Released today on Cherry Red Records, Magnetic Waves of Sound: The Best of The Move is the single best one-disc compilation of The Move that I've yet to encounter. That the disc comes with a bonus DVD full of the band's TV appearances and promotional films is another tremendous reason to rejoice. This is, quite simply, the most perfectly on-point presentation of one of the strongest back-catalogs in rock.
Now, if you grew up like me, you first heard of The Move because every book on The Who mentioned the band as a serious rival for the Daltrey-fronted outfit. Of course, American album rock radio stations were not exactly playing a lot of Move cuts in the Eighties. It was more likely that you might hear the ELO version of "Do Ya", a number that Jeff Lynne first trotted out when he joined The Move before forming his own band. This lack of easy access to the recordings of The Move meant that I first went into the band's back-catalog with a certain amount of ignorance. If you approach this band's material that way, you're liable to default to simply thinking either one of two things: "Oh, this is that band Jeff Lynne was in before he formed Electric Light Orchestra!", or "This is that band that that nut-job Roy Wood was in!" Both of those statements are true, of course, and, frankly, the band really became a showcase for Roy Wood's odd genius, despite the significant contributions from the other members of the group, Lynne included.
All that being said, what it comes down to here is an elaboration of reasons that new and old fans of The Move need to buy Magnetic Waves of Sound: The Best of The Move as soon as possible. It is essential, it's that simple. How to further explain it?
Disc 1 offers up 21 Move tracks that chart the range of this band from a near-psychedelic act, fronted by Carl Wayne, a singer whose considerable talents seemed better suited to more mod material, to a full-on fly your freak-flag!-level proto-glam band. In the space of a handful of years the band went from releasing singles that were like Beatles lite ("I Can Hear The Grass Grow") to cranking out numbers that brought new definitions of heavy to the charts ("Brontosaurus"). Now, I'm not saying that there aren't numbers here that are -- let's be honest -- the equal of some Lennon/McCartney stuff ("Blackberry Way", for example) -- but that one gets the sense that the band was a bit at odds with the different styles in their own repertoire. This lot might have been mod legends at some point -- one can see why -- but they were also rivals in the head-expanding stakes laid down by the Beatles and others in 1967 or so.
Judging from the live clip, one could make a case for the 5-piece version of The Move being the one with the strongest set of musical chops. Bassist Ace Kefford brought -- as the liner notes to Magnetic Waves of Sound: The Best of the Move explain -- an awareness of soul and rhythm-and-blues styles to what The Move were doing; a number like "Walk Upon the Water" might be a cousin of the sort of English whimsy that The Kinks were mastering at the same time in this era but it was, as the live clip on this DVD illustrates, a blast of melodic pop equal parts shouty white soul and psychedelia. Drummer Bev Bevan and singer Carl Wayne meshed perfectly with bassist Kefford in this period and they made stuff like "I Can Hear the Grass Grow" punch harder than it would have in other hands.
Still, it's clear when watching this with a bit of rock history hindsight on the brain, that The Move was always going to be Roy Wood's child, the oddball musician in these clips looking more of the era than even grunge-y bassist Skip Price in a studio-based run-through of "Blackberry Way". In a "Beat Club" clip of the band miming to "Fire Brigade", the group is now a three-piece, Wayne having fled the scene.
The material in this post-Carl Wayne era is certainly harder, Wood having jettisoned the rhythm-and-blues trappings that had made this group such a formidable mod proposition. From the silly-but-beautiful "Curly" and on to the positively monumental "Brontosaurus", Wood is inventing glam rock even as he's trapped in the flower power era. If the addition of Jeff Lynne meant that the band was touching on more epic, orchestral material (the mysterious and magisterial "What?"), they were also pushing at the edges of the bubbling acid rock of the time period and crafting pretty concise bursts of energy (the loud and poppy "Ella James", or the Lynne flip-side "Do Ya") that retained all the melodic invention that earlier singles had displayed...only with the volume turned up to 11.
Near the end of the CD portion of this compilation is one of Wood's finest compositions, the glammy "China Town", and it is a truly marvelous blend of catchy riffs and Fifties stomp. Interestingly, it indicates, like "Do Ya" does too, that Lynne and Wood were on the same wavelength; listening to this now, it makes perfect sense that Wood would be in an early line-up of Lynne's Electric Light Orchestra, you know? That said, Wood was clearly interested in something heavier at the time. One listen to the glorious racket of "When Alice Comes Back to the Farm" ought to convince you of that. The video for that number features a hairy, bespectacled Wood sitting down playing a slide guitar as a Floydian light-show projects behind him. Things had come a long way from simply hearing the grass grow, eh?
Magnetic Waves of Sound: The Best of the Move serves as the sort of thing that long-time Move fans need -- the more than 60-minute DVD makes this release pretty essential -- and the kind of compilation that can be a crash-course into one of the most vital and exciting bands of the British wave of the Sixties. If I started this review by highlighting how hard it was to easily get into The Move in the past, it's incredibly easy now. This set is the perfect entry-point. And, frankly, the sound on this CD is so good that I would also recommend getting this even if you already have all of these tunes on other compilations or albums.
The folks at Cherry Red Records have done a fantastic job with this. I urge you to order this set now. You will enjoy every second of it.
Magnetic Waves of Sound: The Best of the Move is out now from Cherry Red Records.