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Being somewhat well stricken in years, a large part of my music collection is on vinyl, the only media on which music was available when I bought them. Over time many of these records (the word 'album' back then was mainly only used by those producing the music, not those of us buying it) have become slightly warped and scratched and the midi player on which I used to listen to them has long since been consigned to the dump, so I've been gradually replacing some of my favourites with CDs and one of the latest acquisitions is To Our Children's Children's Children from the Moody Blues.
Price and availability:
This is available from Amazon both as a CD and an MP3 download for £4.49
This album was first released back in November 1969 and was the Moody Blues' fourth album. It was released on their own Threshold label, which they claimed gave them much more control over the process of record production and the freedom to express themselves both musically and artistically. The Moody Blues were, for me, one of the great bands of the sixties and seventies, bringing a fresh, new sound which paved the way for many of the experimental bands that followed.
This album, which could be regarded as a concept album, certainly resonated with the record buying public back in 1969. This was the year of the first Apollo moon landings, and the album's loose theme is of space travel and looking to the future, a theme which had come to prominence the previous year with the huge success of Kubrick's '2001, A Space Odyssey'. This wasn't just about man's future in space, however, but also harked back to man's journey from the dawn of time to the present day and hopes for the future still to come. There's a goodly dash of Eastern mysticism and psychedelic undertones thrown in for good measure, too. This wasn't only the time of the moon landings but also when many members of the music industry, most notably the Beatles, were showing a growing interest in Eastern philosophies, especially the teachings of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (a rather strange gentleman who always struck me as being a bit of a charlatan.)
All these strands added together produced an album which evoked a strong feeling of otherworldliness. I should add that the interpretation of the tracks is purely my own and I can't guarantee that it coincides with the Moody Blues' intentions.
There are certainly quite a few elements contained in this album which back then would have been classed as experimental, although some of these sound pretty mundane when listening in 2011. All the tracks blend into each other, linked together by the use of musical phrases which are repeated throughout the album. The use of the mellatron, played by Mike Pinder, was something of a trademark sound for the Moody Blues. The mellatron was an electro-mechanical, polyphonic keyboard developed in the early sixties which added a unique sound to their music and Mike Pinder used it to great effect here.
This album comes bang slap in the middle of the band's most inventive and creative period, which sadly turned more mainstream following Mike Pinder's departure. I've added YouTube links so you can have a listen if you wish.
Track 1: Higher and Higher (4:06)
The album gets off to a cracking start with a clashing of almost discordant notes and the track builds to a slow crescendo of music and voices before the guitars join and a recognisable beat is established. There follows a spoken section from Graham Edge which, on reflection, could be regarded as a bit pretentious and on listening afresh instead of creating an impression of man 'blasting, billowing and bursting forth' from Earth into the heavens, it brought images of Spinal Tap and little men dancing round Stonehenge to mind, which is probably unfair on the Moody Blues because this is far better than that. Once the track becomes music and song, it improves greatly.
Track 2: Eyes of a Child (Part 1) (3:23)
Having blasted off from the ground, we're floating in space and looking at our own world from a new and different perspective. Everthing is new and wondrous and we're seeing this new universe with the eyes of a child. Back in 1969, this was the first time any of us had seen our world from space and it was a truly humbling experience, making us all very aware that we were just this little blue sphere spinning alone in a vast emptiness and this emotion is expressed very well here. Written by John Lodge, there are lots of rippling harps and muted flutes at the beginning of this slow and lyrical song which begins softly. Interspersed between the musical phrases of the song are tiny glimpses of the next track, Floating.
Track 3: Floating (3:01)
This is a more light-hearted song expressing the delights of weightlessness. A bit plinkity plonky, if I'm honest, but a sweet and catchy song nevertheless. Looking back from the more cynical viewpoint of today, it may seem as though people were very naive but it expresses the feelings of hope for space exploration that we all held.
Track 4: Eyes of a Child (Part 2) (1:21)
This is a slightly more rocky version of Part 1 and this more upbeat part paints a picture of entering deeper space.
