The Moody Blues: A Night at Red Rocks [Deluxe]

Jason MacNeil

The Moody Blues

A Night at Red Rocks [Deluxe]

Label: Universal
US Release Date: 2003-03-04
UK Release Date: 2003-03-17

The Moody Blues are one of those British bands from the sixties that really never flourished on this side of the water, but have still managed to make a healthy career out of it. Led by Justin Hayward, the band's early work in the mid-'60s, including Days of Future Passed, are still regarded as classics. Only a few hits in the eighties came along, but this live recording with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra behind them sounds as fresh as it did when it was recorded in 1992. It also marked one of the first rock meets symphony ideas and worked so well that future bands would give it serious consideration. Now re-released as two discs, re-mastered with bonus tracks from the group's Time Traveller boxed set, this is a staple or highly regarded introduction to a great band.

After the introductory opening over "Overture" featuring a medley of hits, drummer Graeme Edge begins the night with "Late Lament", a spoken word poem that seems to fit the quasi-mystical nature of the group. From there though the band hits its stride with "Tuesday Afternoon (Forever Afternoon)", a mid-tempo pop song that the symphony nicely nails. Flutist and tambourine player Ray Thomas adds his vocals on "For My Lady", an ancient English sounding ballad. Also apparent are the introductions to the songs, something not found on the original cassette (trust me, I know!). Hayward mentions that it's the band's silver anniversary, possibly another reason why the project turned out so bloody well.

The next few songs on the first disc are from the Time Traveller box set and begins with "Bless the Wings (That Bring You Back)", a tune that sounds like Robin Gibb taking lead vocals. The cinematic nature to this big-sounding tune is something Hayward has no problem pulling off. "Emily's Song", a passionate lullaby, doesn't seem to shine as much, although the arrangement is indeed interesting. The folk angle also gives it a breath of fresh air. "New Horizons" is another orchestrated and tender tune while "Lean on Me (Tonight)" contains the sort of melody John Lennon or Noel Gallagher churned out once in a blue moon. "Lovely to See You" is the first "rocker" and even then it comes off as a bouncy pop tune suited for adult contemporary stations. The biggest hit of the first disc is "I Know You're out There Somewhere", a tune that still comes off perfectly regardless of the eighties-ish tone. "The Voice" isn't exactly a B-side either, a faster, up-tempo rock track.

Another bonus track, included as the first song on the second disc, is the infectious pop "Say It with Love", a song that should've been included on the first go-around. "The Story in Your Eyes" doesn't lose any momentum, picking up whatever miniscule amount of slack that came before it. It's at this point that the bevy of hits come one after the other, whether it's the gorgeous "Your Wildest Dreams" or the slower and prog-rock feeling oozing out of "The Other Side of Life". The former is nearly five minutes in length while the latter times out at eight minutes, but the vibes both have make them seem far shorter. The audience applause isn't as faint as some "live" shows that are over-dubbed to death.

This comes before the other brilliant one-two punch of "I'm Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band)" and "Nights in White Satin". The first begins with a bland drum solo from Graeme Edge and seems unneeded, but the band and Orchestra are rollicking for the number despite the rather '60s message going on. And don't confuse it with the Stones' "Jigsaw Puzzle", for there is nothing at all bawdy going on in this tune. "Nights in White Satin" is one of those timeless tunes that are, er, timeless. "Legend of a Mind" is the longest song here at nearly nine minutes (and seems longer), talking about LSD guru Timothy Leary. Finishing with "Ride My See-Saw", the Moody Blues were on top of their game on this night captured for posterity.

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