Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Review: Deluxe Reissues of The Move's 'Move' and 'Shazam'

The original British bands tended to follow in the footsteps of either The Beatles or the Stones. The Beatles led the parade of sweet pop harmonizers, such as The Hollies and The Searchers. The Stones led the gang of thuggish R&B shouters, such as The Animals and The Pretty Things. Arriving later on the scene, The Move seemed to follow The Who with their eccentric blend of weird song topics performed with cute melodies and bashing beats. They even picked up on The Who’s violent stage act, taking it to absurd extremes by smashing TVs and junked cars with sledgehammers while dressed as gangsters. The Move were hardly poseurs, though, and with brilliant songwriter Roy Wood steering the ship, The Move moved beyond the terrific Who-like singles of their early career to more progressive forms that had all the humor and cheekiness critics complained were missing from those Yes albums.

The Move’s first album was basically a riff on their zany early singles with some great (Eddie Cochran’s “Weekend”) and not-so-great (“Zing Went the Strings of My Heart”) covers filling it out. Released after some delay, Move must have sounded a bit out of step with the mid-1968 rock scene and its move away from psychedelia toward Dylan and The Band’s more rustic country-rock. Today it sounds like one of the year’s freshest albums.  Perhaps “John Wesley Harding” and “All Along the Watchtower” were more “artful,” but they sure weren’t as fun as “(Here We Go Round) The Lemon Tree” and “Flowers in the Rain”. Come to think of it, those Dylan songs may not have even been as artful as “Cherry Blossom Clinic”.

That track became even artier when The Move recut it for their second LP. Shazam is one of prog’s wackiest records. It throws a big custard pie in the face of charges that progressive rock is nothing but po-faced mathematics. The revamped and expanded “Cherry Blossom Clinic” takes bizarre detours, turning familiar Bach, Dukas, and Tchaikovsky tunes into cartoon confetti. Singer Carl Wayne takes breaks to chat with passersby throughout the record. The Move makes heavy metal hay with pop (Frankie Laine’s “Don’t Make My Baby Blue”) and folk (Tom Paxton’s “The Last Thing on My Mind”) standards King Crimson would not have touched with a twenty-foot Frippertronics stick.

Move and Shazam are both terrific albums, but The Move was always at its most comfy making singles, so deluxe editions of these LPs are necessary to tell the whole story. Salvo Records did that in 2007 with a terrific double-disc edition of Move and an expanded single disc one of Shazam. Nine years later, Esoteric is expanding those expansions even more expansively with a triple-disc Move and a double-disc Shazam.

There is not a dramatic difference between the sound on Salvo’s discs and Esoteric’s new remasters, which utilize the same analogue tapes the 2007 editions did. That still means they sound very good, and the extensive bonus material makes an upgrade well worthwhile. Like the Salvo discs, Esoteric’s include contemporary singles, and it’s a fabulous crop with such essential Movements as “Night of Fear”, “I Can Hear the Grass Grow”, “Blackberry Way”, and “Curly”. Salvo made one big blunder in that department by only including a new stereo remix of “Wild Tiger Woman” on Shazam, but Esoteric corrects that by including the original mono single mix along with the stereo variation. Move includes the 1968 mono and 2007 stereo mixes of all the album’s tracks save a cover of Moby Grape’s “Hey Grandma”, and unlike Esoteric’s jumbled “New Movements” presentation, it plays out in the same running order as the original album. It also includes exclusive alternate mixes of “Disturbance” and “Fire Brigade”, which features prominent piano, and a whole disc of BBC sessions. Most valuable is a selection of eight folky and modish originals and soul covers cut in the studio or for radio almost a year before their first single was issued. Five are making their debut on this set.

Shazam contains such exclusive material as the abridged single edit of “Hello Susie”, the full-length version of “Omnibus”, an alternate mix of “Beautiful Daughter”, and the backing track of an acoustic-based rocker called “Second Class (She’s Too Good for Me)”. There’s also another disc of ferocious BBC sessions. The Move’s eclectic taste in covers of songs made famous by Neil Diamond, Jackie Wilson, Big Brother and the Holding Company, The Beach Boys, The Byrds, Little Anthony and the Imperials, Dion, etc. reflects their own gonzo fusion of sugary pop, hard rock, cabaret, and doo-wop. Oddly, it lacks the Italian language version of “A Certain Something” previously issued on The Best of The Move, but only Italian fans and the craziest completists should have a legitimate beef about that one flaw.
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