Review by David Waterfield
Formed in Birmingham in 1964, The Moody Blues have released 24 albums in a career spanning almost 50 years. During that time they have sold over 50 million albums, received 18 platinum discs, won more awards than you can shake a stick at and produced a series of ground breaking and innovative albums, a number of which are quite rightly regarded as classics. Timeless Flight is a lavish 11CD and 6DVD career retrospective covering the years 1967-2003 featuring some of their best known songs, selected album tracks, previously unreleased mixes and complete live concerts. If you appreciate the music of the Moody Blues then there is an abundance of riches here.
So, what do you get for your money? Well, three of the DVDs contain the long since deleted 5.1 surround sound mixes of six classic Moody Blues albums: Days Of Future Passed, On The Threshold Of A Dream, To Our Children’s Children’s Children, A Question Of Balance, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour and The Seventh Sojourn.
Then there are a further three DVDs worth of visuals including TV appearances from shows such as Colour Me Pop, Beat Club, It’s Lulu and Nationwide, plus promotional videos and a previously unreleased concert filmed at La Taverne de Olympia in April 1970.
The set also contains a whopping six CDs of live material, presented chronologically, which charts the progression of the Moody Blues as a live act. It begins with the Royal Albert Hall show from 1969 and includes previously unreleased recordings of The Blue Jays tour at Lancaster University in 1975, a performance at The Coliseum in Seattle from 1979 and an entire show recorded in 1983 at The Forum in California which is spread across two discs.
The most absorbing parts of Timeless Flight for me however are the five CDs that showcase the creativity and imagination of the Moody Blues in the studio. The two stand-alone singles from 1967 that open this collection – Justin Hayward’ s ‘Fly Me High’ and Mike Pinder’s ‘Love And Beauty’ – give an indication of where the Moody Blues ‘Mark II’ line up was heading before it all came to fruition later that year on the orchestral song cycle Days Of Future Passed, which remains one of the most innovative and enduringly popular albums of its era. The same holds true for the albums lead single, ‘Nights In White Satin’, which at the last count has sold over two million copies and has been a UK hit single on four separate occasions. Not bad for a song that Justin Hayward wrote as a teenager!
Timeless Flight also delves into the ‘hiatus’ period of the Moody Blues during the mid-seventies, thus we get two tracks from Mike Pinder’s 1976 solo album The Promise, two from the Ray Thomas album From Mighty Oaks, a smattering of tracks from the Hayward & Lodge Blue Jays album, the ‘Blue Guitar’ single (which was credited to Hayward and Lodge but was actually Justin Hayward backed by 10CC) and ‘The Tunnel’ representing the Graeme Edge Band.
The material from Octave onwards is gathered together on CDs four and five. Although lighter and more radio friendly than their previous work there is still some excellent music to be discovered here; ‘The Voice’ (from Long Distance Voyager) is superb, Justin Hayward’s ‘Forever Autumn’ (from Jeff Wayne’s War Of The Worlds) is a reflective and achingly beautiful moment on a masterpiece of an album, tracks from Moody Blues strangely overlooked 1983 album The Present also hold up well, and that’s before you get the dance rhythms that underpin their 1999 single ‘English Sunset’. “More tea Vicar?”!
All eleven CDs have been digitally re-mastered, and a good job they have done of it too with the late sixties/early seventies material in particular having a warm, almost analogue sound. And as if all that weren’t enough the whole thing comes in an album sized slip case with 120-page hard-back book, a replica colour tour poster, press pack and a Timeless Flight sew on patch!
This box set is not exhaustive – with such a huge body of work that would be nigh on impossible – and retailing at between £180-200 it’s certainly not for the uninitiated. Casual fans might be better advised to seek out the four- or two-CD versions of this box set.
But whatever your point of entry into the world of the Moody Blues Timeless Flight is a collection that I’d recommend getting hold of in one format or another. It’s a worthy testament to one of the all-time great rock bands and demonstrates why they are as popular and as revered as they are.
And if you gravitate towards the two-CD version, and you’ve never heard tracks like ‘Departure/Ride My See Saw’ ‘Tuesday Afternoon’ or ‘Legend Of A Mind’ before, then I’m actually kind of envious of you. A magical musical adventure awaits…
9 out of 10