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The Moody Blues: Days of Future Passed Live

The Moody Blues: Days of Future Passed Live
John Kelman By

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The Moody Blues
Days of Future Passed Live
Eagle Vision
2018

For an album that was, according to surviving members of the Moody Blues (guitarist/vocalist Justin Hayward, bassist/vocalist John Lodge and drummer Graeme Edge), recorded in a mere seven days, Days of Future Passed (Deram, 1967) remains one of the early masterpieces of progressive rock, in addition to becoming a relatively constant (and big) seller.

There may, however, be a couple of myths behind the reality of its origin. With session dates taking place between May 9 and November 3, 1967 and the album released (as could almost never happen today) just a week later, it's unlikely that it was actually recorded in just seven days during that timeframe. Ditto, the group's assertion that its record label (Deram), looking to spotlight its use of the latest in recording technology ("Deramic Sound"), suggested that the group desert its R&B roots to record an adaptation of Dvořák's "Symphony No. 9," in collaboration with the London Festival Orchestra. Rather than pursuing this direction, however, the group (initially not informing the label) decided to continue work on a new, original stage show, its music significantly changed from the style of its 1965 debut, The Magnificent Moodies (Decca), thanks to the recruitment of Justin Hayward (guitar, vocals) and John Lodge (bass, vocals). This story, not emerging until the late '70s, has yet to be proven.

Still, irrespective of its origins, Days of Future Passed's combination of songs contributed by all five members of the band, including founding members Mike Pinder (keyboards, vocals), Ray Thomas (flute, vocals) and Graeme Edge (drums, spoken word), has remained a timeless classic. Barring a couple of songs from the album, however, it has never been performed in its entirety—even in 1992, when the band performed a 25th anniversary concert with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, ultimately released as 1993's A Night at Red Rocks.

All that changed when remaining band members Hayward, Lodge and Edge hit the road in 2017 for a fiftieth anniversary North American tour, where the Moody Blues finally performed Days of Future Passed in its entirety, albeit largely without a live orchestra. Still, with a dry run collaboration with the LA Philharmonic Orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl under its belt from June 17, 2017, the band landed at Toronto, Canada's Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, for a two-night run where, as with the rest of the tour, the band delivered a first set of hits from across its career, followed by a second set where Days of Future Passed was performed, but this time in collaboration with the Toronto World Festival Orchestra. For those unable to attend these shows (and, for that matter, those who did), Days of Future Passed Live is a vital document of both sets, complete with two encores, available in a variety of formats including two-CD set, two-LP vinyl and single-disc Blu Ray and DVD video formats.

The challenge of putting on such an ambitious performance went beyond the obvious tasks of getting an orchestra rehearsed, creating a compelling visual experience and putting together the audio and video crew required to commit the show as a permanent document. With the original album's massive success unforeseen by both the label and band, Peter Knight's original orchestral scores were long gone, so musical director/conductor Eliot Davis was recruited, along with Pete Long, to recreate Knight's score for these first-time live performances.

The first set draws upon music that's surprisingly light on the group's "classic seven," The back-to-back septet including, in addition to Days of Future Passed, 1968's In Search of the Lost Chord, 1969's On the Threshold of a Dream and To Our Children's Children's Children, 1970's A Question of Balance, 1971's Every Good Boy Deserved Favour and 1972's Seventh Sojourn, all released before a five-year break when every band member released one or more solo albums with varying degrees of quality and commercial success.

In fact, only Lodge's rocking set-opener, "I'm Just a Singer (in a Rock and Roll Band)," and elegant ballad, "Isn't Life Strange" and Hayward's bright "The Story in Your Eyes," along with the two encores (the guitarist's "Question" and bassist's anthemic "Ride My See-Saw") come from the band's most acclaimed septet of albums, specifically Seventh Sojourn, Every Good Boy, Question of Balance and Lost Chord. That Threshold and Children's Children are entirely overlooked is a shame but, in keeping with the first set's modus operandi of hits, is fair enough, since neither album yielded any significantly performing singles for the group.

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