Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Review: 'The Move Live at the Fillmore 1969'

The Move were one the great singles bands of the mid-‘60s. They didn’t even get around to releasing their first L.P. until their 45s had already been chart staples for some seventeen months. By the time the sweet and refreshing Move appeared in April 1968, the self-consciously serious San Francisco scene had stimulated a vogue for epic, meandering jams. The Move had already been feeling a bit old hat, having taken so long to produce their first long-playing statement. When they finally made their way to San Fran the following year, they feared compact confections like “Blackberry Way” and “Curly” would make them seem hopelessly unhip. For a two-night stint opening for Little Richard and Joe Cocker at the legendary Fillmore West, they jettisoned all but three of Roy Wood’s wonderful originals, and those songs were given lengthy, winding makeovers. “Hello Susie”, a bubblegummy hit for Amen Corner, gained Led Zeppelin weight, “Cherry Blossom Clinic” acquired passages from Tchaikovsky and Dukas, and “I Can Hear the Grass Grow” careened into quotes from “Born to Be Wild” and a speedy Bev Bevan drum solo. Amazingly, the new “bigger is better” Move worked, largely because they tended to insert fully-developed new parts into their pop songs instead of endlessly wanking away on chord progressions like The Grateful Dead. A smart clutch of tunes from artists such as The Byrds, Nazz, and Tom Paxton filled out the rest of their set.

Vocalist Carl Wayne was particularly delighted with his band’s work at the Fillmore. He held onto tapes of the shows for his own enjoyment, though he felt the recordings were too ragged to warrant official release. Fortunately, studio technology has improved to the point where Rob Keyloch of Church Walk Studio was able to give the recordings an acceptable polishing. Forty-odd years after The Move’s milestone Fillmore shows, these tapes are finally getting a proper CD release.

Despite Keyloch’s admirable efforts, The Move Live at the Fillmore 1969 is still pretty rough. The sound is tinny and the vocals are mixed too loud. But this double-disc set is an important document for Move fans. We hear them working out daring ideas for their next album in front of an audience. They made the right choices when getting into the studio to cut 'Shazam', losing the bits that don’t quite work (Wood dragged the electric sitar solo on “Fields of People” to an interminable nine minutes on stage) and retaining the brilliant ones (this live rendition of “Cherry Blossom Clinic Revisited” is nearly identical to the spectacular version on 'Shazam'). As a bonus track, Bev Bevan gives a fascinating and often hilarious account of The Move’s American tour in a brand-new interview. His tales about bassist Rick Price's unintentional acid trip and Little Richard's throne are not to be missed.

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