It’s been a while since I’ve had the time to sprawl out and listen to an entire album’s worth of music. Today I did it. Last week Ray Thomas’ ‘Our Guessing Game’ went through my head and I thought it was time to savour the digitally remastered CD of The Moody Blues’ ‘Every Good Boy Deserves Favour’.
Released 41 years ago, the question is always: does it stand as a listenable work today? The answer is: yes.
The Moody Blues were at the peak of their initial success in 1971 and this was the sixth of their ‘core seven’ albums. A gruelling work schedule – touring internationally in Europe, the USA and in front of 150,000 at the Isle of Wight and recording an album or two every year – was taking its toll. The Moodies had evolved from an underground band to international superstars and doubts were setting in. However, they continued to produce fine work.
‘Every Good Boy Deserves Favour’ continued the Moodies’ concept approach from the start of the album to the finish. ‘Procession’ takes us from creation of the universe through to the development of human communication, leading into Justin Hayward’s ‘The Story in Your Eyes’, which the band still performs today. The doubt shows through: “I’ve been thinking about our fortune, And I’ve decided that we’re really not to blame.” It’s one of his best and a great, fast start to the album. Next ‘Our Guessing Game’, one of Ray’s best too, a reflective song contrasting with his whimsical ‘Nice to Be Here’, apparently inspired by Beatrix Potter, which has Hayward attempting to play a guitar solo on one string, but needing two! It’s good to see they could still have some fun, even though the pressures were getting to them. ‘After You Came’ is, for me, one of Graeme Edge’s best songs, with vocals by each of the rest of the band and a loud, driving finish.
John Lodge’s ‘One More Time to Live’ makes clever play of words, Hayward’s ‘You Can Never Go Home’ combines exquisite melodies with controlled yet blistering guitar, while ‘My Song’ creates an orchestral mellotron soundscape to which Mike Pinder bares his soul.
In those days, the Moodies looked to innovate and Graeme Edge played an electronic drum kit developed by Sussex University constructed with rubber, silver paper and magnets. While it worked in the studio, it was a nightmare to try to play live: a reminder of what was required to produce complex sounds before synthesisers made it possible for anyone.
Like all the ‘core seven’ albums, “Every Good Boy Deserves Favour’ was intended to be played from start to finish in one sitting and today it still wafts you through 40 minutes without giving you time to think. Strong songs from five songwriters, singing from four superb vocalists plus virtuoso playing make this album a treat. The recording quality is superb, crisp and deep, and typically rich. Today I heard sounds I hadn’t picked out before or had forgotten.
The remastered version contains an unreleased Ray Thomas/Justin Hayward bonus track ‘ The Dreamer’, which is interesting but not the best of tracks for me, plus the more basic, original version of ‘The Story in Your Eyes’.
‘Every Good Boy Deserves Favour’ is a bittersweet album. It’s not as optimistic as previous works and marked a turning point in the Moodies’ career, which would change the band forever.
As a band that is not generally in favour, I’m not sure how much it will appeal to many people, although I always find that once I start listening to the Moodies, I get hooked all over again. I think they deserve more airplay.