DVD/CD Review: The Moody Blues - Live At The Isle Of Wight Festival 1970

A glimpse of a classic band in their prime.
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By 1970, the Moody Blues were arguably at the peak of their commercial and creative powers. Their newest album, and third in two years, A Question of Balance, hit number 1 on the UK charts and their previous two hit 1 and 2 respectively. Perhaps most telling is their position in the lineup at the legendary Isle of Wight Festival. In 1969, the band played on the opening day while in 1970, they were one of the headliners. That 1970 performance was filmed and makes up part of the DVD/CD set, The Moody Blues - Live At The Isle Of Wight Festival 1970.

The DVD begins with a mini documentary about the festival, which had an audience estimated at 600,000 people. Interviews with band members, including Justin Hayward, John Lodge and Graeme Edge, tell the story of how the band went from playing blues covers to developing their own sound. They couldn't relate to songs such as "Smokestack Lightning," and Hayward and Lodge soon replaced original members Denny Laine and Clint Warwick, respectively, completing the classic lineup of the band.

While the DVD has 10 songs, the band's 14-song set is contained on the CD, albeit in a slightly different order. Considering the age of the concert, both the sound and, especially, the picture quality are top notch. It's pretty evident that the video source used was close to, if not, the master. While this material was previously released individually as a DVD and a CD, this is the first time they have been released together.

The show opens with the up-tempo "Gypsy." Keyboardist, Mike Pinder's, mellotron adds an ethereal effect to the track which features a fine lead vocal from Hayward and tight background vocals. The band offers a similarly strong rendition of Days Of Future Passed's "Tuesday Afternoon," that includes some intricate guitar playing from Hayward. That album in particular is considered a forerunner in the prog rock movement and the band shifts tempos and time signatures with ease.

Several songs feature from A Question Of Balance, including a hard charging "Question" and Pinder's aptly titled "Melancholy Man." A haunting "Nights In White Satin" gets one of the biggest crowd responses and the band closes the show with a raucous "Ride My See Saw" that shows clips of the band performing the song through the years.

It's rare to get a glimpse of a legendary band from this era in their prime, let alone one of this picture quality. The Moody Blues were at their commercial and creative peak and taking chances with the arrangements on their songs. For fans of the band, this is a must-own release.