The Moody Blues: 1972

As Christmas approached in 1972, I had no idea that the Moody Blues had recently released an album. I knew that in the spring, as I was finishing my first year of college, the group had released a single, “Isn’t Life Strange,” which I’d heard a fair amount and liked a bit.

During that autumn, spurred by my having heard the group’s A Question Of Balance across the street at Rick’s – and also likely spurred by having liked “Isn’t Life Strange” coming out of the radio in the spring – I acquired the four-year-old In Search Of The Lost Chord through a record club and was, as I’ve noted here before, pretty well disappointed and baffled.

So I didn’t quite know what I had in my hands when, a couple of days before Christmas, Rick gave me the group’s new album, Seventh Sojourn, as a Christmas present. Now, nearly fifty years later, I know it’s my favorite album by the group, the one I’ve no doubt listened to more than any other. For a couple of years not quite a decade ago, it was one of three or four albums that I played softly at my bedside as I went to sleep.

Now, is it my favorite because I’ve had it longer than almost any other album by the group? Entirely possible, perhaps even likely. And if it’s my favorite, does that mean it’s the group’s best album? I don’t know, but it may be the best, for a couple of reasons.

First, the sound was richer. The five members of the group began putting the album together in the studio (a converted garage) at Mike Pinder’s home, Beckthorns, in early 1972, and as they did, they began using a new instrument called the Chamberlain, which replaced the Mellotron. “It worked on the same principle as the Mellotron , but had much better quality sounds – great brass, strings and cello and so on” said Justin Hayward, as quoted in the notes to the 2008 CD release of Seventh Sojourn.

Second, the group had left behind much of the mysticism that had permeated its earlier albums. There were no spoken word interludes on the album, and the album had no introductory segment; it just took off into the first track, “Lost In A Lost World,” and headed on from there. The music is as accomplished as ever, and the lyrics are more down to earth, if sometimes a hair preachy as in the ecological plaints of “Lost In A Lost World” and “You & Me.”

Otherwise, there are love songs – “New Horizons,” “For My Lady” are fairly traditional love songs, and even “Isn’t Life Strange” and “The Land Of Make Believe” work on the topic of love in one way or another. There’s the open letter to academic and hallucinogenic drug advocate Timothy Leary, who spent 1972 in exile in – according to Wikipedia – Switzerland, Austria, Lebanon and Afghanistan. And there’s the closer, with the band proclaiming “I’m Just A Singer (In A Rock And Roll Band).”

Some of the tracks are a little self-conscious and perhaps overbearing, I’ll acknowledge, giving the group a sense of self-importance that could be off-putting. But when I was nineteen, that slid right past me, and besides, it’s a flaw that runs through almost all of the Moody Blues’ catalog, something you know you’re gonna get when you cue up the record.

I don’t recall a lot of folks around me talking about the album, as had been the case with the release of Every Good Boy Deserves Favour a year previously. But that was probably because I was generally hanging around with fewer and different people than I had been a year earlier, and I spent a lot more time than I had the year before down in the rec room listening to my albums, with Seventh Sojourn near the top of the playlist.

So how good is it and how well was it received? As for the latter, the album was No. 1 on the Billboard 200 for five weeks, starting in the second week of December 1972 and continuing on into January 1973. The previous spring, “Isn’t Life Strange” had reached No. 29 during a ten-week run on the magazine’s Hot 100, and in February 1973, “I’m Just A Singer (In A Rock And Roll Band)” began its own ten-week run on the Hot 100 that peaked at No. 12.

As to how good the album is, it’s more difficult to separate my affection for the album from its quality than it has been or will be for any of the other albums by the Moody Blues. I have to give it an A-.

Here’s the album’s opening track, “Lost In A Lost World.”

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One Response to “The Moody Blues: 1972”

  1. Steve E. says:

    “The Land of Make Believe” has been my favorite Moody Blues track for the past 47 years, since “Seventh Sojourn” was released. I can remember hearing it played on radio at the time (I was just transitioning from KHJ AM to FM), and once I realized it was not going to be the new single, I bought the album. And the track still sounds magnificent to my ears. I like how it starts quietly and then builds to a majestic climax, and then it starts over and does it all again. (The same formula they used on “Never Comes the Day” three years earlier.) Great harmonies, great sentiment, great arrangement.

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