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The Move - Shazam CD (album) cover

SHAZAM

The Move

 

Proto-Prog

3.68 | 48 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars It's hard to believe well into the 21st century that a band like THE MOVE which was hardly ever a household name outside of the UK, was in fact one of the top pop acts of the late 60s racking up an impressive number of hits, actually 20 in total in a short five year period but found little success outside of their British homeland. Taking a few cues from The Beatles and not just in the musical department, THE MOVE was one of those bands that released many singles that weren't included on the albums themselves and in the beginning the focus was more on the pop singles rather than on fully developed albums, therefore in this same five year period this band originally led by bassist / vocalist Chris Kefford only released two albums and much like the Beatles had transmogrified from a typical 60s beat garage rock sounding band with strong pop hooks into a veritable art rock band that wisely retained the pop sensibilities all the while increasing the complexity and weirdness into a heavy rock and proto-prog territory on their second album SHAZAM! (I reeeeally want to add a lightning bolt after that!)

Five years in, Kefford found his influence overpowered by guitarist / keyboardist / vocalist Roy Wood and in 1968 exited stage right after a nervous breakdown resulting from a liberal fascination, and excessive love affair with LSD experimentation. As Wood took the reins, THE MOVE, well?. moved into new territories and with Kefford's departure Trevor Burton would switch from guitar to fill his bass duties only to depart midstream only to be replaced by Rick Price. Making it even more complicated was the fact that Tony Visconti played bass on "Beautiful Daughter" which resulted in that track being used from older sessions, so while SHAZAM! was recorded in a much shorter time than the long term recording sessions of the debut album, this track in a way connected the band to their Beatles pop influences in the fact that it sounds like a reworked making of "Eleanor Rigby" complete with a exuberant violin and chamber pop backing.

SHAZAM is a few steps up from the eponymous debut, which i really found to be an excellent pop rock album of 1968, however on this sophomore outing Wood and company fine-tuned their overall sound into a veritable art rock band that foresaw many trends that made the 70s so great. This album is a testament to its era. It equally catches the zeitgeist of the 60s hippie vibe that was slowly waning all the while jumping ahead into progressive pastures that were blossoming all around them. The result is electrifying like that lightning bolt from the sky that like Billy Batson uttering the word SHAZAM! becomes the powerful superhero Captain Marvel. While the original album only had six tracks, they are quite diverse and all but "Beautiful Daughter" clock in at the five minute mark or more and despite continuing to hit the charts even in 1970 with singles, none of the six tracks on this album were even released as singles making SHAZAM truly an art rock album oriented musical ride all the way.

"Hello Susie" starts things off with a blistering heavy guitar riff oriented sound for 1970 allowing singer Carl Wayne to wail his vocals in a snarling heavy rock shout-a-thon where he battles to be heard over the heavy guitar, bass and surprisingly sophisticated drum techniques implemented by Bev Bevan. At this point THE MOVE was known for their mixing it up with Roy Wood penned originals and covers of other artists. The first three tracks are Wood's creations whereas the second half of the album is all covers. "Beautiful Daughter" rescued from past sessions and a 2.0 version of The Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby" unleashes a string savvy power ballad as well as the shortest track on the album at a less than three minute running time. Then we come to one of my favorite tracks of the album: "Cherry Blossom Clinic Revisited." As the name implies, this one is taken from the first album but perfected in every way. Firstly, the instrumentation is impeccable with guitars, bass, drums and vocals ramping up their respective roles. The stylistic changes suit the music perfectly and the medley type ventures toward the end that incorporate different variations on classical pieces by J.S. Bach and Tchaikovsky is stunningly brilliant and surprisingly amusing.

Side two begins with the other genius track of "Fields Of People," which although a cover of an Ars Nova hippie dippie track from a few years prior is crafted into a bona fide masterpiece of musical pleasure with a marriage of classical music sensibilities with the 60s beat pop rock that THE MOVE made their own. The verse / chorus infectious pop grooves evolve into a veritable Indo-raga finale which takes the entire track to close to the eleven minute mark yet not for one second does this one get boring. The remaining two tracks are sort of the more ordinary of the bunch. "Don't Make My Baby Blue" is a rather Janis Joplin sounding bluesy rocker with heavy guitar riffs and soul gusto while "The Last Thing On My Mind" dips back into the psychedelic pop 60s for a wild trippy guitar rock track that meanders on into the ethers and beyond for a seven and a half minute ride. The album is rather light-hearted as THE MOVE adopted the rather Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band approach of silly narrative between and even with tracks to add a personal touch of mood and situation to add some personal connections.

Wham bam i love SHAZAM! This was a grower and not one that immediately revealed its secrets to me. It was like a worm that embedded itself in my soul and only really unleashed its magic after probably the fifth listen or so. And then i was hooked! While highly accessible upon the first listen, it doesn't really differentiate itself from other contemporary pop music at first at least not for me despite the progressive nuances. This album was yet another crossroads in the band's history. After SHAZAM singer Carl Wayne would part ways and Jeff Lynne would join the band and effectively take control and make THE MOVE a proto-Electric Light Orchestra outfit. And it's no surprise that Lynne had his eye on this band since ELO's mission statement was based on the fact that they wanted to take the classical pop characteristics of The Beatles and take them even further. Well, that exactly what THE MOVE was doing on SHAZAM. Don't let the horrible album cover fool you. This is one of 1970's coolest pop rock albums to have been recorded. It's like something The Beatles should have recorded somewhere down the road had they not broken up and ventured even further toward progressive pastures after "Sgt. Peppers."

4.5 but not quite good enough to round up

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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