(Disclaimer: Those looking for a brief description of the album will find what their looking for in the "Review Body" section. The section titled "Track Reviews" is meant only for those who want to read detailed descriptions of the songs, and they do not constitute the essence of this review. Lastly and most importantly, this review is not necessarily written by the point of view of a Moody Blues fan.)
Overall Score: 4/5
Best song: “Go Now”
Worst song: “I Don't Mind”
Before any discussion of The Moody Blues discography can take place, we first must address this 1965 R&B album done by the original line-up. The only thing greatly interesting about this early line up is that the lead guitarist was Denny Laine who later became the lead guitarist for Wings. Also, the original bassist was Clint Warwick, but he retired from the music business in 1966 to become a carpenter. ...Not the '70s sunshine pop band, but an actual wood-working carpenter, like Jesus. Other than that, it's the usual guys: Mike Pinder on keyboards, Graeme Edge on drums, and Ray Thomas on the flute and percussion.
As far as mid-'60s British Invasion albums go, this is slick, and you'll like it depending on how much you enjoy this sort of music. To put them in perspective, they're more polite than The Rolling Stones and The Animals, but they're not as lame as Herman's Hermits. (Not that I don't enjoy Herman's Hermits... that's some great schlock!) The songs on this album rock well enough to tap your foot to, but not well enough to be explosive.
The Moody Blues were considered an average band at the time. I would dare to call them above-average, but I can see why the kids and critics of 1965 weren't quite taken with these guys. Some even branded them as one-hit-wonders for only coming out with one song that charted, “Go Now,” which was a Bessie Banks cover. (...Don't worry, I don't know who Bessie Banks is, either.) While they tried pretty hard to come up with other good song for teenagers to dance to, nothing seemed to be catching. Their approach to R&B was just too usual!
Although sometimes their music wasn't so usual, such as the awesomely epic and atmospheric “From The Bottom of My Heart (I Love You)” in the bonus tracks. It's quite beautiful, but it wasn't exactly the sort of song that inspired the teenagers to go out in droves and buy it. I should also mention that Ray Thomas surprisingly took out his flute this early in the band's history and played it on several occasions, even during some of the straight R&B stuff. That's an unusual touch, but hardly enough to actually give those R&B number the extra pizzazz they needed. What they needed was a deeper, more heard-pounding rhythm section and a lead singer who didn't sound so wimpy (who frequently made matters worse and over-sings a few of these songs).
But as I said, this is a nice little Merseybeat album, and there are handful of interesting “nuggets” for anyone who's interested in this sort of music. “Go Now” was the big hit, and it's a lovely song with an arresting descending chord progression that reminds me rather strongly of Procol Harum's 1967 smash hit “A Whiter Shade of Pale.” The soulful lead vocals (I believe were carried out by Denny) soar over that music like a beauty, and this is an early hint of that thick, brooding and soulful sound The Moody Blues would later become best known for. Another huge hit for me is a cover of the Gershwin tune “It Ain't Necessarily So,” which packs on a rather thick atmosphere and a remarkably engaging albeit undisciplined vocal performance from Ray Thomas.
If you're going to get this album, make sure it's the 2006 26-track reissue. I'd say that I enjoy listening to the bonus tracks more than I do the actual album, so I wouldn't miss out on them. There is another 24-track version floating around, which is OK, but if even you just settle for that one, you'll miss out on that weirdly fascinating, hooky and classy toe-tapper “People Gotta Go.” That song is a lot of fun and not quite like anything I've heard before.
One of the unfortunate things about reviewing 26-track albums is that I don't get to talk about all the songs I want to in the main review portion without making the review too long! But I wrote some pretty expansive track reviews for you to peruse if you're interested! (Ain't I nice?) If you have some time, give them a look. There are plenty of songs I hadn't mentioned in this collection that are also well worth checking out.
I'll Go Crazy B+
This is going to be a difficult album for me to write track reviews. There are 26 songs on here, and they're all pretty much typical Mersey Beat. But anyway, here I go. This is a pretty nice James Brown cover albeit a little stiff. The lead vocals (I have no idea who that is) are alright and he tried hard to hit those screaming notes, but it's pretty clear he didn't quite have the natural power to completely belt it out. They tried to give it somewhat dirty instrumentation, but they couldn't quite pull off the needed ruckus. These guys are just too polite. But this is fun, right?
Something You Got B
This sounds completely generic, like something Ray Charles might have composed, but it's sort of fun. The hooks are a bit weak and so is the riff, but it's a sweet song all the same. The vocals are a bit overblown, though, like he was straining a little too much to be soulful. You can hear Ray Thomas pulling out the flute! It's weird that he was playing that this early!
