By the time of Sur la mer
, Ray Thomas was out of The Moody Blues, which meant no more brief flutetations (although the band had rarely utilised his flute enough anyway), and no lyrics about dancing frogs or unicorns playing harps. And, with Patrick Moraz never writing anything, along with an absence of bad Graeme Edge poetry, this is an album full of Justin Hayward and John Lodge songs, either written collaboratively or as singular entities.
However, especially on the first half, what they have written find them at their melodious best. The opening "I Know You're Out There Somewhere" is a follow-up to "Your Wildest Dreams" from The Other Side of Life
, and is just as streamlined and lovely, even though it's stretched out to a slightly too long six and a half minutes here.
Then "Want to Be With You", "River of Endless Love", and "No More Lies" combine the balladry of "Be With You" and "Lies" with the uptempo pop of "Endless Love", before Lodge produces one of the band's best rockers, "Here Comes The Weekend". After that is Hayward's delightful "Vintage Wine", a song which almost channels Thomas, and which would've fit nicely alongside the band's 60s material.
After tha track however, things go off the rails a bit. Not that any of the last four songs are bad, but it's like they were losing a bit of inspiration, and by the time of Hayward's moody conclusion "Deep", one wonders if the record has outstayed its welcome slightly.
The album is dominated by Moraz's keyboards, and they sound tacky at times, fine at others, while the lyrics range from the fair to pretty limp, although they're inoffensive. But overall, Sur la mer
demonstrates that The Moody Blues (even if essentially just a duo by this stage) still had the ability to bring out effortless melodies played in a skilled and dignified manner.
Even if there are no unicorns playing harps. Rated:
by Reviewer: The Doctor