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The Move - Shazam CD (album) cover

SHAZAM

The Move

 

Proto-Prog

3.61 | 27 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Chicapah
Prog Reviewer
3 stars I'm so glad this group is included on ProgArchives but, at the same time, they pose a dilemma for me as a reviewer. While I wholeheartedly agree that they belong in the proto-prog bunch, I feel that many listeners might find that categorization to be a stretch. The fact that they were (and are still) relatively unknown in the U.S. presents a sizeable obstacle and the fact that their albums were such a hodgepodge of unrelated styles is yet another. I'll just say their appeal is an acquired taste and leave it at that.

This record in particular holds a special place in my heart because I discovered it shortly after I'd moved out of mom & dad's house, gotten my own apartment and started my life as a free-wheelin' college boy. In 1970 I spent more time in the campus record store than I did in class, having meaningful conversations/arguments about the state of music with the hippie owner and poring over the latest issue of Rolling Stone (Back then it was a respected, viable source of info about rock & roll. Now it's about as relevant as the National Enquirer). It was a glowing review in that rag that made me shell out my meager entertainment funds for this LP and it instantly met my #1 criteria the minute I got it on my turntable: The Move didn't sound like any band I'd ever heard in my life. They were, in a word, different, and that's what I couldn't get enough of.

Their repeated success on the British pop charts, while admirable, hadn't fulfilled their artistic souls. "Shazam" was a drastic departure from that constricting hit single mindset. It's a somewhat schizophrenic and, at times, progressive journey into the realm of extended album cuts. The first track, the rude "Hello Susie," has a big, proggy intro that snaps your brain to attention immediately before it levels out into a straight-ahead rocker that features Rick Price's thick bass guitar tone and Roy Wood's stacked 12-string electric guitars. Whereas most English singers of that era went out of their way to downplay their indigenous accent and sound "American," Roy's gritty native tongue comes barging through unhindered and I applaud him for letting it all hang out. It puts a raw but genuine edge on the song. The flanged harmonies on the chorus belie their psychedelic roots but Bev Bevan's weird drum fills on the accented breaks throw things for a curve. While at first I thought he was just being odd for odd's sake, I soon realized that BB is truly one of the worst drummers on the planet and the logic-defying Achilles heel of not only this group but ELO, as well. (Unfortunately, it's something I obviously have to accept about the band but I'll never, ever understand why he lasted.)

Between the first number and the second you are introduced to the most unusual aspect of this album that has always delighted and intrigued me. They interject spontaneous man-on-the-street interviews that have nothing to do with the music being presented and these unrehearsed snippets lend a levity to the proceedings that is, to my knowledge, totally unique. (The Who scattered faux radio spots on their "Sell Out" LP but these vignettes are something else entirely.) "Beautiful Daughter" is a clever, short ditty with deep acoustic guitars and a string quartet that shines a spotlight on lead vocalist Carl Wayne as he does his best Paul McCartney imitation. Clocking in at less than 3 minutes, it's over before you know it and you're on to the proggiest tune on the album, the incredible "Cherry Blossom Clinic Revisited." After a hilarious spoken-word introduction the group explodes into crisp, layered guitars and a gigantic bass sound as Wayne sings about life in a loony bin. There's never a dull musical moment and the straw-hat barbershop quartet refrain of "lock me in and throw the key away." fits perfectly at the end of every chorus. But it's in the instrumental section that things get really intriguing as they incorporate themes from Bach, Dukas and Tchaikovsky into the brilliantly arranged segment, culminating in a deranged vocal interpretation of one of Johann Sebastian's most recognizable melodies as warbled by a choir of inmates from the asylum. As humorous as it is, I'm still amazed to this day by the high level of musicianship displayed throughout this piece, especially by Wood on the guitars. (By the way, there's not a keyboard to be heard on "Shazam.")

The eleven-minute "Fields of People" is a great example of good news/bad news. First the good. It's a well-written, catchy song that rocks with tight, dense harmonies and slick, clean 12-string guitar work from Roy. What distinguishes it from most every tune I've ever heard, though, is the off-the-cuff spoken tomfoolery going on in and around Wayne's vocal track. Taking themselves too seriously was not one of this band's problems and the eclectic, carefree "why the Hell not?" nature of it all gives the tune a charm that I find irresistible. It's as if they weren't about to let cutting an album get in the way of having a bit of fun. You gotta hear it to believe it. The bad news is that, at about halfway through the number, they segue to a long, ridiculously overindulgent, amateurishly performed, sitar-driven Indian pseudo-raga that should have faded out after about 30 seconds. Instead it drones on. And on. And on. Gradually speeding up to go absolutely nowhere. It has no redeeming qualities at all so consider yourself forewarned and prepared to utilize the "skip" button. (In the days of vinyl I used to have to get up, physically lift the needle and skip over this noisy nonsense as if it was some unexplained ritual required to make it through the LP.)

Their heavy-handed, hard rock version of "Don't Make My Baby Blue" proves beyond a doubt that The Move was no longer some lightweight pop outfit. Here they are a supercharged power trio roaring behind Carl's strong, Paul Rodgers-like vocal with Wood sounding like he's pumping a Les Paul through five stacks of Marshall amplifiers set on 11 and peeling the paint off the studio ceiling. Self-restraint was not one of this group's strong points, however, and the out-of-control wah-wah guitar solo gets to be a bit much in the middle. The final tune is a remake of the Tom Paxton folk classic, "The Last Thing on My Mind," where Roy builds a wall of sound with ringing acoustic and 12 string guitars behind Wayne's cabaret-style crooning. But just when you think it's nothing more than a then-popular standard done up big time, Wood takes you on a psychedelic detour with swirling guitar lines and backwards masking that's as trippy as Pink Floyd on peyote. I won't call it great, but it's definitely interesting and memorable.

The remastered version includes 9 cover songs recorded live from the stage of the famous Marquee Club circa 1968 that only goes to show that The Move did their finest work in the confines of the studio. In concert they come off as a British garage band at best and the poor fidelity doesn't do them any favors. The tunes are a nostalgic curiosity, nothing more, and don't hold up to repeated listens.

In the history of progressive rock music I doubt that the playful "Shazam" had much influence on anybody in the genre. However, for the group it was a giant step up from the Top 40 mentality that dominated the recordings that came before and laid the groundwork for more challenging undertakings in the future. It will always remind me of some of the best years of my life so I cherish it for what it is, warts and all. It was Roy Wood's last project before saying farewell to Carl Wayne and joining forces with Jeff Lynne, and it offers hints of the proggier direction he was about to set out on with the final two Move albums and onward to the adventurous debut of The Electric Light Orchestra.

Chicapah | 3/5 |

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