The Moody Blues returned in August of 1970 with a release that was somewhat different than their four previous efforts. It has been chronicled that the group was having trouble reproducing their sound live and that some songs just could not be presented at all. I saw The Moody Blues in concert in the early 1980’s and, from what I remember, they had no problems recreating their studio sound, but maybe technology had advanced far enough by that time so that it had become possible. Whatever the reason, A Question Of Balance leaves behind much of the cosmic atmosphere and complicated instrumentals in favor of a more stripped-down sound. The album would resonate with the record-buying public and reach Number One in England and Number Three in The United States.
Also missing is the exploration of one cohesive theme. While several songs explore the meaning of life and identity, they are not as unified as on their former releases.
The Moody Blues veered from their past by placing a Justin Hayward track as the lead-off song rather than a Graeme Edge composition as had been the norm. “Question” would be a hit single in England and in the USA and remains one of the group’s signature songs. This straightforward and catchy rocker would also have a little political bite as it deals with the issues of the Vietnam War, which was raging at the time. Justin Hayward’s guitar playing that connects the track's two halves is particularly memorable.
Ray Thomas’ “And The Tide Rushes In” remains one of my top five or so favorite Moody Blues songs. This pensive but beautiful piece is a philosophical exploration of the wrongs and problems of life which are ultimately washed away.
John Lodge’s first contribution, “Tortoise And The Hare,” is in some regards a typical rocker by his standards, but he also simplifies the sound and it adds up to a fun listen. “Minstrel’s Song” features one of the better vocals of his career; plus the guitar work by Justin Hayward and the drumming by Graeme Edge are first rate.
The two Mike Pinder songs are less successful than much of his past work. “How Is It (We Are Here)” is a dark song on the environment and starvation. Likewise, “Melancholy Man” has an ominous feel to it.
This time the album concludes with an Edge/Thomas composition in which the lyrics are spoken. The song contains wonderful imagery and is probably the closest they come to sounding like their past work.
A Question Of Balance would be a stand-alone album as they would return to their former style with their next release. Still, when I think about their catalogue, this would be the album that I have probably listened to the most, except for possibly Days Of Future Passed. Nearly forty years after its release, it remains thoughtful as well as interesting and should be a part of any progressive rock collection.