Seventh Sojourn

Seventh Sojourn was the Moody Blues’ seventh album by the “classic lineup.” It was the first of their albums I dived deeply into, even though I was familiar with some of their work, and enjoyed the two-album compilation, This Is The Moody Blues.  The group had many hit singles but they were very much an album band, full of big concepts and themes, and interconnecting songs.  To fully appreciate the band, you need to listen to their albums in their entirety.

Seventh Sojourn came to my attention by way of a friend. We used to trade albums and during the summer of 1975, I grooved on Alice Cooper’s School’s Out, Deep Purple’s Made in Japan, Jethro Tull’s Aqualung, George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, Yes’ Fragile, The Who’s Who’s Next, The Electric Light Orchestra’s Eldorado, and Seventh Sojourn. If a rock and roll heaven existed, I was there.

That was the summer between high school and college, and my musical horizons were rapidly expanding.  Between the albums I was finding and those that came from my friends, I was engaged on a musical adventure, and the Moody Blues were rip for my sojourn.

The Moodies classic lineup

The Moody Blues were a rocking band that wrote serious melodies and very ethereal lyrics. They also had the airy sensibility of a folk group, flute and acoustic guitars, and even an entire album backed by an orchestra.  If you listened to them with headphones you were liable to find yourself floating among the stars. The Moodies used a keyboard device called a Mellotron which reproduced orchestral instruments like flutes and strings. They had recorded tapes that were activated by pressing keys, so you got an orchestral sound without an orchestra. The Beatles had used the Mellotron on their mid to late 1960’s albums.

Art-rock, or progressive rock bands (King Crimson, Yes, ELP, Genesis) used the Mellotron for spacey sounding atmospheric textures. Mike Pinder, keyboard player for the Moodies employed the Mellotron to great effect. The Mellotron was an early synthesizer-type instrument that reproduced other instruments yet could create their own unique sounds. On Seventh Sojourn, Pinder was using a Chamberlin, which actually preceded the Mellotron. Both devices used pre-recorded instrument tapes, and there was a business relationship between the companies. Whether you are hearing the Mellotron or the Chamberlin, the use of these orchestral sounds provided bands with new sound opportunities and atmospheric textures.

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Mike Pinder working his magic.

Seventh Sojourn, was, and is still, a musical delight. Forty-six years later, the album sounds fresh, not dated like many albums of the era. Much of the Moodies’ work is very era-based, which made it so popular and pioneering at the time. Seventh Sojourn is not like that. Those songs could be released today, and although there is a bit of hippy-optimism, it’s not over-the-top.

Many bands of the era embraced the Tolkien-science fiction fantasy spirit of new worlds and positive life energy. After the heavyweight 1960’s, rock and roll embraced a bit of escapism and of course, the power of love.

For me, Seventh Sojourn, from start to finish is the Moodies’s strongest effort. They had bigger hit singles on other albums, but not a more complete album.

Let’s look at the eight album tracks.

Lost in a Lost World – A fine lead track, written by Mike Pinder. An eerie song with a distinctive bass/guitar groove, with Pinder’s keyboards providing atmosphere. This track establishes the album’s haunting musical and lyrical themes. Pinder’s low, husky voice adds to somber tones.

 

New Horizons – Written by Justin Hayward, and one of his more expressive vocal performances. The song fits in beautifully with the album’s themes of exploration and new journeys.

For My Lady – A robust, romantic ballad by Ray Thomas, one of his his most familiar songs.  Utilizing the flute, Thomas makes this an upbeat song of adventure, perfect for the concept of the album.

Isn’t Life Strange – The other single from the album, written by John Lodge, who had a very strong since of melody and some very good harmonies.

You and Me – Co-written by Hayward and Graeme Edge. The song features some fine vocal harmonies and shared vocals by Hayward, Thomas and Pinder. Pinder’s Chamberlin compliments Hayward’s lead guitar.

The Land of Make Believe – Another Hayward penned song that starts out as a soft rock tune that picks up steam and power with some fine guitar by Hayward. The album was mixed so this song segues quite effectively into the next one.

When You’re a Free Man – This has always been my favorite tune on the record. Written and sung by Pinder, it is a melancholy song of searching for something just out of reach. Pinder scores big in both of his tunes on the album.

I’m Just a Singer in a Rock and Roll Band – Written by John Lodge, it is the best known track on the album and a concert setlist staple. The most obvious rocker on the album.

 

This would be the last album by the classic lineup for a few years. After a world tour they went off to do solo projects. They did reform for one album, Octave, before Pinder retired from the group. Octave has its moments, but it does not have the originality or the vision of the seven albums from the classic period.


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