Thursday, October 5, 2017

Review of The Moody Blues' "Every Good Boy Deserves Favour"

I dropped this review on the Sputnik Music website a few minutes ago.

Review Summary: An enjoyable, if middling, progressive rock snack.

The Moody Blues are often credited as "pioneers" of progressive rock, due to their 1967 album Days of Future Passed being considered among the first successful concept albums. In spite of this, in many ways, The Moodies were really kind of a middle-of-the-road prog rock band. Their music wasn't as influential as King Crimson's, or as complicated as Yes's. What they created at their best was a number of melodic prog rock albums with a classical tinge. Their music mixed soft rock sounds with healthy doses of mellotron, orchestral string instruments, woodwinds and keyboards, to create pleasant-sounding songs that were almost as much pop as they were prog rock. Lacking one outstanding lead vocalist to match contemporaries such as Yes and ELP, they made do with four different acceptable lead vocalists (Justin Hayward, John Lodge, Mike Pinder and Ray Thomas), which helped to keep their sound varied and interesting. As to which album was their "masterpiece", I'm not sure they had one. Instead, they had a series of seven albums between 1967 and and 1972 that were incredibly consistent -- if you liked one, chances are you liked them all.

Every Good Boy Deserves Favour (1971) is the second-to-last of these. It's as good an example as any of the strengths, and shortcomings, of this much-loved classic rock band. Named after a mnemonic device to help young guitar students remember the order of the notes of the treble clef, the album contains nine songs, all of which are pretty good. Of the nine, two are by Hayward, two by Lodge, two by Thomas, one by Pinder, and two are group efforts. The "single" from the LP, and one of the rockier numbers, is Hayward's "The Story in Your Eyes". However, truth be told, The Moodies were never really a singles band. At the time of the album's release, at least on American FM radio, each of the nine songs received its share of airplay.

The first track, "Procession" serves as something of an overture. It features various sounds, such as howling wind, falling rain, Indian sitar music, etc., to present the listener with a series of changing moods, several of which are punctuated by a "tion" word: "Desolation", "Creation" and "Communication". This comes to culmination (no pun intended) on the album's sixth track, "One More Time to Live", where songsmith Lodge reels off an impressive series of more than twenty of these "tion/sion" words, working his way from a starting point of "Desolation" through the final two, "Compassion" and "Solution". 

For better or worse, this song exemplifies the band's philosophical scope. On the one hand, the lyrics are clever and dramatic. On the other, they're about as deep as a puddle. The profundity of The Moody Blues' belief system basically boils down to this: All you need is love. Or as Pinder puts it in the album-closing "My Song", "Love can change the world/Love can change your life/Do what makes you happy/Do what you know is right". Can I get a "Kumbaya" here?

If it sounds like I'm belittling the band, or the album, I don't mean to. To put out a series of albums as listenable and satisfying as they did from Days of Future Passed through 1972's Seventh Sojourn is no small feat, and of these, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour is probably my favorite. Nine songs worth of enjoyment is nothing to sneeze at. I'm just trying to point out that the band had their limitations. But within the scope of these limitations, there's plenty of pleasure for prog rock fans everywhere.

To review: Simple (for prog rock), listenable tunes. Depthless, but well-written lyrics. Acceptable vocals. Gentle, semi-orchestral rock sounds. Every Good Boy Deserves Favour isn't a musical gourmet meal. However, it is a tasty and filling prog rock snack. Enjoy.

Rating: 3 of 5 stars