Monday, November 11, 2019

Days of Future Passed

Days of Future Pased (AM9)
Artist: The Moody Blues 
Released: November 11, 1967 (UK) Deram Records, April, 1968 (US) Decca Records 
Executive Producer: Hugh Mendl 
Recording Engineer: Derek Varnals 
Cover painting by: David Anstey 
Singles: (UK release dates unless otherwise noted): Nov 10, 1967: Nights In White Satin/Cities; Jul 20, 1968: Tuesday Afternoon (Forever Afternoon)/Another Morning (US release); July 1972: Nights in White Satin (US Re-release).
Personnel: Justin Hayward: Acoustic and electric guitars, piano, keyboards, vocals; John Lodge: Bass, electric guitar, vocals; Mike Pinder: Keyboards, mellotron, piano, vocals; Ray Thomas: Flutes, horns, percussion, keyboards, vocals; Graeme Edge: drums percussion, vocals. 

Wait, not in the Rolling Stone top 500?  Not in 1001 Albums to Hear Before You Die? Kidding, right?  The very first prog album; the first album to utilize a full orchestra; a freakin' overlooked masterpiece, huh? 

What appears today as run of the mill (hardly) was ground-breaking in 1967!  The idea of fusing psychedelic rock with orchestral arrangements was an improbable marriage.  The Moody Blues somehow made it work, before the Beatles, without making it overly-produced or overtly pompous. A true concept album, Days of Future Past is thematic in that it follows a day's activity.  As "The Day Begins" Graeme Edge commands the sun to rise.  The optimism of the early morning is reflected in Michael Pinder's "Dawn is a Feeling" and in Ray Thomas' "Another Morning". By the afternoon, the recording takes on a surreal quality typical of later psychedelic recordings; indeed, John Lodge's compositions ("Peak Hour", "Forever Afternoon") are truly inspired. Despite the "typical day," the symphonic arrangements with the London Festival Orchestra are far from ordinary. 

The optimism fades a bit as the day wears on.  The recording closes with Justin Hayward's landmark "Nights In White Satin," which, in a bittersweet way, drains away the early euphoria.  Edge recites a "Late Lament" that commands the listener to "Breathe deep the gathering gloom." Really, Rolling Stone? Days of Future Past laid the groundwork for symphonic psychedelia, rock and pop music.  Later acts such as King Crimson, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Procol Harem and the Electric Light Orchestra would follow in the footsteps of this release, as would the Beatles.  It was monumental then; it is monumental now and its snub from the Top 500 is a travesty.  Madonna's Immaculate Collection, a greatest hits album(!), makes it, Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation makes it, Big Star? Who the fuck? Twice, no less; but no Days.  If you listen to Rhythm Nation before you die, and you haven't listened to this, we at AM are so, so sorry.

Often we report on LPs and events from 50 years ago. This release was 52 years ago, but was such a bomb that it was two years before the LP gained the momentum to go gold. Six years from its release, “Nights in White Satin” would reach the No. 1 spot on the singles charts.