Eight years had passed since the release of Keys Of The Kingdom. The century was coming to an end and The Moody Blues were now about 35 years into their career. Strange Times found them far from their orchestral sound defined by their classic seven albums. The music on this release can be considered pop as it is very light and, for the most part, mellow.
Like many of The Moody Blues albums, beginning with 1983’s The Present, it would be measured against their best work and be found wanting. I find it a better listen than their previous several releases. Maybe I was getting used to the new Moody Blues or perhaps I was just growing older along with them.
Justin Hayward would dominate the release as he would write or co-write eight of the fourteen tracks. While most of his creations were ballads and love songs, there were some exceptions which form the foundation of the album’s best work. “English Sunset” is the only track to make use of a grand synthesizer sound and lush orchestration. It clearly stands out from the rest of the album and makes one wish that more of this type of song would have been included. “Sooner Or Later (Walkin’ On Air)” has a nice upbeat pop sound. I believe “All That Is Real Is You” would have made a successful single in earlier times.
John Lodge would contribute four solo compositions as well as three more with Hayward. His solo work here would be some of the most forgettable of his career. “Words You Say,” “Forever Now,” “Wherever You Are,” and “Love Don’t Come Easy” all struggle just to be average, exhibiting none of the fire or beauty that marks his best songs.
Ray Thomas would retire from the group several years after this release. “My Little Lovely” may be his Moody Blues studio swan song. It is a sad farewell as his voice and flute float over the instrumental backing. It is a short reminder — the song is under two minutes — of his many contributions to the group over the years. Graeme Edge’s “Nothing Changes” concludes the album by exploring the recurring theme of looking back. It is a bit pretentious but such was welcome in this case as it provided a nice counterpoint to most of the album’s music.
Strange Times remains another of the forgotten releases in their catalogue. There are certainly much better albums to occupy your time when turning to The Moody Blues. Every once in awhile, however, if you just want to kick back and relax, then give this one a try.