Sunday, November 10, 2019

The Magnificent Moodies

It was fifty years ago that the Moody Blues released the third in a series of six phenomenal concept LPs that began with Days of Future Passed, still the iconic symphonic rock LP. Owning any of the six, particularly if you've never heard anything by the Moodies but "Nights in White Satin," is an experience you can thank me for later; well, thank them for. 

Image result for on the threshold of a dreamThe LP, On the Threshold of a Dream, was among the first wave of album-oriented rock or AOR that would take hold in the 1970s; indeed, On the Threshold of a Dream had no hit songs despite the LP being the first release to enter into the U.S. Top 20 and a No. 1 smash in the U.K. 

In 1965, the Moody Blues had a hit with a remake of "Go Now" that was promo'd by what may be the very first MTV style video, predating even The Beatles' "Rain" and "Paperback Writer." Despite the single's success, the Moodies were struggling financially. Decca Records, hoping to further its exploration into stereophonic recordings, asked the band to do a rock interpretation of Dvorak's New World Symphony (Symphony No. 9) for the new Deram Records label. Instead the band recorded, without the label's knowledge, Days of Future Passed with Mike Pinder's "Dawn is a Feeling" as the catalyst for the project. Justin Heyward would follow with the LP's big hit, "Nights in White Satin," a play on words in which bed sheets are used as a cunning metaphor. Released in 1966, it is still my favorite Moody Blues LP and it introduced the world to symphonic interpretations of rock music. 

The band would follow up with In Search of the Lost Chord, a psychedelic concept piece all about the journey. It contained no real hit but gained a lot of radio play with "Ride My See-Saw" and the biopic fantasy "Legend of a Mind," about Dr. Timothy Leary. The song is a part of an extended concept song called "The House of Four Doors," the Moodies at their finest and an incredible soiree into the psychedelic experience.

With the 3rd LP in the concept series, Threshold of a Dream, the Moodies would fully establish themselves as the first AOL rock band. Each of the LPs was meant to be listened to in its entirety; this wasn't background music. The Moody Blues were when listeners first sat on the couch and immersed themselves in the experience. What's interesting though, is that with the next few LPs, the Moodies would have their biggest hits in "Question," "The Story in Your Eyes," "I'm Just a Singer in a Rock 'n' Roll Band" and oddly, six years after its initial release, "Nights in White Satin" would make it all the way to No. 1.

On the Threshold of a Dream is an LP oozing with splash and psychedelic experimentation. The album was a runaway smash in the U.K. and provided The Moody Blues with their first No. 1 British LP, remaining on the charts for some 70 weeks. 

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