“Minstrel’s Song” (Moody Blues Cover)

For Moody Blues chords & lyrics, CLICK HERE!

By Chris Moore:

Hello and welcome to an all-new week of cover song music videos at my personal favorite blog on the web today — and I swear I’m not biased!  I had a busy but very enjoyable weekend, including going to see the Moody Blues as they tore the house down at the “Chevrolet” Theater in Wallingford, Connecticut.  (I put the Chevrolet part in quotations because I refuse to recognize that as the name.  Just about everyone I know still calls it the Oakdale, despite Chevy’s blatant self-promotion.)

The song I chose to learn and record came out of the music I listened to on the way home from the concert on Saturday night, namely the Moody Blues’ “Live at the Isle of Wight Festival,” a concert from 1970 that was released a year or so ago on CD and, more recently, on DVD.  As could be expected, this concert includes songs from their first three LPs, but it certainly includes a healthy portion of songs from their A Question of Balance album, released that same year.  My session tonight, a John Lodge track titled “Minstrel’s Song,” is a song from that aforementioned album.

The live version from 1970 is an upbeat version and a great performance, but there really is no comparison to the studio recording on the album.  Even though I agree that A Question of Balance simply doesn’t hit the same peaks of concept album perfection that On the Threshold of a Dream and To Our Children’s Children’s Children did — what a year 1969 must have been for Moody Blues fans and music lovers in general! — in my opinion, it can’t be beat in terms of production quality and a constant flow of catchy, interesting songs.  I suppose this makes sense, as it has been said that the album was an effort on their part to record songs that would be more easily reproduced in concert.  Thankfully, though, they did return to their inventive soundscapes for their following two releases.

Now, let’s pause for a moment to add in some Laptop Sessions trivia.  In the past, there have been two other tracks from A Question of Balance recorded as cover song music videos here at the blog.  One is a foregone conclusion — the truly amazing album opener “Question,” a true acoustic masterpiece, if only for the opening guitar strum pattern.  And I’ll even tell you that Jim recorded it.

My question is: what was the second song from this album to be recorded by a Laptop Sessions contributor, and which guitarist here at the blog recorded it?  If you know, then be the first to add a comment below!

The reason I chose this song is the same reason I have spent the past two days listening to the Moody Blues nonstop — first the concert CD, then A Question of Balance, followed by Strange Times — namely, because the concert was such an entertaining experience.  This is probably the third or fourth time I have seen Justin Hayward, John Lodge, and Graeme Edge in concert, and they continue to impress every year they come around.  (They must have a decent fanbase in Connecticut, as they appeared at the Mohegan Sun on Sunday, the next night after performing at the Oakdale!)  As my third and final concert of the summer, there was some pressure here based on how much I enjoyed my previous two, Bob Dylan and Wilco respectively.  And, again, there was no contest; the Moody Blues only get better — or, more realistically, stay at the same level of greatness — with age.

Some highlights from this stop on the Moody Blues’ “Summer Nights Tour 2009” included Justin Hayward foregoing his usual collared shirt for a lime green t-shirt with a definite summer feel to it, then a white t-shirt after the intermission break.  The set list included some interesting song choices, most notably “Peak Hour” from the “Lunch Break” segment of their debut album Days of Future Passed.  Supposedly, this song has not been performed in concert for about 40 years!  Regardless, it was one of the highlights of the night, combining catchy vocals and impressive harmonies with amazing instrumental work.

Perhaps the funniest moment of the night came when Graeme Edge, before performing “Higher and Higher,” recalled the classic mentality that it’s all about “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll.”  He claimed that it was still true, even if the drug of choice may have changed to Viagra.

Obvious crack at their age aside, I can’t stress enough that the Moody Blues are still at the top of their game.  Ever since Jim and I spent a summer a couple years ago listening to all of their albums (each one repeatedly) in sequence, the Moody Blues have held a special place in my heart and in my thoughts of the summer time.  Each time they come around, I realize they have a lot to live up to in terms of their past performances and their impressive discography.  All in all, they played for almost two hours and included at least one song from just about every studio album they ever released, with the exception of two of my favorites, The Present and Strange Times.  Jim might correct me here, as I decided to entirely enjoy this concert without keeping track of the set list or writing a full review, but my full review would have gone something like this: don’t miss out on the chance to see the Moody Blues if you get the chance!

Well, that about does it for me.  On a final note, is it a bad sign if, after playing my finished Laptop Session as I wrote this post tonight, my cat reached over and hit the “Volume Down” key on my MacBook?  I’m not even kidding here.  I hope you don’t have the same reaction!

See you next session!

“It’s Up To You” (Moody Blues Cover)

By Jim Fusco:

Hello everyone- tonight’s session is a Moody Blues song that’s always been a favorite of mine. I’ll be the first to admit that most of the Moodies songs aren’t exactly “rockers”, but when they do come out with one, it’s AWESOME. “Story In Your Eyes”, “Ride My Seesaw”, and “I’m Just A Singer in a Rock’n’Roll Band” come to mind as great songs with a rock sound and some amazing lead guitar playing by Justin Hayward.  I honestly believe that Justin Hayward is one of the most underrated rock guitarists out there.  The man can absolutely shred on the guitar and he plays it perfectly every time- even in concert.  Have you heard the beginning to “Question” on 12-string acoustic guitar?  Even playing that half-speed on acoustic guitar is difficult.  Hayward is the man, and that’s all there is to it.

