[Review] The Moody Blues: To Our Children’s Children’s Children (1969)

Inspired by the lunar landing, the Moodies make an album about space travel that nearly reached the top of the charts.

Kronomyth 5.0: Cs of tranquility.

The moon landing was a milestone in history that gave pause to reflect on our relationship to the universe and our place within it. The Moodies paused long enough to write an album around it, sort of, on To Our Children’s Children’s Children. The record is, itself, something of a milestone among Moodies albums in that it was the first released on their own record label, Threshold, which was distributed through London Records. Otherwise, it’s a continuation of the shared songwriting format established on In Search of the Lost Chord.

Although the Moodies weren’t a rock & roll band in the traditional sense—their songs neither rocked nor rolled most of the time but, rather, floated—previous albums were more grounded in elements of rock. Children has only a couple songs that could be considered heavy and, among those, one is an instrumental while the other lasts just over a minute. The rest of the album is stitched together into a gossamer structure of acoustic guitars, mellotron and melodies that dissipate into the air. The overall impression is like a long and lovely sighing over space.

Side one opens with another piece of poetry from Graeme Edge, Higher and Higher, that literally launches the space concept. Eyes of a Child, Part 1 is an uncharacteristically gentle song from John Lodge that could be viewed as the album’s title track in its invitation to see the universe through childlike eyes. Floating continues the theme in typical Ray Thomas fashion (his songs often sound like children’s songs), and Lodge teases us with a rock song that never was with Eyes of a Child, Part 2. Justin Hayward the songwriter makes a brief cameo with a solo acoustic performance on I Never Thought I’d Live to Be a Hundred. It is, surprisingly, the only Hayward song on the first side. Beyond is an adventurous instrumental that suggests Edge has a very good soundtrack album in him; the song is more interesting than anything on George Harrison’s Wonderwall Music, and that wasn’t a terrible record. A rare collaboration between Mike Pinder and John Lodge, Out and In, closes out the first side on a classy note with another song about meditation (a familiar theme for Pinder).

The second side starts with the shoulda-been single from Hayward, Gypsy, one of many songs from the period that romanticize the astronaut as an heroic archetype. In fact, radio stations semi-officially adopted this as the album’s ambassador, something you could do back in the days when “album-oriented rock” actually meant queuing up albums on a turntable. Eternity Road continues the space traveler theme and is the weightier of Thomas’s several contributions. John Lodge’s Candle of Life sounds for the life of me like a Mike Pinder song (cf. “Have You Heard”) and is my favorite track on the entire album, even if it doesn’t have a blessed thing to do with outer space. Sun Is Still Shining returns to inner space and features Eastern sounds but is sung too quietly. (The mix on this album is problematic, perhaps because there was so much sonic detail in every track, and there are more than a few times when I wished the guitars or vocals had been turned up.) A second short reflection from Hayward, I Never Thought I’d Live to Be a Million, gives ways to the almost-dreamlike ending of Watching and Waiting. Written with Ray Thomas, it’s a wistful fairytale song that is more at home in The Wind and the Willows than the wide expanses of space. Like I said earlier, this is sort of a concept album about space, but with some other good ideas mixed in.

And this is the point in the review where I tell you that To Our Children’s Children’s Children is not my favorite Moody Blues record. Its tongue-twister of a title aside, I found the previous three records to be more toothsome. It is ambitious, yes, but too amorphous, as if the notes themselves were scattered by the weak gravity of space. In a remastered version with headphones you can capture more of the sonic detail, but a good remixing is what it really needs. It’s still a classic album—how could a Moodies record about space travel not be?—but it’s also a little, um (squirming uncomfortably), precious and wimpy. There, I said it: The Moody Blues are a little wimpy. Now, to listen to some Motörhead (since it’s all a question of balance).

