ELO fans who found in Long Distance Voyager a new Discovery can be excused for thinking there's no Time like The Present. Just as ELO's follow-up to the sweeping Discovery seemed tame by comparison, so The Present failed to match the grandiose arrangements of the Moodies' previous record. It's still a solid effort, bolstered by strong songwriting and pleasant melodies, but as good as the opening "Blue World" is, its downbeat message is no substitute for the clarion call of "The Voice." The Present seems to make a conscious effort to scale back the arena-size sound of their previous album, returning to the warmly rendered ballads of old. Patrick Moraz, whose keyboards were a revelation on Long Distance Voyager, plays a diminished role here, as Justin Hayward's guitar takes more of the lead, suggesting a poor man's Phil Manzanera or David Gilmour. While it charted well and provided hit singles in "Blue World" and "Sitting at the Wheel" (again, it's John Lodge who provides the most invigorating track), The Present is a gift that listeners will need to warm up to over time. Only after several sittings do Hayward's lush ballads like "Meet Me Halfway" and "Running Water" sink in. Following the format of their last effort, the closing tracks are given to Ray Thomas, who once more proves a compelling presence (he's also the only good thing about "Going Nowhere"). "I Am" and "Sorry" amount to little more than love songs, but Thomas' sense for dramatic arrangements manages to elevate the musical discussion. Given the now infrequent release of new albums by the Moody Blues, more could have been expected from The Present, but less could have been achieved (as the disappointing Keys of the Kingdom demonstrated). If it's merely average by Moodies standards, at least The Present didn't bode ill for the future.
AllMusic Review by Dave Connolly