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The Moody Blues - Octave CD (album) cover


The Moody Blues


Crossover Prog

2.72 | 145 ratings

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3 stars I can't actually recall whether I knew the Moody Blues were still in existence when this album released in 1978. They were definitely a band whose music I was still listening to, mostly stuff from their 'Big 7' released between 1967 and 1972. These were practically golden-oldies at the time though, and even though I did pick up copies of 'Caught Live +5' and 'This is the Moody Blues' on 8-track it was only because I didn't own most of the other albums and this was a way to get a lot of their more well-known songs to play in my car cheaply.

Actually I don't even remember this album, although apparently it went platinum in the U.S. and was Top-10 in the UK. Frankly punk and disco had drowned out a lot of newer stuff on the radio from the 60s dinosaurs, and I suspect I probably heard parts of this one and didn't think it was all that good. Still don't, though with time and in the context of some of the poorer work that would follow it 'Octave' seems at least palatable today.

This would be the end of the line for Mike Pinder, who actually left before the album was even finished and would be replaced by Patrick Moraz who had just been given his walking papers by Yes. Too bad, as Pinder was one of the more distinctive characters in the band and his songwriting skills (most notably the last eight minutes of 'On the Threshold of a Dream' and the chilling "Lost in a Lost World" from 'Seventh Sojourn') would likely have helped the band improve some of the appalling albums they would put out in the eighties.

It's interesting looking back and hearing this album in retrospect. There is still a bit of real symphonic accompaniment in the form of strings on the soothing "I'm Your Man" and the Beatlesque "Survival", both of which have the sort of rich and spacious sound that made the earlier Moodies albums so seductively appealing and memorable. But elsewhere the orchestration is synthesized, and not even with a Mellotron or Chamberlin but rather with actual synthesizers, played mostly by John Lodge and Justin Hayward after Pinder's departure. I'm not sure if the band switched to synths because Pinder left or whether this was simply a sign of the times, but the presence of mellotron and real strings would become a thing of the past for the band after this album. You can really tell the difference on the sterile "One Step into the Light", ironically the last song Pinder would write and record with the group.

I guess "Driftwood" was a minor hit single as well, or at least I read that on the band's website and with the remastered CD information. But I can't remember this one either, and considering I pretty much lived with a radio on in 1978 it must not have been much of a hit. But like I was saying earlier, this is an interesting album to play today because there are light hints of the band's early symphonic sound on this track, "Survival" and to a certain extent "I'm Your Man" (a prototypical Ray Thomas love song). Yet at the same time there is an even stronger sense of what was about to come for the band with 'Long Distance Voyager' and 'The Present', most noticeably on slickly produced "Steppin' in a Slide Zone" and the closing "The Day We Meet Again" with it's emphasis on vocals and guitar over keyboards and an unconvincing faux earnestness in Hayward's voice. Don't get me wrong, I loved 'Long Distance Voyager' ('The Present' would be another story), but this album just does not have the same attention to craft or emotional appeal that the band's previous seven albums did. The times were changing and frankly the band had been sort of worn out and coasting for most of the seventies by the time they put this one out, so a drop off in quality shouldn't have been surprising.

The Moody Blues were still heads above the vast majority of music that was being cranked out in 1978, but in comparing 'Octave' to what they were capable of I have to say it comes up short. Three stars still, but not in the same league as their classics. A little better than just for collectors since there are a few bright spots with "Driftwood", "Survival", "I'm Your Man" and to a lesser extent the throwback "Under Moonshine", but the streak of gems would end with 'Seventh Sojourn'.


ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |


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