American documentary filmmaker Murray Lerner covered the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival; however, it took 25 years before the public had a chance to see the film, which was titled “Message to Love,” at the 1995 San Jose Film Festival. Since then, Lerner has created a line of DVDs featuring The Who (Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970); Jimi Hendrix (Blue Wild Angel); Miles Davis (Miles Electric – A Different Kind of Blue); Jethro Tull (Nothing is Easy: Live at the Isle of Wight 1970); and Emerson, Lake & Palmer (The Birth Of A Band: Isle of Wight 1970). The Moody Blues have now joined their fellow classic rockers with the release of Threshold Of A Dream: Live at the Isle of Wight 1970.
The DVD presents a 20-minute biography of the band containing interviews recorded in 2008 with drummer Graeme Edge, guitarist Justin Hayward, bassist John Lodge, and former keyboardist Mike Pinder, who left the band in 1979. The Moody Blues started as a blues-based band, influenced like so many of their peers by American blues. A clip from 1965 shows them playing “Hey, Bo Diddley” with former member Ray Thomas on harmonica.
The band then decided to write and perform material they identified with. What really made their music stand out was Pinder on a Mellotron, a keyboard device that played short audiotapes, usually of orchestral sounds. Their music had a psychedelic influence and was a precursor to progressive rock bands, particularly the subgenre of symphonic rock. Hayward talks about the band’s shared experiences in seeking enlightenment. Edge laughs about it because his assessment was they “were just getting wrecked. It felt like our minds were expanding.”
The 1970 festival had 600,000 people in attendance and The Moody Blues had just released their sixth album, A Question of Balance. They performed 14 songs that day and the entire set is available as a CD. Unfortunately, not all of the film footage has survived. This becomes evident during “The Sunset” where concertgoers are shown at different times of day rather than the band on stage like the previous five songs.
According to the liner notes by Michael Heatley, “Never Comes The Day” and “The Sunset” aren’t presented in the order they were played. It’s questionable whether the footage from “Never Comes The Day” is actually taken from the performance of the song. It’s cobbled together from a bunch of short clips quickly edited together that don’t match what’s happening. The sunlight fluctuates; there are lots of shots from behind the band; and when Thomas can be heard playing the harmonica, he is seen without it.
Five songs don’t appear in the concert portion of the disc. The spoken-word piece, “The Dream,” begins the DVD. “Are You Sitting Comfortably” doesn’t play long before fading under the interviews. “Minstrel Song” is heard during a segment that shows what’s going on outside the festival as the kids bang on the walls. A small portion of “Have You Heard” can be heard before Hayward talks to an off-camera Lerner about his having just learned this footage existed. The encore of “Ride My See Saw” becomes a montage of the band singing the song over the years at different venues.
Fans of The Moody Blues should enjoy this day from the past in the future. The historical significance will compensate for any video flaws. The music is most important and it sounds impressive, available in Dolby Digital Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1, and DTS Surround Sound. However, Threshold Of A Dream is not the best place to start for those who don't know the band's work.