Sunday, November 10, 2019

In Search of the Lost Chord - The Moody Blues - AM8

After Days of Future Passed became a critical (if reluctantly financial) success, the Moody Blues were faced with the daunting task of following up the ground-breaking work. They did so in 1968 with In Search of the Lost Chord, which saw them further develop their mind-expanding sound and immerse themselves in psychedelic culture. This is probably the Moodys' most experimental and unusual album, if undeniably dated.

In Search of the Lost Chord is a concept album of quest and discovery as its expansive theme. While done with broad strokes, the LP encompassed space exploration, time travel, altered states, life's psychological journeys and self-actualization.

The Moodys created out of 33 instruments, their own mini-orchestra, without the aid a session-men or orchestra. Once again, every member of the band took a share of songwriting duties that include two spoken word pieces by Graeme Edge. The first of which, "Departure," melds nicely into the album's first single, "Ride My See-Saw" from John Lodge, a rocker with fine guitar from Justin Hayward. Lodge also provides "House of Four Doors Parts 1 and 2," a haunting pair of tracks with Part 1 featuring sound FX of each door creaking open. Mike Pinder contributes to the psychedelic mood of the album with the trippy "Best Way to Travel" and the sitar-drenched "OM"(which turns out to be the eponymous Lost Chord), while Justin Hayward is responsible for another beautiful pair of ballads in the shape of the "Voices in the Sky" and the dramatic "The Actor." The hippy vibe that suffuses the record is also in evidence on "Visions of Paradise," a lovely Hayward/Ray Thomas collaboration with some atmospheric flute work.

The most memorable song on the album, however, is Ray Thomas' epic "Legend of a Mind," about the LSD guru Timothy Leary. Once again featuring some excellent flute work from Thomas, this complex song is performed by the band with utter conviction and builds to a pulsating climax. Thomas died this past January.

To truly understand these early days of progressive rock, put yourself in 1968 listening to this album for the first time. The Moody Blues surpassed even the Beatles with their exquisitely complex orchestrations, using instruments that often were (and are) played only in obscure classical presentations.

Sessions for the album commenced in January 1968 with the recording of Thomas's "Legend of a Mind." Whereas the London Festival Orchestra had supplemented the group on Days of Future Passed, the Moodys played all instruments themselves. Indian instruments such as the sitar (played by guitarist Justin Hayward), the tambura (played by keyboardist Mike Pinder) and the tabla (played by drummer and percussionist Graeme Edge) made appearances on several tracks (notably "Departure", "Visions of Paradise" and "Om"). Other unconventional instruments were used, notably the oboe (played by percussionist/flute player Ray Thomas) and the cello (played by bassist John Lodge, who tuned it as a bass guitar). The mellotron, played by Pinder, produced the various string and horn embellishments.

Having already experimented with spoken word interludes on "Morning Glory" and "Late Lament" on Days of Future Passed, the group repeated the bookend idea with the Graeme Edge-penned "Departure" and "The Word." The latter was recited by Pinder, while "Departure," which escalates from mumbling to hysterical laughter, is a rare studio example of Edge reciting his own words.

In Search of the Lost Chord was released on 26 July 1968. It peaked at number 5 in the UK and reached number 23 on the US album charts. 

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