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Info 101: Musicbits 77: All hail Justin Hayward's spirits live

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"SPIRITS LIVE" by JUSTIN HAYWARD" (Live at the Buckhead Theater, Atlanta, Georgia). Blu-ray by Eagle Vision (www.eagle-rock.com). Available now on www.amazon.com, www.bestbuy.com, www.electricfetus.com

His voice propelled The Moody Blues (www.moodybluestoday.com) to fame and fortune on their musical journey which began in he late 1960s. He is Justin Hayward (www.justinhayward.com), the best rock vocalist and singer of his time. He is also one of the best and most prolific songwriters, revealing a deeply emotional and sensitive side to a man who is, above it all, a nice guy. His latest solo album, Spirits of the Western Sky, provides the focus for this concert film (and tour) with seven songs from it included in the playlist.

The concert is performed by Hayward with support from fellow Moody Blues keyboardists Alan Hewitt (www.alanhewitt.com) and Julie Ragins (www.julieragins.com). New guitarist Mike Dawes (www.mikedawes.com) plays lead guitar opposite Hayward. It takes a few minutes to get used to the lack of bass and drums but Hayward wanted to play small, intimate venues where he could play the songs the way he recorded them in his music room--acoustically. Every nuance of the vocals, every note by the musicians all shine through without being washed away by the drums.

The Moodies' songs are not just stripped-down versions of some hits. Rather they are re-arranged and re-worked versions of songs that mean a lot to Hayward. There are the songs everyone expects, including "Tuesday Afternoon," "Your Wildest Dreams," "Question," "Nights in White Satin" and "I Know You're Out There Somewhere." Hayward stays faithful to the original versions, making very few adjustments.

Hayward also included some of his favorites which rarely show up in Moodies' playlists. "It's Up To You" from Every Good Boy Deserves Favour is almost new to any of his playlists. It's coupled with "Lovely to See You", an easy pairing. "New Horizons" and "Land of Make Believe", both from Seventh Sojourn, are equally rare and these acoustic versions are making their debut. "Forever Autumn" from Jeff Wayne's production of War of the Worlds rounds out the 'oldies' part of the set.

The new material is evenly blended into the program, ranging from upbeat rock to dramatic ballads to a taste of country. For Hayward, the show is like having friends round to listen to music. In his affable manner, he shares anecdotes about his mindset for each song. He's like an old friend sharing part of his life. His distinctive voice is as strong as ever and these new songs seem like standards because they are performed with such care.

The obvious reason for that is the fact that Hayward has worked with Hewitt since 2010 and Ragins since 2006. Ragins has worked behind and beside a wide variety of performers in her career. Hewitt came to fame with the hard rock band Warrant and also records and tours as a solo act when he has time. Dawes is making a big impact with his virtuoso finger-style in the same vein as Tommy Emmanuel. At 24, his career is just starting and this exposure will certainly help. He is also Hayward's opening act.

The Blu-ray of this concert offers a one-hour behind-the-scenes film unlike any other on any other disc. It is directed (like the concert) b y David Minasian. The entire package is a treasure chest of memories old and new and not to be missed.

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