The year is 1968: Timothy Leary is far from dead but endorsing LSD as a means of achieving a higher consciousness. The Beatles were in India with the Maharishi and incorporating ideas of enlightenment and eastern instrumentation into their music, but they weren’t the only ones surfing the astral plane. The Moody Blues concept album In Search of the Lost Chord deals with the philosophy, spirituality, self-growth, love and the path to a higher self.
Eighteen months on from their number one single Go Now, the band still hadn't had another song in the top ten. When a punter told them that they were the worst band he'd ever seen, it was do, or die. The band reinvented themselves and were asked by Decca to record for their new imprint, Deram, so that the label could show off their Deramic Stereo Sound. Demonstrating their new rebellious makeover, the Moodies swayed from the brief to record a new version of Dvorak's New World Symphony and handed the record company their own material called Days of Future Passed.
For their next work, In Search of the Lost Chord the band eschewed grand production and orchestrations keeping it real and true to the album's conceptual nature. They swapped keyboards for the Mellotron and experimented with other instrumentation including flute, sitar, tabla and cello. The album has a kind of contentment to it, from the birdsong lilt of Voices in the Sky to the hypnotic tranquillity of the ultimate acid song, Legend of a Mind. The voyage of discovery continues through world exploration in Dr Livingstone, I Presume, via Through music in House of House of Four Doors, earthly love in the Actor, self advancement through spiritual education (and more trips) in The Best Way to Travel before arriving at the ultimate destination of self enlightenment and realisation in the meditative Om.
Despite the several successful albums that followed the band were still maligned by snobby rock critics who failed to take them seriously. True, their melodies radiated cozy 60s pop, but their lyrics dealt with the heart of the psychedelic epoch in a way that was inclusive, rather than the musical exceptionalism of contemporaries like ELP and King Crimson. Even though they bucked the trend, following their own identity paid off and 50 years on the album is still hailed as a classic.
In 1968 concepts of Eastern philosophies, different vibrations, astral projection and mysticism all seemed a bit far out to mainstream populous; but in the age of mindfulness, we perhaps need to embrace the ideas and thoughts of the Moodies more than ever.
Groupie rating 5/5