Decca

REVIEW: The Moody Blues – Long Distance Voyager (1981 Remastered)

By request of Eric Litwiller

THE MOODY BLUES – Long Distance Voyager (Originally 1981, 2008 Decca remaster)

On album #10, The Moody Blues took it to the #1 slot.  Let’s take a dive and see what makes Long Distance Voyager work so magnificently.

Opening with a crash of soundtrack-like synthesizer, “The Voice” soon enters a comfortable 80s groove — think “The Highwayman” by Cash, Jennings, Kristofferson and Nelson.  But it’s not country, it’s science fiction-like progressive rock.  Justin Hayward’s dreamlike vocal and the the vintage keyboards create an instant atmosphere.  A brief but killer guitar solo adds the right accents.  What a song!  A masterpiece indeed, “The Voice” personifies perfect in every way, from mood to melody to majesty.

Lush strings and tinkling computers mesh on “Talking Out of Turn”, which goes Lennon/Beatles on the first verse.  Bassist John Lodge sings on this lengthy study, which was still a successful single despite its length.  If the Beatles survived intact into the 1980s, perhaps they could have recorded “Talking Out of Turn”.  In other words:  high praise.

The omnipresent Disco movement has its impact on “Gemini Dream”, a dance able rocker with a killer beat and vocal melodies to match.  Expertly constructed, and one of the best examples of a rock band stepping outside their comfort zone into the dimension of dance.

Acoustic guitars ring out on “In My World”, the side one closer and an extensive song with many guitar textures, including some delicate pedal steel.  Long and deliberate, but an instrumental tour-de-force.

The second side commenced on the upbeat “Meanwhile”, a short song with quaint keyboards and irresistible Justin Hayward vocal melodies.  An uplifting chorus, and you are hooked.  Then it’s the wicked “22,000 Days”, like a synthed-up sea shanty!  Awesome song unlike most you will hear.  Trans-Siberian Orchestra ripped off this vocal style much later on.

The acoustic “Nervous” starts very early-Pink Floyd without the THC.  It transforms into a big, bold ballad powered by strings.  Awesome song that doesn’t care that it’s pompous and overblown, nor should it.  Ray Thomas’ “Painted Smile” has an old fashioned big-top style, a bit circus-like, with rich accompanying singing and an outstanding lead vocal slot.

A final song with a big bold chorus called “Veteran Cosmic Rocker” ends the album leaving you wanting more.  A bouncing progressive rock and roll anthem, this would make a great theme song for anybody looking for a corny yet spacey cue.  “He struts, he strolls, his life is rock and roll.”

Since that last tune leaves you hungry, the 2008 remastered disc includes a single edit of “The Voice” as dessert.  It actually bookends the album quite brilliantly.  Those big Dr. Who keyboards return one last time to make sure you leave this album satisfied.

I got to hear this CD because it was Ray Litwiller’s favourite album, and that was good enough for me.

5/5 stars

REVIEW: Thin Lizzy – Thin Lizzy (2010 remastered edition)

THIN LIZZY – Thin Lizzy / New Day EP (2010 Decca, originally 1971)

Nothing against early Lizzy — I do like Vagabonds of the Western World. On this one, Lizzy’s first ever wax, they had not yet evolved into the dual guitar duelers that they were to become. A trio with Eric Bell, Brian Downey and Philip himself, the evolution of Lizzy is similar to that of Deep Purple. Both bands had to overcome three sleepy early albums with a prototypical lineup before they became the rock gods that they were destined to be.

Thin Lizzy includes a few good songs, my favourite being “Ray-Gun”. However, I must reiterate that this is a sleepy album. The component parts are all fine — great guitar work, great drumming, interesting riffs and lyrics scattered here and there. They never quite coalesce into memorable songs, except on spare occasions.

In fact, the bonus tracks on this CD version of Thin Lizzy are actually superior to the album itself! Their first single, “The Farmer” is better than most of the album tracks.  The cool thing is that “The Farmer” was recorded when Lizzy were a quartet with Eric Wrixton on keyboards.  Notably, “The Farmer’s” B-side, “I Need You”, is absent and I don’t know where else you’d find it.  It’s not on Lizzy’s excellent Vagabonds, Kings, Warriors, Angels box set either (although “The Farmer” is). Bummer.

NEW DAY EPThe New Day EP is here in its completion, containing some great songs. The mournful ballad “Dublin” and “New Day” are both great songs. Interesting is “Old Moon Madness”, a workout that sounds like Thin Lizzy meets Captain Beefheart without the growling vocals. “Things Ain’t Working Out Down At The Farm” is the final tune from the New Day EP, another decent track. What’s with Phil’s obsession with farmers? “Return of the Farmer’s Son” is another song title on the album itself….

The CD is closed by four remixes from the 1977 album The Continuing Saga of the Aging Orphans, where Gary Moore and Midge Ure overdubbed new guitar and keyboard parts to modernize the songs. These remixes are generally preferred by me to the original versions. I would love a proper reissue of The Continuing Saga of the Aging Orphans, as a handful of its tracks have yet to be issued on CD.

Not the greatest album. The bonus material is superior.

2.5/5 stars