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Reviewing The Moody Blues Album "Octave" on its 35th Anniversary

Posted by hughrandle@gmail.com on June 12, 2013 at 4:25 PM


It is hard to believe that the first Moody Blues “comeback” ( the band has faded and re-emerged several times in its 48 year history), happened 35 years ago June 9th 1978 with the release of their album Octave. Overall it was their 9th studio album and their last with the lineup that had been in place since 1967‘s Days of Future Passed. After the albums release, Mike Pinder, their keyboardist, decided that his new family and growing discontent with bandmates was sufficient reason to leave the band. Justin Hayward and John Lodge picked up the piano parts and the band played on. Octave is a departure from the first eight Moody Blues albums in that it used more lounge-style organs and synthesizers and less Mellotron as fans were used to. Additionally, it was released a year after the live album Moody Blues: Caught Live plus Five brought some attention to the band, but it was also released right in the midst of disco fever in America and the Punk Rock scene in England. Despite that, loyal Moody Blues fans propelled the album to #6 on the Billboard Album charts and its platinum sales in the U.S. took it to #13. The album had no true hit, with only “Driftwood” and “Steppin into a Slide Zone” ( #39 in the U.S.) cracking the top 50. As one of my favorite bands, however, the music of Octave, the continued creative writing of Justin Hayward as well as contributions from Pinder, Lodge, Graeme Edge and Ray Thomas show the versatility and depth which the band had developed in its first 11 years. I will go over the album track by track and list some of my favorite lyrics #1 Steppin in a Slide Zone- This song kicks off the album with gusto, driving guitars and rapid fire lyrics. The singers “host” obviously a wise sage takes him on a trip to see how apples grow and rivers flow. He tells the singer he should know these surroundings and that there is a magic stream (fountain of youth?). As the song concludes the singer hears the music and knows that the appeal of music is timeless.. FAVORITE LYRIC: Help me please I thought I said Then something happened in my head Music came from all around And I knew what I had found #2 Under Moonshine- This is a Ray Thomas song and is beautiful in its forest imagery. Again the creator shows the singer all there is and to me this song speaks of freedom, to do what you want, it is a great follow-up to Slide Zone. FAVORITE LYRIC: Sure I feel the pain Deep inside I pour like rain Remember when you smile Love's in your eyes #3 Had to Fall in Love- This is a beautiful love song written by Justin Heyward. Another song of freedom, but this time it is the freedom to fall in love and read the writing on the wall..would be a great wedding song. FAVORITE LYRIC: What mattered to me Was the right to be free Like I'll be someday I'm waiting for my heart to lead the way #4- I’ll Be Level With You- A Graeme Edge song, very much reminding me of his later song Veteran Cosmic Rocker on the Long Distance Voyager album, strong guitars and a definite “Moody Blues” sound, this comes across as advice from a father to son and in it, he has so many wishes for his boy to be all that he is and more. Excellent song!! FAVORITE LYRIC: Life is here Love will come in the end give it time There's wonders still to do and I know, you'll find it's true That yours will be bigger than mine #5- Driftwood- Another Justin Hayward love song, this song hit quickly on the U.S. pop charts and features Mike Pinder’s last keyboard performance for the band. Hayward’s lyrics just flow effortlessly and it is clear why he has won England’s highest songwriting award. FAVORITE LYRICS: Just like the driftwood of a dream Left on the seashore of sleep Just like the words that wouldn’t rhyme Lost in the desert of time #6- Top Ranked Suite- A very quick paced Justin Hayward song, playful and hopeful, a great song to swing dance to with again great flow to the lyrics and several definitely English references, also a sax background, played by session musician R.A. Martin. FAVORITE LYRICS: Sun in the morning brings the flowers from a bud Hail to the giver, life and love Two lonely people can mend a broken heart Love and you'll never fall apart But can you tell me why? #7- I’m Your Man- A Ray Thomas love song, maybe my favorite song on the album. This is such a great wedding song, or even a better anniversary song. It just communicates a man’s loyalty to his woman. Reassuring, beautifully sung and with some great imagery, this is a must hear. FAVORITE LYRICS: Here I go again, finding it so hard to explain The way I feel when I hold you near Still it hurts when you cry Maybe you think love has passed you by Don't you know I need you so? But I guess you need to know #8- Survival- This is John Lodge’s second contribution to the album (Stepping into A Slide Zone) is the other) and although well sung and written is probably the least hopeful song on the album. While the rest of the album looks for love and freedom, this track is more about just getting by. FAVORITE LYRICS: If I gave you every dream would they grow? If I took you for a ride would you know? If I told you every answer that I know It wouldn't be much though It wouldn't be anything you didn't know #9- One Step Into the Light- This is Mike Pinder’s last writing contribution to the Moody Blues and it is amazing. His use of imagery is unequalled by the other writers and this is by far, in my opinion, the most faithful song of the album. Several allusions to God and a message of “fear not” FAVORITE LYRICS: The river of living breath, is flowing through the sun He was there before the earth began The world will drag on you, use his love to pull you through Find the mission of your life and start to be #10- The Day We Meet Again- The magnum opus at over 6 minutes, this Justin Hayward love song is a message of lost love reunited. Much like his later “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere” and “In Your Wildest Dreams”, he shares the message of love found, love lost and love regained. FAVORITE LYRIC: The day we meet again I'll be waiting there, I'll be waiting there for you Cos the years have been so lonely, like a dog without a home It's dangerous when you find out You've been drinking on your own This is not one of the Moody Blues most popular albums. If you are new to the Moody Blues I would suggest checking out a greatest hits album (there are many to choose from). The Moody Blues are still active in 2013 with 3 of their original members from 1966. I plan to see them in concert this September and anticipate they will be every bit as entertaining as when I saw them in 1995. Octave does show just how four veteran songwriters can combine their very different writing styles into one very entertaining and engaging album.

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