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POP AND JAZZ REVIEWS : Moody Blues Wring Best Out of Old Set

October 03, 1994|CHUCK CRISAFULLI

For 30 years now, the Moody Blues have been venting pop passions by way of earnestly intense, high-concept art-rock compositions. They've created many moments of musical splendor, but they're also responsible for a fair amount of pretentious twaddle.

Much of their recorded material seems quaintly out-of-date these days, but on Saturday, in the first of two nights at the Hollywood Bowl, the band enjoyed a kind context in which to wring some new feeling out of the old hits.

Founding members Graeme Edge and Ray Thomas, and long-timers Justin Hayward and John Lodge, along with some back-up players, shared the stage with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, under the direction of the Moodies' touring conductor Larry Baird. On many songs, the grand pairing seemed to be a lot of effort for little effect, as synthesizers and a pair of drum kits often drowned out the orchestra's contributions.

But on several memorable songs--"Tuesday Afternoon," "Question," and that rhapsodic perennial "Nights in White Satin"--the group's ambitious melodies and fervid lyrics were greatly enhanced by the dramatic orchestrations. Straight-ahead, synth-driven tunes from the group's later albums were bland at best, but they did get sparks to fly from some of their early rockers.

In their fourth decade, the Moody Blues still play to an enthusiastically responsive crowd. The sheets aren't fresh, but apparently the Moodies have a few good satin-draped nights left in them.

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