The Moody Blues – December (2003)

FrontCover1.jpgDecember is the sixteenth and final album by the Moody Blues. The Christmas themed album released in 2003 is their first album since The Magnificent Moodies to feature covers in addition to original material. It is also their first album following Ray Thomas’ retirement from the band. (by wikipedia)

One must give the Moody Blues credit for tenacity and a single-pointed focus. For 37 years they’ve put forth a startlingly consistent series of themes: optimism, a kind of blind-faith spirituality that the universe is in good hands and that people are by and large decent and kind, and love songs that can be a bit twee, but nonetheless connect when one is in the emotional space to hear them. Their music has always been intimate and pretentious in the best sense of the words. December is the Moodies’ first Christmas album. The classic lineup has been whittled down to three: John Lodge, Justin Hayward, and Graeme Edge; Ray Thomas decided to call it quitsin 2002.

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The band is augmented by unofficial member and producer Danilo Madonia in the studio. This is the most curious of Christmas recordings. December is an album about the spirit of Christmas but, with its lack of carols (though it does feature Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” near the end), it sounds more like another chapter in the Moody Blues’ legend, and that’s exactly what it is. Like many Moody Blues records since the 1980s, the original songs are nostalgic, pointing listeners back to memories of an idyllic past when things were simpler, and toward the hope that social and spiritual renewal are just around the corner. The set features a number of Hayward and Lodge originals, obscure and traditional Anglo folk songs, a transposed piece by Bach, and a cover of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” — alas, if only that were true. If you’re a fan or a detractor, you already know what the album sounds like.

MoodyBlues01Unpredictability left the band’s vocabulary in the 1970s, but that doesn’t mean that this collection is without merit. For starters, it is one of the most original Christmas albums you’ll hear all year. There is no new age drivel here; its topics and themes are indeed Christian, but weigh on the side of those that are universally held: brotherhood, compassion, hope, goodwill, and generosity. In addition, it’s beautifully orchestrated and produced. Its sound is pristine, and Hayward and Lodge with their trademark elegance sound as if they mean every word they write and sing. And it’s easy to believe that. It most certainly is sentimental and lush, and has nothing whatsoever to do with rock & roll, but that hardly matters. As the latest Moody Blues album, it likely lives up to fans’ expectations; as a holiday recording, it’s unlike anything else out there. (by Thom Jurek)

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Personnel:
Graeme Edge (drums, percussion)
Justin Hayward (vocals, guitar)
John Lodge (vocals, bass)
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Danilo Madonia (keyboards, sequencing)
Norda Mullen (flute)

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Tracklist:
01. Don’t Need A Reindeer (Hayward) 4.00
02. December Snow (Hayward) 5.11
03. In The Quiet Of Christmas Morning (Bach/Hayward/Lodge) 2.51
04. On This Christmas Day (Lodge) 3.40
05. Happy Xmas (War Is Over) (Lennon/Ono) 2.37
06. A Winter’s Tale (Batt/Rice) 4.28
07. The Spirit Of Christmas (Lodge) 4.53
08. Yes I Believe (Hayward) 4.21
09. When A Child Is Born (Zacar/Jay) 3.34
10. White Christmas (Berlin) 3.09
11. In The Bleak Midwinter (Holst/Rossetti) 3.22

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The Moody Blues – The Magnificent Moodies (1965)

FrontCover1The Magnificent Moodies is the 1965 debut album by The Moody Blues, first released in the UK, and the first and only album featuring their R&B line-up of guitarist Denny Laine, bassist Clint Warwick, keyboardist Mike Pinder, flautist–percussionist Ray Thomas, and drummer Graeme Edge. Lead vocals were shared by Laine, Pinder and Thomas. The album is a collection of R&B and Merseybeat songs, including the cover of “Go Now”, produced by Alex Wharton, that had been a Number 1 hit single earlier that year. For the U.S. release, on London Records, with the title of Go Now – The Moody Blues #1, four songs were replaced and the tracks re-ordered.

The album did not make the Record Retailer/Music Week chart even though it reached number 5 in August 1965 in the New Musical Express album chart. The U.S. album did not make the Billboard chart.

