Largely forgotten, the Moody Blues are easily one of the finest and most underrated bands of the late 1960s and early ’70s. Their second album, Days of Future Passed, is one of the best of the era, in my opinion belonging with more commonly known masterpieces of the time such as the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.
The album tells the story of a day like any other. It includes the bright, wondrous dawn, the business of midday, and the calm drama of a day’s end. The band not only journeys through the times of day throughout the album, but also different styles of music.
Much of the music is performed by the London Festival Orchestra, as the album is more of a symphony than anything. But don’t be fooled by the common misconception that music performed by orchestras is boring — the symphonic music is beautiful and exciting and includes many elements of pop music. The album does, in fact, include songs that are fairly stereotypical of the pop of the late ’60s, rife with organ sounds and excellent vocal harmonies. It includes experiments with Eastern music as well, also typical of the music of the time.
My personal favorite “times of day,” if you will, are the monologues that bookend the album and The Sun Set. These monologues appear just before The Day Begins and just after the most well-known song of the album (and perhaps the band in general), Nights in White Satin.
The opening words of the album are “Cold-hearted orb that rules the night removes the colours from our sight. Red is gray and yellow white, but we decide which is right and which is an illusion,” giving the first hints of one of the album’s themes: perception. One song asserts that “this day will last a thousand years if you want it to,” while another states that “minds are subject to what should be done.” The album creatively and beautifully suggests that all we see and feel are subject to how we approach them in the mind. The album ends with the same assertion that we decide what is real and what is an illusion.
My favorite actual song of the album, as mentioned before, is The Sun Set. The song begins with heavy Eastern-inspired percussion and continues to almost limp along as the vocals come in describing the sky at sunset. For much of the song, the percussion is the only instrumental sound behind the vocal, but the verses are punctuated by flute solos backed by a piano and the orchestra. The song flows seamlessly into Twilight Time, an upbeat, though in a minor key, tune describing — you guessed it — the twilight.
In short, this album that tells the story of an everyman’s day and questions our perceptions is nothing short of a beautiful masterpiece. If you have any interest in classical music or just beautiful, interesting music in general, I highly recommend you look into Days of Future Passed by the Moody Blues. It’s truly an aural experience everyone should enjoy at some point in their lives.