[Review] The Moody Blues: On the Threshold of a Dream (1969)

The Moodies cross the threshold of greatness with their first #1 album, and their first to feature synthesizers.

Kronomyth 4.0: You’ll want to be sitting comfortably for this voyage.

Their last album, In Search of the Lost Chord, was a trippy affair: “Legend of a Mind,” The House of Four Doors,” “Om.” On the Threshold of Dream goes even deeper in its search of the ultimate headphone experience, featuring one of the earliest uses of the EMS VCS 3 synthesizer along with cellos, mellotrons, flutes and what was some very sophisticated engineering for its time. Patterned after The Beatles’ recent albums (Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Magical Mystery Tour), Dream wasn’t a concept album, but a collection of songs conceived as an album experience. The album did remarkably well on the charts, reaching #1 in the UK and going gold in the US on the same day as Days of Future Passed. Truly, we had reached the golden age of The Moody Blues.

On closer inspection, not every song on Dream works. Send Me No Wine, Lazy Day and So Deep Within You are hardly the best ideas to come from the respective minds of John Lodge, Ray Thomas and Mike Pinder. But Graeme Edge sounds positively brilliant on this record, Never Comes The Day and Are You Sitting Comfortably are two of the prettiest songs they’ve ever recorded and the combination of The Dream, Have You Heard and The Voyage may be the most sublime nine minutes of Moodies music on record. If I were going to pick a favorite album by The Moody Blues, it would come down to this and Days of Future Passed.

While Justin Hayward, Thomas and Edge had each established their own songwriting style, Lodge and Pinder were still unpredictable. Lodge was more likely to write a rocker (case in point: To Share Our Love), but Pinder was hard to pin down. “So Deep Within You” is an ill-advised attempt at Moodies soul. “Have You Heard,” on the other hand, is an inspired attempt to beat The Beatles at their own game with a better version of “A Day in the Life.” That’s write, I wrote better. No one says you have to agree with me (since I know how thin-skinned Beatles fans can be).

As with all the Moodies’ early records, there have been several remasters of Dream over the years, any of which is likely to present the sometimes problematic engineering in a better light. In the robot-powered 21st century, expanded remasters were also released with alternate versions and BBC recordings. Something is lost when the album doesn’t end with “Have You Heard – Part II,” so I’d actually steer you away from the expanded versions.

Original elpee version

A1. In The Beginning (Graeme Edge) (2:08)
A2. Lovely To See You (Justin Hayward) (2:35)
A3. Dear Diary (Ray Thomas) (3:56)
A4. Send Me No Wine (John Lodge) (2:20)
A5. To Share Our Love (John Lodge) (2:54)
A6. So Deep Within You (Mike Pinder) (3:07)
B1. Never Comes The Day (Justin Hayward) (4:43)
B2. Lazy Day (Ray Thomas) (2:43)
B3. Are You Sitting Comfortably (Justin Hayward/Ray Thomas) (3:31)
B4. The Dream (Graeme Edge) (0:55)
B5. Have You Heard – Part I (Mike Pinder) (1:23)
B6. The Voyage (Mike Pinder) (4:07)
B7. Have You Heard – Part II (Mike Pinder) (2:38)

CD reissue bonus tracks
14. In The Beginning (full version)
15. So Deep Within You (extended version)
16. Dear Diary (alternate vocal mix)
17. Have You Heard (original take)
18. The Voyage (original take)
19. Lovely To See You (BBC radio)
20. Send Me No Wine (BBC radio)
21. So Deep Within You (BBC radio)
22. Are You Sitting Comfortably (BBC radio)

The Players

Graeme Edge (drums, percussion, vocal, EMS VCS 3), Justin Hayward (vocals, guitars, cello, mellotron), John Lodge (vocals, bass guitar, cello, double bass), Mike Pinder (vocals, mellotron, Hammond organ, piano, cello), Ray Thomas (vocals, harmonica, flute, tambourine, oboe, piccolo, EMS VCS 3). Produced by Tony Clarke; recording engineered by Derek Varnals.

The Pictures

Cover painting by Phil Travers. Inside front cover photographs by David Wedgbury. Inside back cover photograph by Terence Ibbot.

The Plastic

Released on elpee, cassette and reel-to-reel on April 25, 1969 in the UK, Greece and the Netherlands (Deram, SML 1035), in May 1969* the US and Canada (Deram, DES/DES5/DER D 18025), and in 1969 in Germany (Deram, 6.22166) with gatefold cover and lyric booklet; reached #1 on the UK charts and #20 on the US charts (RIAA-certified platinum record). (*First appeared in 5/17/69 issue of Billboard.)

  1. Re-issued on elpee in Japan (Deram, L20P 1040).
  2. Re-released on half-speed mastered elpee ni 1981 in the US (Nautilus, NR-21).
  3. Re-issued on compact disc in 1986 in the US, Canada and Europe (Deram, 820 170-2).
  4. Re-released on remastered compact disc on October 17, 1994 in the US (Ultradisc, UDCD-612).
  5. Re-released on remastered compact disc on March 3, 1997 in the UK (Deram, 844 769-2) and on May 20, 1997 in the US (Deram, 844 769-2).
  6. Re-issued on remastered compact disc on April 24, 2002 in Japan (Polygram) [limited edition of 5,000 copies].
  7. Re-released on expanded, remastered super audio compact disc in 2006 in Europe (Deram, 983 215-3) with 9 bonus tracks.
  8. Re-issued on expanded, remastered compact disc in 2008 in Europe (Deram, 530 662-5) with 9 bonus tracks.
  9. Re-released on 180g vinyl elpee in 2014 in Europe (Music on Vinyl, MOVLP1101).
  10. Re-issued on 180g vinyl elpee in 2018 in the US (Deram, 672 263-5).

2 thoughts on “[Review] The Moody Blues: On the Threshold of a Dream (1969)

  1. I just stumbled across your music reviews today. I’m glad I did. Enjoyed the one about Procol Harum’s “Shine On Brightly” and the Moody Blues’s “On the Threshold of a Dream.” I’ll be reading more.

    1. Welcome, Michael. I’ve been listening to Procol Harum’s Broken Barricades these days, so I should have a review of that up shortly. Great band that didn’t get enough exposure here in the U.S.

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