for sure, but worthy of a listen by serious fans at least, and possibly even good enough for those who just wonder whatever happened to these guys.

peace

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Send comments to ClemofNazareth (BETA) | Report this review (#590180)
Posted Saturday, December 17, 2011 | Review Permalink
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.

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Send comments to Einsetumadur (BETA) | Report this review (#828699)
Posted Wednesday, September 26, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars The Moody Blues' fourteenth studio album "Keys of the Kingdom" from 1991 is in my opinion a quite pleasant work and as the band uses to, alse this album is well produced and intelligent in many ways. The music isn't what I would say progressive in any particular meaning, but I can hear influences from Beatles, Genesis and others still, in the vocals and in the instrumentation.

"Shadows on the wall" has something of John Lennon in it and I love the closer "Never blame the rainbows for the rain". It is a joyfull and poetic work. All tracks are very smooth and poppy. They are done to serve the common ear musical food, and it is presented is quite an orchestrated version. "Say it with love" and "Bless the wings" are two more examples of good tracks on"Keys of the Kingdom". The Moody Blues has gone away from their glory days of weird pop music, but what I most take with me from this one is that the band still plays, and does it good.

Justin Hayward, Graeme Edge, John Lodge and Patrick Moraz should have the credit for this decent album with a not very interesting cover picture where we se mountains and the Moody Blues' sign over them. There are a lot of guest musicians who make the sound powerful even if the compositions aren't. I think my rating will follow in a line of many others who has done the same, by saying this album is okey, but its intentions doesn't go further than that. Three stars!

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Send comments to DrömmarenAdrian (BETA) | Report this review (#1117012)
Posted Monday, January 20, 2014 | Review Permalink

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