Time Traveller

The Moody Blues

Polydor, 1994


REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Wishing to capitalize on the success of two early ‘90s Moody Blues specials, Legend Of A Band and the Live At Red Rocks 1992 concert with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra that was televised on PBS, Polydor thought it wise to release a four-disc box set summarizing all the band had accomplished to that point.

In theory, it was a great idea. In practice, while much of the music is very good, a few gaping flaws keep it from being recommended to all but absolute newcomers who want a sample of each of the band's 13 studio albums (at the time).

The first flaw is a huge lack of rarities, B-sides, demos or anything else that fans don't already have. Only three early songs – "Cities," "Fly Me High" and "Love And Beauty" – make the cut, and only "Fly Me High" is kind of good. The Mike Pinder single "A Simple Game" and "Haven't Really Got The Time," among others, should really be on here, as well as later cuts like "Island," the extended version of "Gypsy," and so on.

Once the record label got its act together, they reissued the "classic seven" albums in the late '00s and included all of these bonus tracks, sometimes on a second disc, providing a treasure trove for fans who wanted to update their old CDs anyway. It's a shame that so little of that made it here.

Second, there is nothing from the original incarnation of the band, when Denny Laine was in charge and they were more of a straight-up British R&B outfit. "Go Now" was the only hit from this period, and Laine (later of Wings) only made one album with the band before leaving, but something still needs to be here.

The four discs are sequenced chronologically. Disc one starts with the aforementioned three early tracks and then segues right in to "Tuesday Afternoon" and "Nights In White Satin." This is a poor decision; what fan, casual or avid, doesn't already know these songs by heart and own them on several formats? With the box set format, why not stretch out and include something else from the stellar Days Of Future Passed, such as "Twilight Time" or "Peak Hour?" That album remains both a highlight from 1967 and it stands alone in the Moodies' catalog, and it deserves more exposure than those two overplayed chestnuts.

Past that, the other "classic seven" albums are well represented, with at least half of each one (hits and album cuts) getting a place. Disc 1 includes the best of In Search Of The Lost Chord, leaving off the dull and twee bits of that album in favor of the rocker "Ride My See-Saw," the trippy but catchy "Legend Of A Mind" and the truly beautiful "The Actor," one of Justin Hayward's finest moments on record. Both parts of "House Of Four Doors" are here, which is a good time to use the bathroom. The disc closes with highlights from my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 On The Threshold Of A Dream, and there is nothing really missing, although fans will probably note a favorite track or two they wish was here.

Disc two pulls the majority of To Our Children's Children's Children, a few tracks from A Question Of Balance and Every Good Boy Deserves Favour. The obvious high points are here ("Question," "The Story In Your Eyes," "One More Time To Live" and the driving "Gypsy,"), along with far too many unnecessary album tracks like "My Song" and "Minstrel's Song." Saying this disc is saturated with Mellotron is like saying Lake Michigan is damp; between that and the wide-eyed hippie lyrics, one may wonder what this band's appeal was at times. It's essential to remember that these early albums were a) of a specific time and place and b) designed to be played front to back, so taking the songs out of context like this diminishes the impact somewhat. And sure, time has not been kind to all of this, but there are many forgotten gems to be uncovered here.

Disc three is the worst, although it starts out by including six of the eight songs from Seventh Sojourn. That album remains the best of the "classic seven" outside of Days, although it is a bit bleak and far more serious than, say, "Tortoise And The Hare." The best known songs from it are the near epic "Isn't Life Strange" and the rocker "I'm Just A Singer (In a Rock And Roll Band)," where the band more or less gives up figuring out the universe and wasting time on astral planes with flute playing rabbits or whatever. It's the sound of growing up, as witnessed in "Lost In A Lost World" and the lovely "New Horizons."

However, the disc quickly falls apart with far too many Hayward/John Lodge solo and Blue Jays tracks, which don't have the support of the other Moodies and are just dull and forgettable quasi-love songs. The final three tracks are from the reunion disc Octave, and only "Steppin' In A Slide Zone" is kinda sorta OK.

Disc four has the potential to be terrible but actually does a great job redeeming the band's '80s output. Once Patrick Moraz took over on keyboards for Mike Pinder, the Moodies reshaped their sound into an adult pop approach, and for two albums they made it work on songs like "The Voice," "Talking Out Of Turn" and "Blue World."

But then, oh dear God. Horrible '80s production, electronic drums, synthesizers and a complete lack of intelligence permeated Sur La Mer, The Other Side Of Life and Keys Of The Kingdom, and only the hits are salvaged from those wrecks, notably "Your Wildest Dreams," "The Other Side Of Life" and maybe "Gemini Dream" and "I Know You're Out There Somewhere," which features the least creative drumming of 1988. Listening to the best of these five albums may give one the impression that there is something more worth discovering. Trust me, there is not.

Early copies of this set included a fifth disc with a few songs from the Live At Red Rocks show, apparently an attempt to trick listeners into paying full price for the entire CD for the rest of the songs. If you're not familiar with the Moodies, that show is not the place to start, but by all means if you like the songs offered, give the entire disc a chance.

There have been many Moodies compilations over the years, so the casual fan can pick up Gold and they will already own half of this box set. Longtime fans may have most or all of the classic albums on disc already, so adding a single disc collection with the later hits renders this collection obsolete for them as well. Honestly, there isn't much of a market for this simply because most of it is available elsewhere; had the compilers bothered to include more rarities, the Laine era and taken off most of disc three, this could have been essential. As is, it's simply superfluous, even if the music is pretty good most of the time.

Rating: B-

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