As much as The Moody Blues have earned the right to make a mediocre album, they shouldn't have been given the keys to the studio without a better batch of ideas than what ended up on Keys of the Kingdom. Like Sur La Mer three years earlier, many of the songs on here feel like prefabricated studio pop: programmed drum beats, sterile keyboards and soulless guitars pop up in the speakers seemingly untouched by human hands, compounded by brass arrangements and backing singers that were never a part of the Moodies' original vision. Perhaps "Once Is Enough" says it best; most listeners will quickly put this aside as an underinspired exercise and seek refuge in the band's glory days. Yet fans will strain to find that familiar glint of gold in Keys of the Kingdom, and they'll hear it in several pleasant tracks from John Lodge--including the tuneful "Lean On Me (Tonight)," which was wisely the only track from here salvaged for the subsequent Night At Red Rocks release--and the Ray Thomas track "Celtic Sonant." Justin Hayward retains his ear for pleasant love songs, best heard in "Bless The Wings (That Bring You Back)," but they succumb to pedestrian arrangements. Perhaps most alarming is the track "Is This Heaven?," which unconsciously borrows the melody from a well-known Beach Boys song (and you should be very worried, baby, when that happens). Part of the problem no doubt stems from using three different producers, which never bodes well for a project. The loss of Patrick Moraz (he does appear on three tracks) likely had little impact on the end result, since they don't really use his talents when they have him. In fairness, Hayward and Lodge don't fare any worse than Paul McCartney or Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman have when they were focused on simply putting a product into the market, but since a bad album costs the same as a good one, why spend your cash sailing sur la mer de la mediocrite.
AllMusic Review by Dave Connolly