STORY WRITTEN BY ROB NAGY
For 21st Century Media
Merging progressive, psychedelic and symphonic rock with a touch of fusion and classical elements, “The Moody Blues” have secured their place as one of contemporary music’s most compelling bands. Worldwide record sales have surpassed the 50 million mark, with 14 albums attaining platinum status.
The band’s 1967 masterpiece “Days of Future Passed” is arguably one of the greatest rock albums ever produced. Is the Moody Blues approach the milestone as one of the few rock acts to be actively performing and recording for 50 years, the band and their longtime front man Justin Hayward are living the dream.
While the band’s annual touring schedule remains the priority for Hayward, his desire for personal exploration has led to a successful solo career.
His latest effort, a 15 song Blu-Ray DVD/CD entitled “Spirits…Live – Live at The Buckhead Theater, Atlanta,” exemplifies the timeless appeal of the Moody Blues’ classic compositions as well as Hayward’s creative talents. Offering over a dozen Moody Blues’ staples, including “Tuesday Afternoon,” “It’s Up To You,” “Lovely To See You,” “Your Wildest Dreams,” “Question,” “Nights In White Satin” and “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere,” Hayward version of these classics needs no introduction.
“I was very pleased to have the opportunity to do it,” says Hayward. “About three years ago, I was finding myself in the studio so much as a gatekeeper for the Moody Blues catalog re-mastering stuff. I couldn’t see a new Moody Blues album on the horizon, so I thought, ‘I’ve got to take responsibility and do it myself.’ So I did. I decided to go from just demo form – vocal and guitar — to a proper album, and I really found I have a lot to say. It really started to take over my life and became a labor of love, and finally I put it all together.” “I really fit it around what the Moody’s want” added Hayward.
“The three of us aren’t working that much — a couple of tours a year. It’s lovely when we do get together, because I think we’re rediscovering our own Moody’s catalog. We’re rediscovering songs we only spent a couple of days on over the years and put them straight onto a record and then never really returned to them. So that’s nice as well.”
“There were a few things I didn’t include, some sort of social thing I didn’t think I was qualified anymore to really talk about. Once I got on a roll, I just wanted to make it personal about relationships – people that I knew, people in my past.” Formed in Birmingham, England in 1965, the Moody Blues promptly released their debut album, “The Magnificent Moodies.
”Two years later, and with their most prominent line-up (which by now included Mike Pinder, Graeme Edge, Justin Hayward, Ray Thomas and John Lodge), the band emerged from the studio with the classic “Days of Future Passed.” Featuring the London Festival Orchestra, the record produced the singles “Night’s In White Satin” and “Tuesday Afternoon.”
Throughout the remainder of the ’60s and ’70s, the Moody Blues enjoyed charting success in both the U.K. and America. Their various album releases (“In Search of the Lost Chord” (1968), “On the Threshold of a Dream” (1969), “To Our Children’s Children’s Children” (1969), “A Question of Balance” (1970), “Every Good Boy Deserves Favour” (1971), “Seventh Sojourn” (1972) and “Octave” (1978)) offered a vast catalog of thought provoking lyrical content often accompanied by complex musical scores. With the arrival of the 80’s and the birth of the MTV generation, the Moody Blues achieved their greatest commercial success.
“Long Distance Voyager” (1981), containing the hit singles “Gemini Dream” and “The Voice,” earned the band their second number one album in the U.S.
They returned to the charts with “The Other Side of Life” in 1986 on the strength of the singles “Your Wildest Dreams” as well as the title track. Their last charting album, “Sur La Mer” (1988), included Hayward’s favorite Moody Blues song and the band’s final hit single – “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere.” “I think the song touched a chord with a lot of people. It certainly did with me,” says Hayward. “When we do it on stage – even when I do it solo with just an acoustic guitar – it has some kind of resonance and magic, and I’m very pleased about that.” “As for my favorite Moody’s album,” says Hayward, “I think “Days of Future Passed” will have some place. It should, because I think it changed the way people thought about albums. I think it was one of a handful of albums that could be thought about and listened to for a whole evening. I hope it will be remembered for that.” With an undiminished desire to thrive creatively in front of an audience, Hayward is busier than ever juggling his solo career and time with the Moody Blues.
“I’ve at last realized that there is a dimension that I hadn’t really discovered before in the acoustic setting and touring,” says Hayward. “It’s made me hungry for more. That resonates on stage as well. I realize how invaluable that is in a concert setting, whether it is my solo shows or with the Moody’s.” “I’ve been on the road doing my solo tours in the middle of Moody’s tours, and I’m very pleased with how that’s going,” added Hayward. “I’m working with a young guitar player, Mike Dawes, and with Judy Ragans, who works with the Moody’s. We’ve developed quite a nice little stage show around that.”
“Whether I’m with the Moody’s or doing my solo show, “ added Hayward, “I’d like people to think that we’ve shared something together that has enriched everybody, that we’ve got to the source of the music that has been able to move us both. We both have some sort of enlightening experience. I think in the show there is something for everybody, whatever generation you come from. That’s what keeps it going.”
The Moody Blues perform at the Bethlehem Musikfest Sands Steel Stage Tues., August 5 at 8:30 p.m. Tickets $39 and $49 and are available at www.musikfest.org or by calling 610-332-3378.