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The Moody Blues - Octave CD (album) cover


The Moody Blues


Crossover Prog

2.75 | 175 ratings

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Mr. Gone
2 stars Certain albums are greater than the sum of their parts. One earlier one from the Moodies, "To Our Children's Children's Children", certainly fits this bill in my book. Taken individually, many of the songs are pleasant enough but certainly not earthshaking ("Floating", "Eyes of a Child" and "Watching and Waiting" come immediately to mind), but taken as a whole the album is probably my favorite of theirs. The concept and the waxing and waning of moods and instrumentation work to make a wonderfully cohesive whole.

Unfortunately, "Octave" falls into the opposite category. Many of the songs, taken individually, work quite well ("Driftwood", "I'll Be Level With You", even "Survival", "Had to Fall in Love" and "Steppin' in a Slide Zone", which have gotten decidedly mixed reviews from many on this site fall in this category for me), but taken together the album just doesn't work.

And it's not just that it's not a concept album like the aforementioned "Children". Much of it, believe or not, comes down to the sound for me. I realize the band had to adapt to fit with the times, and Mellotrons had to give way to synthesizers, but many of the songs have too much instrumentation mixed at roughly the same level, making the music "busy" to the point of becoming fuzzy, murky or even mushy sounding. "Slide Zone" may be most emblematic of that, but even slower numbers like "Survival", "The Day We Meet Again" and "One Step into the Light" suffer from this as well. It's hard to pick out the individual instruments sometimes because there's just too much going on in roughly the same aural range. This could be handled in small doses, but when 60-70% of the album is suffering from the same ailment, it becomes overwhelming. And while Ray Thomas was my favorite Moody, his two contributions on this album are probably the worst he submitted to the band's cause - I hit "skip" every time they come up, and although "Under Moonshine" may not be nearly as trite as "I'm You're Man", it too is overwhelmed with heavy production which makes this already borderline-weak track basically unlistenable.

I give some kudos to Graeme Edge for "I'll Be Level With You", a song which makes me fondly recall "After You Came" from "Every Good Boy Deserves Favor"; however, it too gets awfully murky-sounding at the end with the keyboards at too close a sonic frequency to the guitars and the rhythm section getting basically overwhelmed by it all. And that seems to happen as a whole far too often on this album for me - the production/mixing/whatever just kills the material, which was probably overall the weakest the band had submitted to date even though some songs were quite good. So, between the overall weakness of the material (especially Ray's two duds) and the horrid sound, I can only offer two stars. This was, however, the band's nadir until the mid-80's, as "Octave"'s two followups, "Long Distance Voyager" and "The Present" offer some great material presented quite pleasantly.

Mr. Gone | 2/5 |


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