The Magnificent Moodies
50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
The Moody Blues
Before they collaborated with the London Festival Orchestra on Days Of Future Passed and took rock and roll to a new level of sophistication and artistry, the Moody Blues were a stylish R&B band and part of the first wave of the British Invasion. The original band featured Denny Laine on guitar and vocals, Ray Thomas on vocals, harmonica and flute, Mike Pinder on keyboards, Clint Warwick on bass, and Graeme Edge on drums. They played shows and shared management with the Beatles, appeared on the BBC, and had a Top 10 hit with "Go Now," which appeared on their 1965 debut album, The Magnificent Moodies. Cherry Red has repackaged the album, originally released on Decca (and London in the States) in the summer of 1965, as a Deluxe Edition with loads of extra tracks and other goodies to commemorate its half-century anniversary.
Tracking through the original album's 12 songs, it's overtly obvious the original Moody Blues were a band quite different from the one of today. Which isn't to say they weren't "progressive" in their own way. For one, few bands at that time had a flute player. And much of the material — from "I'll Go Crazy" and "Go Now," to "Let Me Go" and "True Story" — is driven by Pinder's snappy piano work. The Moody Blues were definitely not a guitar band in the traditional sense. Seven of the album's songs were covers, while five were original compositions written by Laine and Pinder. The Deluxe Edition's first disc also features a treasure trove of single A- and B-sides, plus a couple of tunes from a French EP. The first version of "Go Now" is a little slower; a stab at "Time Is On Your Side" proves to be lighter and more melodic than the Stones' version; and "Life's Not Life" is a catchy gem featuring Thomas and his flute.
The second disc has previously unreleased sessions, pre-dating and post-dating The Magnificent Moodies. Early versions of "Go Now," "Go Crazy," "Steal Your Heart Away" and "Can't Nobody Love Me" give way to sweet takes of traditional standards like "You Gotta Move On" and "23rd Pslam," both heavy with Christian overtones. A session from the BBC's Saturday Club yields additional versions of "Go Now" and "Go Crazy," plus "Stop," "I've Got A Dream" and the swinging "It's Easy Child," featuring Pinder's dancing fingers on the piano. Thomas and Edge also chat with Brian Matthew. The disc winds up with the 1966 Denny Cordell Sessions, with previously unreleased Laine and Pinder songs "Sad Song" and "This Is My House But Nobody Calls," along with two takes of Tim Hardin's alluring "How Can We Hang On To A Dream."
For anyone with even a passing interest in the history of the Moody Blues, this Deluxe Edition of The Magnificent Moodies has the group's early years covered. In addition to the original UK album, there's a total of 43 bonus tracks with 29 previously unreleased songs. There are also three postcards, a poster and a booklet with plenty of photos and a beautifully written and detailed essay by Mark Powell that includes insightful recollections from Ray Thomas, Mike Pinder, Denny Laine and Graeme Edge. Someone needs to hand off this package to the selection committee at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame so they can get up to speed and induct the Moody Blues — an honor long overdue.
~ Shawn Perry