The pre-psychedelic Moody Blues were represented in England by this album, which is steeped in American soul. The covers include songs by James Brown, Willie Dixon, and Chris Kenner, plus the chart-busting "Go Now" (originally recorded by Bessie Banks), interspersed with a brace of originals by lead singer/guitarist Denny Laine and keyboardist Mike Pinder, and one Jeff Barry/Ellie Greenwich number, "I've Got a Dream." The shouters, like "I'll Go Crazy" and "Bye Bye Bird," will be the big surprises, showcasing the rawest sound by the group, but "I've Got a Dream" shows a lyrical, harmony-based sound that is vaguely reminiscent of the Four Tops (which is ironic, as that group later cut a single of the latter-day Moody Blues original "So Deep Within You"), while "Thank You Baby," a Laine/Pinder original, offers them doing a smooth, dance-oriented number with some catchy hooks. The group's sound is good and loud, and Laine was a phenomenal singer, though the band lacked the charisma and built-in excitement of such rivals as the Rolling Stones and the Animals. This album is more interesting than its American equivalent, but also not as good, since it leaves off such single sides as "Steal Your Heart Away" and the Pinder/Laine "From the Bottom of My Heart," the latter being the best side this version of the group ever recorded.
[Packaged as a mini clamshell box, Esoteric's double-disc 50th Anniversary edition of The Magnificent Moodies is overstuffed with extras. First, it has the original album presented in mono, and the rest of the first disc is supplemented by the non-LP As & Bs of the corresponding singles of the time, plus such rarities as a previously unreleased first version of "Go Now!," and "People Gotta Go," from the French EP Boulevard de la Madeleine. Disc two is where a lot of the rarities come in: previously unreleased sessions from 1964-1966, the live-in-the-studio "Saturday Club" sessions, and, finally, the 1966 Denny Cordell sessions. Apart from the last stretch of Cordell-produced sessions, which bear the fuzz-drenched, stylish swing of mid-'60s London, this is a deep dive into the Moodies at their R&B peak, and while it's certainly for the devoted, there's no question this will satisfy.]