Track 5: I Never Thought I'd Live to be a Hundred (1:05)
This track written by Justin Hayward, is very short and beautifully lyrical with simple acoustic guitar accompaniment and harks back to pre-history and the dawn of man. I'm not sure if I'm interpreting the Moody Blues' intentions with this song but it seems to me to link us back to the past to show how far we've come.
Track 6: Beyond (2:52)
This instrumental piece, prominently featuring the mellatron and loud percussive accompaniment has elements of Telstar about it. (For those who don't have memories that go back to the early sixties, Telstar was an instrumental piece by the Tornados.) This is followed by a few notes conjuring up images of limitless space, which wouldn't be out of place in a Star Trek movie soundtrack, before the instrumental takes over again. This track is again taking us into deeper space and ends with one of those musical phrases which always give me goosebumps and a frisson of expectation. We're now moving beyond this solar system, I think.
Track 7: Out and In (3:48)
This track, written by Mike Pinder, begins with a strong string introduction before developing into a fully orchestrated, rather poppy sounding song. It's a pleasant song and links well into the overall theme of the album.
Track 8: Gypsy (3:33)
The second Hayward song sounds much more in keeping with music of the late sixties. The accompaniment is mainly guitar, flute and percussion with additional strings. The song expresses the vast distances of space and time which separate space travellers from their home planet, likening space explorers to futuristic gypsies.
Track 9: Eternity Road (4:18)
Written by Ray Thomas, at first listen this could be regarded as purely a pop sound with orchestral backing and strings much in evidence, but as the track moves on, there are elements of progressive rock begin to creep in. This track, for me, demonstrates how the Moody Blues always managed to very successfully tread that fine line between pop and rock and appeal to devotees of both genres.
Track 10: Candle of Life (4:17)
This track written by John Lodge and with Justin Hayward taking lead vocals, is a slower, dreamy song. Again with orchestral backing, Justin Hayward's soulful sounding voice is perfectly suited for this hauntingly simple, yet beautiful song.
Track 11: Sun is Still Shining (3:37)
There is a definite Eastern feel to this track coupled with a philosophical message. Composed by Mike Pinder, the sitar accompaniment is very much in evidence here, plus good use of the mellatron. This song takes me right back. Pass me that spliff !
Track 12: I Never Thought I'd Live to be a Million (0:33)
This is the final musical phrase from Track 5. Very simple and again, hauntingly beautiful. It's an acknowledgement that man has now come of age and links in beautifully to the final track of the album.
Track 13: Watching and Waiting (4:15)
This last track was written by Justin Hayward and Ray Thomas and expresses the best of both of them. It has the haunting lyricism of Hayward and the more progressive elements of Thomas's music. This song is about man having reached the stars but now striving to go beyond and meet whatever awaits out there. Justin Hayward's voice dominates the song with the accompaniment, in the main, taking a back seat. This is a great end to an excellent album which I feel has more or less stood the test of time.
In 2003 Universal Music embarked on a project to re-master the first five of the Moody Blues albums from the original tapes using modern production techniques. They also decided to issue additional tracks alternative takes and versions which were not included on the final album. This review is of the fourth of the 2006 deluxe SACD edition series.
Childrens was the second of two albums that the Moody Blues recorded in 1969 and the first to be released on their own Threshold label the label that still hosts their releases in the UK. Interestingly the initial Moodys releases were the odd numbers. I recollect the even numbers were assigned to emerging bands. THRESHOLD 2 was In the Realms of Asgaard by Asgaard (Does anyone remember that album or group now?). There was initial talk of them signing the rock outfit King Crimson.
It is another concept album. There are traces of psychedelic influences again (not surprising for the time it was written) . There are orchestral sounds and experimental arrangements. The lyrics are often open to interpretation. There is a theme pervading the whole disc which is pre-occupied with space, time, heredity and eternity. There are hints of the relativity and fragility of the lifetime of man, the lifetime of a planet (seen as a man) and the lifetime of the universe. It is also a programme album in the sense that the songs run one into the next without audible breaks between the tracks. The line up of the band remains Justin Hayward, John Lodge, Ray Thomas, Graeme Edge and Mike Pinder.
