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Last time we discussed the peak and decline of The Moody Blues and in particular the studio part of the album Caught Live + 5.  I was going to stop with their studio material at that point, but several readers asked me to complete the Mark II band by including the music and my critique of Octave, Mark II's eighth studio album.

For details about the production, release, and artwork on this record, please use the link just provided.  I think that you can already tell that I am not wild about this record, but it does have its moments.

I do find it to be exceedingly weak in comparison with their canonical material, and the passing of the Mellotron and Chamberlin leaves it without the signature, hauntingly beautiful sound of The Moody Blues.  Another thing that really bothers me is that they had a studio musician to sit in, and to me that is the antithesis to the canonical albums.  His name was R. A. Martin, and he played the exceedingly annoying saxophone parts and some less annoying horns.  In any event, we should just jump into the music.

The first song is Lodge's "Steppin' in a Slide Zone".  I find nothing remarkable about it at all.  It is vaguely psychedelic, but only on the surface.  There are none of the deep thoughts and self reflection that characterize a truly self probing song.  Please tell me the meaning of this song, because I can not find any.  It charted at #39 in the US but did not chart in the UK.  Hayward's guitar is fine, but not outstanding.  The thing that distracts me the most are the electronic farts that Pinder got out of the synthesizer.  Compared to the wonderful sounds from his Mellotron and Chamberlin, these sounds are almost insulting.


I took a ride in a limousine
I took a road I'd never been
I met a stranger by the way
His coat was torn but his eyes were clear

Standing in a slide zone
I could be steppin' in a slide zone

He told me where a river flows
He showed me how the apple grows
He told me of a magic stream
His face was worn but his eyes were clear

Standing in a slide zone
I could be steppin' in a slide zone
Standing in a slide zone
I could be steppin' through a time zone

He went to find a shooting star
Around the bend that's where they are
I went along just for the ride
Suddenly I began to glide

Standing in a slide zone
I could be steppin' through a time zone

The air raced by there was no sound
We drifted high above the ground
And then said you know this place
And then a smile lit up his face

Standing in a slide zone
I could be steppin' in a slide zone
Standing in a slide zone
I could be steppin' through a time zone

I turned my head and looked below
And there was something there I know
Suddenly I began to fall
I looked around and tried to call

Standing in a slide zone
He had me steppin' in a time zone
Standing in a slide zone
Falling through a time zone

Help me please I thought I said
Then something happened in my head
Music came from all around
And I knew what I had found

Standing in a slide zone
Falling through a time zone
Steppin' in a slide zone
He had me falling through a time zone

The Thomas song, "Under Moonshine", was better.  The lyrics were more understandable, and we all here know about the references to the trees.  Thomas's voice was in good form, but still the transition from the older instruments to synthesizer just leaves me cold.


The dawn crept into by room
And stole my dream
Now I'll never know
Just what it means
Or what could have been
Yet still I try to lie
But I'm seen

Under moonshine that's where I've been
Under moonshine I'm clearly seen
Under moonshine that's where I've been
Under moonshine I'm clearly seen

Creator of dreams that melt with the sun
I'll send you the things this man has done
He was a saint and a sinner rolled in one
But I miss now that he's gone
I sure miss him now that he's gone

Sure I feel the pain
Deep inside I pour like rain
Remember when you smile
Love's in your eyes

The world keeps turning
The grass still grows green
The fruit on my tree
Is the biggest you've ever seen
Which way up you know when you're down
They've gotta stand tall
With your feet on the ground
You must stand tall
With your feet on the ground

Or maybe I'm crazy
Also they say I'm lazy
But I'll have my days
When I do as I please
For you won't see the woods
While you're a tree
No you'll never see the woods
While you're a tree

Yes I'm crazy
Also they say I'm lazy
But I'll have my days
When I do as I please
You won't see the woods
While you're a tree
No you'll never see the woods
While you're a tree

The third song was Hayward's "I Had to Fall in Love", and it also falls short.  I am no different now than I was a couple of weeks ago, and normally I would be sobbing at the emotion that his lyrics usually give me.  This one just leaves me flat.  There seems to be no real emotion here, and the music is nondescript.


