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The Moody Blues - Caught Live + 5  CD (album) cover


The Moody Blues


Crossover Prog

3.11 | 61 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars 12/15P. An amazingly good live document which shows the Moody Blues as a pretty snotty art rock band. Great quality, tight backing voices, crunchy guitars and loads of atmospheric mellotron frenzies throughout.

When I first listened to live recordings of The Moody Blues from the early 1980s I was amazed how mercilessly Patrick Moraz whipped the band through the concerts. This led to the situation that the keyboard work, with tons of Mellotron even on the mellotronically scarce 80s compositions, was absolutely exciting - but the pieces were played excessively fast, with big power but without lots of feeling.

But there's no need to search for the rare live 80s recordings of The Moody Blues if you want to see them perform in a somewhat rawer way. Caught Live, to me an inexplicably unpopular album, is an excellent proof of that. Especially Graeme Edge is in fine form here, a man whose drumming on Moody Blues studio albums was constantly treated with effects to create a more restrained 'percussion'-like sound.

The pieces on this album are widely known, I don't think there's a lot to talk about them. But the concrete versions of them are absolutely unexpected for everyone who's been used to the studio originals. Peak Hour is a major Mellotron orgy, mostly using the rarely heard 'Hammond organ' registration, featuring some really heavy breakdowns and the unexpectedly accurately performed double-falsetto vocal arrangements by Ray Thomas and John Lodge. I use the word 'unexpectedly' because so many critics complain about the vocals being off-key on this recording. I know that the band itself wasn't satisfied with this concert, but I don't see the reason. It ain't as mellow as the original templates, but instead it's got rock'n'roll and temperament. But if you wish to complain about the accuracy of the performance, don't search for reasons in Ray Thomas' voice - it's mostly Justin Hayward who slurs some notes a wee bit, for instance, in Never Comes The Day, which becomes a veritable folk rocker in this version thanks to the mighty sound of Hayward's Gibson hollowbody guitar. Dr. Livingstone, I Presume and Legend of A Mind shows Mike Pinder in a comically inclined mode, either induced by certain substances or by the great vibes in Royal Albert Hall, stealing the show with the gripping MkII brass fanfares and some wicked circus-style licks in between. It's notable that the Mellotron, as it frequently did, got detuned during the concert. Mike Pinder compensates the machine, masters the volume and tone regulation without any problems and even gets the most shimmering soundscapes out of that beast in this live context - for keyboarders, this is really inspiring stuff showing how this guy defined the atmosphere of this music 'simply' by choosing the fitting inversions of the chords and playing them at the correct volume.

In terms of sound this album is totally satisfying, quite comparable with the reverberated and somewhat blurry, but nonetheless differentiated sound of Barclay James Harvest's Live. The striking difference is that Caught Live works without the frequently pathetic vocal delivery and, most importantly, without John Lees' annoying double string bending which he pulls off all over the whole concert. In spite of Caught Live's increased roughness the band perfectly manages to mime the five-man-orchestra on stage as well, blurring the borders between the different instruments to create a homogenous matter of sound.

As an addition to the live concert the record also adds a bunch of studio outtakes from around 1968, songs which either didn't fit on Days of Future Passed or In Search of the Lost Chord. At first it seems a bit sloppy to just stuff some remains from the studio at the end of a live album, but - if you think about it - it's a good idea, good in its pragmatism. The concert doesn't fit on one LP, there are still some really good (!) songs in the vault, and why shouldn't such an arduous main dish be followed by a creamy dessert? I always listen this album from the beginning until the end, which is actually a good sign. Long Summer Days is a beautiful ballad by Justin Hayward which came into being before Days of Future Passed, but which already features Hayward's typical pensive lyrics on times of day or, in this case, on seasons, along with some simple but effective flute notes and full harmony vocals. No mellotron, however, just like in the soulful piano jazz ballad Please Think About It, which - along with I Really Haven't Got The Time - is another Mike Pinder song stemming from the time when the arty R&B of the Denny-Laine-led band line-up was transformed into the more symphonic sound of the Days of Future Passed era.

The 1968 tracks Gimme A Little Something, a rare John Lodge song with Justin Hayward on lead vocals, and the genuinely folky King And Queen could have gotten lost in the variegation of In Search Of The Lost Chord, but are on a similarly high artistic level. King And Queen, as well as the excellent pop elegy What Am I Doing Here?, indulge in the gloomy royal fairytale atmosphere of Are You Sitting Comfortably? with clerically arranged vocal harmonies and a lovely Mellotron flute lilting on top of this euphony. Gimme A Little Something is slightly schizophrenic between the loudly wailing chorus and the sparse folky verses which profit a lot from the gentle cascades in the vocal melody during the pre-chorus.

There's no problem about these bonus tracks - they rather add to the total content of the album instead of appearing cheap or distracting from the basic thread. All in all, the live component of Caught Live definitely floats on sweetly aromatic clouds of smoke, and in multiple colors, but nonetheless has stood the test of time very well. A definite recommendation for everyone who appreciates at least one of the early Moody Blues albums as a big masterpiece, a careful recommendation even to those who felt the band to be too soft in the studio - they're pretty rough here, and that's what you have to be prepared for if you want to get maximum inspiration and atmosphere out of this CD.

Einsetumadur | 4/5 |


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