"In the Beginning." "Question." "To Our Children's Children's Children." "Nights in White Satin." "On the Threshold of a Dream."
In their songs, in their lyrics, in their titles - in the very presentation of all of the above, from the sometimes epic, sometimes introspective song arrangements to the eye-catching album jackets - the singer-songwriters of the Moody Blues have always been adept at tapping into a well of imagination. "Wonders of a lifetime," Moody Mike Pinder once sang, "right there before your eyes. Searching with this life of ours, you've got to make the journey out and in.""Time Traveller," the veteran band's new boxed set, is a bountiful summary of their musical exploration, stuffed with 80 tracks comprising almost six hours of music.
Actually, the collection begins in 1967, ignoring the British Invasion lineup that included vocalist-guitarist Denny Laine (later of Wings) and bassist Clint Warwick, and which scored an international hit in 1965 with "Go Now!" before hitting the skids. "Time Traveller" thus chronicles the band's career after Justin Hayward and John Lodge joined Pinder, Ray Thomas and Graeme Edge.
"Time Traveller" takes off with three pre-"Days of Future Passed" cuts, including "Fly Me High," "Love and Beauty" and "Cities," the later the B side of the original "Nights in White Satin" single. "Extras" like this are scattered throughout: Hayward and Lodge's mid-'70s' "Blue Guitar"; "Forever Autumn," Hayward's contribution to the multiartist "War of the Worlds" project, and "Highway," left off "Keys of the Kingdom."
A "bonus" fifth disc (tucked away like a secret treasure) offers "This Is the Moment," a wonderful Hayward vocal included on Mercury Records' "Soccer Rocks the Globe" compilation, and then adds eight songs, including "The Story in Your Eyes" and "Gemini Dream," recorded live and the same evening (Sept. 9, 1992) as the 15 tracks on the album "A Night at Red Rocks with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra." It's virtually "Red Rocks II."
Otherwise, "Time Traveller" flies through the years, surveying the Moodies' remarkable sequence of albums from the late '60s through the early '90s: "Nights in White Satin" and "Tuesday Afternoon" from "Days of Future Passed"; nine of the 13 tracks each from "On the Threshold of a Dream" and "To Our Children's Children's Children," and so on.
The Hayward-Lodge emphasis continues with six cuts from their "Blue Jays" album, from a mid-'70s period when all of the band members were recording solo and outside projects. It's impossible to quibble with their inclusion, but it would have also been justifiable to serve up something by the other Moodies (Thomas' "I Wish We Could Fly" is but one of his majestic solos; Pinder's introspective album "The Promise" has several candidates). And keyboardist Patrick Moraz deserves more than an "additional" credit on the fourth disc - he was a key member of the band, not a hired hand.
Never the darlings of rock critics (most of the band's vital albums get but one-and-a-half or two stars in "The Rolling Stone Album Guide"), objective listeners will admit a certain pomposity and psychedelic-silliness creeps into the Moody Blues' music at times.
Yet their elegant use of acoustics and electronics, and a gift for thoughtful and romantic notions - as well as Hayward's catch-in-the-throat vocals - proved the foundations of a singular career. The band's distinctive sound has time and again earned the Moody Blues new legions of devoted fans. "Time Traveller" will thrill a great many of them.