Featured Album – To Our Children’s Children’s Children – Moody Blues

Proto-prog is the first wave of British progressive rock musicians who branched from psychedelia … that slightly predates the full-fledged prog era. Progressive rock evolved from … a strain of classical/symphonic rock led by the Nice (Keith Emerson’s band – ME), Procol Harum, and the Moody Blues. Proto-prog musicians harnessed modern classical and other genres usually outside of traditional rock influences, longer and more complicated compositions, interconnected songs as medley, and studio composition.

When the Moody Blues released their first single, “Go Now,” in 1964, they seemed like pretty much every other British Invasion band. It was a good song, well-played, well-sung (by Denny Laine who later joined Wings) which still holds up today. (Historical note – This song was originally written for and recorded by an American R&B artist named Bessie Banks. It was supposed to be her big breakthrough but the Moodies version clobbered it.)

By 1967, the Moodies had shifted gears and started going in the direction of early progressive or symphonic rock. They hit it big with an album called Days of Future Passed and its still popular song, “Nights In White Satin.” (Never really been a fan of that one, actually. Seems a bit overwrought.)

But that album was the first of what the Moody Blues fans consider their “core” or classic seven. (Days of Future Passed, In Search of the Lost Chord, On the Threshold of a Dream, To Our Children’s Children’s Children, A Question of Balance, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, Seventh Sojourn.) These were all released between 1967 and 1972 or what one might refer to as the magic years for the number of great albums released.

But I want to focus here on To Our Children’s Children’s Children which was released in November of 1969. I’m pretty sure what got me thinking about the Moodies was when I posted about Justin Hayward’s rendition of “Forever Autumn.” Because until the other day, I had not listened to this album in years.

And I want to say that I found it every bit as enjoyable as I remember it being when I used to listen to it all the time. It is a lush, melodic concept album about space travel, bouncing around the moon and ultimately, isolation. The date of release is significant as it is only a couple of months after the US landed on the moon and one year after 2001: A Space Odyssey. I hear both influences in it.

In fact, if I were to break the album down, it might look something like this:

  • 75% lush, melodic romanticism
  • 5% mysticism
  • 5% New Age bullshit
  • 5% hippie lovefest
  • 3% 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • 2% Space Oddity
  • 5% melodramatic bombast

This album gets a mixed reaction from Moodies fans but is still largely viewed positively. The naysayers decry the lack of any “hits.” Really? Did anybody listen to Dark Side of Moon or In the Court of the Crimson King or Kid A looking for fucking hits? Let the record company executives worry about pulling songs from concept albums out of context and trying to make hits out of them. It’s all “product” to many of them anyway.

To Our Children’s Children’s Children does what the best concept albums do when you listen to it – it washes over you. From “Higher and Higher,” with its sound of a rocket lifting off (simulated, because the NASA one sounded cheesy); to “Floating,” a joyous exploration of anti-gravity (little kids love this one); to the forlorn “Watching and Waiting,” the album creates a MOOD. That’s what it’s all about, not – as they used to say on American Bandstand – whether or not it’s got a great beat and I can dance to it.

I jokingly mentioned “Space Oddity” above. That song had actually been released earlier the same year with themes of isolation and loneliness. (And yes, we know Major Tom’s a junkie.) But there’s something about the thought of being alone in the vastness of space that appears to bring out those solitary feelings. The lyrics of the beautiful “Watching and Waiting” speak to this. But who is the “I” that speaks here?:

Watching and waiting
For a friend to play with
Why have I been alone so long
Mole he is burrowing his way to the sunlight
He knows there’s someone there so strong

Soon you will see me
Cos I’ll be all around you
But where I come from I can’t tell
But don’t be alarmed by my fields and my forests
They’re here for only you to share

Spotify link

Typically, in the long history of the Music Enthusiast (established 1839), I post three or four songs per album. In this case, I’m not going to do that but instead suggest that you put aside 45 or so minutes, find a quiet space, slap on some headphones. You may well not think this is prog-rock in the Yes or Crimson fashion with virtuosic musicianship and lightning-fast guitar runs. Just listen. Without prejudice.

I like this version of the album put up there by somebody who calls herself HippieChick. She went to a hell of a lot of trouble to match the album with pictures. So, random shots of skyscapes, spaceships and -for whatever reason – couples kissing. Fun to watch.

Spotify link

After this album, the Moodies put out another fine record, A Question of Balance. They dropped some of the lush instrumentation and overdubbing so they could actually reproduce it on stage.

  • Justin Hayward – vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, sitar
  • John Lodge – vocals, bass guitar, harp, acoustic guitar
  • Ray Thomas – vocals, flute, tambourine, bass flute, oboe
  • Graeme Edge – drums, percussion
  • Mike Pinder – vocals, Mellotron, piano, EMS VCS 3, Hammond organ, acoustic guitar, celesta, double bass

Source: Wikipedia

 

15 thoughts on “Featured Album – To Our Children’s Children’s Children – Moody Blues

      1. My Gal has the records. That’s where I got them. I remember giving them a few spins and liking some of the music.. I’ll get back to you on this one. (The Wellfleet drive in looks very cool, Only problem is they have to run mainstream films to pay the bills)

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        1. Yeah, “edgy” is the last thing anybody would accuse the Moodies of being. But I’m glad you said you’d spin it again. It’s got that overall mood that I dig.

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  1. Many fond memories of the Moodies (whom my brother calls “Justin Hayward and Backing Band”). I saw them live, twice, at an amusement park, the second time with my 5-month pregnant wife, and they put on a great show (Lodge was hilarious, in a rock-star kind of way). I used to get high to “In Search of the Lost Chord,” probably their most psychedelic album, and my favorite. “To Our Children’s Children…” comes in a close second (“On the Threshold” and “Question of Balance” are also great). Yes, who needs hits? This album has a nice flow, with beautiful songs like “Gypsy,” “Watching and Waiting,” “Floating,” “Out and In,” and “Never Thought I’d Live to Be a Hundred.” This band gets denigrated by both stuffy rock critics and even prog-rock fans, and I don’t understand why. Is it because people like my dad liked them? Certainly, the lyrics and themes can be pretentious, but their melodies and arrangements, particularly Hayward’s are gorgeous.

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  2. Funny but I never thought of them as “Justin Hayward And…” That said, outside of their records, I don’t know a whole hell of a lot about them so that could well be true.

    An amusement park, eh? How Spinal Tap is that? 😀

    Nice flow, indeed. Creates a great mood as mentioned. Yes, as to prog-rock, that’s pretty much why I started with the Wikipedia quote. No one would confuse these guys with King Crimson. But it was earlier prog-rock and so, just developing. Their stuff holds up, though. And for me, I get tired sometimes of listening to the proggers wanking away on their instruments.

    If someone said, “Hey, the Moodies lean toward pretension” I could scarcely defend them. Seems to me this happens to any rock band that starts to take itself and its music too seriously. (U2 anyone?) Rock is such a visceral in-your-face type of music that anything more than “Be-Bop-A-Lula” sounds contrived. I still say the best lyric ever is “I met him on a Monday and my heart stood still. Da Doo Ron Ron Ron, Da Doo Ron Ron.”

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