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The Move - Looking On CD (album) cover

LOOKING ON

The Move

 

Proto-Prog

4.12 | 32 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Chicapah
Prog Reviewer
4 stars With the historic arrival of the talented and technically experienced Jeff Lynne in 1970 as the replacement for vocalist Carl Wayne, The Move became a much stronger, more progressive-minded band and the resulting "Looking On" album further cements their rightful place on this site in the proto- prog category. I got hooked on the group way back when after wearing down the grooves on their previous LP, the fun and surprising "Shazam," so I didn't hesitate to buy this one the moment I spotted it perched in the record racks. I wasn't disappointed. Bushy-haired Jeff Lynne was the perfect compliment to Roy Wood's fertile imagination and multi-instrument abilities and together they created music that was daring and distinctive as they freely employed any sound or style that suited their fancy. Yet a very important aspect of The Move didn't change one iota. Their delightful sense of humor remained intact.

Unfortunately, the boys stumble on their way out of the gate because the title cut is the weakest of the bunch. It's a dark Roy Wood dirge that would rival anything by Black Sabbath in that period except that the song has a few things going for it, namely a quirky chord progression and a nifty dual guitar lead. One of the many things that Lynne brought into the band was his underrated piano playing and his ascending flourishes on the ivories add a nice classical touch to the tune. Then, in typical Move fashion, the number takes a 180 degree twist and goes directly into a 5/4 motif where things get more interesting. After a brief (Thank ya Lord!) drum interlude you're treated to a few bars of jazz sitar (Yep, you heard right), a ghostly guitar fed through a volume pedal, then some kind of Persian snake- charmer horn solo (I don't know what else to call it), wah-wah noodling and Wes Montgomery-ish fretboard octaving. It's a weird musical casserole that tastes better than it looks. In fact, if not for Bev Bevan's' dull plodding on the drumkit the track might have been tighter and, therefore, more exciting but that's like hoping you're going to wake up one morning and look like Brad Pitt. Wish all you want, bucko, but it ain't gonna happen. You're stuck with the mug you got and we're stuck with BB on the drums.

In fair defense of Mr. Bevan, however, his only song on the album (and his greatest contribution to mankind) is the next tune, the incredibly heavy "Turkish Tram Conductor Blues." Folks, this is motivating Rock & Roll performed the way God intended. Roy's gutsy, bone-rattling baritone sax doubling Rick Price's low bass notes are a wonder for ears to behold and he also cranks out one of his hottest guitar solos ever. "Oh, come on, old-timer, it's just another rocker" you may say. "I beg to differ, young whipper-snapper," say I, "wait till you experience the Banjar solo." "What the Hell is a Banjar?" you inquire, and well you should. Evidently a Banjar is a hybrid mix of banjo, pedal steel and sitar Roy the Mad Wizzard invented just for this track and chances are it will never be heard again. (In other words, don't ask for it at Guitar Center) The powerfully fat Roy Wood horn section also makes its first appearance in the proceedings as the song roars to its definitive, killer ending.

"What?" is a needed change of pace after that romper stomper and it marks Jeff's writing debut with the group, as well. A dramatic, proggy-sounding composition, it creates a huge chorus of ahhs to serve as a backdrop to the moody vocal melody as it flows past like a mysterious river before transitioning into an instrumental segment in the middle that takes you down some unexpected avenues. Very much a precursor to what he would write for ELO. Next up is Wood's driving "When Alice Comes Back to the Farm," and it ignites with a brittle, eyebrow-raising slide guitar spasm right off the bat to get your attention. These fellas don't have to be told how to rock and this one comes straight at you from the get-go. There's a cool switch into a bluesy shuffle for Roy's guitar ride and another healthy dose of the RW horn ensemble along the way. Ever unpredictable, Wood injects hearty cellos on every turnaround to keep you guessing about what's coming next.

Lynne's "Open Up Said the World at the Door" arrives right out of left field with its jazzy piano introduction and intricate Four Freshmen-on-acid-styled vocal harmonies. Between each of the initial three verses there's a sort of boogie-woogie instrumental section where a sitar, more Cobra- hypnotizing horns, piano and sax each take a ride as the rumbling intensity increases with each go- round. It's fantastic but then "Oh, No!" It can't be! Another drum solo? You gotta be kidding! It sounds more like thoroughbreds hoofing it around the track at the Kentucky Derby. Please, someone make him STOP! Good grief. Okay, it's finally over. After that brief but sloppy barrage of manic tub- thumping anything would be an improvement but the heavy, quasi-metallic riff section is actually quite impressive. There's even an ominous chorus of voices involved, chanting like some torch-toting crowd in a low-budget Satan-worshippers-up-to-no-good flick and there's a phantom-in-the-catacombs- playing-piano vibe on the fadeout. Man, I love this stuff!

It would be difficult if not impossible for me to name my favorite all-time heavy rock & roll ditty but I assure you that Roy's brilliant "Brontosaurus" definitely resides permanently in the top two or three. It's that good. Any song that contains the timeless lyric of "She could really do the Brontosaurus/she could scream the heebie-jeebies for us/she knows what she's really got/'cause she can do it, do it, do it." is on a par with Chuck Berry and Shakespeare in my book. The guitar and bass are so deep they sound like they've been tuned down a step, the band kicks buttocks with wild abandon, Wood plays furious slide guitar like a man possessed and Jeff's piano is blazing away underneath the fray. No wonder it became the group's sixth top ten hit in Britain. You need both this and "Turkish Tram Conductor Blues" in your "get myself up and going" collection. No lie.

Wood's "Feel Too Good" is yet another altered-consciousness gem included on this album that has everything that differentiated The Move from their peers. (It was trippy enough to be included on the "Boogie Nights" movie soundtrack.) In a stroke of luck, Jeff performs drum duty and even though he's not a drummer per se he's a refreshing improvement over BB. (Zippy the Chimp would top Bev, for that matter. I'm just sayin'.) Price's bass tone is exquisitely large, the piano is perky and the high- pitched harmonies that approach Alvin & the Chipmunks' timbre make this an entertaining cruise, to be sure. Once they evolve from the hilarious "What can you do?" refrains into the extended jam session things do get predictably overindulgent as the snake horn, wah-wah guitar and piano all get to stretch their legs but that's just one of the band's peccadilloes that I've learned to live with over the years. My advice is not to analyze it too closely but to just go along for the ride. Just when you think they're done at last they tack on a bizarre, flanged doo-wop-ish vocal piece called "The Duke of Ellington's Lettuce" that's just thrown in for grins before the album trails off with a barroom piano playing alongside some kind of strange spoken-word loop. Eclectic, indeed, but their fans wouldn't have accepted anything less.

Released in the U.S. in early 1971, this recording accurately reflects the fascinating diversification that was going on at that time in rock music. The new genres of symphonic progressive, jazz rock/fusion and even heavy metal were still finding their footing in the industry and bands like The Move were doing their part to stir the pot. It was during the studio sessions for this album that Wood and Lynne began to germinate ideas for their separate ELO project, intending to make orchestral instrumentation a permanent part of an innovative rock group. "Looking On" proved to be pivotal in laying the musical foundation for that grand experiment. For those of you just itchin' to hear something different, this is your ticket. 3.8 stars.

Chicapah | 4/5 |

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