The Moody Blues have been nothing if not adaptable, starting out as a rough-housing R&B band, evolving through celebrated early experiments with orchestral rock, and then morphing into polished '80s hitmakers.
Along the way, they've boasted future members of Wings in Denny Laine (1964-66) and a past keyboardist from Yes in Patrick Moraz (1978-90). They continued into a new century as the core trio of founding drummer Graeme Edge, and vocalist/guitarist Justin Hayward and bassist John Lodge - the latter two of whom joined in 1967 as the Moodies took that memorable turn toward prog. With such a diverse range to choose from, we present our Top 10 Moody Blues Songs.
'Gemini Dream'From: 'Long Distance Voyager' (1981)
A canny update of their core sound, the Hayward/Lodge-penned "Gemini Dream" set a template for the glossy-sheened prog-pop of Asia and the '80s-era retooled Yes. This synth-powered No. 12 hit also introduced Moraz, who had replaced founding keyboardist Mike Pinder in 1978 but was only just then joining the Moodies in the studio. This was a pivotal moment for the band, making it a perfect place to begin our list of the Top 10 Moody Blues Songs.
'From The Bottom of My Heart (I Love You)'From: Single (1965)
Endlessly intriguing, and not just because this is a perfect example of the Moodies' seminal R&B-laced Laine era. (His yearning vocal would help "From the Bottom" reach No. 22 in the U.K., though it was roundly ignored in America.) Check out how this Pinder/Laine track uses a volcanically emotive ending to presuppose the layered vocals of their eventual breakout album, Days of Future Passed. They were on to something.
'Blue World'From: 'The Present' (1983)
A should-have-been hit song from a should-have-been hit album. The languid, graceful "Blue World" was a highlight of a project that, in many ways, followed the template of the Moody Blues' hugely successful Long Distance Voyager LP from two years before – but nevertheless sunk like a very confused rock.
'Ride My See-Saw' From: 'In Search of the Lost Chord' (1968)
Anybody who says the orchestrally inclined Moodies couldn't rock should look no further than this Lodge-composed romp, which didn't make the Top 40 in either their native U.K. or in America but has remained a concert staple ever since – typically as a roaring encore. (By the way, the B-side "A Simple Game" actually later became a No. 3 hit, oddly enough, for Motown's Four Tops.)
'The Voice'From: 'Long Distance Voyager' (1981)
On the surface, this bouncy No. 15 American hit heralded a series of lesser MTV-era singles like "Your Wildest Dreams" and "I Know You're Out There Somewhere." Dig deeper, though, and this song's historical importance only grows. "The Voice" was one of the last to so deftly marry the mystical elements of Hayward's classic songcraft with this modern approach – and Long Distance Voyager itself was a signpost as the Moodies began moving away from concept albums.
'Go Now'From: 'The Magnificent Moodies' (1964)
Timeless Flight, a sprawling multi-disc box set released in 2013, completely ignored the pre-Days of Future Passed era of the Moody Blues – a grievous error that we won't repeat on this list of the Top 10 Moody Blues Songs. Laine's scorching take on this old Bessie Banks track is as emotionally gripping as it is career-makingly important. "Go Now" would break the Moodies in the U.S., becoming their first-ever Top 10, then later serve as a showcase moment for Laine when he joined Paul McCartney and Wings.
'Tuesday Afternoon'From: 'Days of Future Passed' (1967)
Perhaps Peter Knight's most sensitively combined conducting work, as the stirring orchestral elements he added to Days of Future Passed mesh perfectly with Justin Hayward's bucolic tale. Hayward has said he wrote this song while relaxing in a field, with guitar and joint in hand. "Tuesday Afternoon" sounds exactly like that.
'The Story in Your Eyes'From: 'Every Good Boy Deserves Favour' (1971)
Still not convinced the Moodies can rock? Cue up this riffy Hayward number from the band's typically oh-so-mellow Mellotron days. No doubt on the strength of that guitar-focused attitude, "The Story in Your Eyes" soared to No. 23 in America – likely before anyone noticed its thrillingly weird coda.
'Nights in White Satin'From: 'Days of Future Passed' (1967)
In retrospect, it's easy to see why it took two releases – and several years – for this Hayward pop concerto to finally catch on in America. A triumph of genre-bending vision, "White Satin" moves a couple of worlds beyond convention with its sweeping orchestral interlude and closing, Graeme Edge-written "Late Lament" poetry recitation. If we're being honest, though, that still makes it easier for rock fans to admire than to truly love.
'Question'From: 'A Question of Balance' (1970)
An intelligently layered anti-war song from Justin Hayward, powered at first by a jangly groove and then leavened with this lovely, almost dream-like reverie – before a storm-cloud of strings thunders in with chest-thumping force. Hayward actually combined two separate unfinished demos to achieve this perfectly calibrated sense of emotional turbulence, creating a No. 22 U.S. hit that concludes our list of the Top 10 Moody Blues Songs.