Last week we discussed To Our Children's Children's Children, and this week we shall listen to the next record, A Question of Balance. I personally like this album very much, second only to In Search of the Lost Chord.
No band members were changed, the same five performing since the second album, this one being their sixth. Tony Clarke produced, just as he had since the second album. This album has on it one of their high charting singles, "Question", and is just marvelous. Many of the songs from this album became staples for live performances. Phil Travers once again provided the cover art. It is their second record on Threshold Records.
Released on 19700807, A Question of Balance charted at #1 in the UK and #3 in the US. The opening song is the Justin Hayward piece "Question". This record was released as a single and charted at #2 in the UK and #21 is the US. This song rocks! It also is the first song of theirs to contain Moog synthesizer to my knowledge. Listen for it at the very end.
The Moog synthesizer used was probably a Model 3P, but I am not positive about that. If anyone has further information about that, please add in a comment. Moogs at the time were rare. They had an exquisite ability to generate custom waveforms and superb ASDR (Attack, Sustain, Decay, Release) envelopes of the waveforms. Thus they could be made to emulate any instrument or to produce hitherto unknown sounds. They did have one serious flaw: they were monotonic, being able to produce only note at a time, not chords. That is why Pinder also relied on his Mellotron.
A commenter last week observed that I had not said much about Hayward's guitar expertise. After listening to this song there is no doubt that he ranks with the greatest rock and roll guitarists of all time. Here is "Question":
Mike Pinder's "How Is It (We Are Here)" is second, and the Moog is very clear at about a minute and a half. This is one of their contemplative songs, as Pinder was probably the most psychedelic member of the band. I like the song very much.
Ray Thomas's beautiful "And the Tide Rushes In" is the third song, and I have never quite been able to decipher it completely. It is elegant in its simplicity and Thomas's voice is in fine form. What do you think that this song is saying? I would appreciate your thoughts.
"Don't You Feel Small", by Graeme Edge, is the forth piece on the record. He is the one whispering. Thomas tears it up with the flute, almost in the style of the great Ian Anderson about whom I shall write a short series in the near future.
The last song on the first side is "Tortoise and the Hare" by John Lodge. Thus, each band member wrote a song that appeared on the first side. More than most bands, The Moody Blues actually had the entire band do outstanding writing. You can make out the Moog late in the song.
The second side begins with Hayward's "It's up to You", showcasing his expertise on the electric guitar as well as acoustic. This is just outstanding rock and roll!
"Minstrel's Song", a Lodge piece, is a wonderful yet simple song and is the second one on the second side. At least it starts simply, but becomes increasingly complex as it progresses. I really like this song.
Lodge's "Dawning is the Day" is the third piece. It is very well written and performed, and I like it very much. It does not rate with their very best work, but is certainly much better than many other band's best work.
"Melancholy Man", one of Pinder's masterpieces, is forth on this side. This is one of the most contemplative songs by The Moody Blues (or any other band) that I can recall. It is almost psychedelic even to listen to it. Pinder has the Moog growling and then with a thin, melodious tone reminiscent of a flute. "A beam of light will fill your head and you'll remember what's been said by all the good men this world's ever known" is certainly a reference to psychedelia. As a matter of fact, this series was suggested to me by my dear friend Steve who treasures this song.
The last song on the album is "The Balance". The poetry was written by Edge and read by Pinder, while the musical part was written by Thomas. This may be even more contemplative than "melancholy Man"! This part really got to me as I write at 6:47 PM Eastern today:
And he thought of those he angered,I had to stop for a while and gain my composure. This is just a marvelous piece, and only The Moody Blues could have created it. I wish that I had thought about this piece when I made some key, really bad decisions both many years ago and even just recently. There was not an embed available that had the lyrics, so here is a link:
For he was not a violent man,
And he thought of those he hurt
For he was not a cruel man
And he thought of those he frightened
For he was not an evil man,
And he understood.
He understood himself.
Upon this he saw that when he was of anger or knew hurt or felt fear,
It was because he was not understanding,
And he learned, compassion.
And with his eye of compassion.
He saw his enemies like unto himself,
And he learned love.
Then, he was answered.
What an album! This is a masterpiece by any standard. I have not been very verbose in this piece because I have a lot on my mind today, but I will be happy to respond to comments unless something interferes.
Doc, aka Dr. David W. Smith