American documentary filmmaker Murray Lerner covered the legendary 1970 Isle of Wight Festival, but it took 25 years for the public to see the film, which was titled 'Message to Love,' at the 1995 San Jose Film Festival. Since then, Lerner has issued releases spotlighting acts who were on the bill: The Who ('Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970'); Jimi Hendrix ('Blue Wild Angel'); Miles Davis ('Miles Electric - A Different Kind of Blue'); Jethro Tull ('Nothing is Easy: Live at the Isle of Wight 1970'); and Emerson, Lake & Palmer ('The Birth Of A Band: Isle of Wight 1970'). The Moody Blues joined their fellow classic rockers in 2009 with the release of 'Threshold Of A Dream: Live at the Isle of Wight 1970' on DVD, which has now found its way to Blu-ray.
Intercut with footage of the performance, 'Threshold' begins by presenting a 20-minute biography of the band featuring individual interviews recorded in 2008 of drummer Graeme Edge, guitarist Justin Hayward, bassist John Lodge, and former keyboardist Mike Pinder, who left the band in 1979. The Moody Blues started out as a blues-based band as their name indicates, influenced like so many of their peers by American blues. A clip from 1965 shows them playing "Hey, Bo Diddley" with former member flutist Ray Thomas on harmonica.
The band decided to write and perform material they identified with. What really made their music stand out was Pinder on a Mellotron, a keyboard device that played short audiotapes, usually of orchestral sounds. Their music had a psychedelic influence and was a precursor to progressive rock bands, particularly the subgenre symphonic rock. Hayward talks about the band’s shared experiences seeking enlightenment. Edge laughs about it because his assessment was they "were just getting wrecked. It felt like our minds were expanding."
The 1970 festival had 600,000 people in attendance and The Moody Blues had just released their sixth album, "A Question of Balance". They performed 14 songs that day and the entire set is available as a CD. Unfortunately, not all of the film footage survived. This becomes evident during "The Sunset" where the concertgoers are shown at different times of day as opposed to the band playing on stage like the previous five songs.
The liner notes by Michael Heatley reveal "Never Comes The Day" and "The Sunset" aren’t presented in the order they occurred. In fact it’s questionable whether the footage from the former is actually taken from the performance of the song. It’s cobbled together from a bunch of very short clips quickly edited together that don’t match what’s happening. The sunlight fluctuates; there are lots of shots from behind the band; and when Thomas can be heard playing the harmonica, he is seen without it.
Five other songs aren't paired with visuals of the band playing them at the concert that day. The spoken-word piece "The Dream" is played during the opening. "Are You Sitting Comfortably" doesn’t play long before fading under the interviews. "Minstrel Song" is heard during a segment that shows what’s going on outside the festival as the kids bang on the walls trying to get in. A small portion of "Have You Heard" can be heard before Hayward talks to an off-camera Lerner about his just learning this footage existed. The encore of "Ride My See Saw" becomes a montage of the band singing the song over the years at different venues.The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Eagle Entertainment brings 'The Moody Blues – Live At The Isle of Wight Festival 1970' to high-definition on a BD-25 Blu-ray disc housed inside a standard blue keepcase. There are liner notes. The disc goes directly to the menu screen without any promotional advertisements. The disc is Region A.
'Threshold' is presented with 1080i/AVC encoded transfer at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The video can be divided into three parts: the modern-day interviews, the band playing on stage, and other goings-on related to the festival.
The interviews were shot with high-def video and look very sharp. Colors have bright hues and the shots have good contrast. Most of the images are sharp but there was a brief bit during a segment with John Lodge where focus went soft as the camera zoomed in. The fleshtones look a tad pinker than they should.
The Moody Blues performance is the poorest looking footage as a result of the event not being staged to be filmed. Cameras in front of the band aren't close to the stage, and lack proper lighting, which contributes to the grain seen. The source in these instances has dull hues, soft focus, and little depth. There's also minor dirt and scratches throughout. On the plus side, there has been no digital manipulation to artificially improve the material.
Everything away from the concert stage looks better than expected. As the film opens, brightly colored tents litter the landscape. Those vivid colors transport to crowd shots as people's t-shirts pop and many of the individuals in different shots are clearly defined with sharp edges and depth. It's unfortunate the stage couldn't have been recorded in the same manner to give the high definition something to work with.
The audio comes in three options: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1, and PCM Stereo. As is typical with Eagle releases, the Dolby Digital has poor dynamics and is the lesser of the three.
The interview subjects can be clearly heard out the front channels. Making up for the flaws in the video, the music sounds majestic and magical, especially the wondrous Mellotron. All the instruments are distinct as the music makes great use of the surrounds. Between songs, the appreciative audience can also be heard in the front and rear speakers, helping to immerse the listener in the moment. The highs of the Thomas' flute and the lows of Lodge's bass demonstrate a very good dynamic range and well balanced elements.
There are no extras.
Fans of The Moody Blues will enjoy being transported back 40 years to see and especially hear the band at one of the high points in their career. Though the video of the performance is lacking, consideration should be given to the fact that it was preserved at all. The quality of the audio should be enough. For those new to the band, a live performance might not be the best introduction but a rental is highly recommended for the adventurous because there aren't many bands that sound like this.