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Lodge, John: Natural Avenue (Reissue)

With the Moody Blues seemingly on hiatus during the mid 70s, it was only to be expected that their many key members would begin to put their own name on the front of records, in hope of capturing the imagination of the Moodies none to inconsiderable fanbase. Hence 1977 saw the bass playing, guitar strumming, singer John Lodge group together Kenney Jones, Chris Spedding, Mel Collins, Mik Weaver and many more, for his one and only solo album, Natural Avenue.

Considered the Rock to Hayward's Pop in the Moodies, expectations for Natural Avenue were unsurprisingly, that it would be at the heavier end of the Rock/Pop/Prog scale that the band were known for. So the unobtrusive mix of Electric Light Orchestra, Roxy Music, The Beatles and, of course Moody Blues that tumbled forth was at first a bit of a letdown. In fact some still view Natural Avenue as something of a lame duck. However with a stunningly effective remaster this album springs into life, revealing a neat line in intricate Pop 'n' Roll with strings, brass and hooks aplenty. Yes, the likes of "Summer Breeze, Summer Song" or "Who Could Change" are pretty light in outlook, the latter reminding of Nilsson at his most introspective, while the former delivers a similar sentiment in a more jaunty manner, reminding of Roger Glover's Butterfly Ball. However both, without ever really getting above walking pace, capture the imagination through performances that are filled with passion, and arrangements which keenly hold the attention. "Broken Dreams, Hard Road" however, sounds far too chipper for its title, while "Rainbow", in truth, comes across as something that didn't quite make the Moodies cut. However "Children Of Rock 'n' Roll" again illustrates the intricacies of blending guitars with strings and Lodge's always engaging vocals, while resolutely refusing to come too close to anything either Rocking or Rolling; something the title track finally achieves with ease, becoming the best song on show as it does so.

For this Cherry Red reissue, the A, "Street Cafe", and B, "Threw It All Away", sides of a 1980 Lodge standalone single are also included. The pair fitting neatly and unobtrusively onto the end of the original ten song set of Natural Avenue both in terms of style and sound. The re-master from Alberto Parodi really is quite impressive; the separation between the instruments bringing a welcome clarity, while the drums seem to hit from every direction, impacting with a surprising thump as they do so. Add to that an interesting, if short, introduction from Lodge himself and a booklet where the art (from Roger Dean) is given the respect it deserves and Natural Avenue becomes an intriguing opportunity to look at one of Rock's most enduring characters outside of his natural surrounds, even if it doesn't always quite live up to expectations.

Track Listing
1. Intro To Children Of Rock n' Roll
2. Natural Avenue
3. Summer Breeze, Summer Song
4. Carry Me
5. Who Could Change
6. Broken Dreams, Hard Road
7. Piece Of My Heart
8. Rainbow
9. Say You Love Me
10. Children Of Rock n' Roll
11. Street Cafe
12. Threw It All Away

Added: March 22nd 2014
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Natural Avenue at Cherry Red
Hits: 2353
Language: english

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