Monday, December 14, 2009

Moody Bluegrass: Legend Of A Mind

Monday’s cover feature comes from an album entitled “Moody Bluegrass” with a Moody Blues song that originally appeared on the “In Search of the Lost Chord” LP: “Legend of a Mind.”

I first heard this album over a year ago on Pandora – I’m not sure what I intended to listen to that evening, but one of the other Moody Bluegrass cuts surfaced in the rotation. After it finished, I had to hear more – so I listened to the entire LP.

“Legend of a Mind” is not one of the best known songs of the Moody Blues – but it is not one of the least known songs either. Flautist Ray Thomas wrote and sang this number. Its title is probably more obscure than the song itself. If you would ask the more casual Moody Blues fans what song is “Legend of a Mind,” they probably couldn’t tell you – but say, “Timothy Leary’s dead . . .” and they probably know this tune.

This obscure title is one of the anomalies that arises with songs.  In the mid 1980s, I submitted some ideas to Ken Barnes for his weekly column in Radio & Records. One that he used dealt with popular songs with titles that either were obscured in the lyrics or totally absent.  In other words, the title was not part of the song's hook.  Some examples included the following: Robert Plant's "Big Log," Bob Dylan's "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35," Small Faces "Itchycoo Park," and The Who's "Baba O'Riley" are only a handful of songs that fit this category.

What is "Legend of a Mind" about? When it was written Timothy Leary was very much alive, I have my suspicions though, as “he is outside looking in.” In other words, Leary's reputation preceded him, as in his philosophical bent "You could take a trip and never leave the farm." When Leary succumbed in 1996, National Public Radio played the Moody Blues' version of this song as a lead into the story of his passing, as "Timothy Leary is dead."

West Virginia's own Tim O'Brien

This cover version featuring a full bluegrass band features lead vocals by Wheeling, WV native and musician extraordinaire Tim O’Brien. He really sounds like Ray Thomas at the beginning of this number. Moody Bluegrass? It seems to work.

Here's the Moody Blues' Version

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