Of all the Moody Blues solo efforts, I would rank this album as the best. It was the only time that Justin Hayward and John Lodge recorded as a duo.
Blue Jays began as a group project during their five year hiatus in the mid-1970s. Hayward sought to begin writing with keyboardist Mike Pinder in California where Pinder had relocated. This came after a lengthy tour in support of the band’s last album, Seventh Sojourn (1972). Pinder was not interested in working on album at the time, so Hayward, Lodge and producer Tony Clarke pivoted to have it be a Hayward & Lodge project instead.
The result is a cross between Days of Future Past and Seventh Sojourn: lush orchestration of Days of Future Past along with the romanticism and trippy guitar of Seventh Sojourn.
Hayward and Lodge as a duo made sense. They were two of the main Moodys songwriters and complimented each other on guitar and bass. Hayward wrote the romantic, soaring ballads. He had the silky voice that graced their biggest hits. Lodge more often wrote their rockers and gave Hayward great room to use his guitar. Going forward, they would assume leadership in the band as chief songwriters and vocalists. It’s also ironic that both are the remaining members of the Moodys but apparently have no plans to work together now that the band is retired.
My first listen to this album after it came out did not put a smile on my face. I guess I was expecting more of the progressive-rock and edginess of their previous albums, not the slick production and orchestral backing. Nowhere were the song fragments and atmospheric sounds of Mellotron or earthy rock and roll.
“This Morning” (Justin Hayward) – 5:56
“Remember Me (My Friend)” (Justin Hayward, John Lodge) – 5:28
“My Brother” (Justin Hayward) – 3:28
“You” (John Lodge) – 4:35
“Nights Winters Years” (Justin Hayward) – 3:40
“Saved by the Music” (John Lodge) – 6:09
“I Dreamed Last Night” (Justin Hayward) – 4:29
“Who Are You Now” (Justin Hayward) – 2:29
“Maybe” (John Lodge) – 5:38
“When You Wake Up” (Justin Hayward, John Lodge) – 5:23
Bonus track on CD
“Blue Guitar” (Hayward) – 3:37. This song was a non-album single, released five months after the album appeared. The song was performed by Hayward, Lodge, and members of the art-rock band 10cc.
To be honest, I didn’t listen to this album much over the years, although I did buy the CD when it became available, in part to get “Blue Guitar.” I lumped this album in with Octave, the last Moody’s album to feature Mike Pinder, an average album at best.
My hesitation was not the quality of the songs, although they are a bit schmaltzy and lack the clever and eclectic vision of past Moody albums. My real problem is the over-the-top production gloss and drippy orchestra. This slickness paves over any real emotion. This is more Bee Gees than Moody Blues.
Skip ahead to 2022, and I’ve listened to this album a few times, using my original vinyl LP. Yes, I must admit, this is a very fine album, although I still feel it is over-produced.
2 thoughts on “Blue Jays (1975): Justin Hayward & John Lodge”
We’re on the same page, Mike. Good album, not great. “Blue Guitar” is the standout song. My brother, a Moodies fan, refers to them as “Justin Hayward and backup band.” Lodge wrote one classic song, in my view, “Ride My Seesaw” (“I’m Just a Singer” is okay, I guess), but he has a great stage presence. I saw the band twice in the ’80s and he had the most energy.
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I dug what I’ve heard from the Moodys to date, which mostly is their earlier songs. I’m best familiar with “Days of Future Past,” a real gem, in my view.
I haven’t listened to any of Justin Hayward’s work outside the band. Based on listening into a few tunes, “Blue Jays” sounds like an album I might like.
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