It took 25 years — several lifetimes in pop music — for the Moody Blues to get in front of a symphony orchestra. Add another year for the concept to make it out to Los Angeles, where the Moodies and the Los Angeles Philharmonic created an often imposing wall of sound for a sold-out crowd of boomers and twentysomethings. We’ve heard of letting an idea simmer for awhile, but this is ridiculous.
It was in 1967, rock’s madly innovative high noon, that the Moodies recorded “Days of Future Passed,” a pioneering suite for rock band and orchestra that still holds up splendidly. But even then, the Moodies never actually played with an orchestra; the late Peter Knight and his “London Festival Orchestra” added their parts later.
Suppose the Moodies and company had actually played “Days of Future Passed” straight through, and perhaps commissioned a new work along those lines? Now that really would have been enterprising. Instead, we just heard fragments torn from “Days,” along with a batch of the Moodies’ greatest hits decorated with symphonic trimmings.
For arranger/conductor Larry Baird, it was a grandiosely superfluous task to pile orchestral layers on tunes already overloaded with weight. Yet now and then (“New Horizons,””Emily’s Song,””Isn’t Life Strange”), Baird was able to squeeze in some inventive writing.
The four remaining Moodies — Justin Hayward, John Lodge, Ray Thomas and Graeme Edge — gave insistent, driving performances, really bristling in “Question” and the recent “Say It With Love,” defying the rock dinosaur slurs. Admittedly, they needed a lot of extra help from a second drummer, two keyboardists and two female singers.
For the most part, it was a Hayward/Lodge showcase, with Hayward emerging as the blithest, most energetic spirit, while there wasn’t much of Lodge’s voice left on this date. Thomas mostly banged a tambourine and Edge often let drummer Gordon Marshall carry on alone.
The Philharmonic gamely made their way through their parts with only a few ensemble problems, a ghostly, electronically distorted sonic mirage. When they weren’t playing, our lordly symphonic defenders stared down at the rock group as if they were visitors to a zoo.