Saturday, April 30, 2016

You're Gonna Have To Play It Cool: A Look At The 2 Magnificent Move Reissues From Cherry Red

You know, I came to The Move late. I thought that I didn't really like the band based simply on hearing "California Man" and "Brontosaurus" which, truth be told, I knew mainly first from the Cheap Trick versions.

And then I heard "Blackberry Way".

Yeah, I had been stupid before that. Sure, I had read about The Move in every Who biography I devoured as a teen, those tomes where The Move were spoken of as this legendary U.K. band that never quite made it here. And, yeah, I should have known better but things really didn't click until I heard an import Move compilation thanks to a record store friend who spun it for me far too late in my life.

Now, I'm thrilled to regale you with news of these 2 magnificent and expertly-assembled Move reissues from Cherry Red Records. Move and Shazam! are each presented in multiple-disc formats with loads of radio sessions and rarities, and the overall effect of hearing 5+ hours of Move music over the course of these 2 releases is a revelation. Think the band were just psych dabblers? Spin the covers on the final disc of Shazam!. Think the band were only mod wannabes? Spin the near-chamber pop on any side of Move.

Released in 1968, Move, released here in a 3-CD edition, shines -- at least in spots -- as the equal to the Beatles' output in roughly the same era. The line-up here -- Roy Wood on multiple instruments and vocals, Carl Wayne on lead vocals, Ace Kefford on bass, Trevor Burton on guitar, and Bev Bevan on drums -- hits all the right marks as they rattle through what sounds like a greatest hits album. "(Here We Go Round) The Lemon Tree", "Flowers in the Rain", "Fire Brigade", and "Cherry Blossom Clinic" -- some of the finest singles of the psych era, really -- they are all here.

What's also of note are other tracks (like the superb "Useless Information") and smart covers ("Weekend" by Eddie Cochran) that buttress the strength of this release, even in its mono form on Disc 1. On Disc 2 we've got stereo mixes and alternate takes as well as singles like "Night of Fear" among others. And then on CD 3, we have a whole bunch of radio sessions and interviews that make a pretty good case for the strengths of The Move as a live act. If the studio cuts and singles further the idea of The Move as The Great Psych Band, then these live cuts -- especially stuff like a cover of The Byrds' "So You Want To Be A Rock And Roll Star", and a live version of "I Can Hear The Grass Grow" -- serve as evidence of this band being a set of superb musicians who were perhaps too polished to be peers of the fiery Who and too rough-around-the-edges to be thought of as equivalents of The Kinks.

Down to a four-piece with the departure of Ace Kefford (Burton switched to bass), The Move moved forward. Eventually, Rick Price would take over bass duties and the band would record Shazam! for release in 1970. Coming at the tail-end of the genuine psychedelic movement, the album broadened the sound of The Move considerably. While familiar singles like "Wild Tiger Woman" sound like The Move we all know and love, longer cuts like "Fields of People" push the sound of the band into what was then becoming known as progressive rock. Admittedly, these longer cuts are harder to take for those of us who want stuff like "Beautiful Daughter" on auto-repeat. The sound on the prog stuff is harder and the musical path certainly one that is more experimental. That said, The Move were still capable of crafting utterly beautiful pieces of pop in this time period: "Blackberry Way" and "Something" are here as singles of the era, as well as alternate mixes of "Omnibus" and other earlier cuts.

Disc 2 of Shazam! serves as a showcase of the band's sheer versatility. Who would have thought that the same band that did "Cherry Blossom Clinic" could also do a pretty good take on that Janis-standard "Piece of My Heart"? Or that Wood and his crew could make stuff like "Higher and Higher", and even "California Girls", sound like Move originals? Even a perhaps-misguided cover of "Sound of Silence" very nearly works largely due to the intentions of the musicians here.

Looking back now, it makes perfect sense that I got into The Move so late, even after reading about them before. They remain a hard band to pin down, and one that switched styles a bit in the space of a few years. If the genius -- (is there any other word to describe him?) -- of Roy Wood tends to overshadow the contributions of the other members of The Move, that's a real shame given the wonderful vocals of Carl Wayne, and Bev Bevan's risk-taking on the kit. Too psych to be a pop band, too polished to be r'n'b heirs like Mick and Keith's Stones, far too rough to be another Beatles, The Move were a band of their time who kept their eyes on the horizon of experimentation. With far lovelier melodies than anything Syd and the Floyd folks could dream up, Wood and The Move made music that was considerably countercultural at the time even if it sounds now more like great mainstream pop. Quite simply: some of the best singles of the era are on these collections. If it's damn-near impossible to summarize The Move in 2 releases, Move and Shazam! make a pretty good case for this being nearly all the Move you need.

Now, of course that's not true 'cause I for one am anxiously awaiting and hoping that Cherry Red Records is prepping more Move reissues even as I type this. But until that day, please grab these sets as soon as you can. Move and Shazam! are out now (they dropped on Friday) via Cherry Red Records. There is so much greatness here that one can only listen and marvel at what The Move accomplished in a mere 2 or 3 years and what this music hints at in their collective futures (Bev and Roy Wood in ELO eventually).