This hour special was broadcast in the Pete Feenstra Feature on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio on 31 May 2015. John Lodge chats about the making of the album. (58:41)
Esoteric Antenna [Release date 05.05.15]
By his own admission ‘10,000 Light Years Ago’ could have been the beginnings of a new Moody Blues album. As it is, the album clocks in at little over half an hour and sounds as if it became a different project full of impressionist impulses with not quite enough substance to fulfill the original idea.
John Lodge tops and tails this mini album with his most arresting songs. He almost pulls off a sleight of hand, as by the end of it you feel like you’ve been on a coherent musical journey, though in truth there’s so much variety here that you can’t divorce yourself from the feeling that its an aggregation of thinly related songs that don’t always link up.
That’s not to say the album isn’t good, as the best moments make for further exploration, but the lack of stylistic consistency hampers the album’s flow.
He opens with the very big sounding ‘In My Mind’, which envelops us, but ultimately wrongly gives the impression that it’s going to lever us into a very big sounding album. The resonant guitar-led motif builds over a subtle synth and flute backing, on a spacious arrangement that would satisfy any Pink Floyd fans let alone Moody Blues followers.
Guitarist Chris Spedding, who also appeared on John’s last solo album in 1977, cuts through the melodic track eloquently with an ascending bluesy attack to paint sonic pictures, while John adds a breathy vocal bathed in the kind of echo reverb arrangement that would make David Gilmour smile.
It’s an impressive, spacey and rock driven style that John doesn’t revisit until the good- time rocking of ‘You Drive Me Crazy’ and the title track resolution.
As a result, ‘10,000 Light Years Ago’ is a pleasant mini album, underscored by nice ideas that are ultimately subsumed by too much musical variety.
On ‘Those Days In Birmingham’, he settles for an autobiographical reminiscence through rosy tinted spectacles of his early years in Brum, over chiming guitars and weighty bv’s.
The acoustic train-time feel of ‘Simply Magic’ was written about his grandson and radiates positivity, as he teams up with former Moody Blues members Ray Thomas and Mike Pinder. There’s no denying the veracity of the song’s feel on an arrangement that makes great use of Thomas’s flute and Pinder’s melloron.
‘Get Me Out Of Here’ is full of Spedding’s harmonics, on another strong melody with more Beatles style bv’s, but with a rather disappointing hook.
‘Love Passed Me By’ is more problematical. It works well enough as a Stéphane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt inspired hot club outing full of violin and accordion, but it feels completely unconnected to the rest of the album and sounds like a filler. Given the brevity of the album as a whole, it suggests he was perhaps short of material.
That’s said, ‘Lose Your Love’ is quite the opposite, being a heartfelt song on which John adopts a Mark Knopfler meets Johnny Cash style spoken-word vocal, before momentarily slipping into falsetto mode to capture a lyrical meaning.
Finally, the closing title track could be a Moody Blues outtake in both its philosophical bent and symphonic arrangement. Chris Spedding’s guitar line is very reminiscent of New Order’s Bernard Sumner, before the song veers into an uplifting faux orchestral arrangement which would stir even the most recalcitrant of souls. It’s in moments like this when he thrillingly combines feel with uplifting music that John Lodge makes a real connection with his listener.
He tops and tails his album as if delivering an opening and closing statement, while the rest of the album concentrates more on the minutiae of the lyrics and doesn’t carry as much substance.
When you’re dealing with concepts like ‘10,000 Light Years Ago’, you are entitled to expect something with a little more substance to flesh out the rest of an enjoyable, but only partly realised album. ***½
Review by Pete Feenstra
Pete Feenstra presents his Rock & Blues Show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Tuesday at 19:00 GMT, and “The Pete Feenstra Feature” on Sundays at 19:00
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