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LOOKING ON

The Move

Proto-Prog


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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.

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Send comments to Chicapah (BETA) | Report this review (#174787)
Posted Sunday, June 22, 2008 | Review Permalink
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.

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Send comments to Easy Livin (BETA) | Report this review (#187694)
Posted Sunday, November 02, 2008 | Review Permalink
stefro
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Though by no means a bona-fida Progressive rock band, The Move's third album, 'Looking On', was very much a part of the first wave of great prog albums that appeared in the early- seventies. Hailing from Birmingham, and featuring future stars Roy Wood(Wizzard) and Jeff Lynne(Electric Light Orchestra, The Travelling Wilbury's) amongst their ranks, The Move were primarily known for their clever brand of deceptively-kitsch proto-psychedelic pop, as was shown on their 1968 debut 'Move' and it's sharper, fuller follow-up of two years later 'Shazaam'. They also had a knack for releasing popular psych-pop singles, with tunes such as 'Blackberry Way', 'Night Of Fear', 'Flowers In The Rain', 'I Can Hear The Grass Grow' and 'Fire Brigade' all reaching the top five of the British charts between the years 1966 and 1969, reflecting their genesis within the brief psychedelic boom of the late-sixties. However, as the seventies and prog-rock arrived, The Move's outlook - much like their name suggests - was radically altered, with the group sporting a harder, complex new sound. Within the paradigms of prog, Wood's musical and instrumental excellence was exploited to it's fullest, fuelling 'Looking On's reckless invention and summing up the albums occasional moments of pure brilliance. The crushingly-heavy 'Brontosaurus' is an immediate welcome to The Move's updated sound, as proto-metal guitars groan away under the pure weight of the meatiest riff one could hope to hear. It's a drastic, powerful start that burns bright with fiendish invention - the group's trademark affectation - but one that almost single-handedly completes the group's sonic overhaul. The raw and bluesy 'Turkish Tram Conductor Blues' is a more jocular affair, shuddering guitars still up front, but one that melds their peculiar pop nous with their sterner sonic design in a brash, sweaty rock 'n' roll style that hints at Steamhammer-sized aspirations. The album's crowning jewel? The epic, soul-inflected prog-soul rocker 'Feel Too Good', a truly marvellous rock medley featuring a driving, funk-fried bass-line, twitching guitars, bar-room keyboards, bleat-horns, flugel-horns, french-horns and whatever other horns and instruments Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne could get their hands on at the time. STEFAN TURNER, LONDON, 2011

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Send comments to stefro (BETA) | Report this review (#377347)
Posted Sunday, January 09, 2011 | Review Permalink

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