Go Now A
This wasn't an original composition, but that descending chord progression seems a little arsty to me! It reminds me of “A Whiter Shade of Pale” for some reason. So, I suppose it shouldn't be any big surprise that these guys would eventually transform into one of the world's foremost art-rock bands. Anyway, this is a really captivating song thanks mostly to the chord progression, which is played with conviction on the piano. The lead vocals are loud and boisterous without seeming like he's trying too hard, which is a nice change of pace from the previous two songs.
Can't Nobody Love You B
I'm glad I'm not saying these words to The Moody Blues in 1965, because I would probably come off as annoyingly patronizing. I would say things like “Your band really did a nice job with the blues! It sounds like the blues and everything!” But I would rather listen to Ray Charles perform this sort of song, because these guys are just tame. The melody is catchy and well performed. That rather amateurish harmonica in the background was a nice touch and so were those back-up ooohs...
I Don't Mind C
This James Brown cover is pretty awful, I hate to say... It slogs along at an extremely dull pace, the instrumentals are extremely stiff, and the lead singer, try as he might, can't even get close to mustering the soulful energy required to captivate me through the song. Even Denny Laine's guitar solo halfway in seems stilted.
I've Got a Dream B
Perfectly nice an inoffensive this time, but the song it just your ordinary Mersey Beat pop-rocker. The melody isn't that special, and the instrumentation is a bit boring apart from that tooty flute that Thomas plays. It needed some extra kick, but it's still rather sweet and likable.
Let Me Go A-
Ah now this is interesting. It's an original, but it's not your typical Mersey Beat R&B thing... This is closer to a classical music waltz than anything, as Pinder plays some bubbly rhythms on his keyboard. The way Thomas plays with his flute, it starts to remind me of Ravel's “Bolero.” Interesting chord progression, too. The lead vocals have a nice tendency to sound like it's mourning all over that classical posturing. In other words, this is one of the early hints at what The Moody Blues would later become.
This is the album's second original composition, and it's surely unusual. It's based on a pretty strange chord progression like the last song, making what would have otherwise been an ordinary Merseybeat song into something slightly more interesting. Although, I will complain that this song doesn't seem to develop that well. It's fairly clunky in spots.
Thank You Baby B+
Another original! This one could have been an R&B cover for all I know, since it's more or less a straightforward song. It does have a nice Beatlesesque melody, which is nice, but the rhythm section could surely have used with a little more kick. This just seems like it's having trouble getting off the ground.
It Ain't Necessarily So A
Awesome! This is a cover of a Gershwin tune from Porgy and Bess. Isn't this the sort of thing you'd expect The Moody Blues to cover? It fits their classic song pretty well... It's a moody blues tune, and their instrumentation is rather atmospheric despite their studio limitations. The brooding back-up vocals come up at the right time, Pinder plays that piano with a dramatic aura, and the drum sounds rather like a funeral march. The lead singer doesn't have a particularly impressive voice, but he sounds sincere as he sings this, which is saying something.
True Story B
This is an original and not particularly impressive. Sounds exactly like the sort of average song we would hear on The Beatles' or The Rolling Stones' debut albums... And let's face it, these guys just don't do R&B as well as those guys do.
Bye Bye Bird A-
This is just about the only song of this album that actually seems to rock out. In fact, maybe this rocks out too much, in such a way that it shows these guys were not meant to rock. The harmonica chugging throughout is wild, and so is the drumming. Denny Laine's singing starts out OK, but then he starts to scat and squawk like he's some sort of sexy man. But anyway, this is actually a lot of fun, so I'm not going to make fun of it too much.
People Gotta Go A
Wow! This is fun! This is one of the songs that isn't included in the 24-track reissue of this album, and I'd say this is a great reason for you to scout out the full 26-track version. I really like that ultra-clean drum beat that starts this song off. I mean, that's just class right there. That's complimented beautifully by that ultra stiff piano and guitar riff, which makes this song fun. There's a little bit of beauty in it too with the back-up vocals. To top it all off, the vocal melody is extremely catchy. If the chord progressions weren't so predictable, it might have been something along the lines of The Kinks.
Steal Your Love Away B+
This isn't a song that you should cross mountains and valleys to hear, but this little bit of blue-eyed soul is pretty good and more proof that you shouldn't settle for a copy of this album without bonus tracks. It has a nice, convincing melody, some good guitar, and a nicely convincing vocal performance. At least the vocals sound better than they did at the beginning of the album!
