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The Moody Blues - Live at the Isle of Wight 1970 CD (album) cover

LIVE AT THE ISLE OF WIGHT 1970

The Moody Blues

Crossover Prog


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seventhsojourn
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
RPI
2 stars When The Moody Blues played at the famously shambolic Isle of Wight festival in 1970 they were at the peak of their popularity. Their fifth album, A Question Of Balance, was #1 in the UK album chart and the single Question had only been kept off the #1 spot by the England World Cup team. The Moodies were veterans of the previous year's festival but on this occasion they had the honour of being on the final day's bill, along with Jimi Hendrix who was making what would prove to be his last live appearance in England three weeks prior to his death. ELP had also appeared on the previous day, their set culminating with Emerson and Lake lighting two cannons at either side of the stage. No such pyrotechnics from the gentle Moodies of course, although Mike Pinder does sound uncharacteristically aggressive on Melancholy Man.

The set list here is very similar to that on Caught Live + 5, which was recorded one year earlier and was an excellent showcase for the band. There are only four new songs from A Question Of Balance featured on the Isle of Wight set, so I think the market for this release may be somewhat limited. The fast sections of Question are energetic if a little chaotic, but the song gets a good reception from the crowd. As I said above, Pinder's vocals on Melancholy Man are tinged with a harsher edge than is usual, and he substitutes Mellotron for the synthesizer of the studio version. There's only one Ray Thomas song here (Legend Of A Mind), and I would have liked a live version of And The Tide Rushes In. As it is, a couple of new John Lodge songs are featured, these being the folksy sing-along Minstrel's Song and the rocker Tortoise And The Hare.

The remainder of the album comprises all the older favourites with the suite of 5 consecutive songs from On The Threshold Of A Dream being the highlight for me. The Voyage isn't actually listed in the cd's track list but it's here, where it should be, sandwiched between the two parts of Have You Heard. Despite the complexity of the older material the band perform well, possibly better than on the new songs which were supposedly more stripped-down to facilitate live performance. Considering that Caught Live + 5 has been around for over thirty years and has the bonus of containing five rare studio recordings, I can really only see the Isle of Wight album appealing to serious fans. I love it of course.

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Send comments to seventhsojourn (BETA) | Report this review (#276346)
Posted Sunday, April 04, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars I'm a great Moodies fan, so you can read this review knowing that it isn't the far balanced of it all.

I believe that the official live recordings of the Moodies aren't the best pictures of the band. IMO the bootleg of a FM transmission of a LA gig in 1981 is the best available live performance of the group in terms of set list, listenability and overall playing. The Japan 1974 shows had the best set list (and Mike Pinder!) but the bad quality of the boots can atract only the devoted fan. So I think that the present record together with the RAH performance is the best picture of what The Moody Bues were/are alive.

It's a festival so the set list of this album is a kind of a then-current Greatest Hits. The fact of the tour in question being the AQOB one only increases the value of this concert for me, because this album is the best collection of songs from the Core 7 IMO (notice that I'm not talking about concepts). Of course there are some things I'd like to fix if I could: the absurdly plain version of Ride my see-saw is the low point of the gig. I'd like to listen the wonderful energy of the 1974 Melancholy Man instead of the good but shorter version presented here. The inclusion of the great Minstrell's Song is a pleasant surprise, but Tortoise and the Hare could be off the set list.

Overall this is the best portrait of this magic band playing alive in their glory days. I respect the view of those that prefer the classic Caught Live + 5, the only official source for the live Moodies with Pinder until this release. But this show is better in sound quality, set list and energy. Of course there could be more Ray Thomas in the show but nothing is perfect. All in all, a solid 4 stars.

PS: Mellotron fans, the baby worked very well in this show. The Have you Heard suite is fantastic. PS2: Still waiting for the Japan 1974 offcial release or at least the soundboards. These are the best Moodies alive ever!

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Send comments to moodyxadi (BETA) | Report this review (#276733)
Posted Wednesday, April 07, 2010 | Review Permalink
tarkus1980
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4 stars A nice album to have if you like Caught Live + 5. The main distinguishing feature of this show, of course, was that it was in front of one of the largest festival crowds in the history of rock music, and there's something strangely odd about the idea of this music getting peformed in front of hundreds of thousands of people. The band continues to have a very rough sound live, as they don't make any real attempt to replicate their studio work note-for- note on stage, but that also continues to give the band a lot of charm. There are a couple of missed vocal cues here and there, and some spots where something clearly went awry in the recording process, but overall the band seems slightly better here than on CL+5.

The setlist, as expected, is largely similar to that on CL+5. The band opens with "Gypsy" and "Sunset," which both go off splendidly (Mike in particular shines, both in the roaring mellotron and in his passionate singing). The show ends with the last 10+ minutes of Threshold, and I still think that it may sound more interesting here, because of the lack of overdubs, than it did in the studio. And, of course, the last three tracks are "Nights," "Legend" and "See-Saw," all of which are done well. The middle also features rousing performances of "Tuesday Afternoon" (where Justin changes the line to "Sunday afternoon" once; I'm guessing that the band performed this concert on a Sunday) and "Never Comes the Day" (inferior to the CL+5 version, largely because the harmonica riff in the chorus is impossible to find, but it's still lovely).

The rest of the setlist drops "Dr. Livingston" and "Peak Hour," and in their place the band adds four tracks from A Question of Balance (which makes sense, given that they were touring it at the time). "Question" is the clear highlight of these; the acoustic guitar strumming gets swapped out for an electric, and while Hayward's singing is rougher (as usual), the song ends up having a strong punch to it that the original lacked. Elsewhere, "Minstrel's Song" comes off as a pleasant hippy shuffle (it kinda sounds to me like it would have been better suited for Woodstock than for this festival, but that doesn't bug me too much), "Tortoise and the Hare" is done decently enough, and "Melancholy Man" preserves nearly all of the soul-crushing aspects of the original to good effect. If anybody in the band benefited from the rougher live sound, it was clearly Mike, and his vocals are great here.

In short, while it doesn't show the Moodies as a spectacular live band, it does show them as an interesting one, and I'd definitely recommend this to a hardcore fan. I would also like to extend my compliments to the recording company for squeezing this whole show onto one disc; I don't know for sure, but I'm guessing that the actual performance contained various bits of stage banter, and the inclusion of any of it (or excessive applause) would have forced this album to come out as a double album. By stripping out everything except for the actual songs, the album fits snugly onto one disc, and it's most appreciated.

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Send comments to tarkus1980 (BETA) | Report this review (#281314)
Posted Tuesday, May 11, 2010 | Review Permalink

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