Read more Moody Blues reviews

Original elpee version

A1. Higher and Higher (Graeme Edge) (1:05)
A2. Eyes of a Child, Part 1 (John Lodge) (3:34)
A3. Floating (Ray Thomas) (3:02)
A4. Eyes of a Child, Part 2 (John Lodge) (1:20)
A5. I Never Thought I’d Live to Be a Hundred (Justin Hayward) (1:06)
A6. Beyond (Graeme Edge) (3:00)
A7. Out and In (Mike Pinder/John Lodge) (3:44)
B1. Gypsy (of a Strange and Distant Time) (Justin Hayward) (3:35)
B2. Eternity Road (Ray Thomas) (4:17)
B3. Candle of Life (John Lodge) (4:19)
B4. Sun Is Still Shining (Mike Pinder) (3:35)
B5. I Never Thought I’d Live to Be a Million (Justin Hayward) (0:34)
B6. Watching and Waiting (Justin Hayward/Ray Thomas) (4:17)

Original 8-track version
A1. Higher and Higher
A2. I Never Thought I’d Live to Be a Hundred
A3. I Never Thought I’d Live to Be a Million
A4. Watching and Waiting
B1. Eyes of a Child, Part 1
B2. Beyond
B3. Out and In
C1. Eyes of a Child, Part 2
C2. Eternity Road
C3. Candle of Life
D1. Floating
D2. Gypsy
D3. Sun Is Still Shining

2CD Deluxe Edition bonus tracks
B1. Gypsy (alternate version) (4:16)
B2. Candle of Life (alternate version) (4:55)
B3. Sun Is Still Shining (extended version) (4:03)
B4. Gypsy (3:15)
B5. Sunset (3:43)
B6. Never Comes The Day (4:17)
B7. Are You Sitting Comfortably (2:53)
B8. The Dream (0:57)
B9. Have You Heard / The Voyage / Have You Heard (5:50)
B10. Nights In White Satin (2:58)
B11. Legend of a Mind (4:33)

Tracks B4-B11 recorded live at 12/17/69 BBC Radio One concert.

The Players

Graeme Edge (drums, percussion), Justin Hayward (vocals, guitars, sitar), John Lodge (vocals, bass guitar, harp, acoustic guitar), Mike Pinder (vocals, mellotron, piano, EMS VCS 3, Hammond organ, acoustic guitar, celesta, double bass), Ray Thomas (vocals, flute, tambourine, bass flute, oboe). Produced by Tony Clarke; engineered by Derek Varnals, Adrian Martins, Robin Thompson.

The Pictures

Art by Phil Travers.

The Plastic

Released on elpee, cassette and 8-track on November 21, 1969 in the UK, Canada and Germany (Threshold, THS 1), the US (Threshold, THS 1/THS M 24601/24801) [white/purple label], Australia (EMI, 8X-THS.1), France (Threshold, 278.057 B) and New Zealand (Threshold, THS-Z.1) with gatefold cover and lyrics innersleeve; reached #2 on the UK charts and #14 on the US charts (RIAA-certified gold record). Australian 8-track features the same track order as the elpee.

  1. Re-issued on elpee in Thailand (label unknown, CSJ 947) with unique cover.
  2. Re-issued on cassette in Spain (Threshold, 71 99 126).
  3. Re-issued on cassette in Australia (Rainbow, RDH 6133).
  4. Re-issued on elpee in the US (Threshold, THS 1) [comet/stars label].
  5. Re-issued on elpee in Japan (Threshold, LAX-1024) with gatefold cover and lyrics insert.
  6. Re-released on remastered elpee in the US (Mobile Fidelity, MFSL-1-253).
  7. Re-issued on compact disc and cassette in 1986 in the US (Threshold, 820 364-2/4).
  8. Re-released on remastered 24k gold compact disc on June 11, 1996 in the US (Mobile Fidelity, UDCD 671).
  9. Re-issued on remastered compact disc in 1997 in the UK (Threshold, 844770).
  10. Re-released as Deluxe Edition on expanded, remastered 2CD in 2006 in Europe (Threshold, 983 215-6) with 11 bonus tracks.
  11. Re-released on expanded, remastered super high material compact disc on November 23, 2016 in Japan (Threshold, UICY-77990) with 5 bonus tracks.

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