Lose Your Money (But Don't Lose Your Mind) B
This song written by Michael Pinder is a pretty decent R&B thing. The melody ain't too original, but there's some really awesomely wailing harmonica strewn throughout it. Little more than a fun toe-tapping thing!
It's Easy Child B
I wonder if the only reason I get excited over hearing these faint and rather angelic back-up vocals in these songs is that they serve as a small reminder of The Moody Blues' later work where they would use their heavy instrumental layering to give me something a little more wonderous to listen to. Other than that, this is just another ordinary pop-rocker, this time with its main groove played with a piano in an almost cutesy fashion.
I Don't Want to Live Without You A-
Quite a bit sloppier than most of these songs, but I sort of like how earnest they come off singing this. The Moody Blues sound a little more world-weary, which is the perfect sound for the blues. The vocal layering effect comes off really nicely, and I like listening to that nicely done blues piano.
Time is on My Side B+
Ah, now we get the chance to literally compare the early Moody Blues to the early Rolling Stones. ...Predictably, The Stones win hands down, because their version stopped me in my tracks! While this version is formidable, it doesn't quite pack the same punch in the rhythm department, and the lead vocals are extremely weak. (Did you need more evidence that Mick Jagger was an excellent lead singer? Just witness how lame these lead vocals are...)
From the Bottom Of My Heart (I Love You) A
Oh, I really get a strong Moody Blues vibe from this. You'll really get the sense of where they were headed after listening to this. This is a dark and brooding song with a rather unusual but hooky vocal melody and convincingly soulful and soaring lead vocals. The instrumentation (including thick back-up vocals) are laid on thickly, and I can even sense a little bit of breathtaking beauty in back of it. More than anything else, this is a fun song to listen to! But you'll be interested in this in a more academic sense as well!
And My Baby's Gone A-
Maybe the dingo ate your baby...Or maybe The Moody Blues penned a catchy early Beatles-esque pop-rocker with a bouncy groove, hand claps and a rather tinny woody beat. It's structured rather unusually, too, which keeps it interesting, and that's really funny bendy, ringy guitar solo is a bit strange. Hardly projects the same aura of greatness that a Beatles original did, but I'd say this was worth its weight in gold.
This is another original that projects a rather BIG and BROODING sound that sounds like classic Moody Blues. Of course they were just starting out, and it comes off as somewhat awkward as a whole. It's also really, really short (less than two minutes). But the melody contains a few interesting twists here and there, and it's rather beautiful.
You Don't (All the Time) A-
Seriously, you need to get the version with the bonus tracks. I cannot stress that to you enough. This thing here is just an excellent happy-go-lucky pop song. The hooks are strong, the thick background vocals continue to be engrossing. And Ray Thomas even gets to play a bit of the groove with his flute! I like the flute!
Boulevard De La Madelaine A
Wow! Here The Moody Blues try out some French-pop, and they've created quite a delectable treat! It's pretty unusual, too, and not anything like a French pop song you'd hear from The Kinks... or any actual French person that I know of... The song starts out with a tense rhythm and then a rather scary riff played by a dirty accordion before breaking into a hooky pop song. So, not only is this think hooky, it's not quite like anything I've ever heard before. The double threat.
This is My House (But Nobody Calls) A-
That happened to me once. I forgot to turn my cell phone on. This original song doesn't have anything particularly special going on about it since it seems more or less an ordinary R&B rocker, but it's extremely toe-tapping and well played. The vocal hooks are strong, too, and I like those little bendy wolf calls they do (haauuuuuu!).
Life's Not Live B-
Yeesh... Parts of this song are really pleasant, but those rapidly paced, jumbly guitar bits are a little difficult to listen to. I'll give them credit for creating another song that's like something I haven't heard before, but this is just sloppy.
He Can Win B-
Kind of a weak song to close the album with... But this is the bonus tracks and they might have been putting them in chronological order for all I know. The hooks are a little weaker this time, but they there are a few interesting twists in this. That funny way they sing “He can win-in-in-in-in” comes off just as peculiar as it looks. I'm not too sure what they were thinking, but it made the song more interesting than it would have otherwise.
This early Moody Blues album is only of interest to die hard fans or people who happen to like vintage Merseybeat music. As Merseybeat artists, they were pretty good. They were weak compared to The Rolling Stones, but surely stronger and more creative than The Herman's Hermits.
Read more Moody Blues reviews by Starcollector!
The Magnificent Moodies (1965) | Days of Future Passed (1967) | | 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) | Caught Live + 5 (1977) | Octave (1978) | Long Distance Voyager (1981)