The Moody Blues returned after a five year hiatus with a very different sounding album. The punk and disco era were now in full flower and such groups as Styx, Journey, and REO Speedwagon were dominating the rock charts. Octave would abandon the cosmic and symphonic sound of the group’s past, and move toward one more in tune with the era. As such it would not stand out as a unique creation as did their core of classic albums.
Octave would also be the last album for founding member Mike Pinder. He had always provided a spiritual and in many ways the classical center of their music through his mellotron and chamberlin. Now playing a synthesizer the sound was different and not as grand. Years later it would come to light that he was not pleased with the musical direction of the group. Patrick Moraz would replace him as the group’s keyboardist and tour in support of the album.
Octave would have no unifying theme and be the most diffuse album that The Moody Blues had released up until that time. Each song would match the individual personality of its composer.
The John Lodge composition, “Steppin’ In A Slide Zone,” was typical of the new sound. It is a typical energetic Lodge rocker but the musical center was the keyboard-guitar interplay which was in vogue at the time. Still it was catchy and was a commercially successful single.
Justin Hayward is in ballad mode for this release and while he would not create anything as wonderful or unique as “Nights In White Satin,” his music is still very listenable because of the innate beauty of the songs. “Had To Fall In Love” and “Top Rank Suite” are both very mellow. “Driftwood” is the best of the three as it is a gentle love ballad which was a Hayward trademark by this time.
Ray Thomas created two songs for this release. “I’m Your Man” just disappears but “Under Moonshine” contains a strong lead vocal by him plus some classic harmonies by the other members of the group.
“One Step Into The Light” would be a final spiritual statement by Mike Pinder and his only composition on the album. The music would be more progressive rock than the grandiose sound of his past as he would bring his Moody Blues career to a conclusion.
A fourth Justin Hayward song would close the album. “The Day We Meet Again” would unintentionally or intentionally point toward the future as a new keyboardist was on the way and the grand classical sounds were being left behind.
Make no mistake, Octave remains a very good late seventies album but does fall short of the group’s best work. It was different, more modern, and ultimately a transitional work. Despite all that it still remains a good, if not essential, Moody Blues listen today.