Monday, February 5, 2018

Review of The Moody Blues' "Seventh Sojourn"

I just posted this on the Sputnik Music website a few moments ago:

The span from 1967 through 1972 was quite a prolific period for The Moody Blues. They released seven albums in five years. And if, in retrospect, the quality of their music never reached the high level of contemporaries such as Pink Floyd or Yes, they were more consistent than either of those bands -- they might never have reached the heights of a Wish You Were Here or Close to the Edge, but they also never sunk as low as The Final Cut or Tormato during this period. One of the reasons for this steadiness might be that The Moodies managed to ride out this seven-album stretch with a changless lineup: Justin Hayward, John Lodge, Ray Thomas, Mike Pinder and Graeme Edge.

Seventh Sojourn (1972) was the final album of what some fans refer to as the group's "Core Seven". It's oddly named, considering it's the band's eighth album (and their 1978 follow-up Octave is their ninth). This is because for many years, The Moodies claimed 1967's Days of Future Passed as their first LP, choosing to ignore 1965's The Magnficent Moodies, because it featured a different style of music, and some different personnel (with Denny Laine and Clint Warwick in place of Hayward and Lodge). Seventh Sojournwas also keyboardist Mike Pinder's last full album with the band -- while he does appear on Octave, he left the group midway through the recording process.

A listen to the eight tracks on this LP reveals that once again, consistency is the order of the day. There are probably no great songs here, but neither are there any bad ones. The style of music is classic Moodies -- the album is full of mellotron and flute, with the only two guitar-driven tracks being "You and Me", the song that opened the second side on the original vinyl release, and "I'm Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band", the album's last cut. The vocals are pleasant throughout, with Hayward splitting the lead vocal duties with bandmates Pinder, Lodge and Thomas. 

The lyrical themes are mostly simplistic -- they all feature some variation of "All You Need Is Love", whether that be love of one's fellow humans, or occasionally romantic love. Truth be told, lyrics were never The Moodies' strong point. The only two numbers that dip their toes into something darker are the album opener, "Lost in a Lost World", which is an anti-war song, and "When You're a Free Man", a song that looks with hope toward better days, but takes a bleaker, more desperate, view of the present.

As for highlights, I've always been partial to the sole Ray Thomas number on the album, "For My Lady", which is essentially a sea shanty that takes a chivalrous, somewhat old-fashioned look at love: "Oh I'd give my life so lightly/For my gentle lady." Pinder plays a Chamberlin on this track, which he manages to make sound like an accordion. Hayward also has a pair of strong numbers here, the slow and beautiful "New Horizons", and "The Land of Make Believe", on which Thomas' flute creates something of a fairy-tale atmosphere.

"I'm Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band)", which was also released as a single, is one of Sojourn's best (and rockiest) tracks, and ends the LP on an upbeat note, but I've had a bone to pick with it since the album's original release. The lyrics for the bridge are as follows: "How can we understand/Riots by the people for the people/Who are only destroying themselves/And when you see a frightened person/Who is frightened by the people/Who are scorching this Earth." ... and that's where it ends. What? What happens when you see this frightened person? Finish the fucking thought! If you start a phrase with the idea, "And when this ...", you're implying there's a "then that"! Don't leave me hanging like this, Lodge, you lazy fucking bastard! ... OK. Sorry.  Deep breaths. ... Whew. ... I feel much better now. I've been waiting to get that off my chest for a long, long, time. Anyway, it's still a really good song.

So there you have it. Seventh Sojourn -- not great, but pretty good. The last album of the best period in The Moody Blues' career. Not particularly challenging, but still very enjoyable. It's now been 45 years since its original release, and I still like it. 

I'm going to go lie down now. See you next time.

Rating: 3 of 5 stars