Review Summary: An astonishingly overlooked jewel in the history of progressive rock, Days of Future Passed was also an essential blueprint for the development of the genre.
If you are a fan of classic rock, progressive rock, or both, you have almost certainly heard of King Crimson. Their debut In The Court of the Crimson King
is frequently cited as the beginning of prog as well as the genre’s best album. While it certainly is a reigning classic in its own right, there are a few facts about that album that are all too often overlooked. Foremost among them is that their producer, Tony Clark, actually worked extensively with The Moody Blues before he even came close to a recording studio with King Crimson. Released a full two years prior, Days of Future Passed
wowed listeners with The Moody Blues’ up and coming sound that would later become identified as the “progressive” quality as it pertains to classic rock. Thus, The Moody Blues (and in particular, this record) should at least
be viewed as equal partners in the pioneering of the genre, if not the founders of prog itself. However, the point of this review is not to squabble over who should be credited with the berth of progressive rock, nor is it to downplay the importance of King Crimson. The Moody Blues’ Days of Future Passed
is a criminally overlooked album in the genre’s history, one that deserves much more attention than it currently attains.
Days of Future Passed
possesses an array of swirling musical styles within its vast scope. From its majestic, classically-influenced beginning to the haunting, poetic closer ‘Nights in White Satin’, the album is neither here nor there in terms of a singular method. An actual orchestra was hired to help record the album, creating symphonic moments that collide perfectly with the music’s classical influences and the band’s flavor for limitless experimentation. The whole thing ends up sounding like one cohesive dream, tumbling gently over waves of strings, horns, and the excellent musicianship of each member of the band. Everyone contributes to the vocals, although Justin Hayward’s and John Lodge’s efforts are the center of focus in that respect. Graeme Edge’s drumming sets the mood for the album’s slow but effervescent progression, while Mike Pinder’s keyboarding lends a soft, delicate touch. In the guitar department, Denny Laine is absolutely brilliant, while masterfully interweaving his performance with duel bassists Clark & Warwick. Essentially, what we have here five highly trained musicians at their best, with the aid of the London Festival Orchestra making Days of Future Passed
all the more epic.
So what do The Moody Blues do with all of that knowledge and talent at their disposal? Well, they create a concept album of course! But before you scoff at the notion of something that has, as time elapsed, become a gimmick, remember that a “concept album” need not be over-the-top. Days of Future Passed
takes you through one day, from the magisterial horns that open ‘Morning Glory’ to the spoken poem that ends the record like a haunting bedtime story. For as grandiose as these ideas may seem, The Moody Blues’ execution of the concept is flawless, packing enough fresh musical ideas within it to make Days of Future Passed
feel like just the beginning of something much greater – which the band’s long and productive career eventually proved to be accurate. The orchestra’s contributions admittedly bridge a lot of the gaps in the concept, but they do so flawlessly and leave the album feeling like one forty minute song, which is essentially what it is. The lush, gorgeous flow over the album’s duration makes Days of Future Passed
an absolute pleasure to listen to, whether it is simply in the background or whether you get lost within its intricacies.
Despite its enormous sound and smooth sequence, Days of Future Passed
is still incredibly memorable. It has that “stick” factor that lodges music into one’s mind in such a way that it refuses to leave and compels you to return for a second, third, and one hundredth listen (and perhaps beyond). Fans of classic rock radio may be familiar with tunes such as ‘Tuesday Afternoon’ and ‘Nights in White Satin’, both of which anchor the album and hopefully compel contemporary listeners to check out the entire work from which they came. Even the tracks that don’t qualify as “radio friendly” (i.e. the majority of the songs) demand repeated listens due to the sheer beauty with which they were composed, creating a comprehensive work that is in every way accessible, but in no way that has done before.
The positive attributes that could be assigned to this album are nearly limitless. Days of Future Passed
is like awaking from a black and white dream to find yourself in a gorgeous, sprawling world of color. If you don’t want to be a part of that world, you are simply denying yourself one of the greatest feelings that can be evoked from a musical experience.