Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Moody Blues - Days Of Future Passed

As a child, I fell in love with the Moody Blues’ Days Of Future Passed.

They played with an orchestra, so you know it’s good.

Or at least, that’s what I thought as a child.

When I got older, I bought Days Of Future Passed (again) on cd.

After listening it to it again on that digital platform, I didn’t feel the same way.

In fact, I disliked it so much that a few years later I sold it back at a loss.
During that time in my bedroom as a kid, I studied the liner notes. If I recall, they had the transcript of the intro/outtro that bookends Days with an embarrassingly bad bit of prose. Bongwater made fun of it on their version of M.B.’s “Ride My See Saw,”, reading a bit of the monologue at the end of the song before Ann Magnuson lets out a sarcastic “Wow” after the “We decide which is right and which is an illusion” part.

I’m really not doing it justice, but trust me when I tell you it’s awful.
And there should not be any “cringe-inducing” moments on an album that likes to refer to itself as a “classic album.”

There are, however, two wonderful songs-both of which are part of the rock and roll vernacular-that are just great enough to put Days Of Future Passed into a category a notch above dismissing it.

Those songs, “Tuesday Afternoon” and “Nights In White Satin,” are perennial favorites and rightfully so.

But are they “rock songs?”

They are not.

They are wonderfully executed pop songs that just happen to be the focal points of an album that’s referred to as the first effort to combine classical and rock music.

Never mind that rock and roll by nature is an art form that puts the power of musical creativity into the hands of the common man, the very notion of a classical/rock album devoted to the everyday life of the common man is in itself an oxymoron and an event that shouldn’t be praised very loudly to begin with.

But the Moodys left their previous role as R&B purveyors to focus on a concept album with their new members (Justin Hayward and John Lodge), taking advantage of their label’s request to help Deram market stereophonic platters.

And since nothing says “in living stereo” better than an orchestra, they hired the London Festival Orchestra and conductor Peter Knight to create orchestral arrangements that blended the songs together.

The strategy works great on the aforementioned hits and “Dawn Is A Feeling,” but when the Moodys can’t match wits lyrically, the combination sounds forced.

Nothing, however, is as forced as the pretentious malarkey that fills member Graeme Edge’s “Morning Glory” intro and “Late Lament” outro.

Ironically, for an album originally developed to coincide with “Deramic Sound” (Deram Records’ version of what you and I call “stereo”) the label did a shitty job of securing the results. Subsequent generations were forced to listen to this “landmark” release on hissy safe copies as the original tapes were lost or destroyed.

Even attempts at patching together a definitive re-issue has been plagued with shoddy techniques and lazy research, hinting at the possibility that perhaps the label heads never really took this project seriously from the beginning.

And after listening to Days Of Future Passed, maybe you shouldn’t either.

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