Thursday, December 6, 2018

The Moody Blues – In Search Of The Lost Chord (50th Anniversary Edition Boxset) Universal Music (Polydor) 2018

     As the second of the classic seven Moody Blues albums released between 1967 and 1972, this album while still great has perhaps aged the most. The use of psychedelic trappings such as sitars and swirling stereo mixes plus songs about Eastern religion and the drug culture feels far removed from the world of 2018.  That actually may be the charm of listening to …Chord, however, as it takes you back to another era. While Justin Hayward had shone brightest on Days Of Future Passed (“Tuesday Afternoon” and “Nights In White Satin”), Ray Thomas (“Legend Of A Mind”) and John Lodge (“Ride My See-Saw”) have the best tracks this time. This new five disc boxset continues the expansion of the original twelve-track 1968 Deram LP adding some elements that may make the extra price worth it for Moodies obsessives (but likely will keep it on the shelf for casual fans).
     In 1997 a straight reissue labelled “digitally remastered” was released and frankly sounds muddy. The only thing making this version worth keeping is a nice interview with the band in the booklet about making the album; otherwise it is not the version to own. In 2006, a two CD set came out labelled as “Deluxe Edition” on the plastic slipcase. Disc one was the original album while disc two was fifteen tracks of alternate mixes (“The Word” [Mellotron mix]” for example), single songs (“A Simple Game”, etc.) and a nice five song BBC session. The packaging was great, being a quad folder with a fine photo-filled booklet featuring an essay by Mark Powell. The booklet also had short discussions about all the bonus tracks. The sound was much better than the ’97 version with more treble and less mud in the middle frequencies. A single disc remaster version with only nine bonus tracks (minus the BBC set) was released in 2008 as well.
     With the 2018 fiftieth anniversary of the original album upon us, this new boxset makes sense if you need everything you can get your hands on by the classic version of the Moody Blues. Disc one is the original album appended with five single mixes (including a never released mono mix of “Legend Of A Mind”) and otherwise sounds the same as the 2006 CD. Disc two has a new stereo mix of the old album plus the Justin Hayward sung version of single B-side “A Simple Game” (previously on the 2006 CD too). It is pretty hard to hear much difference in the mixes, frankly, than the ones on disc one. There is slight movement of elements, but not enough to make it entertainingly unique. Disc three is almost the same as the bonus disc with the 2006 version only adding the track “Gimme A Little Somethin’.” Disc four gives you a 5.1 surround mix that seems to be underwhelming folks that actually have a player (but truthfully yours truly hasn’t heard it not owing a player). For this reviewer, disc five is the main reason to own this new box as it is a 19 track visual DVD of mostly unavailable TV performances from that era. While the camera work is typically terrible 1960s musical coverage on the French TV songs (you get to see a lot of audience and virtually nothing of keyboard player Mike Pinder for instance), it does show that they could sing and play this material pretty well (drummer Graeme Edge is especially good). It is really interesting to see this more classical version of the band playing totally odd songs like “Bye Bye Bird” and the Animals track “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.” Seven of the songs come from a color BBC production that has them miming (though at times it appears they are singing live). The other reason to buy this box is the expanded packaging which includes a nice soft-cover seventy-two page book and a fun reduced-size reprint of the “Ride My See-Saw” sheet music. The essay is nearly a word for word reprint of Mark Powell’s original in the 2006 version while the book does include many more pictures, old record covers and lyrics. What’s omitted from the 2006 booklet is any discussion of each of the bonus tracks and curiously the original back LP cover (photo elements as in the book, but not the whole cover).
     To sum up, buy the 2006 or 2008 versions if you aren’t a completest and just want a great CD. Buy the box for the visuals or if you need a 5.1 mix. That being said, it is a shock to report (as a confirmed CD lover) that in playing each version side by side with a pristine copy of the old vinyl, the original black rotating version actually wins out for this reviewer for the best overall sound (unless you prefer your sound with a thicker middle which the CD does have).
- Doc Krieger

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