On 45, The Move always bashed like The Who, harmonized like The Belmonts, and laid on the sugar like the Keebler Elves. On longer playing vinyl, they were much harder to pin down. Their eponymous first album was basically like a cluster of those wonderfully sweet and heavy singles stitched together with some wacky cover choices. Shazam was very different indeed with its humorous heavy metal and prog rock pastiches and almost total absence of bubblegum. In between those two albums, The Move issued a live EP that further flaunted their eclectic taste in covers. For any one who couldn’t suss where the band was coming from, Something Else from The Move helped make sense of all of The Move’s seemingly unpredictable movements. After all, they were a band that thought nothing odd about mixing covers of songs by trad. rockers Eddie Cochran and Jerry Lee Lewis, LA psychedelicists The Byrds and Love, and prog rockers Spooky Tooth on the same disc. Despite the disparate material, The Move never played favorites, smashing out each number with the same brutality and professionalism.
As the Something Else from The Move EP helped bridge two dissimilar albums, Looking On followed Shazam with similar logic. It shed even more of The Move’s early sweetness than Shazam had while honing that record’s ideas with long songs that never sounded like a particularly merry Dr. Frankenstein had stitched them together, as “Cherry Blossom Clinic Revisited” and “Fields of People” certainly had. Thus The Move ended up with some of their most cohesive epics, particularly the magnificently mind-warping “What?” and the intricately structured psych/jazz/raga fusion “Open Up Said the World at the Door”, both courtesy of new co-band leader Jeff Lynne. Roy Wood’s three concise songs— “Turkish Tram Conductor Blues”, “When Alice Comes Back to the Farm”, and “Brontosaurus”— are some of the most playful examples of early British metal. Critics sometimes shrug off Looking On, but it’s the first Move album that doesn't sound like it was created accidentally and it has the distinction of being their first record of entirely original material.
Last month, Esoteric Records expanded and reissued Move and Shazam. This month, Something Else and Looking On receive similar treatment. Actually, Something Else had basically already received this treatment back in 2008 when stereo remixes of the original EP supplemented with seven other live tracks constituted disc three of Salvo’s Anthology 1966-1972. Not only were there more killer covers (a hard-driving cover of Jackie Wilson’s “Higher and Higher” stuns), but also a couple of classic Move originals: “Flowers in the Rain” and “Fire Brigade”. For those who did not spring for that four-disc set, Esoteric’s single-disc reissue of Something Else is ideal, including everything on the anthology’s third disc and the original EP’s five mono mixes. “Looking On” spills over onto a second disc. Like last month’s expanded reissues, BBC sessions dominate the bonus material, though there is less in the way of funky cover versions (the only one here is two takes of a Zeppelinized version of The Beatles’ “She’s a Woman”). There’s also the great B-side “Lightnin’ Never Strikes Twice in the Same Place” in both standard studio and more harmonious BBC incarnations, and a BBC recording of a very good Beatle-esque Lynne original called “Falling Forever”.