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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 The mystical seven great ages of The Moody Blues: Creation, Innovation, Hallucination, Progression, Maturation, Sophistication, Perfection. Lucky is the number seven, and truly the great ones were at harmony with each other and their music of the spheres, surveying the world from high above the clouds. But there came an eighth age, the age of Separation, an age when the great ones went out into the world of mortals, hearing their own true voices and liking what they heard. The light began to fade. OCTAVE.

So, what went wrong with Octave?

Firstly, it has the sound of a collection of 'solo' tracks rather than a collective 'band' sound. It is not cohesive. It doesn't gel. The core character that made the Moodies so great, its essential oneness, had splattered to the four winds in the wake of a series of solo and collaborative projects that introduced the members to a variety of outside stimuli.

Secondly, the band's trademark multi-voice harmonising begins to take a back seat: there is less of it, and subtle changes in the mix push principal singers to the fore on most songs, a trend that would continue in future years. This is especially noticeable on John Lodge's songs, where his fragile voice had previously been held up by the others. Lodge's high notes are also largely absent!

Third is the Mellotron issue, for this signature sound is missing from much of the album, mostly replaced by more modern synths, with real strings on a couple of tracks.

Fourthly, the album does not have the feel of a classic Tony Clarke production that helped make those earlier albums so special. Clarke did indeed produce Octave, but his presence was tempered by massive personal upheavals that undoubtedly sapped his concentration.

Fifthly, it is simply a bunch of songs with no inkling of a concept or any unity of thought to bind the lyrics. Earlier albums may have had tenuous links that were often more in the ear of the listener than any reality, but the songs somehow all seemed to belong together as a body of work.

Sixthly, it has every indication of a band in disarray, its members pulling in different directions amid a number of crises that caused both Mike Pinder and Tony Clarke to leave. In Hayward's own words, the band thought "'it' was all over, the magic had gone" and they were simply placing a final full stop at the end of the band's career. History shows different of course, and they, without Clarke or Pinder, would bounce back with a vengeance to produce the excellent 'Long Distance Voyager'. It would never be the same again, of course, and Octave remains as a fascinating but severely flawed document of that troubled transitional period.

But, is it any good? Taken individually there are some good songs here and a couple or three crackers. Hayward's mid-paced 'The Day We Meet Again' is an undoubted classic of the post-Mellotron era, with some gorgeous multi-tracked fuzz guitar phrasing and a progressive melody with Hayward extending his vocal chords. Curiously, the album opens with the 'new-wave' of Lodge's 'Steppin In A Slide Zone', an up tempo rocker reminiscent of 'I'm Just A Singer ...' but with modern production and instrumentation. Pinder's sole contribution 'One Step Into The Light' is typically esoteric Pinder with a lovely lilting beat, some nice guitar work, massed harmonies and Mellotron.

The remainder hops about somewhat. Hayward's 'Had To Fall In Love' and 'Driftwood' are Moodies-lite - adequate, and with the right balance, but rather inessential - but his 'Top Rank Suite' is a solo-style abomination that should never have passed the censors. Thomas' jaunty 'Under Moonshine' is pretty good, with a very progressive melody structure that keeps developing, but his 'I'm Your Man' is an orchestrated turkey. Lodge's 'Survival' is one of his big orchestrated numbers with some nice harmonies - it's quite good really, and doesn't fall into the trap of over-blown bombast. Edge's 'I'll Be Level With You' is a nondescript rocker.

Overall. It's a good album that lacks the breadth of vision of their earlier work. Of course, the Moodies needed to move on, but Octave can only offer some glimpses of what they would progress to jumbled in with reminders of what they had been. The band had clearly lost it's old voice, but yet had to find a new one. Should you buy it? If you already have the first seven and Long Distance Voyager, then Octave must surely be worthy of consideration.

Joolz | 3/5 |


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