Conceived and performed against the backdrop of the Apollo Moon landings in the spring and summer of 1969, this was the 4th of what became the Moodies' "classic 7" albums , spanning the period 1967-1972 and featuring Mike Pinder on keyboards.It is ,in my view, the Moodies' greatest achievement and the best "rock" record of all time.
To a self-important and largely untalented British "rock" press, which despised commercial success (particularly in the US, where the Moodies are to this day treated like the musical equivalent of the Messiah), and which placed form above any musical substance, the Moody Blues were by 1975 utterly derided.To some extent the Moodies allowed themselves to be easy targets given the undeniable fact that, at least from a lyrical standpoint, they never departed the mythical "summer of love " that apparently happened in the 1960's,(at some point or other).Certainly, by the era of the gritty British 3-day-week, any such summer had long since been washed away and replaced by a cold grey cloud under which the Punk/New Wave era flourished.
Musically this is a lush, textured and exquisitely crafted series of songs, that begins with the (studio generated) sound of a rocket "climbing to tranquility, far above the clouds" and ends, some 40 minutes later, with Justin Hayward seemingly gazing out across a vast and desolate universe "watching and waiting".
The undoubted "themes" that pervades the music are space (as in planetary) and time, as befitted the summer of 1969, for obvious reasons. The Moodies, like most people, were avidly following the Apollo landing and had a tv brought in to Decca Studio 1 in London's West Hampstead to watch the mission's progress. Mike Pinder was, and remains, fascinated by astronomy and this album is surely the high point of Pinder's Mellotron, which instrument seemed perfectly to define the "sound" of space,as it did memorably on Bowie's "Space Oddity".
At first blush this is an ethereal record; the aforementioned Mellotron, the heavenly vocal harmonies and the spacious studio production by Tony Clarke, create a nocturnal,uncanny ambience. It is difficult to place the musical genre or to point to any other music quite like it. The oddity reveals itself, with extended listening,to be a pervading rhythmic drive that emerges
throughout the record, as if bassist John lodge and drummer Graeme Edge were in a private world (or booth) of their own, determined to keep one eye on the band's R&B roots.
There were no hit singles from TOCC,there are instrumental interludes,lighthearted moments (as ever,from Ray Thomas) and the standard platitudes about "love" (albeit confined to one track, which is probably the best on the album !) and yet the entire 40 minutes represent the most beautiful and pure sound I have ever experienced from anything outside of Medieval church music.
With extended listening this is a record that is played from beginning to end, rather than dipped into. It has a timeless, homogenous feel, linked by the Mellotron and harmonics, as if the music is always playing and one simply rejoins its performance when the record is actually spinning. I started listening to this record when I was a teenager and I listen to it every day and I know it will be with me until I finaly conk out (and hopefully beyond!)
Lets not get too carried away; Its just a pop record, it doesn't purport to have any special meaning (the Moodies would be the first to point that out) and it represents nothing more than light and distracting entertainment. It is , of course,entirely irrelevant what this " critic" or that" critic" says or what other people enjoy, or tell you you should enjoy. If you find something special then lucky you. For me, personally, I am simply grateful that this album exists as it consistently and significantly enhances the enjoyment of my life.
Er, recommended then.