Here's another random sampling of what's turned up in local dollar bins over the past week.
Michael Pinder: The Promise and Ray Thomas: Hopes, Wishes & Dreams
The Moody Blues have long been a major favorite in the Vinyl Cave, but I've never wandered very too far into the members' various solo outings that began appearing during the group's mid-1970s hiatus. Fairly or not, I've always considered it likely a large part of what makes the group's "Core Seven" albums special -- 1967's Days of Future Passed to 1972's Seventh Sojourn -- was probably the right combination of songwriters, timing and chemistry. This pair of albums from Moodies Michael Pinder and Ray Thomas did not disabuse me of that mostly uninformed opinion.
Pinder was the man behind the Moody Blues' distinctive keyboard textures, courtesy of a self-modified Mellotron. His debut solo disc (and only album until a fairly recent return to music) largely doesn't sound much like his old band at all, until you get to some recited poetry and the long, semi-mystical title track at the end. The Promise was recorded after Pinder relocated to California, and does have sort of a West Coast yacht-rock feel to it (laid-back rock with occasional jazz, reggae and disco inflections). I will say it is overall far less dour than some of his later compositions for the Moodies. And while I may have enjoyed a disc that sounded a bit more like the Moody Blues, kudos to Pinder for trying something different.
Flutist/multi-instrumentalist Thomas' second solo album, Hopes, Wishes and Dreams, will sound more familiar to Moody Blues fans, thanks to Thomas' flute and lead vocals, some blazing guitar leads, and the occasional densely layered harmony vocals. Thomas co-wrote most of the album's tracks with Nicky James, himself an early member of the "Moody Blues 5" and singer who had a couple solo releases on the group's Threshold label. The album definitely maintains that romantic/mystic Moodies vibe, if in a bit more mid-tempo setting -- and missing Pinder's distinctive keyboards. (Threshold THS-17 and 18, 1976)
Soupy Sales: A Bag of Soup
This LP is one from the "it's so weird I have to pick it up" category. Soupy Sales ... singing ... on Motown?!? There is one straight comedy track here, and it's pretty classic, actually: "Muck-Arty-Park," a parody of "Macarthur Park." They go the distance, with a full-on Hitsville production employed for a Weird Al-worthy takedown of the horrible Richard Harris hit. Elsewhere there are some nods to Sales' comedy career, but in the context of straight songs. Aside from "Muck-Arty-Park" there's only two other covers, leaving plenty of room for lost compositions by Motown staffer Ron Miller and, interestingly, some credited to Robert Gordy (a.k.a. Bob Kayli, a.k.a. Berry Gordy's youngest sibling). Sales acquits himself just fine as a singer, as long as he isn't forced to stretch too far beyond his vocal range. This seems like an album that will be discovered and championed by Northern Soul disc jockeys at some point. (Motown MS 686, 1969)