The album reached No.2. in the UK album charts and peaked at No.14 in the US. The single release in the US was Watching and Waiting but made no impact. Curiously Candle of Life was issued as the B side of Question (from A Question of Balance) the following year.
DISC ONE: THE ALBUM
The running order and my personal assessment of each track follows:
1. Higher And Higher. (4:06) ***
An explosive opening sound (lasting 1 minute 20 seconds) is gradually replaced by high flying voices. This is a rocker with an incessant driving beat and contains a Graeme Edge monologue memorable for its Blasting, Billowing, Bursting Force with the power of ten billion butterfly sneezes. The song announces early mans arrival with the discovery of fire.
2. Eyes Of A Child. (3:23) ***
A John Lodge song with a slow verse and a gentle upbeat chorus., There is a harp continuum countered by flutes.
3. Floating. (2:58) ***
Ray Thomas provides a standard song with his simplistic words (Bouncing about on the moon guess youll all be up here soon. The candy stores will be brand new and youll buy rock with the moon right through) but with pleasant enough harmonies. This gives a less serious, lighter counterweight to the surrounding songs.
4. Eyes Of A Child (Part 2) (1:23) ***
The final verse of the song is a rocker (clearly distinct from track 2) with soaring voices in the harmonies.
5. I Never Thought Id Live To Be A Hundred. (1:05) ***
This is a short enigmatic song from Justin Hayward sung to a solo guitar accompaniment.
6. Beyond. (2:58) ***
This is somewhat of a rarity the Moody Blues instrumental track. Composed by Graeme Edge, it comes with short bursts of sound, synthesised noise and interludes driving rhythm. There is also good stereo engineering and channel separation on this track.
7. Out And In (3:47) ****
Again there is the allusion to the passage of time and the journey through life theme here. This is a haunting, melodic sound backed with synthesisers and Mellotrons.
8. Gypsy. (3:33) ****
Justins mystical song has a driving beat with then backing of flutes and guitars.
9. Eternity Road (4:19) ***
A gentle song with much more meaningful words from Ray Thomas has upbeat harmonies. It finishes with trills on the flute.
10. Candle Of Life. (4:14) *****
If any, this is the seminal track of the album. It is one of John Lodges most haunting song containing such sentiments as Were only in the hands of time burn slowly the candle of life.
11. Sun Is Still Shining (3:39) ****
The track from Mike Pinder has an eastern sound and rhythm with sitar, percussion and synthesiser.
12. I Never Thought Id Live To Be A Million. (0:33) ***
A 32 second counterpart to track 5. Presumably the first song refers to man; the second to planet.
13. Watching and Waiting (4:16) ****
This is a wistful and mystical song from Justin and Ray. The words suggest the lonely earth waiting for the eventual companionship of man. It has slow string sounds and a pulsing bass.
Apart from Candle of Life, there are no single stand-out songs on this disc. However this album is far more than the sum of its parts and for this reason I have made less comment about each individual song than in previous reviews. However all the essential elements of the Moody Blues are there to hear; the soft melodies, the wall of sound accompaniments, the complex arrangements, the driving rhythms, the soaring vocal harmonies. Many of the songs exhibit a palindromic structure (verse 1, verse 2, middle 8, verse 2, middle 8, verse 2, verse 1)
DISC TWO: THE EXTRAS
I dont intend to describe the bonus disc in any great detail but rather give an overview. The running order of disc two is:
2. Candle Of Life
3. Sun Is Still Shining
6. Never Comes The Day
7. Are You Sitting Comfortably
8. The Dream
9. Have You Heard / The Voyage / Have You Heard
10. Nights In White Satin
11. Legend Of A Mind
1, 2 and 3 are complete versions of tracks which appear on the final album and which were compiled and cross-faded with the tracks that followed them. Each has its full fade out, being some 45 seconds longer than the edited result.
