The Moody Blues returned in June of 1988 with their fourth and last studio release of the 1980s. While the group would tone down the over the top synthesizer sound that dominated The Other Side Of Life, they would move in a decidedly pop direction.
Justin Hayward and John Lodge would write or co-write all ten songs. They would try to create a commercial sound suitable for the late eighties and while Sur la Mer would sell reasonably well it would fall short of the success of their last release. It would also be their last album to crack the American top forty.
When looking at the album credits Ray Thomas is nowhere to be found. While he would still be an important part of their touring act, he would not contribute to this release. He and the long departed Mike Pinder would be missed as it was their creative vision that gave The Moody Blues much of their uniqueness. Without them the group would gradually become an average, or to be fair a little above average, eighties pop/rock band.
All was not lost on Sur la Mer. “I Know You’re Out There” became a hit single. It was a sequel to the 1986 song “Your Wildest Dreams.” The lyrics pick up where the first song of remembering your first love left off. She is still out there waiting to be found. “I Want To Be With You” is a pleasant love ballad. The music may be a little over bearing but the harmonies are right on. Finally John Lodge’s “Love Is On The Run” features a strong vocal and a nice keyboard foundation for once.
The loss of Thomas and Pinder are no more apparent than on the songs “Vintage Wine” and “Breaking Point.” They both contain classic style Moody Blues lyrics which are lost in a simplistic pop sound. Where are the flute and mellotron when you really need them?
The rest of the album struggles. “Deep” by Justin Hayward has some interesting textures but ultimately is brought down by the basic and average instrumentals. Songs such as “River Of Endless Love,” “No More Lies,” “Here Comes The Weekend,” and “Miracle” all are forgettable eighties fare.
Sur la Mer ultimately suffers from a lack of vision and concept. They spent their energy on trying to create a commercial sound while ignoring the strengths that had gained them their popularity. If you plan on exploring The Moody Blues catalogue there are a lot of better places to start.