2020 Album Draft- Round 6- Pick 8- Run-Sew-Read selects- The Moody Blues- A Question Of Balance.
The Moody Blues were going to be in my desert island mix from the start, but I mulled for weeks over which album. I was leaning toward Days of Future Past from 1967, but then decided it should be Long Distance Voyager from 1981. Then I ended up choosing this one from 1970. This was their fifth studio album after transitioning from their early blues music with Denny Laine.
The album opens with the song Question, which shouts confrontational questions about why the world is the way it is. Then the song abruptly slows down in the middle and expresses a yearning for closeness. Then the tempo and intensity resume to finish the song with a passionate instrumental. The theme of questioning, seeking, reflecting and yearning is present throughout the album. Question was written and sung by lead singer Justin Hayward.
Three more songs I want to specifically mention:
And the Tide Rushes In – This is the beautiful lyrics and voice of Ray Thomas (player of the Moodies’ iconic flute solos). Ray’s songs as a rule are something to savor, but this one is a particular favorite of mine for its insightful lyrics and vocals.
The Balance – By this fifth album, the spoken verse had become a Moodies’ calling card. Each album had a spoken track composed by drummer Graeme Edge. The Balance may be his masterpiece for inspiring love, caring and redemption. Graeme has published a book of his verses, and also produced it in an audiobook. Graeme composed some excellent songs on other Moodies albums, including ‘22,000 Days’ on Long Distance Voyager, and the lovely ‘Going Nowhere,’ sung by Ray Thomas on their album, The Present.
Dawning is the Day – This is yet another lovely song, written and sung by Justin. I deduct a point for the many lyrical cliches, but still, it is truly uplifting. Years ago I read that the US Air Force used this song in a recruitment ad, until asked to stop. I’ve looked but haven’t found a copy of the ad. I’d love to hear it.
The rest of the songs on the album are catchy and/or enjoyable while in some way questioning, seeking, reflecting or yearning.
The track listing:
- How Is It (We Are Here)
- And the Tide Rushes In
- Don’t You Feel Small?
- Tortoise And The Hare
- It’s Up To You
- Minstrel’s Song
- Dawning Is The Day
- Melancholy Man
- The Balance
- Mike’s Number One (bonus track on the 2006 remaster).
Prior to this album, the Moody Blues had become known for their orchestral compositions, which were difficult or impossible to replicate live on tour. The band members have said that this album was their effort to make music that could be performed live. Mike Pinder’s mellotron was still prominent on this album, though, and went with them on tour.
For live performances of these songs, look on YouTube for the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970, and the filmed-for-tv concert in La Taverne de L’Olympia, Paris in 1970. At the Olympia, the vocals were live, but much of the instruments were filled in with a backing track; still a superb time capsule.
A Question of Balance reached #1 in the UK, and #3 in the US album charts. There is more than one version of the album cover, which was created by artist Phil Travers. Initial versions have a hunter in a safari helmet. After legal claims over the likeness of that individual, later versions altered the man, and put black rectangles over the eyes of some people on the cover.
Here is Question, performed at the Isle of Wight Festival, this week, 50 years ago.