Though this 1988 recording starts out with a song that rightfully stands with their best work, the rest of the album doesn't live up to that high standard. "I Know You're out There Somewhere" (a thematic extension of the 1986 hit "Your Wildest Dreams") is lyrically and musically superior in all aspects; fine textured keyboards from Patrick Moraz are featured in the middle of the song. However, the rest of the album is mostly inconsequential material that simply doesn't grab the listener. Part of the problem lies in the fact that Justin Hayward and John Lodge wrote all of the material. Ray Thomas is totally absent, and while he contributed less songs in the 1980s, his absence is sorely missed, especially in the vocal harmonies. Thomas' songs often bring a more whimsical point of view, which certainly would have helped diversify the mood of this release. Also, there is a "techno" feel to many of the arrangements, bringing a "manufactured" feel to the proceedings. In all fairness, none of the songs are total failures, and Sur La Mer is a bit more consistent overall than the Moodies last effort, The Other Side of Life. "Vintage Wine" is a catchy, if slight, look back at the '60s. "Deep" is as overtly sexual as any piece in the Moody Blues songbook. "Breaking Point" is much darker than most material in the group's catalog, as it looks at someone who is seemingly at the brink of losing sanity. Though the Moody Blues have been unjustly criticized over their career for being pompous or bombastic, their unique gift to the world of popular music is as archetypal art-rockers who sincerely write of the quest for finding meaning in life. Unfortunately, on Sur La Mer, most of the songs are of the light and laid-back variety; the group could have used more bombast and self-importance.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Michael Ofjord