05/19/06
Reviews by - Lindsay Planer

Judging from the correspondence that we receive at As The Disc Spins, it would seem as if most readers are getting their music on-line. If not directly downloading onto media players or a PC hard-drive, you're searching various internet retailers. And that's exactly where folks should seek these significantly super-sized editions of the Moody Blues' first five albums.


The Moody Blues -
Days of Future Passed - Deluxe Edition
In Search of The Lost Chord - Deluxe Edition
On The Threshold of a Dream
To Our Children's Children's Children - Deluxe Edition
A Question of Balance
(Deram/Universal)

Without question, Universal Music is to be commended for taking the time to do these classic platters properly. Not only are they remastered for optimal sound, but the contents have also been upgraded. Every package is endowed with a beaucoup of extras. There are hard-to-find cuts that were only issued as singles, alternates of familiar favorites and studio outtakes. As if that weren't enough, the BBC Radio archives were scoured for performances -- the vast majority of which haven't been issued prior. Keen-eyed readers might note that On The Threshold Of A Dream (1969) and A Question Of Balance (1970) are not  'Deluxe Editions.' This merely means that they were able to pack all the extras onto a single disc -- while the remaining titles have been spread over two CDs.

The icing for audiophiles is undoubtedly the unconventional approach that was taken with the Surround Sound. Rather than invest the time and effort in creating modern Surround Sound versions, producers chose to revive the Quadraphonic [read: four-channel: right and left for the front and rear] format that was available for a very short time during the mid 1970s. The sole exception being In Search Of The Lost Chord (1969) -- which doesn't appear to have been issued in Quad. This is a bone of contention for those expecting the true "5.1 Surround Sound" experience that is hyped on the cover. While from a 'truth in advertising' perspective that is understandable, there are no complaints here as to how the vintage mixes have held up over time.
Granted, it would take more space than our humble column allows to thoroughly assess every variation. However, we'd be negligent if we didn’t underscore some of the more dramatic highlights from each.

Days Of Future Passed (1967) is augmented by non-orchestral readings of "The Sun Set" and "Twilight Time," and the digital debut of the monaural single for "Nights In White Satin." This will be familiar to those who first experienced the song on the radio back in the mid-to-late '60s. Also not to be missed are the BBC Radio recordings of "Peak Hour," the non-LP "Love and Beauty," and "Fly Me High," plus a rare cover of The Animals' "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood."

The second CD of In Search Of The Lost Chord (1968) is arguably the best of the lot with alternates of "Legend Of A Mind" and an instrumental "Visions Of Paradise," with sitar, flute and acoustic guitar. "A Simple Game" -- which was written by the Moodies for Motown's Four Tops -- can be heard in two distinct forms, the original single-only side and with a recently unearthed Justin Hayward vocal. Speaking of which, Hayward has never sounded as majestic as he does on the BBC Radio reading of "Tuesday Afternoon" found here.

Extras found within On The Threshold Of A Dream include so-called 'full versions' -- without cross-fading -- of several numbers. "So Deep Within You," reveals a bass guitar introduction in its unedited and otherwise un-obscured form. The four BBC cuts are equally impressive -- especially the John Peel-hosted Top Gear show with "Lovely To See You" and "Send Me No Wine," circa February of 1969.

The supplements on To Our Children's … (1968) center on a half-hour mini-concert for BBC Radio One with a healthy sampling from their entire catalogue up to that point. Again, there is such a plethora of significant extras, enthusiasts should definitely feel that they are getting their monies worth. In terms of differences between the handful of  'alternate' takes, they primarily consist of extended fade-outs, or slightly altered vocals and instrumentation -- such as the piano solo during "Candle Of Life." 

Even though A Question Of Balance (1971) is last chronologically, it may very well qualify as the most underrated of the lot. The Surround Sound [aka Quad] mix has almost a cocoon-like intimacy and attention to nuance that was not as readily evident on the others. There are three variations on the disc of the rousing opener "Question." The standard stereo version, the Surround/Quad -- which is stretched out and contains a few surprises for the uninitiated -- as well as the 'alternate' rendition which clocks in a good 20 seconds longer. Additionally, "Minstrel's Song," "It's Up To You," "Don't You Feel Small," and "Dawning Is The Day," are offered in their 'original' mixes, which means there are no cross-fades between the numbers. It is likewise on A Question Of Balance that listeners will find the completely unheard title "Mike's Number One." What a find! Of course the Mike in question is co-founder Mike Pinder (keyboard/vocals) and the acoustic tune seems to be a demo that he began and then inexplicably abandoned.

The CDs themselves are housed in cardboard digipack miniature replicas of the original LP jackets. Great care and detail have likewise gone into the expansive booklets that are replete with reproductions of adverts from vintage trade periodicals, publicity photos, lyrics and historical liner notes penned for these editions. It is here that you'll find all the recording dates, specifics on BBC source material and other pertinent ephemera.

As to why these treasures are not widely available Stateside, one can only guess. Luckily, in today's global marketplace, it has never been easier to get imports. Simply point-and-click onto your favorite cyber retail media outlet -- such as Amazon.com or (a personal fave) DeepDiscountCD.com.


Lindsay Planer is a freelance journalist and technical producer at WBT AM/FM in Charlotte, NC. He is a regular contributor to All Music Guide, CrutchfieldAdvisor.com and Gaston Gazette. Comments and questions can be sent to <asthediscspins@earthlink.net>.
 

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