August 25, 2008
Eagle Records
Pop/Rock, Psychedelic, Prog-Rock, Contemporary Pop/Rock, Album Rock, British Psychedelia, Art Rock

Album Review

Live recordings by the original Moody Blues are surprisingly scarce -- considering the amount of touring that they did do from 1968 through 1973, especially of the United States, and the way they were selling records after 1968, amazingly little in the way of actual concert recordings were apparently done, and even less have turned up across the years; one live album from Royal Albert Hall in 1969 (and that was released almost begrudgingly, in 1978, to pave the way for the band's reuniting), and that's been it. That is, until the release of this CD of just over an hour in length, containing the band's performance from the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival, in front of an audience many hundreds of thousands strong (no one knows for sure, as the gate-crashers took the place over). And its shortcomings may explain why there haven't been more extensive efforts at documenting the group's live sound from this period. Oh, there are some very good moments -- many, in fact -- and they do well on numbers such as "Tuesday Afternoon" and "Nights in White Satin," from their classic repertory -- and then-new songs such as "Gypsy," "Tortoise and the Hare," and "Minstrel's Song" come off well; and even "Melancholy Man," which this reviewer has always regarded as a weak number from A Question of Balance, works better here with more emotional immediacy and connection. But the group's efforts at embellishing their work, adding little flourishes for the sake of live performance, generally don't come off well, and their harmony vocals -- despite a lot of effort -- are frequently ragged and mis-timed. Perhaps the latter shortcomings are inevitable in performing in front of something like a half-a-million people, but they do leave this recording short of being definitive, even as a concert document. There is a lot of good here, to be sure, mostly in the individual contributions of the members -- Justin Hayward's lead guitar playing is first-rate, and the rhythm section of John Lodge and Graeme Edge is rock-solid throughout; Michael Pinder's Mellotrons do generate some strange and beautiful sounds; and Ray Thomas' flute is better recorded than one would have expected, given the limitations of the equipment of the era (listen to Ian Anderson's instrument on the Carnegie Hall Jethro Tull sides of the same era to hear the distortion one expected to find). But pulling their sound together on the most complex of their compositions on-stage was still a little bit beyond them, at least in an outdoor setting, based on the evidence here. And all of this doesn't mean that fans won't embrace and appreciate what is here -- some of the musicianship is quite bracing, and the 70-percent of the what is here that works will satisfy. But it's also easy to see why the band has been so cagey, if not downright evasive over the years about the existence of live tapes of this vintage. All of that said, this performance was also captured on film, by a full professional crew using state-of-the-art equipment, which was scheduled for release sometime later in 2008 or 2009, and it's entirely possible that this performance may work much better on visual terms than it does as a pure audio release.
Bruce Eder, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. Gypsy
  2. Gypsy
  3. The Sunset
  4. The Sunset
  5. Tuesday Afternoon
  6. Tuesday Afternoon
  7. Minstrel's Song
  8. Minstrel's Song
  9. Never Comes The Day
  10. Never Comes the Day
  11. Tortoise and the Hare
  12. Tortoise And The Hare
  13. Question
  14. Questions
  15. Melancholy Man
  16. Melancholy Man
  17. Are You Sitting Comfortably
  18. Are You Sitting Comfortably
  19. The Dream
  20. The Dream
  21. Have You Heard, Pts. 1 & 2
  22. Have You Heard (Parts 1 And 2)
  23. Nights In White Satin
  24. Nights in White Satin
  25. Legend of a Mind
  26. Legend Of A Wind
  27. Ride My See Saw
  28. Ride Me See Saw
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