The Moody Blues’ Seventies: Part 2

Casting my memory’s net back to the summer and fall of 1971, I vaguely recall conversation among my pal Rick and his friends and among my friends at St. Cloud State about the Moody Blues’ 1971 album, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour. There was talk before the album came out about what seemed to be an odd title. There was talk when the album came out about the striking cover art. What I don’t recall is talk about the content of the album.

Every Good Boy Deserves Favour(The title comes from the mnemonic used by music students in Britain to memorize the lines of the treble clef – E-G-B-D-F – with the word “favour” taking on the British spelling. Here in the U.S., our mnemonic is slightly different: Every Good Boy Does Fine. As to the art work, well, it’s displayed here, and perhaps it’s a little less striking after nearly fifty years.)

As to the content, the music and lyrics, the Moody Blues were, as usual, ambitious. Says Graeme Edge in the liner notes to 1997 CD release of the album, “We decided we would write the history of music” in the opening track, “Procession,” which fades in to what seems to be the chirping of insects and makes its way to obviously computerized sounds (Mellotron or Moog, I don’t know) and then wind before we get the chanted word “Desolation!” followed by raindrops and “Creation!” Then come drums and “Communication!” followed by grunts, chants, sitar, a somewhat Baroque melody on flute and harpsichord, an organ wandering around, a brief orchestral interlude, and then electric guitars leading into what is no doubt the album’s best-known track, “The Story In Your Eyes.”

It’s not as bombastic as the spoken word intros of the group’s late 1960s albums, but it doesn’t age well, either. Some of my fellow freshmen at St. Cloud State during the autumn of 1971 thought, however, that it was profound. The same three introductory words – desolation, creation, and communications – show up with numerous other “tion” and sound-alike words (“degradation,” “humiliation,” and “salvation” among them) – in the lumbering chorus to “One More Time To Live” on what was the first track of the album’s second side in its LP configuration. They work there, but only a little better.

The Moodies were always – up to 1972, at least – trying to make a statement and craft their music and lyrics to center on a chosen theme. That’s hard to do, which is why writers are often told to forget about theme and message and just tell the story: The theme will shine through the story and the message will be in the tale itself. So, like the group’s previous albums, EGBDF is in several places heavy-handed and obvious.

It has its very good moments, too, however. The one single released from the album, “The Story In Your Eyes” is one of my favorite Moody Blues tracks. Its lyrics are a little preachy, yes, but they’re carried along by one of the group’s most propulsive rock tracks. Released in the U.S. a month after the album was released. “The Story In Your Eyes” went to No 23 in the Billboard Hot 100. (The album went to No. 2 in Billboard.)

I’m not going to go into great detail about the rest of the tracks on the album, except to note that a few do stand out: “After You Came” and “You Can Never Go Home” are well-done, and the closer, “My Song,” is an ambitious statement song collage, much like the closers on the group’s previous albums. How well it works depends on whether you’re . . . well, let me put it this way: I’d like to be as impressed with it today as I was when I was 18, but I’m not. What was moving – if recognizably bombastic – in 1971 is just overkill and the source of pleasant memories in 2019.

And that’s the key there, the memories: Even though I didn’t have my own copy of the album until the late summer of 1977, evidently enough of my friends did, or I heard enough of it on KVSC, the St. Cloud State student radio station, for the album to pull me back into 1971, not as potently as a couple other albums and a few singles and album tracks, but enough so that EGBDF feels like my freshman year of college.

Assessing it as fairly as I can in 2019, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour is better than the group’s late 1960s albums, and about as good as 1970’s A Question Of Balance. I’ll give it a B.

Here’s the second-best track on the album, “You Can Never Go Home.” Again, there were often no discernable gaps between the tracks, so the beginning of the song is indistinct.

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