The Other Side Of Life

The Moody Blues

Polygram, 1986

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


The beginning of the end.

Long Distance Voyager and Blue World ushered in the Moody Blues of the 1980s, showcasing a pop rock synth band not unlike everything else on the radio, a band that could write a pretty nifty single and that came with credentials for writing "Nights In White Satin." Those who had loved the band since 1967 cringed a bit but liked "The Voice" and decided to stick it out with this new direction.

They were rewarded with the absolute bomb of The Other Side Of Life, an album nearly as bad as the one that followed it (Sur La Mer, generally considered the worst Moodies album ever), with only two songs to really recommend it. As these songs are available on hits compilations, this album is useful mainly as a beer coaster.

Apparently, the record company decided to push John Lodge and Justin Hayward to the fore as songwriters and performers, keeping around drummer Graeme Edge and flautist/songwriter/singer Ray Thomas for sentimental reasons. Thomas is nowhere to be found on this album, and as the drums are pretty much all electronic, Edge probably was off doing other things too. It's pretty much a trio of John, Justin, and keyboardist Patrick Moraz, who ruins this music with his wimpy, wanky synthesizers.

Granted, this fits in perfectly with the times, when synths ran rampant and people were desperate to sell records instead of make art (the bands that made music for more noble purposes, like to get girls, were shunted to the left of the dial and pegged "alternative"). But there are good songs with these overweening synthesizer parts; even a good song can overcome a bad keyboard part.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

But these are not good songs. The well was beginning to run dry in Camp Hayward/Lodge, and it shows in faceless arrangements, piles of keyboards, and lyrics so banal that anyone could have written them (example: "Like a rock / I'm gonna roll with you"). That line is repeated maybe 137 times in "Rock 'N' Roll Over You," which is not rock, not cool, and as far away from the Moodies of "Question" as one can get.

Perhaps if the songs had been acoustic, or featured some of Thomas' harmonies and flute – hell, even a Mellotron would be fine – this album could have been salvaged. But this is absolute dreck, as simple, robotic and commercialized as ‘80s music got. "Running Out Of Love" is the worst example of this and the nadir of the album, which is pretty bad considering three of the first five songs are perhaps the worst the band ever recorded up to this point. Hayward's ballad "I Just Don't Care" shows mild signs of life.

The opening cut and single "Your Wildest Dreams" is exactly like the rest of the album, but succeeds because of Hayward's singing, Moraz's keyboard restraint and a bop-along beat. With the accompanying video and the vocal harmonies, it became a sizable hit for the band. It's definitely dated in the manner of most ‘80s schlock like it, but if you want a nostalgia trip to your youth, you could do worse.

Much better is the second side and especially the title track, which is by far the Moodies' best and most ambitious song of the decade. The lyrics are a bit slight for the seven-minute run time, but in its deceptively spooky blues-pop atmosphere and guitar/keyboard solos, the band pulls out a song that stands with their best work. It is the only thing, really, that notches this album's rating up.

Lodge's contributions are influenced by ELO, especially the goofball country twang added to "Slings And Arrows" and the closing "It May Be A Fire," which is paltry but at least tries for songwriting instead of gimmicks. "The Spirit" also has some good ideas in what I assume is the verses, but squanders them with a bland bridge section and – you guessed it – stupid keyboard squiggles by Moraz, who by the end of this disc will really get on your nerves. It should be noted that he and Edge co-wrote that number, so at least Edge was around a little bit.

No matter one's feelings about the band, The Other Side Of Life is a bad album with one and three-quarters good songs out of nine. If that's how you want to spend your time, go for it. Otherwise, download the title track, enjoy it and move on. Nothing to see here.

Rating: D+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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