The Moody Blues

Melancholy Men

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A good chunk of this 72-minute CD -- which incorporates the repertory, if not the actual performances or recordings heard on one old vinyl bootleg of the band from 30 years ago (in considerably better sound) -- will be essential listening for any serious fan of the group. The opening three tracks -- "Never Comes the Day," "Nights in White Satin," and "Legend of a Mind"/"House of Four Doors," from a live-in-the-studio American radio appearance before a live audience -- give a decent glimpse of what the bandmembers sounded like on a good night on-stage, doing stripped-down (i.e., rearranged for five instruments instead of the eight or nine on the records) versions of a quartet of popular numbers out of their early psychedelic repertory, in excellent fidelity. Michael Pinder's Mellotron may well not have behaved as well on-stage at all times as the way it does here, but it generates a substantial sound, bigger in some ways than its presence on the group's studio recordings. Track four, from an actual 1970 concert, is listed as "I'm Coming Home," but it's actually "Gypsy"; it doesn't come off nearly as well as the preceding numbers, but it has more than enough energy to carry its length and then some and a measure of excitement that can only really come from a stage performance. The other concert tracks, from 1970, include material that hadn't yet seen the light of day when the group did the Royal Albert Albert Hall concert that became the authorized Caught Live + 5 album, most notably "Tortoise and the Hare" and "Melancholy Man"; the former, in particular, rocks much harder than its studio equivalent, with a searing guitar solo by Justin Hayward; fans of John Lodge will also be pleased by the prominence of his bass throughout this CD. The one major flaw in their performance arises out of the group's effort to re-create the "Dream" suite from the On the Threshold of a Dream album; even with three Mellotrons, it would be difficult in a cavernous concert hall to achieve the impact of Pinder's work from the album, and the other accompaniment also sounds anemic (ironically, the group could pull it off in their concerts accompanied by a full orchestra, but Pinder was no longer with the band and gone with him was his repertory). Still, this is all a fair representation of what the band sounded like on-stage during their prime years, which are sorely (and strangely) under-represented in live recordings.