Fifty years ago John Lodge was at the very heart of a musical revolution as bass guitarist, vocalist and songwriter with The Moody Blues. B Yond: The Very Best Of is a long overdue collection of his career highlights. Better still, it is not just a collection of his best work snipped from those legendary Moody’s albums but a very contemporary take on familiar tracks, new life breathed into them by Lodge and the excellent band he has gathered around him for his solo live tours.
‘With this album I wanted to share my “deep cuts”‘, says Lodge. ‘songs that I’ve wanted to revisit, and songs which have become an important part of my life. It is this which has taken me back into the studio, to record again with my Fender Precision Bass.’
And what a great start to the disc, a live recording of I’m Just A Singer In A Rock And Roll Band, one of Lodge’s classics from the Moody’s 1972 Seventh Sojourn album. Of course, he never was just a singer. He is recognised as one of rock’s most influential bass players and is a very equal partner in the Moody’s legacy as one of the most influential bands of all time.
Back in 1967, The Moody Blues were pioneers of the new progressive rock scene, a remarkable change of fortune for what was becoming a washed-up blues outfit. They went on to inspire, and still do, generations of young bands with an eye on a picture bigger than the instant fame of a three minute single.
This recording of Singer adds a live energy that really captures the essence of the song and gives it a purpose, an autobiographical narrative and
sets the tone for this Very Best Of look at Lodge’s contribution to the Moody’s success.
Lodge has returned to the studio to recreate three tracks with his current touring band of Alan Hewitt (keyboards), Duffy King (guitars) and Billy Ashbaugh (drums). Hewitt, who co-produced the album, has done a great job with the keyboards filling the (Days Of Future Passed) orchestral passages on (Evening) Time To Get Away. The whole band gels well to give a harder edge to what is such a well known and familiar piece.
Similarly, the late Ray Thomas’s Legend Of A Mind has a fresh, rockier feel. Lodge and Thomas were very close friends and, Lodge says, it is important for him to keep his memory alive by including this track here and in his solo live performances. This is a great tribute to the Moody’s flautist who passed away at the beginning of 2018.
The band have also re-recorded Street Cafe, a lively up-tempo picture of urban life from Lodge’s first solo outing Natural Avenue (1977). Two more tracks from Natural Avenue have been remixed giving these oft-overlooked pieces a new lease of life. Summer Breeze,
Summer Song is light and airy while Say You Love Me is elevated by a richer production and fuller sound.
Two tracks are featured from Lodge’s second album (38 years after the first!) 10,000 Light Years Ago. In My Mind and Get Me Out Of Here both feature the guitar of Chris Spedding. The former is a particularly powerful and brooding piece, Spedding’s soaring guitar and Lodge’s vocals conjuring strong images of Pink Floyd’s Dave Gilmour at his best.
The remaining tracks are live versions of old favourites. Saved By The Music (from Blue Jays) features a great guitar solo by Duffy King while Gemini Dream, the sultry Isn’t Life Strange? and Ride My See-Saw complete this retrospective collection from one of prog-rock’s legends.
(BMG Records, out Fri 27 Sep 2019)