Justin Hayward and John Lodge Threshold THS 14
Released: March 1975
Chart Peak: #16
Weeks Charted: 23
At least in terms of sound, Justin Hayward and John Lodge, guitarist and bass player, respectively, with the currently inactive Moody Blues, have created in Blue Jays the ultimate Moody Blues album. It is the same sound that established the Moodys' mass popularity in 1968 with Days of Future Passed: basic rock instrumentation heavily overlaid with Mellotron or string orchestra, and vocals treated as instruments in the Wagnerian manner. In strictly musical terms, however, the Moody Blues are far from Wagnerian. Simple melodic themes are elongated to accomodate a dramatic sense about as sophisticated as a mediocre Fifties soundtrack, their emotional import exaggerated by such devices as rapidly swelling orchestration and gargantuan crescendo.
Original album advertising art. Click image for larger view.
It can be convincingly argued that the Moody Blues, as much as any act, helped reassert orchestral sound into the mainstream of pop music at a time when unornamented hard rock was at its peak of popularity and softness was "out." They did this by creating "psychedelic" mood music for the youth market, shrewdly organizing their albums as "trips," and selling it as rock. The formula worked. In the seven years since Days of Future Passed, with producer Tony Clarke, the Moody Blues sensibly did not tamper much with the sound that had made them popular except to improve it technologically. As a result, Blue Jays leaps off the turntable, a tidal wave of romantic bombast that would have reduced Cecil B. DeMille to jelly.
While there's no denying that the Moody Blues albums, and now Blue Jays, represent some sort of high point in pop engineering, the aesthetic value of the Moody Blues catalog is questionable. True, "Nights in White Satin" (minus its coda of purple poetry) and especially "Question" contain a melodic grandeur appropriate to the Moodys' aural style. The same can't be said, however, for the rest of their tunes. And if the lyrics to Moody Blues songs are studied in many colleges, which is what one writer recently claimed in the New York Times, that fact is distressing. For the Moody Blues' and Blue Jays' lyrics are so absorbed in cosmic banalities as to render meaning meaningless. Like Cecil B. DeMille's religious epics, they eroticize the spiritual and spiritualize the erotic as sentimental kitsch. Writes Justin Hayward in "This Morning":
Long is the road, that takes you from home
My baby, oh my darling
And sleepless are the hours
And lonely is the night
For the poor tormented soul
Who is searching for the light
Writes John Lodge in "Saved by the Music":
When you're following all life's lies
And find its meaning
And truth still hides
Don't cover your face
Let the warmth come flowing through
Welcome dawn new morning dew
Pompous, dumb and self-pitying, these lyrics mark an all-time low for both writers, though it should hardly matter to Moody Blues lovers. What matters most is gorgeous sound. All ten of the cuts on Blue Jays are ballads, and three of them feature an orchestra led by Peter Knight, who also conducted on Days of Future Passed. Blue Jays is a tonal bath, all sound and nothing but sound, the perfect background music for the kind of person who whispers "I love you" to a one-night stand.