The Moody Blues are one of the legendary bands and pioneers of the progressive movement. Their sequence of seven iconic albums between 1967 and 1972 elevated the Moodies from fading one-hit-wonders to global superstars who would influence successive generations of musicians, and continue they to do so to this day.
With the sad loss of drummer Graeme Edge last November, the days of Moodies’ tours are now past, but the band’s bass guitarist John Lodge remains determined to “keep the Moodies music alive” by continuing to tour with his own band. As a tasty reminder of some of the Moody Blues classic tracks, Lodge has recently released his live album The Royal Affair and After.
During the summer of 2019, Lodge was delighted to be a part of The Royal Affair Tour in the United States, with Yes, Carl Palmer, Arthur Brown, and Asia, and what followed was an epic summer. For Lodge, it was an opportunity to bring his live show to both long-established Moodies fans and to those new to The Moody Blues. The album was recorded live in Las Vegas on The Royal Affair Tour, with additional tracks recorded during his subsequent US tour dates.
The tracks on this album will require no introduction to Moody Blues fans as they showcase some of Lodge’s most famous Moody Blues compositions, along with a song each from his Moodies’ bandmates Graeme Edge, Ray Thomas, Justin Hayward and Mike Pinder. It’s an album that encompasses the songs Lodge describes as being ‘the soundtrack of his life’.
John Lodge is recognised, from his work with The Moody Blues, as one of rock’s most influential bass players and this live album captures some of his finest contributions to the Moodies legacy, opening with Stepping In A Slide Zone. The thumping Lodge bass drives the song along at a breathless pace, which continues for the intro to Saved By the Music, the only non-Moody Blues track in this collection. Saved By the Music came from the equally well received Blue Jays album collaboration with fellow Moody Justin Hayward.
Lodge is supported on this live album by his regular touring band. Long-term collaborator and music director Alan Hewitt (keyboards) has been a part of The Moody Blues’ live band for some years, along with drummer Billy Ashbaugh. Duffy King (guitars) and Jason Charboneau (cello) are now also well-established members of Lodge’s 10,000 Light Years Band and together they capture the heart of these classic songs.
Lodge’s tribute to his best friend, the late Ray Thomas, is Legend of A Mind. Charboneau’s cello truly captures the original song’s atmospheric arrangement. Lodge and Thomas, both part of the early ’60s Birmingham music scene, first met on a bus and formed a band, El Riot and the Rebels. Thomas joined The Moody Blues and, later, asked Lodge to join the by now ailing band following the departure of their bass player. Best known for their Number 1 hit cover of Bessie Banks’ Go Now, by 1966 the Moody Blues were reduced to just three members – Thomas, Edge and Pinder – and struggling to find direction.
The Moody Blues’ record label had heard some of the material of the new line-up, which now included Hayward, and asked them to record a demonstration album. For this they were partnered by an orchestra, to promote Decca’s new sound system. The album, recorded with The London Festival Orchestra and conductor Peter Knight, slowly garnered popularity and, eventually, passed into musical folklore as a pioneering example of the concept album.
Lodge recognises this on The Royal Affair and After with a sequence of three tracks from Days of Future Passed: Sunset (written by Mike Pinder), Late Lament (Graeme Edge) and Nights in White Satin (Justin Hayward).
Again, the arrangement of Sunset captures the magic of Pinder’s work on the original version. Pinder also voiced the original version of the poem Late Lament but here, for the first time, we hear a recording of the author reading his own work. Lodge says he was delighted when Edge agreed to record the poem for use during the live shows, and this has become particularly poignant as Edge passed away just days before this live album was published in digital formats.
While on the Royal Affair Tour, Lodge struck up a new friendship with Yes vocalist Jon Davison who was invited to contribute the lead vocal for the iconic Nights in White Satin. Lodge’s pleasure with Davison’s performance would lead to an invitation for Davison to join Lodge on his subsequent solo tour. For 54 years, Lodge has played Nights in White Satin at every Moody Blues concert and loves recreating the bass line that he wrote all those years ago. With the Moody Blues now no longer touring, this was a wonderful opportunity to pay tribute to Hayward as Lodge continues to perform this classic song.
Gemini Dream is the most recent (1981!) of the track selections here, before we return to the Moodies’ early legend-creating era. Lodge penned both singles taken from 1972’s Seventh Sojourn: Isn’t Life Strange and I’m Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band). Both songs are included here, stirring live performances with great arrangements and vocals from Lodge. Charboneau’s cello is exquisite on the former, capturing that song’s unique and ethereal atmosphere.
Jon Davison returns with lead vocal for the album’s closer, the live show’s encore Ride My See-Saw, an energetic finale to a fine snapshot of Lodge and his desire to keep the music of The Moody Blues alive.
Lodge’s appearances in the UK are rare, The Moody Blues music was tailor-made for the emerging FM radio stations of the ’70s and their North American popularity is unwavering. No wonder, then, that Lodge spends much of his time Stateside, but this recording brings back wonderful memories of a great night in Birmingham in 2019 when John Lodge was honoured by his home city (you can read Geoff Ford’s review HERE on TPA. The recordings here came just weeks later. Whether you have caught John Lodge live or not in recent years, The Royal Affair and After will make a welcome addition to the collection of Moody Blues fans everywhere.
01. Steppin’ in A Slide Zone (3:39)
02. Saved By the Music (3:47)
03. Legend of A Mind (6:14)
04. Sunset (3:43)
05. Late Lament (1:31)
06. Nights in White Satin (6:06)
07. Gemini Dream (4:04)
08. Isn’t Life Strange (6:49)
09. I’m Just A Singer (In A Rock & Roll Band) (4:08)
10. Ride My See-Saw (4:39)
Total Time – 44:40
John Lodge – Bass, Vocals
Alan Hewitt – Keyboards
Duffy King – Guitar
Billy Ashbaugh – Drums
Jason Charboneau – Cello
Graeme Edge – Spoken Voice (track 5)
Jon Davison – Lead Vocal (track 6), Backing Vocals (track 10)
Record Label: Halesouth Ltd.
Country of Origin: U.K.
Release Date: 3rd December 2021 (CD & Digital) | 28th January 2022 (Limited Edition Blue Vinyl) | 11th February 2022 (Black Vinyl)