ON THIS DATE (31 YEARS AGO)
May 15, 1981 – The Moody Blues: Long Distance Voyager is released.
# ALL THINGS MUSIC PLUS+ 4/5
# allmusic 4/5
Long Distance Voyager is the tenth album by The Moody Blues, released on this date in May 1981 on the group’s Threshold record label. Upon release in 1981, Long Distance Voyager became the Moody Blues’ second American number one album, and was also the source of the Top 20 singles “Gemini Dream” (#12) and “The Voice” (#15). It also continued their winning streak in their native United Kingdom, reaching #7 there.
The songs on Long Distance Voyager were recorded at the band’s own Threshold Studios. The songs were recorded and mixed by Greg Jackman, while Pip Williams was the album’s producer. Supplementing the Moody Blues—Justin Hayward, John Lodge, Ray Thomas, Graeme Edge, and Patrick Moraz—was a string section performed by the New World Philharmonic, which Pip Williams arranged.
Long Distance Voyager is only partially a concept album, as only half of the songs relate to the “voyager” referred to in the album’s title. The final three tracks comprise a mini-suite that combines themes of carnival jesters and the chaos experienced backstage at a rock show.
Long Distance Voyager signaled the revitalization of the Moodies. After a six-year layoff, they’d regrouped for 1978’s Octave, which met with mixed reviews. Three years later, the updated sound of Voyager brought them back to the top of the charts. Ex-Yes keyboardist Patrick Moraz’s synthesizers replace Mike Pinder’s Mellotron, and there’s a distinct early-’80s sheen to the upbeat hits “Gemini Dream,” which chronicles the band’s comeback efforts quite literally, and “The Voice.” “Talking out of Turn” sounds like nothing so much as a more sophisticated Little River Band, but one cannot deny its gentle, bouncy appeal.
Gentle, acoustic ballads like “In my World” and “Nervous,” however, wouldn’t sound out of place on On the Threshold of a Dream. For the diehards, Ray Thomas (whose flute is conspicuously absent in much of this ’80s-centric production) provides that essential element of quirky British theatricality with his closing, self-referential triptych of “Painted Smile,” “Reflective Smile,” and “Veteran Cosmic Rocker.” The last of these offerings proves that the Moodies have more self-knowledge than their critics would like to believe.
by Dave Connolly & Bruce Eder, allmusic
Progressive rock bands stumbled into the ’80s, some with the crutch of commercial concessions under one arm, which makes the Moody Blues’ elegant entrance via Long Distance Voyager all the more impressive. Ironically enough, this was also the only album that the group ever got to record at their custom-designed Threshold Studio, given to them by Decca Records head Sir Edward Lewis in the early ’70s and built to their specifications, but completed while they were on hiatus and never used by the band until Long Distance Voyager (the preceding album, Octave, having been recorded in California to accommodate Mike Pinder), before it was destroyed in the wake of Decca’s sale to Polygram. In that connection, it was their best sounding album to date, and in just about every way is a happier listening experience than Octave was, much as it appears to have been a happier recording experience. While they may steal a page or two from the Electric Light Orchestra’s recent playbook, the Moodies are careful to play their game: dreamy, intelligent songs at once sophisticated and simple. Many of these songs rank with the band’s best: “The Voice” is a sweeping and majestic call to adventure, while the closing trio from Ray Thomas (“Painted Smile,” “Reflective Smile,” and “Veteran Cosmic Rocker”) forms a skillfully wrought, if sometimes scathing, self-portrait. In between are winning numbers from John Lodge (“Talking Out of Turn,” the pink-hued “Nervous”) and Graeme Edge (“22,000 Days”), who tries his hand successfully in some philosophizing worthy of ex-member Mike Pinder. Apart from the opening track, Justin Hayward furnishes a pair of romantic ballads, the languid “In My World” (which benefits greatly from a beautiful chorus heavily featuring Ray Thomas’ voice), which distantly recalls his Seventh Sojourn classic “New Horizons,” and the more pop-oriented, beat-driven romantic ballad “Meanwhile.” In typical Moodies fashion, these songs provide different perspectives of the same shared lives and observations. “Gemini Dream,” which was a big hit in the U.S., does sound dated in today’s post-Xanadu landscape, but never does the band lose the courage of their convictions. Although the title and the cover art reference the then-recent Voyager space probe, only half of the songs have a “voyager” connection if you apply it to touring on the road; apologetic love songs consume the other half. Still, not everything has to be a concept album, especially when the songs go down this smooth. This album should make anybody’s short list of Moodies goodies. And, yes, that’s Patrick Moraz who makes his debut here in place of original member Mike Pinder.
“The Voice” (Justin Hayward) – 5:21
“Talking Out of Turn” (John Lodge) – 7:18
“Gemini Dream” (Hayward, Lodge) – 4:09
“In My World” (Hayward) – 7:22
“Meanwhile” (Hayward) – 4:08
“22,000 Days” (Graeme Edge) – 5:25
“Nervous” (Lodge) – 5:45
“Painted Smile” (Ray Thomas) – 3:18
“Reflective Smile” (Thomas) – 0:36
“Veteran Cosmic Rocker” (Thomas) – 3:18
2008 Remastered CD Expanded Edition
“The Voice [Single Edit]” (Hayward) – 3:24