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Strange Times

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Album Review

A lot of people will laugh at the idea of a new Moody Blues album, eight years after their last new release and 35 years after the original band started in the business. The fact is, though, that this is about the liveliest and leanest that the group has sounded in more than 20 years. Among this collection of 14 songs, ten have very pleasing melodies, unpretentious lyrics, and generally attractive performances. That puts Strange Times several steps above the last few of the group's albums. In contrast to their previous album, Keys of the Kingdom, the vast majority of songs here are steeped in romance rather than pop mysticism — nothing here is quite as catchy as "In Your Wildest Dreams," but several come close. Moreover, the group has built its sound on Strange Times around acoustic and electric guitars. The electronic keyboards are embellishment, nothing more, making for an unexpectedly lean and melodic album, less symphonic than anything they've done in decades. There are a few unfortunate digressions into the mystical side of the band's persona, but most of what's here are unpretentious love songs. Strange Times is still their most attractive album since Octave, and boasts their best album opener ("English Sunset") since "You and Me" from Seventh Sojourn. Not everything works that well, but even some of the heavy-handed work here, such as "The One," has some pretty vocal flourishes. "The Swallow" is one of Hayward's prettier slow numbers and worth its five-minute running time. There are still some mistakes, to be sure, including the pretentious title song and Graeme Edge's album-closing recital, "Nothing Changes," but Strange Times is still about as good an album as the Moody Blues have cut since the '70s.


Formed: 1964 in Birmingham, England

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Although they're best known today for their lush, lyrically and musically profound (some would say bombastic) psychedelic-era albums, the Moody Blues started out as one of the better R&B-based combos of the British Invasion. The group's history began in Birmingham, England with Ray Thomas (harmonica, vocals) and Mike Pinder (keyboards, vocals), who had played together in El Riot & the Rebels and the Krew Cats. They began recruiting members of some of the best rival groups working in Birmingham, including...
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