1969, Music

On the Threshold of a Dream (1969) by The Moody Blues

Many people, or at least many rock critics, consider the Moodies to be the first ever progressive rock band or, at the very least, creators of the first ever progressive rock album. Now, I haven’t heard the previous album, but I have heard their album which supposedly invented the genre (Days of Future Passed) and now I’ve heard this one. And the more I listen to them the more I find the idea that this band is a progressive rock band to be borderline absurd.

I guess the Moddies are to prog rock what the Jeff Beck Group is to metal – they were there at the very beginning, when a new genre barely existed and wasn’t entirely distinguishable from the genre which birthed it – psychedelic pop in the case of the Mooddies and prog, British blues in the case of the Jeff Beck Group and metal – but as the genre evolved, they utterly failed to evolve with it. The only difference between the two bands in this sense is that the Moodies were arguably first, whereas the Jeff Beck Group got beat to the punch by Blue Cheer. (Well, the other difference is the Jeff Beck Group broke up.)

When this record came out, prog rock was still nascent, still yet to be fully defined. So, I guess we could say the Moodies were just making the music they thought was progressive for the era. But, the thing is, “A Saucerful of Secrets” already existed, as did Procul Harum, both of which sound like prog rock in ways the vast majority of this record does not. (Though I have yet to hear much Nice, I bet they also sounded more progressive.) Aside from “Have You Heard” / “The Voyage” and the ridiculous spoken word pieces, it’s really hard to know why anyone would label this album and this band “progressive rock.” Most of these songs are straightforward pop rock songs with just the faintest hints of psychedelia or other art rock, those hints usually provided by the flute or the mellotron. (Again, with the notable exception of “Have You Heard” / “The Voygage” and the “songs” with the VCS3 on them. Hey! They beat the Floyd to the punch with that instrument!) On most of their songs, they sound like wannabe Beatles slightly before the Beatles went completely psychedelic, albeit with weaker melodies and lyrics which are not very good (albeit sometimes hilariously pretentious).

I really should get over the categorization of this band and just try to listen to the music on its own terms, but I’ve just read so much about these guys that, whenever I hear them and their rote songs, I get exasperated. Pretty soon after this record King Crimson released their debut album and whatever this sound is could no longer be termed “progressive.” That’s not the Moodies’ fault, but I just wish we could all agree that this is progressive pop and (barely) art rock for the most part.

6/10 I guess

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