When you get right down to it, the major contribution of the British to rock has been their attention to musical texture. The importance of England's singer-songwriters and British bluesmen can't be denied, but they have simply refined existing styles. In true sow's ear and silk purse fashion, Her Majesty's finest took the multi-layered sound and distinctive effects made possible by modern recording techniques and created textures as palpable as the clothes on your bodyand almost as organic.
The Kinks are old bleached cotton. Yes sound like carefully crafted brocade, soft and pliant despite the gold threads running through it. Jethro Tull reminds you of brightly died burlap, and T. Rex of silver lamé. And then there's the Moody Blues. The Moodiesthey're thick wool tweed in earth colors, lined with shiny grey silk. They're warm but muted on the outside, sensual and smooth within.
The Moody Blues' seventh visitation on vinyl weaves some new strands into the consistent fabric of their work. The five members of the group seem to share the awareness of worldly problems once only articulated by mellotron wizard Mike Pinder. Some of their lyrics are on a level with "The Eve of Destruction," but they've taken a welcome step away from their often vapid and abstracted writing. Musically, they use rhythmical accents more than before, and even sing something close to out-and-out rock.
Despite these changes, it's still the same old Moodies; the five-year-old "Nights in White Satin" could easily fit on this album. The recent success of that song testifies to the group's ability to transcend the vagaries of pop styles, even if their approach may be occasionally cloying with its cotton-candy cosmicness.
Now that the Moody Blues are successful singles artists, their new album is a collection of individual tunes with little to link them but the group's collective philosophy. There's a follow-up song about Doctor Tim (remember "Legend of a Mind" with Ray Thomas' haunting refrain, "He's on the outside looking in"?), this time a dirge by Mike Pinder looking forward to "When You're a Free Man." Lead guitarist Justin Hayward, composer of "Nights in White Satin" and the most melodic of the Moodies, continues the group's preoccupation with dreams and fantasy in "The Land of Make-Believe" and "New Horizons," the most memorable and sinuous song on the album. Ray Thomas contributes a charming chanty about the search for love on life's sea, "For My Lady." And John Lodge turns in the by-now-familiar "Isn't Life Strange," as well as the Moodies' answer to those who would make sages of them, "I'm Just a Singer (in a Rock and Roll Band)." Gone are the days of "Minstrel's Song" and its optimistic celebration of music's power.
The Moodies' vocal and instrumental harmonies have always been so seductive, why make so much of their pedestrian lyrics? The group itself paid little mind to the words when they didn't even bother to print them on their first two albums, and their early mixes played down the vocals. Only after McKuen's minions and their ilk discovered them were the Moodies regarded as prophets. Their lyrics could be analyzed for their mundane imagery or their representation of a prevailing ethos, but I'd rather leave that to the poets and the clowns. On this album as well as their earlier ones, their most satisfying music is also their most tactile, with a variety of rich and flowing textures. Give your intellect a break. Seventh Sojourn is music to bask in and feel with your pores as well as your ears. (RS 126)
(Posted: Jan 18, 1973)
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