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The Moody Blues - To Our Children's Children's Children CD (album) cover


The Moody Blues


Crossover Prog

4.10 | 382 ratings

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5 stars 14/15P.: The Moody Blues on their creative peak: a unique and perfectly arranged sonic experience, a journey to the past and to the future at the same time with the most inventive Mellotron production ever made - and one of the definitive statements of '69

Regardless of what one might think about The Moody Blues and their work one has to admit that they worked brilliantly as a unit of pop songwriters and as a unit of arrangers. Even when the compositions became a bit bland, as on a few pieces on Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, the arrangements could make up for it, and when the arrangements were stripped down, as on A Question of Balance the quality of the compositions was high enough to grant the album the status of a genuinely good recording. And this also shows why the Moodies later became a band which we in Germany would assign to the genre "Schlager" (i.e. music with replaceable lyrics about love and stuffed with triviality): they worked as a unit in the 1970s, and when Justin Hayward and John Lodge took over the full duties of a) songwriting, b) singing, c) programming the keyboards and d) programming the drum machine, there was no teamwork anymore, and (needless to say) no compensating sonic depth either.

To Our Children's Children's Children, however, is the opposite and hence is my favorite recording amongst the other Moodies albums. The teamwork has never been better on any of the earlier or later albums: there are ~ 2-3 compositions by each of the band's members, even Graeme Edge is responsible for two pieces - and of them is even instrumental* and perhaps the band's greatest sonic achievement: Beyond, which features a gorgeous motif on a driving space rock rhythm, although the most exciting parts are the short "time slots" inbetween, brief interludes of reverberated Mellotron flutes or half-speed Mellotron strings which really feel like looking through the windows of a spaceship, independent from time and space. Higher And Higher is quite similar, but features Edge's poetry (recited by Mike Pinder's deep voice, at first played through a filter to sound like a radio-transmitted voice), dealing with the journey to the universe, influenced by the moon landing in 1969. As one probably has already noticed this is the topic of the whole album, and interestingly it sound neither dated nor embarassing (listen to Eloy's Power and The Passion) at any place; the songs still are a journey through time and a rewarding listening experience, too, particularly since The Moody Blues were never to be as elaborate in sound construction and experimentation again. The whole first minute of Higher And Higher consists of overdriven electronic sounds which should sound like a spaceship starting and which always remind me of the wind sounds before King Crimson's Schizoid Man.

This also resulted in the unfavorable situation that none of the songs (bar Gypsy, a straight-forward rocker by Justin Hayward with awesome counterpoints by Mellotron and flute) could be performed live. Eyes of A Child Pt.1, for instance, sounds like an old English madrigal with a lot of percussion sounds, important parts played on the bass flute by Ray Thomas and random arpeggio sounds played on a harp. Eyes of A Child itself bookends Ray Thomas's lightweight pop song Floating which is completely simple, but also slightly psychedelic due to the pitch-bent Mellotron vibraphones and the echoing glockenspiel notes; Hayward's lively acoustic guitar picking is also not too bad! I still do not really understand Eyes of A Child Pt.2. It has similar lyrics to part one, but rather is a follow-up to the hard-rocking To Share Our Love from the Moodies' previous album. It simply is by far too short to be acknowledged as a second version of the same song, but it is no distracting filler by any means because it could be the closest the Moody Blues ever came to hard rock. And in a way it also fits this "time window" feeling which many pieces have, this feeling of travelling past short musical miniatures while listening to the album (if you know Brian Eno's Another Green World you will know what I mean).

The two pieces I'd Never Thought I'd Live To Be A Hundred and I'd Never Thought I'd Live To Be A Million fall into the same category and are actually the same piece: 'hundred' are stanzas #1 and #2, 'million' is stanza #3. Written by Justin Hayward, it's a beautiful acoustic ballad (two acoustic guitars, double-tracked Hayward lead vocals) and surprisingly convincing regarding their length. But, again, the whole is larger than the sum of its parts: these interludes are even better in their context as they a) skillfully prepare the succeeding pieces and b) give the album structure (=a frame).

John Lodge's contribution on side 2 of the record is called Candle of Life and is sung by Justin Hayward - nice to hear him singing a song which doesn't sound like a Hayward composition. Mike Pinder weaves his trademark Mellotron strings with lush grand piano counterpoints, making the piece resemble a classical composition in terms of sound. A nice thought experiment to understand how elaborately this album is arranged: imagine the piece lacked Ray Thomas' tambourine and you'll see that Candle of Life wouldn't be as effective. Plenty of beautiful backings vocals again, a song totally in harmony and coherence with itself.