The Moody Blues song I’ve chosen for tonight’s cover song music video, “It’s Up To You”, has a great guitar riff, classic Justin Hayward introspective lyrics, and just a great melody.  “It’s Up To You” my favorite song off of the “Question of Balance” album.  That album, to me, is a bit faster paced than any of the other “first seven” albums they did.  But, I think the songs aren’t nearly as good (as a whole) as the songs on albums like “Every Good Boy Deserves Favour” and “To Our Children’s Children’s Children”.

One thing about Justin Hayward’s lead guitar playing I love is his double or even triple-tracking of the lead guitar.  It’s so unique.  George Harrison used to do it with his famous slide guitar solos.  But, Justin Hayward is a fan of more distortion on his guitar solos and riffs.  So, it’s a different sound.  Hayward triple-tracks the lead guitar for two reasons, in my opinion.  First, he wants to make the part sound more powerful.  You have to imagine that little thin high E string on a guitar.  Now, strum it with a piece of plastic.  It’s going to need a lot of power to cut through drums, bass, and a synthesizer.  So, triple-tracking the lead guitar (that’s recording it three times) is a great way to make it stand out from the rest of the sounds in the band.  Another reason why Hayward did it is the reason why I think it’s so cool: harmony!  He would take the lead guitar part and then play it three times.  Except, each time he’d play a different note of a chord.  Played all together, you get a great sound that’s full and unique.  I did that on some of my songs, too.  For instance, on “Give and Take” from my album “What About Today?”, I did a three-part lead solo.  Listen to that song online on my website at http://jimfusco.com.

I hoe you enjoy tonight’s Moody Blues cover song! Keep checking back for more music videos because we are determined not to miss a day in 2008! We’ll see how long it lasts, but let’s just say I’ve already got enough cover song videos for the next couple weeks!


“A Winter’s Tale” (Moody Blues)

For Moody Blues chords & lyrics, CLICK HERE!

By Chris Moore:

Hello and welcome to another all-new edition of the Laptop Sessions.  To kick off another full week of new material, I’ve reached into the Moody Blues catalog of songs — specifically from their 2003 album December — to bring you a cover song version of their cover of the Mike Blatt and Tim Rice song “A Winter’s Tale.”

Now, although I am an English teacher, this is not to be confused with the William Shakespeare play “The Winter’s Tale.”  Not only is there a notable difference in parts of speech (namely the indefinite – “a” – versus the definite – “the” – articles), but there is also a big difference in tone.  Still, “The Winter’s Tale” is quite a trip.  Consider, for instance, that this play contains one of Shakespeare’s most infamous stage directions: “Exit, pursued by a bear.”  What I find the most interesting is that there is contention over whether he used an actual bear for the original productions, or simply a man dressed in a bear costume.

I would assume the latter, but the former is just so much more fascinating…

But this is all beside the point.

“A Winter’s Tale” is one of those songs that is indisputably beautiful, sung perfectly by Justin Hayward.  For those who have seen them in concert recently, you may have noticed my apparel is a nod to Hayward’s typical onstage wardrobe.  That wasn’t too difficult to arrange, as I simply removed my tie and jacket and voila!  Of course, this is also one of those songs that, upon playback, forces me to remember I’m a rhythm guitarist hammering away at what is such a subtle, pretty song at heart.  During our MoU Christmas concerts, Mike would front the band on this one, fingerpicking and taking the lead — and for good reason!

The reason I’m standing up is because the song simply didn’t sound right when I played it sitting down.  I found I was having trouble getting comfortable as I played it.

Of course, the majority of the song being played on barre chords didn’t help either…

Several takes and several strained ligaments in my hands later, you’ve got yourself a new Laptop Session.

As a final note about the song, I found it very interesting that this song, originally written by songwriters Mike Batt and Tim Rice, hit #2 on the UK charts back in 1982.  Batt teamed up with Rice to write the song for performer David Essex.  Another interesting bit of trivia is that Batt went on to produce Justin Hayward’s solo album Classic Blue between 1988 and 1989 at Abbey Road Studios in London.  Classic Blue, ironically, is an album of covers.  The track listing includes three songs written by Batt, as well as classics from Brian Wilson, Lennon/McCartney, and Led Zeppelin.

I hope that you enjoy this installment of the Laptop Sessions, and I encourage you to hurry back for more very soon.  In addition to your regularly scheduled (yuletide?) cover song music video tomorrow, there may be a brand new Guest Session on Friday, as well as another edition of the Weekend Review.  If you missed last weekend’s music review, you should know that I just kicked off a top five albums of the decade countdown.  Each weekend between now and January 2nd, 2009, I will reveal another album on the list, as well as a full review.  Then, on January 2nd, I will post my full “Top Thirty Rock Albums of the Decade” list, along with my review for the number one rock album of the decade.

