February 1999

The Moody Blues - Question of Balance
Mobile Fidelity UDCD 737
Originally released: 1970
Remaster released: 1998

by Greg Smith

Original Quality **1/2
Remaster Quality ***

[Reviewed on Gold CD]"Question" started out as two songs, one fast, one slow. Moody Blues songwriter Justin Hayward wasn't particularly happy with either one, apparently, but the combination has become one of the group's most popular tunes. I have this recurring vision of Hayward starring in a commercial where he's struggling at composing one night. While working on the duo of melodies and having a drink, he has a revelation, bangs his beer can on his guitar, and combines the two songs into one. Despite all the ideas like this one I present, I have yet to convince Anheuser-Busch that they should provide me with free beer in return for working on their advertising campaigns. After DAS hooks me up with his friends at Molson, they'll be sorry.

[Hiccup] Where was I? Oh, yeah, listening to the new release of A Question of Balance from Mobile Fidelity. While "Question" appears on a number of Moody hits collections, they seem to re-record the song every time. So I grabbed the original CD release [Decca/Threshold 820 211-2] and started listening. Note that Decca has remastered this one themselves as well back in '97, but I haven't heard that version myself yet.


  • Decca: For a 1970 recording and an old CD, this is surprisingly clean. A rare well-defined acoustic guitar and solid bass round out a much better-sounding song than you'd normally expect just looking at the release date.
  • MoFi: There's much more high-frequency detail on this one, with an enormous improvement in the sense of recording space. The big bass note at 2:20 is solidified a bit, but overall the already ample low-end isn't improved all that much.

"How Is It (We Are Here)"

  • Decca: Compared with the previous song, there's a big improvement in how the lead vocals sound here, with well-rendered reverberation.
  • MoFi: Minor refinements include somewhat more precise percussion.

"Don't You Feel Small"

  • Decca: It's compressed more than earlier tracks; hard to get excited about this song with the old disc.
  • MoFi: The breathy, distant, ethereal vocals really shine through on this remastered disc. You can hear all the individual singers far more distinctly.

"The Balance"

  • Decca: This one is somewhat noisy, and something in the recording or mastering chain makes vocals like "Just open your eyes" sound overdriven.
  • MoFi: Interestingly, there's even more hiss and noise on the remaster. While it was only obvious during the quiet opening on the original, this version lets you pick it out at several points during the song. But what you get in return is much clearer high frequencies that lead to a more enjoyable focus. The vocals are still a touch sibilant, but they're better.

The already complete liner notes of the Decca release are supplemented by Mobile Fidelity with a four-page band interview conducted by John Reed in 1997. The discussion of the album's context is rather interesting.

I didn't say a whole lot about the remastering of A Question of Balance because it's somewhat subtle. Decca's old CD holds up shockingly well when compared directly against the recent Mobile Fidelity remastering. I found the subjective improvements less compelling than that I noted when looking at Long Distance Voyager. Still, both audiophiles and Moody Blues collectors should find something like to like about this latest release. What I'd really like to see Mobile Fidelity take on now that they've finished with the "classic seven" titles from the Moodies is the excellent Hayward/Lodge collaboration Blue Jays. Now that's an abysmal-sounding CD. Those who don't upgrade their old copies of A Question of Balance will be missing out on having the best available sound quality, but the original disc is still a satisfying listen.