What mattered to me
Was the right to be free
Like I'll be someday
I'm waiting for my heart to lead the way

The places I've seen
And the road in between
Make me wonder why
I'm searching for my dreams up in the sky
I heard the call
And in the mirror
I saw the writing on the wall
And I had to fall
In love with you

The face that I've known
Seems so lost and alone
When you're far away
I'm comin' for you baby right away

The places I've seen
And the roads in between
Make me wonder why
I'm searching for me dreams up in the sky
I heard the call
And in the mirror
I saw the writing on the wall
And I had to fall
In love with you

What mattered to me
Was the right to be free
Like I'll be someday
I'm waiting for my heart to lead the way

So far we are zero for three!

A much better song is the rare Edge contribution, "I'll be Level with You".  I surmise that it is an ode to a small child, and this is the first one on Octave to have any kind of meaning for me.  As a matter of fact, it is pretty much the relation that I have with Eldest Son.  But it falls far short of the brilliance that The Moody Blues used to have.  I have a relationship with a five month old infant named Josiah who loves me to hold him and tend to him.  When he cries, just hand him to me and I calm him down and feed him, and he just looks at me and smiles.  The whole family next door know that I work wonders with him.  I love the little guy.


Little guy, little hands, little eyes and lots of time
What you gonna be what you gonna see
When your eyes are level with mine

I'll be level with you

I don't know what I would do
If I had to face the things that you've got coming down the line

Lots of luck, lots of health, lots of wealth, little pain
That's what I want for you but there's little I can do
To put you on the gravy train

I'll be level with you

You'll always end up coming through
But you'll find yourself lost in space now and again

But you have to have a world you can live in
Not a world where all the hope is gone
And as long as we are here together
We must build a home for the free

Filled with pity
Not pain
That's loving and sane
Not divided by hate
And living in spite
'Til it's too late

Life is here
Love will come in the end give it time
There's wonders still to do and I know you'll find it's true
That yours will be bigger than mine

I'll be level with you
The one thing I hope you will do is tell me about what
You're doing from time to time

After this was the Hayward contribution, "Driftwood".  It was sort of kind of like some of the canonical stuff, but the saxophone on the left was very distracting.  I do not know why they did that.  I ALMOST got emotional hearing it, but not quite.  The magic was gone.  I will continue to finish the critique of the album, but I am not very enthusiastic.


Just like the driftwood of a dream
Left of the seashore of sleep
Just like the words that wouldn't rhyme
Lost in the desert of time
Time waits for no one at all
No, not even you
You thought you'd seen it all before
You really thought you knew

I don't remember what was said
In the confusion that night
I only know what's on my mind
What's in the future we will decide
Time waits for no one at all
No, not even you
You thought you'd seen it all before
You really thought you knew

I've shattered the illusion
Of fortune and of fame
But darling now I know you
Life could never be the same
Oh no... don't leave me driftwood
On the shore

Time waits for no one my love
No, not even you
You thought you'd seen it all before
You really thought you knew

I've shattered the illusion
Of forture and of fame
I'm waking up
I'm reaching up
I'm getting up from this game
Oh no... don't leave me driftwood
On the shore
Oh no... don't, don't leave me driftwood
On the shore...

The first song on the second side is the is the Hayward piece called "Top Rank Suite".  Again, the saxophone is annoying to me.  This song is really horrible for The Moody Blues, but better than lots of other music from 1978.  By the way, the Top Rank was a music club in Bristol.


Rain on the river
Turns the torrent to a flood
Swim or you'll never rise above
Two lonely people
Can mend a broken heart
Love you'll never fall apart

But can you tell me why?

They made a good bowl of chili at the jazz club
They played a good game of football in Mucron
They got everyone off at the Top Rank babe
If you could ever get into their suite
Avenue Tombola and Social
We just drove right on by
We were on our way to the big time babe
To the great gold record in the sky

Sun in the morning
Brings the flowers from a bud
Hail to the giver
Life and love

Two lonely people
Can mend a broken heart
Love you'll never fall apart

But can you tell me why?

