CD+DVD Reviews

The Moody Blues – Threshold of a Dream – Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970 (2013)
The Moody Blues – Live at Montreux 1991

The Moody Blues, both old and recent, on CD and DVD.

Published on May 30, 2013

1. The Moody Blues – Threshold of a Dream – Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970 (2013) 

2. The Moody Blues – Live at Montreux 1991

Director: Murray Lerner (Threshold)
Eagle Vision/ Eagle Rock Entertainment EV306139 & EE392639 [5/26/09 & 5/21/13]
Video: 4:3 & 16:9
Audio: English DTS 5.1, DD 5.1, PCM Stereo
Subtitles: English
Length: 79 min. & 96 min.
Ratings: **** 

The Moody Blues started out as a blues-copying R&B group and changed to a much more sophisticated sound, promulgated (according to the first documentary) by their adding the Mellotron instrument to their group. They were sent by their label into the studio to record a rock version of Dvorak’s New World Symphony, but instead created their very own new style and sound and have gone on to be tremendously successful right up to the present day. They released six LPs, four of which reach the Top 5 in the UK and two of them went to No. 1. (Their albums were some of the first on four-channel open reel tapes and sounded really exceptional; all six of them are still available on surround SACDs.) Shortly after the release of their album A Question of Balance, the band appeared in front of over half a million at UK’s Isle of Wight Festival, preserved via some 16mm film in the first excellent documentary. This DVD makes their performance there available for the first time, along with comments by the present-day Moodies about the experience. (Their keyboardist passed away.)

There are interviews in the documentary with the members: Justin Hayward, Graeme Edge, John Lodge and Mike Pinder. Most of them felt there is still a glimmer of the positive feelings and ideas of the ‘60s’ younger generation, but drummer Edge just says they had fun getting stoned and playing and really didn’t change anything. They talk about their masterpiece, Days of Future Passed, and of course include “Nights in White Satin” in their final numbers. The band wasn’t quite as on their toes as in their performances today, and even demonstrated a bit of fear in performing in front of those thousands of people on the island. There is a fascinating bit of footage of Mike Pinder explaining exactly how the Mellotron, with its separate tape loops for each note, operated. The comments in between selections by the band members are worthwhile and interesting to hear. At the end of the film drummer Edge recites the spoken “Late Lament” that was on the original Days of Future Passed.  It’s not like the original, but still quite moving. Their lyrics may not be poetry-award level, but they are certainly better than most rock groups (ever read the EL & P lyrics?). I don’t believe the Blu-ray version of this would be much better image-wise; the sonics are a bit dull, with the vocals sometimes difficult to hear, but seeing them do their thing live is quite a thrill. The accompanying CD also has some tracks not on the DVD.

TrackList:
DVD = Gypsy, Tuesday Afternoon, Never Comes the Day, Tortoise and the Hare, Question, The Sunset, Melancholy Man, Nights in White Satin, Legend of a Mind, Ride My See Saw
CD = Gypsy, The Sunset, Tuesday Afternoon, Minstrel’s Song, Never Comes the Day, Tortoise and the Hare, Question, Melancholy Man, Are You Sitting Comfortably?, The Dream, Have You Heard?, Nights in White Satin, Legend of a Mind, Ride My See Saw


The Montreux appearance in 1991 shows the Moodies haven’t lost most of their attraction, especially for the many new and old fans in the huge audience. How a rock group like this got scheduled for a jazz festival, I don’t know, but it’s enjoyable, though not as much for non-fans as is the documentary film. Their performances are full of the usual rock concert visual and musical bits, and are more polished than they were in 1970. Sometimes the stage is a bit dark for long periods, and the aspect ratio is strangely not full 16:9 but with a border.  Using Zoom on my Panasonic resulted in cropping off parts of the image but brought the performers closer since many of the shots of the stage are quite a ways off. The sound is better than on the documentary from the Isle of Wight. This was the band’s only appearance at Montreux and was clearly a very special night.  Their were almost too many selections to keep my interest, but their fans will go crazy.

TrackList: (Tracks 4 & 5 on the DVD are not heard on the accompanying CD.)  Lovely To See You 2) Gemini Dream 3) Tuesday Afternoon 4) Bless The Wings (That Bring You Back)* 5) Lean On Me (Tonight)* 6) Say It With Love 7) The Story In Your Eyes 8) Your Wildest Dreams 9) Isn’t Life Strange 10) The Other Side Of Life 11) I’m Just A Singer (In A Rock And Roll Band) 12) Nights In White Satin 13) Legend Of A Mind 14) Question 15) Ride My See-Saw

—John Henry




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