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The Move - Looking On CD (album) cover

LOOKING ON

The Move

 

Proto-Prog

4.17 | 32 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars She could really do the brontosaurus

The Move experienced many changes after the release of their second album "Shazam". Unsure of the direction the band were headed in, singer Carl Wayne departed to be replaced by Jeff Lynne. Lynne had followed a similar path to Roy Wood around their home town of Birmingham, UK. Not only did he bring with him his vocal and guitar talents, but he also shared Roy Wood's ability to write a commercially appealing song. As it later transpired, Lynne also shared Wood's vision for what would become the Electric Light Orchestra.

The arrival of Lynne coincided with the band moving even deeper into the heavy rock territories they began to explore on "Shazam", indeed they would soon tour with fellow Birmingham outfit Black Sabbath. Around this time, the distinction between songs recorded as singles, and those recorded as album tracks became far more blurred than it had been up to this point. The release of tracks such as "Brontosaurus" and "When Alice comes back to the farm" from "Looking on" raised many eyebrows such was their contrast with the sing-a-long pop which had preceded them. Those who had invested in "Shazam" were far less surprised of course, but as that album (and "Looking on") failed to trouble any album charts, the secret had until then remained largely intact.

With the arrival in the band of Lynne, Wood decided to leave much of the lead guitar playing to him. Wood therefore tried his hand a wide range of instruments including cello, oboe, sax, etc., plus a modified form of banjo called a banjar. His ability to adapt to virtually any instrument would stand him in good stead for future projects. The sudden proliferation of instruments other than guitar also led to this album having far more in common with the work of ELO, and indeed sounding more progressive than the two previous albums.

The album opens with the title track, a heavy cornucopia of styles ranging from blues to eastern, to prog and calling at all points in between. The track runs to almost 8 minutes, and features a diverse instrumental break which offers an early introduction to the new sounds. The similarities between what we hear here and ELO's debut are abundantly obvious from the start. Things get even heavier for "Turkish Tram conductor blues", a wonderfully muddled wall of sound with more orthodox driving guitar. The aforementioned banjar and sax are the featured instruments for the solos on the track, the songs basis, if you can find it behind the wall being blues rock number. Although wirtten by Bev Bevan, this song actually points the way towards Wood's post ELO venture in Wizzard more than it does towards ELO.

Jeff Lynne's first composition here, and indeed his first for the band, "What" is pure early ELO. The song is a slower reflective number with ah-ah backing vocals and a distorted lead sung by Lynne. Another longer track running to almost 7 minutes, the track develops magnificently while incorporating a highly progressive arrangement. Anyone whose perception of the Move is based on singles such as "Fire Brigade" and "I can hear the grass grow" just needs to hear this one track to have that perception annulled.

"When Alice comes back to the farm" was the second single released from the album, but the rather muddled melody and broad similarity with the previous single ("Brontosaurus") meant that it was one of the few Move singles not to chart. As an album track though, it is one of the highlights. Lynne's second track, "Open Up Said the World at the Door" is a slightly faster but equally appealing prog number. Pity about the superfluous drum solo though. The slightly lighter nature of Lynne's songs offers a welcome contrast with Wood's ever heavier ventures, such as the aforementioned "Brontosaurus" which follows. This magnificent number made the top 10 in the British singles chart in 1970, an indication of the comparatively sophisticated nature of the singles buying public at that time.

The closing "Feel too good" is a 9 minute diversion towards soul funk. Do not be alarmed though, despite the appearance of P.P. Arnold and Doris Troy on backing vocals, the song remains rooted in heavy rock, indeed there are obvious references to The Beatles "I am the walrus". The song actually featured on the soundtrack to the film "Boogie nights"! The track incorporates a hidden coda called "The Duke Of Edinburgh's Lettuce", an amusing ditty to lighten the mood.

In all, possibly the best album, and certainly the most progressive, by The Move. "Looking on" serves as an obvious link between the band and the concurrent Electric Light Orchestra project which would soon take over where "Looking on" leaves off.

The Repertoire records CD re-release has 5 additional tracks from different Move periods. These include the B-side for "Brontosaurus" called "Lightning never strikes twice", a song reminding us of the band's earlier pop-centric days. Also included are the wonderful singles "Blackberry way" and "Curly" plus their respective B-sides. "Something", the B-side of "Blackberry way" is worthy of note as it features a magical symphonic section towards the end.

Easy Livin | 4/5 |

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