They made a good bowl of chili at the jazz club
They played a good game of football in Mucron
They got everyone off at the Top Rank babe
If you could ever get into their suite
Avenue Tombola and Social
We just drove right on by
We were on our way to the big time babe
To the great gold record in the sky

But can you tell me why?

The Thomas song "I'm Your Man" is the second song on the second side.  This is a better song, but still does not have The Moody Blues feel to it to me at least.  The synthesizer just does not have the capacity to move me like the Mellotron and the Chamberlin did.


Here I go again
Finding it so hard to explain
The way I feel when I hold you near
Still it hurts when you cry
Maybe you think love has passed you by
Don't you know I need you so
But I guess you need to know

I'm just a man, that's all I am
I'm just a man, that's yours
I'm yours you know I'm yours

Life keeps changing key
I'll look to you please look back at me
See I'm changing every day
Reaching out for happy days

But I'm just a man that's all I am
I'm just a man I'm yours
I'm simply yours

Life keeps changing key
I'll look to you please turn and look at me
You'll see I'm changing every day
In my search for happy days

But then I'm just a man
That's all I am
I'm just a man I'm yours
That's yours, simply yours

See me as I am, for I'm just a man
I'm just a man but I'm yours
Oh I'm yours I'm simply yours

"Survival" by Lodge is the third song on this side.  This is the best song so far on the record, and sounds a bit more like the old band.  There is more emotion shown on it, and I actually did get a bit choked up when I listened to it a while ago.  Still, it does not have the magic that they used to have.


Shadows of night falling over my head
People walking
Passing me by
Shadows of dreams falling out of the blue
People talking
What can I do
Where do I go from here
Where do I go from here
I could give you any dream and watch it grow
I could take you for a ride but you would know
I could tell you every answer that I know
It wouldn't be much tho'
It wouldn't be anything you didn't know

But
Survival
Nothing more than survival

Shadows of days hanging endless in time
Slowly fading
Passing us by
Shadows of worlds disappearing from view
People asking
What could we do?
Where do I go from here
Where do I go from here

If I gave you every dream they would grow
If I took you for a ride would you know
If I told you every answer that I know
It wouldn't be much tho'
It wouldn't be anything you didn't know

But survival
In you love, I have all that
I need for
survival
With your love I have all that
I need for
Survival
With our love we have all that
We need for
Survival

The sole (and very last) contribution by Pinder is the very nice "One Step into the Light", and it is the forth song on the second side.  This is closer to the mysticism of the old days, and I like the song very much except for the lack of Mellotron.  I like the song and wonder if it were written some time earlier.  Anyhow, it is one of the better tracks on the album.

One thing that I find ironic (and the reason that I wonder if it were written earlier) is the last few lines.  This is it:  "There's one thing I can do
Play my Mellotron for you..."., but there is no Mellotron in it!


One step into the light
One step away from night
It's the hardest step you're gonna take
The ship to take you there
Is waiting at the head
Of the stairs that lead up through your opening mind

Above the dark despair
Shines a light that we can share
Close your eyes and look up in between your brows
Then slowly breathing in
Feel the LIFE FORCE streaming in
Hold it there, then send it back to him

All the old things are returning
Cosmic circles ever turning
All the truth we've been yearning for
Life is our saviour, saviour, saviour, save your soul

The river of LIVING BREATH
Is flowing through the SUN
He was there before the earth began
The world will drag on you
Use his love to pull you through
Find the mission of YOUR LIFE and start to BE

All the old things are returning
Cosmic circles ever turning
All the truth we've been yearning for
Life is our saviour, saviour, saviour, save your soul

There's one thing I can do
Play my Mellotron for you
Try to blow away your city blues
Your dreams are not unfound
Get your feet back on the ground
The TRUTH will set us FREE, we cannot lose
We cannot love, we just have to CHOOSE

The last song on the last Mark II (but diluted) Moody Blues record is the Hayward piece "The Day We Meet Again".  OK, this one made me bawl.  In my case the word "years" should be translated to "days".  And she and I WILL meet again, and all of the nonsense shall be forgotten.  This particular song needed few strings, so the Mellotron was not as much missed.  Hayward was excellent on vocals and on guitar.  The sentiment was close to the classic Moody Blues of old, and I identify very much with many things, in particular to doing certain unhealthy activities by oneself.