Thus far, the Barenaked Ladies’ Maroon (2000) has cinched the #5 slot.  Which album will rank as the fourth best album of the decade?

You’ll have to tune in to the Weekend Review to find out…

See you next session!

“I Dreamed Last Night” by Blue Jays (Justin Hayward & John Lodge of the Moody Blues) Cover

By Jim Fusco:

Okay, better late than never!  I just forgot to post this video and even though I kept reminding myself, I’ve been very burned-out lately, so I just couldn’t go through all the motions.  Thankfully I recorded this video a few weeks ago when I was in slightly better spirits.  Not that anything is particularly wrong- I just feel a tad bit overworked, in general.  But, that feeling comes and goes.  I hope that, after a day finishing up yard work and such outside on a beautiful day, that we’re entering a calmer time soon.

I tried making plans today to hang out with 0ne of my best friends, but when I looked at my calendar, it was all booked up every weekend until Thanksgiving.  It’s all fun stuff- concerts, parties, get-togethers at our house- but, it was a pretty sad feeling to say to him, “Sorry, man, I’m booked.”  It’s tough juggling a new marriage,  new house, a website, three jobs, and the massive amount of projects and ambitions I have.  When all these things are working at full-tilt, I feel great- like I can rule the world.  But then, I slowly start to realize that I cannot rule the world and then everything gets overwhelming.  So, it stinks for a few days and then I’m back to sorting things out again.

Sorry for the long-winded explanation, but I felt it necessary considering that I take this Laptop Sessions project very seriously and don’t want it to become a “whenever I get the chance” thing.  I don’t work that way- when someone says, “I’ll get to it when I get a chance,” they really mean that it’s never going to get done.  And for those that are currently enjoying the last Masters of the Universe album, “Homestead’s Revenge,” well then, you’re probably happy that I don’t for people to finish things “whenever they get a chance”.

Onto tonight’s video:

“I Dreamed Last Night” by Blue Jays is simply one of the greatest songs I’ve ever heard.  Other than a guitar solo and harmonies (two things I love, but aren’t necessary in this song), this is a PERFECT song.  If you haven’t heard the original, do yourself a favor and download it.  This is a great story for me because of the way I remembered this song:

I was in Northampton, MA for a day trip and went into this small record store.  In the top section above the rest of the albums, they had a Moody Blues Starter Pack.  There were four records for eight bucks and they were in amazing condition.  In fact, the copy of “Long Distance Voyager” (one of my all-time favorite albums) was never played.  To this day, I don’t have the heart to play it- it’s over 30 years old now and is brand new!  Anyway, inside the set was a copy of “Blue Jays”, which was a one-off album for Justin Hayward and John Lodge of the Moody Blues.  There’s a cool story behind that album, too:

Justin Hayward and Mike Pinder of the Moody Blues decided to work on a project together after the Moodies broke up after the “Seventh Sojourn” album.  But, Mike Pinder (like Gene Clark of the Byrds) is a notorious homebody and backed out of the project after a while.  So, Justin Hayward called in John Lodge to collaborate and to add a few of his own songs.  The album was titled “Blue Jays” because they’re the two members of the Moody Blues with names that start with “J”- get it?  Blue-J’s? 🙂

Well, I fired-up the turntable and put the album on.  I instantly loved it.  Here I had a brand-new (to me) “Moody Blues” album!  I knew all the rest of their albums, but we never got this one on CD, so I never heard it growing-up.  I knew “Remember Me, My Friend” from a Moody Blues compilation I got recently and loved that song.  So I knew I’d love the rest of the album.  There’s something about the sound on “Blue Jays”- it’s very “classic rock” sounding with great guitars and a wonderfully full production.  The songs themselves, for the most part, are some of the best Hayward ever did.  Lodge’s songs were good, too, but I liked some of his earlier work, including “I’m Just a Singer (In a Rock’n’Roll Band)” and “Ride My See-saw”.

Then, as I was listening to the album, “I Dreamed Last Night” crackled onto my speakers.  I instantly remembered it.  It must’ve been on a compilation set my father played a lot.  My brother remembered the song, too.  And when I heard it, I instantly ran over and played it again.  I called my wife upstairs and embarrassingly sang it to her at the top of my lungs.  I couldn’t stop talking about it for days- this song has one of the best tunes I’ve ever heard.  It has slow parts and fast parts.  It’s sad and yet triumphant.  In a word, it’s amazing.

So, when it came time to do the new season of the Laptop Sessions, this was near the top of the list.  Even though I don’t play the song in the same guitar tuning as Justin Hayward does, it’s still in the same key and I think it gets the sentiment across very well.  I hope you’ll love this song as much as I did and will check out this album- it’s a lost gem if I’ve ever found one.

Have a great one and I’ll be back on time for my video on Thursday, October 28th.  Enjoy tonight’s cover song acoustic version of “I Dreamed Last Night” by Blue Jays!