The Moody Blues

Decca, 1978


REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


In the middle of the punk upheaval and the influx of new blood that pushed out the old bands of the ‘70s, the Moody Blues decided the time was right to come back. Wisely, they also decided that they needed to update their sound away from the mellotron, the piles of instruments, and the ersatz psychedelic philosophies of the lyrics that characterized the previous six albums.

Unfortunately, this meant a turn toward the bland, a fate that would befall every Moody Blues album from here on out. But where future albums would boast at least one catchy hit single, and where previous albums were interesting and full of moving musical moments, precious little on Octave measures up. It's a transition album, to be sure, but a dull one.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Part of this could be the absence of keyboardist Mike Pinder. The band recorded much of this in California to accommodate him, but his heart wasn't in it anymore, nor did he really get along with the band, and he left halfway through the recording session. This left it to Justin Hayward and John Lodge to play the keyboard parts on a synthesizer, effectively reducing the band to a quartet and removing one of the voices that had characterized the band.

Still, democratic as always, the first four songs are by a different writer. "Steppin' In A Slide Zone" was a minor single, a synth-rocker with slight arena rock pretensions and chugging rhythm section, sounding like little in the Moodies' catalog and creating false hope for the rest of the disc.

Ray Thomas' "Under Moonshine" is an inferior rewrite of Seventh Sojourn's "For My Lady," and his "I'm Your Man" is even worse, sounding like something a hack Vegas crooner would attempt in a fading nightclub. Drummer Graeme Edge gets his one song, "I'll Be Level With You," and it sounds similar to his previous attempts at upbeat rock songs with too much going on.

Hayward's ballads clog up half the album, offering inoffensive adult contemporary MOR that would become his stock in trade in the ‘80s. Fans looking for positives on this disc point to "Driftwood" and "The Day We Meet Again," which are fine, but hardly exciting or vital. In fact, most of this disc can be described in that manner. Well played, melodic, but so dull it seems the Moodies have traded in their personalities just to return to the music scene. Only "Top Rank Suite" and "Slide Zone" show real signs of life, and it's not like either is a great song. Still, in a sea of gray, one will cling to the two blue buoys for life.

Octave is more or less the black sheep of the Moody Blues catalog, and it deserves that status. One wishes they had skipped this, parted ways with Pinder and come back properly with 1981's Long Distance Voyager, a much better effort.

Rating: D+

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