"SPIRITS OF THE WESTERN SKY" by Justin Hayward
Justin Hayward responded to an ad for a guitarist position in the Animals way back in 1966. Eric Burdon, the vocalist for that band, decided that Hayward was wrong for his style of music but his friend, Mike Pinder (Moody Blues), also needed a guitarist/singer so Eric passed on Hayward's tapes and photos to Pinder. Hayward replaced the departing Denny Laine and, joined within days by bassist/singer John Lodge, formed the classic Moody Blues lineup.
Hayward's soaring vocals and sentimental lyrics gave that band its distinctive sound through hit after hit from their first seven albums. All five members sang but it was Hayward's tunes that opened the doors. "Nights in White Satin", "Voices in the Sky", "The Actor", "Watching and Waiting", "New Horizons", "Question", etc. He demonstrated a flair for that style of spotlight anthemic ballad that stays in your mind forever and made the most of it.
"Spirits of the Western Sky" is a continuation of the best of his solo style which he began in 1975 with John Lodge on "Blue Jays". "The Western Sky" is mindful of "This Morning" from "Blue Jays". "One Day Someday" is a throwback to "Never Comes the Day". "In Your Blue Eyes" takes one back to "New Horizons". You get the point by now. Hayward has remained faithful to himself and the tradition he has established. All of these new songs have their own emotional flow but are closely related to Hayward's past which is also our past.
Hayward's voice is still strong and unwavering, his guitar skills are better and more dominating than ever and his flair for constructing a song is beyond genius. Even the playful country tune "It's Cold Outside of Your Heart" has a wonderful tie in to "Country Girl" from "Songwriter". Despite all the history and all the memories, none of his material could ever be considered the "same old same old".
Of course, every rose has its thorn. Perhaps Justin imbibed too many psychedelics at some point. It's the only way to explain the unfortunate inclusion of the lame dance mixes of "Out There Somewhere". These are long electronic configurations of the chorus of "I Know You're Out There Somewhere" which conclude this album. There's no need for this kind of silliness on an otherwise superb album. That's what CD5 singles are for. They don't detract from the presentation too badly but they won't appear on the re-recorded version that one will play...and play...and play...