For the re-invention album that it’s supposed to be, the Moody Blues’ A Question Of Balance really seems to be less about re-inventing the seminal ’60s band’s sound and more about changing how the band achieved that sound. With some of their more eloquent numbers approaching the point where they couldn’t be duplicated outside of the studio, the Moodies tried to return to a more guitar-based sound that they could achieve on stage (keep in mind, this was over three decades ago, before they could get anyone’s symphony orchestra to back them up in front of Red Rocks or any other rocks). And yet there’s still a whiff of the epic here, largely thanks to early sampling/loop-based keyboards and synths like the Mellotron. Hence, not a huge change in the sound, but it was becoming easier to pull it off live.
And you couldn’t get much more of an epic opening to an album than “Question”‘s bam-BAAAAM! opening if you tried. That song in particular is one I’ve always loved from a lyrical standpoint, with the underlying question of “why are these things happening?” tackling the “hate and death and war” that outlasted the 60s peace movement. Hayward’s lyrics don’t bother asking where we went wrong, but instead asks why the question can’t be answered. “Question” = rock music + metaphysics. (Ed. note: theLogBook’s Assistant Editor Dave Thomer has since informed me that this is more a question of epistemology than metaphysics. And y’know, I bet he’s right.) Either way, it’s hard to beat.
And as much as I like that track, there’s a bonus – nine whole other songs! The metaphysical bent continues with “How Is It (We Are Here)?”, a nice follow-on from “Question”, and then things get a little more personal with “The Tide Rushes In” (a song, according to the liner notes interview, written by John Lodge in the wake of a fight with his wife at the time). I’m torn on “Tide” – I’ve never felt that it was up to much lyrically, and yet the vocal performance in and of itself is worth the price of admission.
“Don’t You Feel Small?” brings back the philosophical feel, with an unusual combination of the Moodies’ trademark harmonies and the exact same lyrics being whispered loudly. The harmonies return for the catchy “Tortoise And The Hare”, a classic bit of Moodies rock. Things get a bit southern-fried with the bluesy opening guitar riff of “It’s Up To You”, another song worthy of inclusion on any best-of anyone might care to put together. “Minstrel’s Song” belongs on there too, by the way, with its enchanting, last-gasp-of-the-60s “everywhere, love is all around” chorus.
“Dawning Is The Day” doesn’t stand out quite as much as the spate of excellent songs before it, but lulls the listener into a false sense of security before Mike Pinder’s haunting “Melancholy Man” kicks in quietly. This leads us into some Graeme Edge poetry in “The Balance” – y’know, it’s almost a clichÃ¨ by now, but it’d almost be a crime to have a Moody Blues album that didn’t close on some of Graeme’s spoken-word poetry.
A Question Of Balance is one of the Moodies’ strongest early offerings, with not a single dud in the bunch. If the worst thing I can say about “Dawning Is The Day” is that it’s a fine song that just simply doesn’t stand out among a batch of positively stellar songs, that’s not bad. Highly recommended.
- Question (5:43)
- How Is It (We Are Here)? (2:44)
- And The Tide Rushes In (2:57)
- Don’t You Feel Small (2:37)
- Tortoise And The Hare (3:22)
- It’s Up To You (3:11)
- Minstrel’s Song (4:27)
- Dawning Is The Day (4:21)
- Melancholy Man (5:45)
- The Balance (3:28)
Released by: Threshold
Release date: 1970
Total running time: 38:35