The sleeve notes on the original UK release include an (undated) review by Virginia Ironside, music critic of Daily Mail, which concludes, “With the Moody Blues, all you need to write is “MAGNIFICENT” in pink lipstick and leave it at that”; and a prose poem by Donovan recommending the band. All the tracks on the UK release were produced by Denny Cordell; except for “Go Now”, which was produced by Alex Wharton.

Laine and Warwick left the group in 1966, and were replaced by guitarist Justin Hayward and bassist John Lodge respectively. (by wikipedia)

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The pre-psychedelic Moody Blues were represented in England by this album, which is steeped in American soul. The covers include songs by James Brown, Willie Dixon, and Chris Kenner, plus the chart-busting “Go Now” (originally recorded by Bessie Banks), interspersed with a brace of originals by lead singer/guitarist Denny Laine and keyboardist Mike Pinder, and one Jeff Barry/Ellie Greenwich number, “I’ve Got a Dream.” The shouters, like “I’ll Go Crazy” and “Bye Bye Bird,” will be the big surprises, showcasing the rawest sound by the group, but “I’ve Got a Dream” shows a lyrical, harmony-based sound that is vaguely reminiscent of the Four Tops (which is ironic, as that group later cut a single of the latter-day Moody Blues original “So Deep Within You”), while “Thank You Baby,” a Laine/Pinder original, offers them doing a smooth, dance-oriented number with some catchy hooks. The group’s sound is good and loud, and Laine was a phenomenal singer, though the band lacked the charisma and built-in excitement of such rivals as the Rolling Stones and the Animals. This album is more interesting than its American equivalent, but also not as good, since it leaves off such single sides as “Steal Your Heart Away” and the Pinder/Laine “From the Bottom of My Heart,” the latter being the best side this version of the group ever recorded. (by Bruce Eder)

Ray Thomas, flautist and vocalist for British rock group The Moody Blues, has died suddenly on January 4, 2018 …

Listen to his harmonica solo on “Bye Bye Bird” … bye bye Ray Thomas ….

The Moody Blues in Concert at The Pier - Summer 1987

Personnel:
Graeme Edge (drums, percussion, vocals)
Denny Laine (vocals, guitar, harmonica)
Mike Pinder (keyboards, vocals)
Ray Thomas (flute, harmonica, percussion, vocals)
Clint Warwick (bass, vocals)
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Elaine Caswell (percussion)

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Tracklist:
01. I’ll Go Crazy (Brown) 2.08
02. Something You Got (Kenner) 2.49
03. Go Now (Banks/Bennett) 3.09
04. Can’t Nobody Love You (Mitchell) 3.59
05. I Don’t Mind (Brown) 3.24
06. I’ve Got A Dream (Greenwich/Barry) 2.48
07. Let Me Go (Laine/Pinder) 3.11
08. Stop (Laine/Pinder) 2.02
09. Thank You Baby (Laine/Pinder) 2.26
10. It Ain’t Necessarily So (Heyward/G. Gershwin/I. Gershwin) 3.18
11. True Story (Laine/Pinder) 1.42
12. Bye Bye Bird (Williamson/Dixon) 2.47LabelB1

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Ray Thomas

Ray Thomas, flautist and vocalist for British rock group The Moody Blues, has died suddenly on January 4, 2018, his record label said. He was 76. Cherry Red Records and Esoteric Recordings said in a statement: “We are deeply shocked by his passing and will miss his warmth, humour and kindness. It was a privilege to have known and worked with him and our thoughts are with his family and his wife, Lee, at this sad time.” In 2014 Thomas revealed on his website that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. He said he had received his diagnosis in 2013. Born in 1941, Thomas founded The Moody Blues in 1964 with fellow musicians including Mike Pinder and Denny Laine. The band soon swapped blues roots for a more orchestral sound that came to be called progressive rock. Thomas’s flute solo was a key ingredient on one of its biggest hits, “Nights in White Satin.” The band is due to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio in April 2018. – The Guardian/Billboard