The Moody Blues: The Polydor Years 1986-1992

Another bank-breaking, crowd-pleasing selection.

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Only 18 months ago, we speculated on the mortgaging options for the Moody Blues fan eyeing the property ladder of the 17-disc Timeless Flight box set.

Now comes a new financial challenge for the Moodies completist, in the form of another desirable piece of real estate.

Whereas the previous, vast project covered the band’s entire history, if necessarily selectively, this set focuses on a particular period, this time in comprehensive style. The title is somewhat misleading because the Polydor years actually extended to the Strange Times album of 1999, overlooked here, as (less surprisingly) is Universal’s 2003 Christmas set, which looks increasingly likely to be the rather unsatisfactory conclusion of their recording oeuvre.

So we’re dealing with an era of only three studio albums, but with some imaginative marketing and a good old rummage, it’s eminently possible to fatten that up into a resplendent eight-disc agglomeration. In the studio minority amid a welter of live material, the albums anthologised (delivered in a creative flowering in only five years) are 1986’s The Other Side Of Life (a Top Ten, platinum seller with their loyal American fan base); 1988’s Sur La Mer, and the 1991 release Keys Of The Kingdom.

Few Moodies fans would make a case for these later harvests being quite as fruitful as those of their younger summers. As a four-piece without the keyboards of Patrick Moraz, much less Mike Pinder, and aside from the occasional spotlight on Ray Thomas, the band’s output had by now been distilled into the distinct yet complementary songwriting styles of Justin Hayward and John Lodge.

Nevertheless, each album contained some rattling good tunes, including the title track of _The Other Side Of Life _and the glorious single Your Wildest Dreams, ridiculously overlooked in their home country. Sur La Mer was home to the gently mystical I Know You’re Out There Somewhere, and on Keys Of The Kingdom, both Say It With Love and Bless The Wings stand nobly, even if by this stage the group was driving at something of a stately pace.

Of the 17 bonus tracks here 11 are unreleased, including an engaging 1991 Radio 1 session, extraneous radio mixes of tracks we’ve already heard, and an exhausting barrage of concert material. There’s Wembley ‘84, Cleveland ‘86, and the entire Red Rocks concert of 1992, on two CDs, a DVD and then a behind-the-scenes documentary. Eight discs out of three: isn’t life strange, indeed, but the diehard will still revel in the assurance that these guys were, and are, far more than just singers in a rock ‘n’ roll band.

Paul Sexton

Prog Magazine contributor Paul Sexton is a London-based journalist, broadcaster and author who started writing for the national UK music press while still at school in 1977. He has written for all of the British quality press, most regularly for The Times and Sunday Times, as well as for Radio Times, Billboard, Music Week and many others. Sexton has made countless documentaries and shows for BBC Radio 2 and inflight programming for such airlines as Virgin Atlantic and Cathay Pacific. He contributes to Universal's uDiscoverMusic site and has compiled numerous sleeve notes for the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and other major artists. He is the author of Prince: A Portrait of the Artist in Memories & Memorabilia and, in rare moments away from music, supports his local Sutton United FC and, inexplicably, Crewe Alexandra FC.