Tracks 4 11 comprise a live recording of the band playing a shortened version of their concert of the time. They appeared before an invited audience at the BBCs Paris studio theatre and the show was broadcast as part of the Radio One David Symonds Show in December 1969. The songs are taken from all four of their recorded repertoire of the time. It is complete with introductory comments and applause. The quality of the recording is a little suspect in places (there is appreciable tape wow) but it is a quite remarkable historical commentary of the group at the end of the 60s. It is to be remembered that the remaining three active members are starting their 2006 UK tour this month!
The DeLuxe version is the second copy of this album in my collection. I must admit that I did have some initial reservations that my auditory capabilities would be up to the job of any enhanced performances Im of the same vintage as the original vinyl! However I need not have worried for the sound generally is appreciably more rounded and smoother. The bass tones are also more pronounced without being overpowering. Played into a 5:1 surround sound amplifier, the sound effects were stunning.
My current set up (a Denon 2800 DVD player) is not equipped with SACD circuitry. The second layer of Disc 1 has an enhanced digital 5.1 surround sound mix which have been remixed from the 1972 Quadraphonic master tapes. I cant wait for my new SACD player to arrival!!
The two disc set is housed in a fold-out Digipak style enclosure. For additional protection there is a plastic sleeve printed with the mantra Deluxe Edition. The artwork on the sleeve (again by Phil Travers who designed many of the early Moodys album covers) encapsulates the then and now, ancient and modern, past linked with the future by the present in the juxtaposition of an ancient and a modern hand painting cave sketches complete with rifles and skis. On the back are photographs of the members of the band as well as the track listing of both discs.
The accompanying 20 page booklet contains a history of the band and the album along with more photographs from the time. There is a very primitive songbook on the inside back cover listing the words of the songs. The is also a single page listing giving an indication of the source of the tracks on the bonus disc.
TO OUR CHILDRENS CHILDRENS CHILDREN The Moody Blues (1969)
THRESHOLD 983 215-6 DELUXE SACD HYBRID EDITION (2006)
Amazon.co.uk £ 12.99
Sourced from Amazon Jersey £ 10.89
Amazon have a page that includes playable excepts from the first five of the tracks.
This is one of the defining discs of the first Moodys period. If you havent listened to it for a long time (or never heard it before) give it a spin now.
The old CD version of the album is still in the catalogue so is the new version worth the extra money? Without a doubt, yes it is. More than that the superb quality of the updated remastering and the new material make this a very strong recommendation for inclusion in the collection of any firm fan who already owns the album.
[Chart information has been gleaned from The Great Rock Discography Sixth Edition (2002) by M.C.Strong]
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Higher And Higher
2 Part 1
4 Eyes Of A Child II
5 I Never Thought I'd Live To Be A Hundred
7 Out And In
9 Eternity Road
10 Candle Of Life - 1st version
11 Sun Is Still Shining
12 I Never Thought I'd Live To Be A Million
13 Watching And Waiting
14 Higher And Higher
15 Eyes Of A Child I
17 Eyes Of A Child II
18 I Never Thought I'd Live To Be A Hundred
20 Out And In
22 Eternity Road
23 Candle Of Life
24 Sun Is Still Shining
25 I Never Thought I'd Live To Be A Million
26 Watching And Waiting
27 Higher And Higher
28 Eyes Of A Child I
30 Eyes Of A Child II
31 I Never Thought I'd Live To Be A Hundred
33 Out And In
35 Eternity Road
36 Candle Of Life
37 Sun Is Still Shining
38 I Never Thought I'd Live To Be A Million
39 Watching And Waiting
Disc #2 Tracklisting
2 Candle Of Life
3 Sun Is Still Shining
6 Never Comes The Day
7 Are You Sitting Comfortably
8 The Dream
9 Have You Heard
10 Nights In White Satin
11 Legend Of A Mind