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The Moody Blues - The Present CD (album) cover


The Moody Blues


Crossover Prog

3.02 | 120 ratings

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Mr. Gone
4 stars Perhaps a half-tick in quality below its predecessor, "Long Distance Voyager", "The Present" is nonetheless an incredibly enjoyable way to spend 40 minutes or so. It's probably the most organic-sounding album of the Patrick Moraz era, and the songs within are tuneful, emotionally-charged and well-arranged.

If I could find any real room for complaint, it would be that Ray Thomas's presence seems to be diminishing further. There was precious little room for his flute playing on either "Octave" or "Long Distance Voyager", and that remains true here - he only contributes anything instrumentally or vocally on the two songs he wrote (the ambient "I Am" and the final-straw finale "Sorry") and the Graeme Edge-penned "Going Nowhere", where his vocals punctuate the lyrical melancholy of the song's protagonist nicely. No other vocals, lead or backing, anywhere that I can detect - which unfortunately would be a precursor of the band's next two albums, where he gets backing vocals one one track TOTAL between the two albums, no leads, and no instrumental contributions whatsoever.

Still, at least Thomas is around for this recording, and the material as a whole is strong enough to make his absences a bit less frustrating (though it would have been a nice counterpoint to have him play some flute in the John Lodge march bit "Hole in the World", play flute instead of having Moraz's synth flute on "Blue World" or add his vocals to "Meet Me Halfway"). "Blue World" and "Meet Me Halfway" are always enjoyable and among the band's best work (the latter is a particularly positive, rousing track); "It's Cold Outside Your Heart" is a beautiful lament, "Under My Feet" is a catchy if perhaps slight piece of John Lodge drama, and "Sitting at the Wheel", though seeming perhaps a bit ordinary on early listens, somehow gets better with time (not a classic, but not nearly as unsubstantial as one might initially think). Thomas's compositions are probably his best since the "Core 7" albums, and while "Running Water" may be a bit too fluffy for some it's nonetheless pretty in a way the band would struggle to repeat in coming years.

After the synthpop of "The Other Side of Life" and "Sur La Mer", the band would try to get back to this more organic sound. Unfortunately, the results were not nearly as even as they were here, but it was perhaps heartening in a way to see that they realized that this was a good direction to go in based on the sounds and moods in this little gem. Four stars, without reservation.

Mr. Gone | 4/5 |


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