Unfortunately Mike Pinder doesn't deliver one of his trademark longtracks on this album, but his two shorter contributions on TOCCC nonetheless possess the depth which his compositions (mostly) have. Sun is Still Shining is perhaps the weakest track on the record, although it's four stars worth as well, and is one of those one-chord-songs which build up on a single drone and which thus remind the listener of oriental music, apart from the McCartney-esque bass line which appears here and there. The distant sitar licks which stay in the background like a mantra add to this effect and are the last examples of the Moodies' era of eastern-influenced psychedelic music (except for the short reminiscence in 1970's Procession). The chorus diversifies the song and offers some wonderfully accurate Mellotron pitchbends and a few notes of lead guitar. It could be these two elements which give the piece its space rock flavour, instead of the Indian sound of Om which was also led by sitars. Out and In, Mike Pinder's contribution on side 1, is perfect and a more typical Moody Blues track with Hayward's rock'n'roll licks underneath the carpet of Mellotron strings, again pitch-bent most perfectly. Originally, on the LP cover the song was credited to both John Lodge and Mike Pinder (by the way - listening to this album as a LP with groove sizzling and the wonderfully painted 31cmx62cm gatefold is a sublime experience which I can only recommend); nobody seems to know why Lodge appeared, but seemingly it was a mistake since the reissues delete him again. The song's classy and comparatively frugal rock sound make Out and In the secret highlight on this album to me.

The only band member which is still left is Ray Thomas, and his contributions are well able to stand up to the other songs on the album. Eternity Road fits in perfectly well with this slightly nostalgic 18th century sound, paired with the futuristic soundscapes. In a way it's the pendant to Out and In with tasteful guitar licks woven with the Mellotron. Again the composition is awesome; just listen to how the Mellotron echoes the 'here he comes' which Ray sings in the beginning of the stanzas. A reviewer praised the last minute of the piece to be one of the finest acoustic rock'n'roll fade-outs ever. I do agree with that, it is in fact full of energy with swirling flutes, but maintaining the lush tenderness which ties the compositions gathered on this album together. Watching and Waiting could have become a kitschy affair, but the 'we stuff this piece to the gills with Mellotron strings'-approach is so highly successful that I always replay this piece one or two times. Basically, Watching and Waiting is one of those torch songs which have this slight jazz influence and the reflective-wishful mood throughout. Expect for some hi-hat washes the drums are mixed totally in the background, it's the acoustic guitar which gives the rhythm and the rest is essentially Mellotron strings. And, as it is the case everywhere on this album, Mike Pinder resisted the temptation to only play chords, but rather arranged it like an orchestra instead, with different layers with different dynamics and equalizer/tone settings, a single high note placed at one place or another - it does sound like an orchestra, and as a child I wouldn't have believed that all of these sounds come from a keyboard instrument! The lyrics of the song are, yes, wishful. "Mole he is burrowing his way to the sunlight, he knows there's someone there so strong". Yes, it's a storybook metaphor, clearly influenced by the first chapters of The Wind in the Willows, but the song is perfectly uplifting and emotionally intense, unlike many of the Moody Blues ballads one had to suffer in the late 1980s. And the metaphor also fits the topic of the album, and the thoughts of those days: transcending the borders of one's mind, meditation, reflecting oneself from a sufficiently distant position. And also the parallel scientific progress: flying to the moon, travelling through space, but also the self-abandoning Major Tom idea, and alienation in a world in which a war as cold-hearted as the Vietnam War disputed the peace-led idealism. 1969, being on a voyage into an unexploited, but lonely world - the spaceship team compared with a mole in the earth. And the craving for "someone to understand" you. Yes, that's how I - from the perspective of a German who was born in the 1990s - imagines the spirit of the late 1960s, an age which wasn't paradisiac at all, but an age in which one thought about relevant things and one could find both emotional and intellectual fulfillment in music and art.

And although this romanticistic and idealist approach to music, as it is omnipresent on the Moody Blues' albums, cannot cover all situations (indeed I'm glad to be able to listen to punk rock, electro/house etc., too), I'm utterly glad to have such an album, a relic from a time passed, but a relic that has never aged much. It's an important part of my record collection, and I recommend this unique listening experience to everyone who is interested in progressive and art rock. This could be the definitive Moody Blues album, and even if you don't like the band too much because they're too soft - this album (and "Every Good Boy Deserves Favour") could appeal to you!

(I don't own the 5.1 remix, but I know the BBC session which is added on the bonus version. It's actually like "Caught Live", a highly recommendable live recording with lots of atmosphere, but unfortunately the pieces are shortened gravely, perhaps due to time restraints in the transmission. The band runs through the pieces and this makes the concert hard to enjoy. So, buy "Caught Live" instead if you are only interested in the live versions. The alternate versions could be of interested as there are, as far as I know, some full-length versions around, but the main point of interest should be the 5.1 remix, although I don't know how this job was done!)

* for your information: Graeme Edge only wrote quite a lot of poems on the Moodies' first albums, but never composed any music!

Einsetumadur | 5/5 |


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