Tuesday, April 16, 2013

#653: The Church of the Moody Blues

We've sorta gone all Moody Blues-happy here recently, with me raving about their "Simple Game" in that post about Great B-Sides below, raving about all the other hits they SHOULD'VE had a coupla posts back, & chopping up that thin MOODY BLUES COMPANION book a few posts ago.
But indulge me 4 awhile longer, because there's a new book out about the Moodies, & it takes a look at the band from a somewhat different angle.
Charles and Barbara Whitfield's TIMELESS TROUBADOURS: THE MOODY BLUES' MUSIC AND MESSAGE (2013, 165 large-type pages with a glossary, reference notes and an index), written by a doctor and a therapist, proposes that the Moodies' music has healing, restorative properties and can help you live a better life.
Well, yeah.
But all music can do that. Anyone's favorite music has restorative and healing powers, and just hearing it helps you live a better, more satisfying, more fulfilled life.
The Whitfields' point is that due to their unique musical construction, optimistic and uplifting outlook, and continuous spiritual search for The Meaning Of It All, the Moodies' music is especially suited for this purpose.
Well, maybe.
This is the kind of thinking that made the Moodies a sort of laughing-stock in the "cooler" quarters of the late '60s/early-'70s counterculture, the folks who were too cool 2 B swept away by the Moodies' "cosmic" compositions & searches 4 The Meaning Of Life. There were also folks out there who thot the Moodies had Answers to all the Questions that were plaguing the hippie generation. It's that kind of thinking that led Moodies bassist John Lodge to write "I'm Just a Singer in a Rock and Roll Band."
And yet, I always liked the Moodies' cosmic outlook, their searches for meaning, their pontificating, their classical & cosmic pretensions, even mostly liked their lectures -- like "The Balance" & "Have You Heard?" & "My Song." Within limits. Not "Om," tho.
I remember a review CRAWDADDY magazine published back in '78 on the Moodies' "comeback" album OCTAVE. The reviewer was so busy being fake-cosmic & "clever" & sly & stupid about the band & its fans & its past that he couldn't even bother 2 say if the album was ANY GOOD.
& I was furious, because I loved those guys, had been sucked-in by everything they did from the time I 1st heard DAYS OF FUTURE PASSED at age 8 & later was reminded about them when I heard "Ride My See-Saw" blasting out of a tiny transistor radio at age 11.
I bought all their "Core 7" albums & disappeared in2 them (& Justin Hayward & John Lodge's great fake-Moodies-album BLUE JAYS) 4 months at a time as I struggled 2 get thru highschool. & the Moodies assured me that the work was worth it, that someday it would All Make Sense.
I'm sure if I read that CRAWDADDY putdown today I'd probly laff & admire the comedy writing & probly even agree with it on some level. But underneath I'd still B furious, cos the Moodies never got no respect 4 their uniqueness -- their great British-pop songwriting, their gorgeous vocal harmonies, Hayward's rockin' guitar work, the siren-wail of the Mellotron that trademarked their most memorable songs....
(*AHEM*) Now then: Even with all this as background, I had some trouble taking the Whitfields' central thesis seriously, and I'm sorry for that. I've become a little cynical in my old age. But I know the effect the Moodies had on me when I was younger, & that their best music still has on me. I even played "My Song" at work a few nites ago, & it sounded A LOT BETTER than I remembered. (Wonder what "Have You Heard?" sounds like these days?) I even played "Say it with Love" (from the empty KEYS OF THE KINGDOM) in the car a couple nites ago -- & didn't throw up! I wasn't thrilled, I wasn't gripped, but it was painless.
& tho the Whitfields missed some songs that I think would have supported their thesis, I havta reluctantly conclude that they might B right about the healthy, restorative, guide-for-your-life aspect of the Moodies' work. &, unlike the MOODY BLUES COMPANION dissected below, at least the Whitfields' book is mostly in Real English. They know how to put words together.
Would've liked 2 hear their views on "Question," 1 of the angriest of the Moodies' songs ... & about "The Balance," 1 of the most overtly "spiritual" of the Moodies' songs -- it even SOUNDS like a sermon. Also think "You and Me" is 1 of the most direct Moodies trax in terms of message, & that it's pretty clear that "Watching and Waiting" is narrated by "the voice" of Another Planet. The only obvious error I could see is the note that EVERY GOOD BOY DESERVES FAVOUR wasn't promoted by a single -- what about "The Story in Your Eyes"?
(The Whitfields also claim the Moodies have never tried 2 venture in2 Country music -- maybe they missed hearing "Send Me No Wine" & "It's Cold Outside of Your Heart" -- both of which R very twangy.)
What I liked best about this book is that the Whitfields invited comment from readers, & hava website at moodiesbook.wordpress.com. They want to keep the conversation going -- I think that and the openness & positiveness in their book is a tough combination to beat. I've already commented....
So this isn't the in-depth history of the Moodies that I'd been hoping 4 -- tho there is some new stuff here. I still think there's plenty of room 4 a detailed history, & I hereby volunteer 2 write it....

(Coming up soon for post #666: King Crimson, of course....)

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