Justin Hayward delivers Moody Blues hits, solo gems on DVD

Justin Hayward has been shuffling stripped-down acoustic shows with full-blown Moody Blues concerts for the last couple years now.  In 2013 Hayward issued the well-regarded solo album Spirits of the Western Sky, followed by a live disc and tours promoting a Moodys box set.

Not bad for a bard on the cusp of his seventieth go around the sun.

More than “just a singer in a rock and roll band,” Hayward is now pounding pavement behind his first-ever best-of compilation, All the Way.

The collection features lovely new studio cut “The Wind of Heaven” to whet appetites for the fare Hayward originally issued on solo efforts Songwriter (1977), Night Flight (1980), Moving Mountains (1985), and The View from the Hill (1996).

Director David Minasian (Camel: Curriculum Vitae) shadowed Hayward on tour in 2014-15 with a capable camera crew, documented a few shows, and directed the official music video for “Wind” during his off days.  The result of that collaboration, Justin Hayward: Live at the Capitol Theatre, showcases Minasian’s considerable skills as a filmmaker as much as it testifies to Hayward’s talent as songwriter and performer. 

Taped in October 2014 at the Capitol in Clearwater, Florida, the DVD presents an intimate evening with Hayward as the ever-boyish balladeer peels some poignant Spirits songs, dusts off a few old solo bits, and delivers a couple familiar Moody hits for an enthralled capacity crowd.

It’s not a solo engagement in the strictest sense of the word, however:  The black-clad Hayward is joined onstage by longtime abettor Julie Ragins (keys, vocals, percussion) and 24-year old YouTube sensation Mike Dawes (guitar), who decorates the Moody-plus mix with splashes of sonic color.

Hayward greets Florida fans by stretching back to Days of Future Past for opener “Tuesday Afternoon” and to A Question of Balance and On the Threshold of a Dream for an effective mashup of “It’s Up to You / Lovely to See You.”  Ragins augments Hayward’s six and twelve-string acoustic guitar parts with tasteful chords (and leads) on a Yamaha Motif synth.  When Hayward welcomes Dawes “back” for the latter medley, it’s because the guitarist was the support act, too.

The storytelling starts with “In Your Blues Eyes,” a Spirits entry Hayward says “kicked it all off” and convinced him he had to make a proper album.  Dawes adds a bit of country twang to the proceedings on a Tom Anderson-modified Telecaster, his lengthy fingers arching over the frets.

Hayward reports that Every Good Boy Deserves Favour ambassador “You Can Never Go Home” was inspired by changes in the Moody Blues dynamic.

“We went from boys to men in the first few years,” he reminisces.

Elegant, optimistic “One Day, Someday” meshes nicely with “Eastern Sun”—a classical guitar passage in homage to Hayward’s boyhood spent gazing out a bedroom window with his brother.  Sad but pretty “December Snow” juxtaposes changes of season with the ebb-and-flow of a broken relationship. 

Hayward tells onlookers that “What You Resist Persists” was begotten of a Nashville session with seasoned bluegrass players, while melancholy “Forever Autumn” arose from a partnership with American producer Jeff Wayne, who turned H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds into a musical.

1980s Moodys chart-toppers “Your Wildest Dreams” and “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere” sound terrific reduced to just a pair of guitars, Ragins’ understated synth, and Hayward’s earnest vocals.  Likewise, fifty-year old “Nights in White Satin” still sends a chill up the spine.

Bonus materials include Minasian’s horses-and-homesick soldier-populated “Wind of Heaven” clip, along with backstage footage of Hayward performing Blue Jays (1975) offerings “Blue Guitar” and “Who Are You Know” all by his lonesome.