Band members Related acts
- Justin Hayward -- vocals, guitar, keyboards, drums,
- The Blue Jays
Rating: 2 stars **
Country/State: Swindon, UK
Grade (cover/record): VG+ / VG+
Comments: gatefold sleeve
GEMM catalog ID: not yet listed
As a member of The Moody Blues (he replaced Denny Laine), Justin Hayward's written some amazing material and enjoyed sales and commercial recognition most bands can only dream of. At the same time his lack of solo success has always puzzled me.
Although he'd released a couple of instantly obscure pre-Moodies 45s, Hayward's debut album didn't come out until 1976. Most people probably wouldn't be surprised to learn that "Songwriter" sounded a lot like a Moody Blues album. Released by Deram (which happened to be the Moodies' label) and produced by Tony Clark (who happened to be the Moodies long time producer), the album was a true one-man show with all ten tracks credited to Hayward. He also handled most of the instruments. While Hayward's pleasant voice and the general feel of material like 'Songwriter (Part 1)' and 'One Lonely Night' was instantly recognizable as pseudo-Moodies material there were also some subtle differences. Among those differences, tracks like 'Tightrope' and 'Lay It On Me' were relatively streamlined compared to Hayward's earlier catalog. Gone for the most part were the Moodies' patented over-orchestrated arrangements; replaced in several cases with Ken Freeman somewhat cheesy synthesizers. Hayward also dabbled in a tougher sound. Mind you nobody would confuse this for a Black Sabbath outing, but 'Songwriter (Part 2)' and 'Doin' Time' demonstrated that he could write a credible rock song. The album also displayed Hayward's often overlooked skills as a lead guitarist ('').
I stumbled on some interesting comments on the album from Hayward: "Dave Holland, Terry Rowley and Mel Galley from the Threshold group "Trapeze" [Threshold was the record group the Moodies set up under the contract with London Records] were the backbone and strongest supporters of "Songwriter". I had heard of the wonderful Ken Freeman, the supreme master of the synthesizer, and when I met him I was instantly taken aback by his gentle spirit, his true emotion in everything he played and his capacity to give himself to every track. Tony Clarke was as dedicated as ever and his control over the recording process was masterful. I got to play a lot of instruments myself (piano, keyboards, guitars and even drums), and the album became my life for several months. Peter Knight likes to use his own rhythm section on the tracks he arranged, but always had me play acoustic guitar live in the middle of it all (a bit daunting). If I needed a sound that we couldn't play, (as on Nostradamus) we would just call a famous classical musician (often more adaptable than pop session musicians) and they never failed to get into the spirit. I felt I had waited all my life to make this album. The biggest thrill I had after "Songwriter" was released was when a famous guitarist I met told me that he had bought the record because he loved it. Happy days!"
Three singles were pulled from the album, though only one saw an American release - 'Country Girl' b/w 'Songwriter (Part 2)' (Deram catalog number 5N 7542).
"Songwriter" track listing:
1.) Tightrope (Justin Hayward) -
2.) Songwriter (Part 1) (Justin Hayward) -
3.) Songwriter (part 2) (Justin Hayward) -
4.) Country Girl (Justin Hayward) -
5.) One Lonely Room (Justin Hayward) -
2.) Stage Door (Justin Hayward) -
3.) Raised On Love (Justin Hayward) -
4.) Doin' Time (Justin Hayward) -
5.) Nostradamus (Justin Hayward) -
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