John Lodge: 10,000 Light Years Ago

…but not light years away from the Moodies sound.

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John Lodge doesn’t release solo albums very often. In fact, this is the follow-up to his debut, Natural Avenue, released a full 38 years ago, back in 1977. You can’t say he’s been rushed into this one.

But, with the Moody Blues showing a distinct reluctance to develop and record new songs, their bassist and co-frontman has decided to have another bash on his own, in the process coming up with a stylised, quality selection of eight new songs. He sticks to a dedicated path of sophisticated pop rock, and in doing so brings to the table an album that could easily grace the Moodies’ own catalogue.

Sophisticated rock that could grace the Moodies’ catalogue.

Of course, much will be made of the presence of former bandmates, flautist Ray Thomas and keyboard player Mike Pinder on the song Simply Magic, written by Lodge for his grandson. But while you can hear the high calibre connection between the three here, nonetheless this never detracts from what is presented elsewhere.

There’s an atmosphere of nostalgia about the title track and Those Days In Birmingham. Lodge wistfully recalls his early period as a budding rock star and casually hints at past Moody Blues glories, though without ever feeling the need to become self-indulgent.

Mind you, the man does make one faux pas: he uses a light year to signify the passing of time, when it’s actually a measure of distance. But let’s chalk that up to poetic licence, because it’s the only criticism one can make of an album that allows the melodies and musicianship time to breathe in a thoroughly old fashioned and laudable manner.

It’s Lodge’s ability to choose the right musician for every facet of the album that allows him to add an extra dimension to every composition. Chris Spedding, who played guitar on Natural Avenue, provides some sparkling moments here, adding a majestic tread to In My Mind, while an appropriate fragility radiates through Lose Your Love.

It would have been easy for the album to turn into a soppy sentimental wallow, given much of the subject matter. But it never happens. There’s an uncluttered directness to Get Me Out Of Here _that transcends any weepy motivation, a violin twang adds sly humour to Love Passed Me By and there’s musical and lyrical bite to (You Drive Me) Crazy.

With no sign of a new Moody Blues album, John Lodge has created his own vision. In doing so, he has come up with a classy, confident set of songs that doesn’t try to compete with anyone, or prove a point. 10,000 Light Years Ago is simply a hugely enjoyable listen.