Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Move On

It was their last album, which they didn't want to record. They weren't breaking up but transforming into another band- the record company told them that they wouldn't let them record as the new act unless they did one last album in their present/old incarnation. They had it with touring and were just releasing a record and singles to keep their name out there. Even after they recorded the album, it was held up for months by the record company because of legal mumbo-jumbo surrounding one of the members- since then, it's been out-of-print and hard to find until their label finally gave it a decent reissue now. Nowadays, looking back, the band members remember who they were just knocking off songs, having fun and even think it might be their worst album.

Don't believe them though. Even though the Move had made its name in its UK home as a mod-psych combo with an outrageous stage act, this last album is the best one they did, maybe because as they said, they were having fun, knowing that they were calling it a day anyway. Roy Wood had always been the eccentric genius behind the group and by the dawn of the 70's, his band was down to drummer Bev Bevan and newcomer Jeff Lynne, who was more interested in what was being planned for a classical hybrid that they'd call the Electric Light Orchestra. EMI went along with this strange turn of events but reminded the boys that they were still under contract as the Move and they owed them some more records. The boys obliged, recording Message From the Country in 1971 at the same time that they were recording ELO's debut (a ponderous album in comparison and a shadow of what that band would do later). Lynne was mired in some contractual bullshit and the Move album had to sit on the shelves until it was sorted out. MFTC finally came out in late '71, followed by a few singles and then the Move ceased to exist.

As the band says, MFTC was indeed silly and strange but again, that was part of its appeal. Lynne, hungry and eager to make his mark, especially with a proven, known name like the Move, was starting to perfect his ethereal tune-craft ("Message From the Country," "The Words of Aaron," "The Minister"), Wood was mining rock oldies for inspiration of a new glam sound ("Ella James," "Until Your Moma's Gone") while Bevan was digging the Sun Studio sound ("Don't Mess Me Up" and the wonderful country send-up "Ben Crawley Steel Factory" which stands beside the Stones' "Dear Doctor" or "Faraway Eyes"). It's a shame that this was their last album but Wood and Lynne had their eyes on much more serious fare.

The singles that soon came after were of a piece too, later collected on 1973's Split Ends, which also included MFTC (which was out of print by then). Wood's "Tonight" and Lynne's rockin' raver "Down on the Bay" are nice pieces that would have livened up the album but Wood's "California Man" (later covered by Cheap Trick) and Lynne's "Do Ya" (later an ELO staple) aren't just the two best Move singles, they're incredible anthems worthy of a time capsule.

Wood left ELO soon after the debut while Lynne and Bevan would keep the brand name going, finding huge international commercial success (haters usually cite them as wuss's who made the 70's the dinosaur bloatfest it was but c'mon... "Livin' Thing," "Sweet Talkin' Woman" and "Telephone Line" are hummable as hell).

And now after years in limbo, EMI has finally collected MFTC and all of the above singles into a dandy UK reissue, complete with extensive notes and lots of fine photos of the three-some. As a collection, it beats anything ELO or Wood did later and definitely worth the purchase price of an import.


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