The day we meet again
I'll be waiting there
I'll be waiting there for you
Cos the years have been so lonely
Like a dog without a home
It's dangerous when you find out
You've been drinking on your own

The day we meet again
We will walk in peace
Thru the garden down the road
Where the mist of time is lifting
See it rising in the air
Like the shadow I was chasing
When I looked it wasn't there
Oh no

But just in case you're wondering
What was really on my mind
It wasn't what you took my love
It's what you left behind

And just in case you're wondering
Will it really be the same
You know we're only living for
The day me meet again

So hold on - and don't let go
Time heals - you know - I know

The day we meet again
I'll be waiting there
I'll be waiting there for you
Cos the years have been so lonely
Like a dog without a home
It's dangerous when you find out
You've been drinking on your own

The day we meet again
We will walk in peace
Thru the garden down the road
Where the mist of time is lifting
See it rising in the air
Like the shadow I was chasing
When I looked it wasn't there
Hold on baby don't let go

This concludes the treatment by me of the very last album by Mark II of The Moody Blues, except for comments.  As you can tell, I was not impressed very much by Octave.  I found it insipid and really a poor effort compared to the previous seven works.  However, it did have its moments.

I do not intend to finish the series about The Moody Blues with such a downer, however.  I plan two more installments, one about the very few songs after the departure of Pinder that I thought were of merit, and another one that showcases some of their excellent early, live work.  I would not finish on a bad note (punintentional).  However, I do not intend to go into great detail about their later work.

My relationship with The Moody Blues is bittersweet.  I love them very much in some respects, but really resent the caricature of themselves that they made later.  Octave may have been their nadir, because some later work was very much superior to it.  However, I just sort of got tired of trying to sort out the good from the bad later on, because sorting out was not required when they were at their zenith.  Perhaps I am saying this because of a really bad emotional place that I find myself in now, but I think that I would have been just as likely to say the same thing months ago or months from now.

Warmest regards,

Doc, aka Dr. David W. Smith

Crossposted at

The Stars Hollow Gazette,

Docudharma, and

firefly-dreaming

Originally posted to Translator on Fri Jun 22, 2012 at 05:59 PM PDT.

Also republished by DKOMA and Protest Music.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tips and recs for (11+ / 0-)

    the sad decline of a great band?

    Warmest regards,

    Doc

    I would rather die from the acute effects of a broken heart than from the chronic effects of an empty heart. Copyright, Dr. David W. Smith, 2011

    by Translator on Fri Jun 22, 2012 at 03:14:12 PM PDT

  •  You should do a King Crimson series. (5+ / 0-)

    Lots of mellotrons plus they went through several phases, lineups and sounds.

    "The disturbing footage depicts piglets being drop kicked and swung by their hind legs. Sows are seen being kicked and shoved as they resist leaving their piglets."

    by Bush Bites on Fri Jun 22, 2012 at 06:15:54 PM PDT

  •  I'm with you on this one again, Doc... (5+ / 0-)

    I was hoping Octave would pick up right where Seventh Sojourn left off, but no...

    For almost any other band this would be a great record, but the bar for these guys was pretty high.

    I frequently have issues with saxophone in rock and  roll (I'm a guitarist and I feel as though a guitar would often be better) and this album would be evidence for the prosecution.

    Don't get me wrong. For example,  Dick Parry on Pink Floyd's Dark Side and Wish You Were Here really added another dimension, but this is just plain out of place.

