Saturday, January 2, 2010

Moody Blues: On A Threshold Of A Dream

As with every Saturday of late, I have been featuring an album that was of particular significance to me. Over the years, I have been a fan of the Moody Blues and have been contemplating what album of theirs to feature. At this juncture, I am really not certain what my favorite Moody Blues album might be; however, the first album of theirs that I owned was 1969’s “On the Threshold of a Dream.”

With the matter of album choice alone being difficult, I had to narrow down this great album to a single feature cut. Well, I took the 12 cuts and contemplated which ones were the best and the list narrowed to three. I considered the album’s only single, “Never Comes the Day.” The song probably was somewhat musically complex for most Top 40 listeners to appreciate at this time, and hence, it only charted at 91 in the US. Unfortunately, it performed worse in the UK.

My second choice was the song from this album that the Moodies normally perform in concert: “Lovely to See You My Friend.” This driving Justin Hayward tune fits the same Moody Blues’ genre that produced “Ride My See Saw” and “The Story in your Eyes” – both particular favorites of mine. It’s a great song, but I think I will go with a more melodic tune: “Are You Sitting Comfortably?” This Justin Hayward composition conjures up images of the Arthurian mythos. “Let Merlin cast his spell” concerning “The glorious age of Camelot, when Guinevere was Queen.” Whew, I almost had a flashback to Monty Python’s “Holy Grail” for a moment there, “What is your name? What is your quest? What’s the capital of Assyria? Aaaaahhhh!!!!”

I received this album as a Christmas present in 1970 from my brother Chuck. It was my first experience in hearing a Mellotron, and it was the first time I had the opportunity to appreciate the Moody Blues’ talents. In fact, I credit this album for helping me develop my own singing voice. This was my first album that included all of the songs’ lyrics. So for hours on end, I would sit in my bedroom and sing along with the band. I believe it helped me in signing both lead and harmony, and I am much indebted to the extended practice sessions I received vicariously through the Moodies’ tutelage.

Justin Hayward and the author, 1986

Any Moody Blues performance post “Go Now,” is a musical masterpiece – and this album lives up to that reputation. The production is superb from the layered vocals, the double tracked guitars, the interplay between flute and Mellotron, to the driving rhythm of Lodge and Edge on “Lovely to See You again my Friend” and “To Share My Love.” A lifetime of musical influence is heard on this disc. This is evidenced on “The Voyage,” as Mike Pinder summoned the spirit of Richard Strauss through the borrowing from “Also sprach Zarathustra.”

The author with John Lodge, 1986

There are other production gems that feature Ray Thomas, who often takes a back seat to the obvious presence of Justin Hayward and John Lodge. On “Dear Diary,” Ray’s vocals are processed through a Leslie rotating speaker cabinet that gives the chronicler’s voice an ethereal quality. His harmonica playing is integral to the songs where it’s featured. On “Never Comes the Day,” the playing is so simple, but ultimately necessary for the song – I couldn’t imagine it without it. A more intricate harmonica part on “Lazy Day” aids in creating a mirthful disposition that is paradoxically linked to a lyrical content characterizing the monotony of daily living. To create the instrumental hook on “So Deep within You,” Ray’s flute and Graeme Edge’s tympani are inextricably entwined.

Graeme Edge, 1986

The sheer musical genius found among the Moody Blues is evidenced in the multitude of instruments that the band plays. The album’s credits, however, also show a little bit of the British humor found among this quintet. Following the list of every instrument utilized by the group, there is one other person enumerated – Pete Jackson on triangle. I laughed the first time I read this and I was only 15 at the time. It’s still funny 39 years later. I hope you understand the hilarity.

Besides the arrangement and production, there is the profundity of the lyrical content. The LP opens with the very esoteric discourse of “In the Beginning “ that ends: “There you go man, keep as cool as you can. It riles them to believe that you perceive the web they weave, and keep on thinking free.” The bridge for “Lovely to see you again my Friend” recalls the listener’s genetic memory, “Tells us what you've seen in faraway forgotten lands where empires have turned back to sand.” During the fade of Ray Thomas’ “Dear Diary,” a little cold war humor is discharged, “Someone exploded an H-bomb today, but it wasn’t anyone that I knew.”

Moving to side two, the confession in “Never Comes the Day” is powerful: “If only you knew what's inside of me now, you wouldn't want to know me somehow.” From beginning to end, the seeker has pondered his existence. Characteristically, much of the Moody Blues’ music evokes the subconscious, and this concept album answers the seeker as it closes: “Now you know that you are real. Show your friends that you and me – belong to the same world; turned on to the same word. Have you heard? Have you heard? Have you heard? Have you heard? Have you heard?”

For your listening pleasure, I have constructed a YouTube playlist that features all of the songs in order. Please note that there are unnatural breaks here as the original album linked all of the songs together musically – without any normal breaks between tracks. As Mike Pinder recited in “The Voyage,” “Live hand-in-hand, and together we'll stand on the threshold of a dream.”


  1. I remember buying this album when first released, played it on a Dansett (little basic mono multie play record player) and I couldn't get the songs out of my head for weeks. Have seen them many times since, around the late 60's-70's they regularly played a venue called the Belfry (now host to golf tournaments)only a small venue so sound and atmosphere was fantastic, and in with the admission you got a curry served on a paper plate at half time, how's that for vfm... mick (from England)

  2. Thanks for your memories Mick.