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THE MOVE

The Move

 

Proto-Prog

2.80 | 18 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Chicapah
Prog Reviewer
2 stars In the cinematic classic "This is Spinal Tap" there's a segment during which the mock-documentary takes a look back at the group's simple beginnings by showing a clip of their appearance on a far-out, Shindig-like program, performing their first hit, "(Listen to the) Flower People." It's embarrassingly silly and horribly dated. In real life, however, that scenario hits uncomfortably close to home for The Move's debut LP. Somewhat like their U.S. counterparts, the nightclub act Paul Revere & the Raiders, the band was able to consistently scale the pop charts but no one took them very seriously. Roy, Carl, Trevor, Bev and "Ace" were just young, fledgling musicians playing in Birmingham dives when they got discovered by manager Tony Secunda. He goaded them to garner public visibility by pulling sensational stunts like smashing TV sets on stage with axes and slandering the prime minister with naughty photos. He also encouraged leader Roy Wood to write radio-friendly songs that sounded like what was "happening" on the Top 40. The problem with that tactic is that by the time you get the tune on the airwaves the trend you're aping is already on the way out so you end up following popular culture instead of leading it. Like bubblegum music, a catchy ditty would often get you into the higher echelons of the charts but few would remember the song a year later.

Recorded in late 1967 and released early the following year, this album has very little to do with anything vaguely related to progressive rock and is only listed on this site because of the band's later three studio projects. Its only usefulness is to demonstrate how far the group had to go to be able to make the excellent proto-prog music they ended up creating. So make no mistake, it's not very good and I wouldn't recommend that anyone except die-hard fans shell out their hard-earned moola for it. I bought it a long time ago, thinking their early stuff might be interesting. Wrong. "Then why review an album you don't like?" some may ask. My answer is that in the genre of progressive rock there are few recordings that don't have at least some redeeming qualities to elevate it above the mundane tastes of the rabble of society so most of my critiques tend to praise rather than bury. Therefore, when I get an opportunity to be sarcastic and poke good-natured fun at a band I truly adore I'm not about to let my chance go by. So consider yourself forewarned. This could get ugly.

"Yellow Rainbow," with its 60s apocalypse-loitering-right-around-the-corner message is trite and instantly forgettable. For some unknown reason they opted to start the album off with their bassist, Chris "Ace" Kefford, singing lead vocals (He would never be featured in that role again). I guess the fact that they had two capable lead singers in Carl Wayne and Roy Wood escaped them. One peculiar aspect of the tune is the fact that the background chorus sounds like it was recorded live in the plaza of Munchkin land using the native population. Either that or everyone at the mike was on amphetamines. "Kilroy Was Here" follows and it's a better song but we might as well be comparing dirt clods. Drummer Bev Bevan is firmly in his element on this tune because all he's asked to do is play bass drum and snare and avoid veering too far away from the tempo. "(Here We Go Round) The Lemon Tree" is next and it is bubblegum pop on a par with the artistic contributions of The Archies as far as profundity goes. The inclusion of a string quartet is its only saving grace but the classically- trained musicians involved must have left the studio wondering how their professional reputations had managed to sink to the deck of the Titanic.

In another democratic act of sharing the spotlight and handing the microphone around to every standing member, rhythm guitarist Trevor Burton gets to warble away on their cover of Eddie Cochran's "Weekend," a 50s rockabilly ditty that shows where Joan Jett got her melody ideas for "Bad Reputation." Yet given what we've slogged through so far, it's not half bad. And one should be thankful for that because "Walk Upon the Water" digresses back into Partridge Family territory with its nauseating campfire sing-along spirit and groovy lyrics. Ironically, the horribly off-key bugle blowing mindlessly at the end is the best part of the track. "Flowers in the Rain" was a #2 hit in England and it really makes one wonder what the Brits were stuffing in their pipes at that time because it is pitiful pop complete with cheesy storm sounds scattered throughout. This is the kind of empty fluff that caused punk rock to happen. Their surprisingly credible version of Moby Grape's "Hey Grandma" is an oasis in a desert of absurdity but the tune's less-than-tricky accents prove to be too much for the hit-drum-go- boom approach of Bev on his kit and his sloppy fills keep it from rising above passable. Bless his heart. Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees would've aced it.

The escalator only goes down from there to "Useless Information," a piss-poor social commentary song that makes me wonder if Roy had been listening to too many Donovan records in those days. Be afraid, be very afraid. Speaking of scary, the mike gets passed back to Mr. Bevan next for their nostalgic cover of The Coasters' "Zing! Went the Strings of my Heart" and, as undeveloped as his baritone voice is, it's still a step up from his percussion acumen. This doo-wop number would have been right at home on the great Frank Zappa's "Ruben & The Jets" song list but as such it would've been an obvious put-on. I get the feeling that these guys were serious. Strings as syrupy as the state of Vermont glut the corny "The Girl Outside," an undisguised rip off of Peter & Gordon schlock. Diabetics should avoid listening to it at all costs.

The alarming but fun "Fire Brigade" just may be the best tune on the album when taking its competition into consideration. It also reached #2 on the charts and is probably more deserving of that accomplishment than its predecessor. It at least has an interesting chord progression, a Duane Eddy twangy thang going on, a decent melody and possesses a scintilla of imagination. A harpsichord, the Titanic string quartet and the lack of anything drum-related make "Mist on a Monday Morning" a decent cut despite the quaint but overbearing English upper-class-chamber-in-the-days-of-yore atmosphere. Yet it's almost good and, at this juncture, I'll take it. The tiring journey ends with "Cherry Blossom Clinic" (not to be confused with the exciting extended version they recorded for the "Shazam" LP), an incredibly over-produced mess with a plethora of blaring, tinny brass guaranteed to induce multiple migraines. I'm sure they were trying to be hip and psychedelic in an "All You Need is Love" kinda way but they failed miserably.

Okay, so I might've been a little rough on my boys in my review. I meant no permanent harm and still hope we can have a beer together sometime. The Move is far from being the only band who released a debut album that requires one to suppress the gag reflex while listening to it but theirs is one for the ages. The good news is that they hung in there and got a lot better in a short amount of time. It's also true that several of the songs from their formative hit single days ("Night of Fear," "I Can Hear the Grass Grow" and their sole #1 "Blackberry Way" in particular) are keepers but didn't make it onto this LP. While I hope that many of you sample the later works of The Move and thereby reap the rewards that come with that adventure, my advice is that you start anywhere but here and explore this album only if you want to dig through this group's dirt. So why two stars? I only reserve the dreaded lone star designation for those bands/artists who should know better and should be ashamed of themselves for selling manure. These boys did the best they could with what they had. As JC said, "Forgive them, for they know not what they do."

Chicapah | 2/5 |

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