    I'd rather have heard Justin rip a little more like on the previous few Moodlies albums.  :)

    I'm not paranoid, I'm just well informed--SherwoodB

    by SherwoodB on Fri Jun 22, 2012 at 06:18:06 PM PDT

  •  I think Slide Zone is OK..... (4+ / 0-)

    Sort of sounds like Alan Parsons Project, which was the commercial sound of Prog around that time.

    (Octave came out a year after APP's commercially successful "I Robot" album -- coincidence?)

    "The disturbing footage depicts piglets being drop kicked and swung by their hind legs. Sows are seen being kicked and shoved as they resist leaving their piglets."

    by Bush Bites on Fri Jun 22, 2012 at 06:21:59 PM PDT

    •  But it did not really mean (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      G2geek, foresterbob, Brown Thrasher

      anything.  I liked the Moodies because their lyrics usually had deep meaning.

      Warmest regards,

      Doc

      I would rather die from the acute effects of a broken heart than from the chronic effects of an empty heart. Copyright, Dr. David W. Smith, 2011

      by Translator on Fri Jun 22, 2012 at 06:26:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  three ways i've seen bands write songs... (6+ / 0-)

        ... (speaking from studio & production experience).  

        One is to write something like poetry and put it to music.  This usually sounds frankly a bit forced at best.  Though if the poetry is handled as spoken word with conventional sung choruses or as intros to songs, it can work blazingly well, and the Moody Blues have some good examples of that.

        The other is to write music and then seek out lyrics that fit.  From what I've seen this is difficult and it takes time but in the end the results are usually excellent: the song sounds musical, the lyrics fit both rhythmically and tonally.   In one band I was involved with, in punk rock, the singer would do some of this in live performances, to find words that expressed the feeling of the song and the audience.  Some of their most powerful songs came out this way.    

        There's a third way, that I've seen in progressive rock more than elsewhere, which is to actually compose.  I worked with a band whose members had an astounding talent for this: roll out of bed in the morning, grab a pencil and paper, and start writing out musical notation and lyrics, and then refine the stuff during practice sessions.  That wasn't the only way they got songs, but they did it enough that I was majorly impressed.  

        I'd have to guess the Moody Blues as well as other big prog rock bands all had some degree of formal musical education and did a lot of their songwriting the third way, if nothing else due to the sheer complexity of the genre.  Pink Floyd have a bunch of stuff that's so complex and with so many layers, that I have to believe they did this, because it's unimaginable to be able to create some of those songs any other way.  

        "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

        by G2geek on Fri Jun 22, 2012 at 06:48:40 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Eh. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Translator, SherwoodB, foresterbob

        I never knew what Jon Anderson was singing about either, but I think The Yes Album, Fragile and Close to the Edge was one of the best three-album runs in rock.

        "The disturbing footage depicts piglets being drop kicked and swung by their hind legs. Sows are seen being kicked and shoved as they resist leaving their piglets."

        by Bush Bites on Fri Jun 22, 2012 at 06:54:52 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I liked the (3+ / 0-)

          sound of Yes, but like that bullfrog song, never understood a single word they said.  Therefore I did not listen to them that much.  There is an interesting connexion betwixt Yes and The Moody Blues in that one Patrick Moraz, the former keyboard player for Yes replaced Pinder after Octave.  But Rick Wakeman was THE MAN!

          Warmest regards,

          Doc

          I would rather die from the acute effects of a broken heart than from the chronic effects of an empty heart. Copyright, Dr. David W. Smith, 2011

          by Translator on Fri Jun 22, 2012 at 06:58:27 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Only one song on Octave (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Translator, Brown Thrasher

    has stood the test of time, in my opinion.  That song is Pinder's One Step into the Light.  After that, Pinder was gone and the band was not the same.

    All these years, and I missed the irony of Pinder singing about the Mellotron but not playing it!

    I saw the Moodies in concert after the album was released.  The venue might have been half full.  Patrick Moraz had replaced Pinder on the keyboards, and he managed to irritate the veteran cosmic rockers (oops, getting ahead of myself) by making Star Wars laser sounds during the performances, and adding a few disco licks for extra insult.

