Sunday, 28 June 2015

In Search Of The Lost Chord - The Moody Blues - album review

It is fair to say that some of the albums from the psychedelic era have not aged well. However, one of the musical artefacts from that time which warrants attention is the the 1968 record "In Search Of The Lost Chord" by The Moody Blues. In some ways, it is the quintessential psychedelic album, and one is left marveling at how far these guys had traveled from their early days as a cuddly "British Invasion" combo.

The main reason why it stands out from many of its contemporaries is the way in which it encompasses both the whimsical "childlike" flavour of British psychedelia and the more "philosophical" school of the genre which existed on the West Coast of America. In addition, there is some truly beautiful, haunting and affecting music on the record...

Yes, this album does sound "dated", in its production values and to some degree the subject matter, but these are no bad things to my ears. It is an absorbing listening experience, a feast for the senses. After the opening vignette "Departure" comes "Ride My See-Saw", arguably the most famous song on the record.  With a driving and energetic core, and its grandiose and dramatic production, this number ideally and compactly sets up the fare which follows.

"Dr. Livingstone, I Presume" is a kind of hybrid song, incorporating two persuasions of psychedelic rock, with its cute verses and more "profound" choruses, both of which essentially explore the same themes. Ray Thomas' lead vocal is most endearing and likeable.As the title of the LP implies, much of the material concerns broad issues of spiritual and personal exploration and development.

Next comes "House Of Four Doors". Musically complex, and featuring some great "door" sound effects.  The nice flourishes on mellotron, harpsichord and flute add vital texture, and the chorus vocals are beautiful if decidedly "sixties". This track, and its shorter "reprise" could be said to constitute the heart of "In Search Of The Lost Chord".

"Legend Of A Mind", a paean to Timothy Leary, is also an important building block in making this album so good, and also serves as a reminder of the importance and input of Ray Thomas to the project. He wrote this song, sang the lead vocals, and performed the haunting flute solo.

Another of the album's best known compositions, "Voices In The Sky", although a good tune, feels a touch lightweight in the context of some of the other items. "The Best Way To Travel" sounds more like other British psychedelia which was around in 1967/68.

The piece de resistance of the album in my opinion is the beguiling "Visions Of Paradise". Melodically seductive, and drenched in the luxuriant flute of Ray Thomas, it is a simple but effective song which for me epitomizes the appeal of the record as a whole. The sitar is a pleasant touch too. A song to lose oneself in....

"The Actor" has some similar virtues and qualities to the song which precedes it, if in less "esoteric" clothing. Some expressive and evocative singing by Justin Hayward, and containing the same order of instrumental finesse which pervades much of the album.

After another brief interlude, "The Word", we find the closing number "Om". An Indian-influenced piece, and dare I say it, much more appealing and convincing than similar things released by certain other British groups of the period. The vocal harmonies are sumptuous, and the "exotic" instruments are employed here again with considerable aplomb.

"In Search Of The Lost Chord" is an enjoyable and absorbing album to listen to. Even people who are not particular fans of The Moody Blues or the psychedelic/progressive music of the era should find it enjoyable, because it is a beautiful and coherent artistic statement, possessing real impact and charm.

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