It’s easy enough to focus on the intimate readings here of familiar Moody Blues favorites, but Spirits … Live (due August 19, 2014 via Eagle Rock) also draws interesting, previously unheard contours around Justin Hayward’s newer songs — with “One Day Someday” as a standout example.
Most involving of all is how confidentially open Hayward himself sounds in these wide open spaces. After all, throughout his career with the Moody Blues, he’s consistently involved himself in broadly sketched productions — be that the muscular orchestral sweep of “Nights in White Satin,” the synthesized sheen of “Your Wildest Dreams” or, actually, his original take on “One Day Someday,” from last year’s Spirits of the Western Sky.
Joined by only fellow guitarist Mike Dawes and keyboardist/vocalists Alan Hewitt and Julie Ragins at the Atlanta’s Buckhead Theatre a year ago on August 17, 2013, Hayward strips away the studio version’s more mechanical flourishes, revealing something deeper and far more lastingly connective. Hayward also tackles “Question,” “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere” and “Tuesday Afternoon,” as well as a number of other tracks from Spirits, his first solo album since The View from the Hill in 1996.
Deep within it all, there clearly always lurked something that sounded like Spirits … Live. That is to say, just a guy and his guitar. We knew that, intuitively. Still, to hear it is another thing entirely. Hayward has never sounded closer to the material, or closer to us. It’s a thrilling revelation.