Fifty Year Friday: Decca Panoramic Sound, Deram; Moody Blues “Days of Future Passed”
The listener of recorded music of the first six decades of the twentieth century will notice the leaps in improvement of recordings over those decades. And though the sound improvements that took place in the sixties were not as dramatic as those before, progress did continue in creating more realistic and/or more engaging recordings.
Decca recording engineers experimented with ways of improving stereo recordings. They created a technique called “Decca Panoramic Sound” which created more depth and sound positioning. Previously, stereo recordings of jazz, folk and rock albums usually ended up with some music on the right channel, some on the left and some in the center (for example, the Beatles’ stereo version of Rubber Soul or Revolver.) This not only made the music sound artificial but created a sense of detachment of parts from a natural whole. With “Decca Panoramic Sound” or Deramic sound, for short, a more natural representation of a performance was possible, achieved primarily through a pairing of four-track tape recorders (later replaced by a true 8 track recording set-up) allowing engineering techniques that could place the content of any track at virtually any point of a left-to-right sound field.
Decca then launched Deram Records to realize this potential for rock, folk and easy-listening recordings. In October 1967, six easy listening albums (“Strings in the Night, “Brass in the Night”, etc.) were released using this new approach. Soon afterwards, as Deram continued to sign more interesting artists, in November 1967, Deram released the orchestra-backed, ambitious album Days of Future Passed by the Moody Blues.
Originally, the story goes, the Deram’s intent was to have the Moody Blues record a version of Dvorak’s New World Symphony. Fortunately, the band had more interest in their own original material and recorded what some people consider to be the first progressive rock album ever and others consider to be the first true rock concept album. (For those that read the post on Nirvana’s Simon Simopath’s concept album, although Nirvana’s album was released a month earlier, The Moody Blue’s album’s first session occurred in May 1967, two months before Nirvana’s recording session for “Simon.” In terms of determining what is progressive rock, that is perhaps a topic for another post.)
Though basically an album of the psychedelic era, with its mellotron, tambura, sitar, spoken poetry, pastoral, mellow musical elements, colorful lyrics, symbolic use of a single day to represent a higher abstraction, and psychotropically-flavored album cover, this is also album that blurs the boundaries between rock and classical music, which along with its use of a song cycle on the life of a given day, high quality music, and musical coherence creating a sense of a single work as opposed to a set of songs, establishes this is a work with more than just a commercial objective: a work with an artistic purpose — a common characteristic found in these musically progressive albums of 1967.
Side 1: The Day Begins 5:45; Dawn: Dawn Is A Feeling 3:50; The Morning: Another Morning 3:40; Lunch Break: Peak Hour 5:21
Side 2: The Afternoon: Forever Afternoon (Tuesday?) 8:25; Evening: The Sun Set: Twilight Time 6:39; The Night: Nights In White Satin 7:41
More complete track listing from Wikipedia
The Moody Blues:
- Mike Pinder – mellotron, piano, tambura, vocals (including spoken)
- Ray Thomas – flutes, percussion, piano, vocals
- Justin Hayward – acoustic & electric guitars, piano, sitar, vocals
- John Lodge – bass, vocals
- Graeme Edge – drums, percussion, vocals
- Peter Knight – conducting, arrangements
- The London Festival Orchestra