    Also around that time (1977), Justin Hayward released his solo album Songwriter.  It just might be the worst solo album by a well-known artist ever released.  Enough said.  Those were tough years for those of us who had experienced the band's finest days.

    Tipped and recced, by the way, for being willing to write about Octave.

    •  Thank you for the kind words! (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      foresterbob, BusyinCA, Brown Thrasher

      I just about did NOT write about it, but asked my readers last time whether or not I should.  By a narrow margin, they indicated that I should, so I did.  As I said in the text, I certainly will not end the series on such a down feeling, so the next two or so pieces will be more positive and celebrate the brilliance of the band.

      Warmest regards,

      Doc

      I would rather die from the acute effects of a broken heart than from the chronic effects of an empty heart. Copyright, Dr. David W. Smith, 2011

      by Translator on Fri Jun 22, 2012 at 07:26:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Pinder's contribution probably is the most solid (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      foresterbob

      ...on Octave, & rather interesting among his own later MB work in that we see less of the pessimism that crept into a lot of his later Core Seven songs.

      As for Hayward's Songwriter, I find it to have mixed quality. A lot of the musical ideas seem incomplete ("Lay It On Me" needed a bridge, & "One Lonely Room" needed a stronger bridge) & more than a few just seem "out of character" relative to his best work (especially all of those sound effect-laden "circus" & "theater"-themed pieces, apparently imitating what others had done before & better).

      Still, a few of the tracks floating around in there contain the seeds of some really good ideas — IF ONLY they had been developed further (& given more prominence instead of being buried in the middle of the album).

      Tell Congress: DON'T BREAK THE INTERNET! Fight CISPA! Stop Cyber Spying!

      by Brown Thrasher on Sat Jun 23, 2012 at 02:28:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  For me, as a listener of music (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Translator, Brown Thrasher

        but not a musician, I'm paying attention to the sound and to the lyrics.  Songwriter was a string of cliches about being a poor misunderstood musician trying to scrape out an existence on the road.  Or, as Todd Rundgren calls it, "the ever-popular tortured artist effect."  On many of the songs, it sounds like the guitar itself is being tortured.  But that's just my opinion.

        I did like many of the songs on Blue Jays, the joint venture between Hayward and Lodge.  My take was that Hayward's songs that didn't make the cut for a Moody Blues album, or Blue Jays, ended up in Songwriter.

  •  Well Doc this installment was (4+ / 0-)

    clearly a labor of love.  Not so much for your love of the music, it's evident that it doesn't speak to you.  Must be your love of the audience.

    Thanks for sharing this with us.  I'm looking forward to the highlite reel next week.

    I bored thru both The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings with Yes on my headphones.  It was a whole lot richer than watching them wander across New Zealand.  Hope you add Yes to your series.

    “that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.” Thomas Jefferson

    by markdd on Fri Jun 22, 2012 at 09:24:57 PM PDT

    •  Thank you very much! (4+ / 0-)

      I really did not want to do this piece, but you are quite correct that I dearly love the people here who encourage me to stretch and write about things, and then who reward me with comments, tips, and recs.

      If one does not love one's readers, one will be a poor author.  Thank you very much again!

      Warmest regards, and I think that two someones dear to me will be coming back tomorrow, please wish me luck.

      Doc

      I would rather die from the acute effects of a broken heart than from the chronic effects of an empty heart. Copyright, Dr. David W. Smith, 2011

      by Translator on Fri Jun 22, 2012 at 10:22:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks Doc! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    foresterbob, Translator

    I greatly appreciate your trudge through Octave!

    I remember my initial reaction to Octave after having 1st listened to it all the way through: I figured it to be about on par with their 1983 album, The Present (though the presence of Pinder on Octave is a definite advantage).

  •  Re meaning of "Slide Zone": (0+ / 0-)
    Please tell me the meaning of this song, because I can not find any.
    Nice discussion here.

    "The fears of one class of men are not the measure of the rights of another." ~ George Bancroft (1800-1891)

    by JBL55 on Mon Jun 25, 2012 at 09:53:25 AM PDT

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