John Lodge

Natural Avenue

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This 1996 reissue of the Moody Blues' esteemed guitarist's 1977 solo effort reminds listeners of various important things. First, that he's a great rocker who enjoys an inspirational, jamming tune that can flash his electric prowess, as on the locomotive "Natural Avenue." Second, that once a Moody, always a Moody, as every song to a certain extent has that ethereal, orchestral flair to it, and incorporating this can be sappy or effective, depending on the strength of the tune ("Summer Breeze" is a bit on the melodramatic side). And finally, that Justin Hayward was and is the lead singer for a good reason. Lodge has a serviceable voice, and charms effectively on kindly ballads like "Carry Me," but there's an airy quality to his delivery that skims over the potentially deeper emotions of each tune. The album is best listened to as a nostalgia session because many of the cheesier '70s production techniques were employed, dating it pretty severely. Perhaps the fact that Lodge's solo career never fully took off is something we should be grateful for; had it, the Moody Blues might not have endured intact so many decades beyond their original heyday.

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