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In their early days, The Move were like a Birmingham version of The Who, or The Kinks. Formed around late 1965 and featuring Carl Wayne (vocals), Roy Wood (lead guitar), Trevor Burton (rhythm guitar), Ace Kefford (bass), and Bev Bevan (drums), the five-piece group started off playing mostly cover versions of old rock'n'roll, soul and West Coast American pop, before they all realised that Wood could knock out a mean song - or several. By 1968, the time they had released their first four singles and this debut album, they had made a name for themselves as the group who smashed up TV sets and cars with axes on stage, sometimes even the stage itself (what price Health and Safety?), and veered between hard rock, psychedelia and ballads. Musical differences led to various personnel changes, before they morphed into the Electric Light Orchestra and Wizzard.
'Move', released in April 1968, was their only album to make the charts (peak position No 15). Originally a 13-track LP, it has been frequently reissued over the years, but this 2-CD edition is bound to remain the definitive version.
CD 1 contains the original album in mono, plus five additional A and B sides of singles, while CD 2 contains for the first time sightly different stereo mixes of most of these tracks, and a few previously unreleased items.
First of all, I'll look at the 13 tracks which comprised the 1968 album. Three are cover versions, the other ten written by Wood. The man was always a canny songwriter, rarely using less than five or six chords per song and nearly always including a bridge, interlude, middle-eight, call it what you will. In addition, most of them were written so that Wayne, Wood himself, Kefford and Burton often had a chance to sing part, as well as throwing in vocal harmonies. Two of them were major hits. 'Flowers In The Rain' (No. 2, 1967), probably the best-known, is a delightful piece of mock-psychedelic whimsy, complete with thunderstorm and rain effects to top and tail, plus strings and woodwind alongside guitars. The follow-up, 'Fire Brigade' (No. 3, 1968), with more sound effects at the start, sounds like Eddie Cochran on speed (Wood admitted his musical debt to the creator of 'C'mon Everybody' on this), and the guitar is magnificent.
By the way, 'Flowers In The Rain' was the first song ever broadcast on Radio 1, and is still regularly played partly because of this. However, when the manager promoted it with a postcard which libelled Prime Minister Harold Wilson and his secretary he sued for libel, won the case, and as part of the settlement all royalties have been paid to charities of Wilson's choice ever since - a ruling the group failed to overturn after his death in 1995. Also, Glen Matlock of the Sex Pistols loved 'Fire Brigade' so much that he used the bass riff on 'God Save the Queen'.
Several other tracks would have made potential singles, and one almost did. 'Cherry Blossom Clinic' has what can only be described as an imaginative explosion of strings and brass. However with its lyrics about an inmate in a mental hospital, it was felt that after the 'Flowers' postcard controversy, to issue it thus would be taking the bad boys image a step too far.
'Yellow Rainbow', a song about environmental concerns ('First of all let me describe nature's struggle to survive'), features a rare lead vocal by Burton, in addition to a pretty fierce guitar riff and a sharp drumming break. 'Useless Information', in similar vein, has something of a Kinks-like sense of gentle satire in the lyrics - 'Sister Jane has a little book Full of autographs of useless people, Seems a waste in the time she took, And it gets me mad which makes us equal...Useless information, tons of useless information seems to fill my head with nowhere else to go.'
'Kilroy Was Here', a little slower in pace, also has rather charmingly eccentric lyrics about the legendary Kilroy, responsible for leaving public autographs all over the place - 'I wonder could he be a cavalier, or a roving musketeer, or just a dustman who's insane'.
Some of the other songs boast additional strings, brass and woodwind. '(Here We Go Round) The Lemon Tree' is a mock-psychedelic whimsy about a girl next door 'who's round the bend'. 'Walk Upon The Water' is also slightly surreal, with a coda which sounds like a chorus of hunting horns. 'The Girl Outside' is a gentle number with string quartet in addition to muted guitars and drums, with something of the feel of 'Eleanor Rigby' - although the structure of Wood's song is more intricate than that of McCartney. Much the same could be said of the equally lovely 'Mist on a Monday Morning', which is in effect a solo performance by Wood, accompanied by Nicky Hopkins (keyboard player with bands like the Rolling Stones and the Who), flute and string quartet again.
The three cover versions are fair to middling. Eddie Cochran's 'Weekend' gets a good blast with Burton on vocal, and West Coast psychedelic band Moby Grape's 'Hey Grandma' (Hopkins on piano) does the business, but the old doo-wop 'Zing Went The Strings Of My Heart', later a hit for 70s disco outfit the Trammps, is the weak spot. Featuring Bevan on vocals, it shows he was a better drummer than vocalist. The instrumental break, sounding like bass deliberately off-key or out of tune, suggests it's all just a joke. I thought I was fairly familiar with this track, having owned the record on vinyl and an earlier, inferior CD version. Only when I heard this one I am reviewing now did I realise the bass was off-key. Mr Burton was obviously taking the proverbial!
The five bonus tracks are all singles A- and B-sides. The two early 1967 top five hits, 'Night Of Fear' (with guitar riff borrowed from Tchaikovsky's '1812 Overture'), and 'I Can Hear The Grass Grow', still pack a hell of a punch. Their B-sides, the nightmarish 'Disturbance', with its mock-Hammer horror screams to finish, and the Monkees spoof, 'Wave The Flag And Stop The Train', are equally good in their own way. Finally, there's 'Vote For Me', recorded as a B-side for 'Cherry Blossom Clinic', and which was never issued until 1997. The most Who-like thing they ever did, it boasts not only superbly cynical lyrics, but also a bone-crunching set of guitar chords, and in the choruses, it sounds like the guitar is trying to alter the whole rhythm of the song. Weird but absolutely wonderful.
CD2 features 13 of the songs again, but for the first time ever, in proper remastered stereo - in other words, none of your old-fashioned mock stereo with vocals on one channel and everything else on the rest. The strings and additional instruments are revealed with a new clarity, in some cases the songs have a slightly longer fade or different finish, and 'Vote For Me' is a new recording with Hendrix-like wah-wah guitar. And on 'Flowers' and 'Fire Brigade', you can hear the sound effects pan from one channel to the other. Three further songs, also Wood compositions, are released here for the first time ever. 'Move Intro' is a short accapella piece which segues into 'Move' (what else), a snappy Northern soul-like number. Finally we have 'Don't Throw Stones At Me', with a Motown-like beat and Kefford on lead vocal for once.
Two or three hit singles and a mass of filler, this album is not. The Move were one of the most creative groups of their day, and I always loved this debut album ever since getting my hands on a slightly worn vinyl copy. This new double CD makes the whole thing sound better than ever - well, arguably apart from the off-key bass on 'Zing'.
The front and back cover are adapted slightly from the original, a glorious multicoloured Catherine wheel on purple background on the front, with many psychedelic-coloured 'Move' faces against a purple circular tunnel effect on the back, plus tracklisting. It reveals a four-way digipak foldout which includes early publicity photos of the group, in gangster suits one moment and kaftans the next, plus a superbly assembled 20-page booklet with further photos, facsimiles of rare original overseas singles sleeves, a full history of the album, and detailed annotations for each track. Another pleasing touch, no effort spared - the CDs are designed to look like old 45s.
This is genuine classic 60s pop/rock, no two ways about it. This reissue emphasises that it was arguably one of the best British albums outside the Beatles and Rolling Stones back catalogue.
[This is a revised version of a review I originally posted on ciao]