I think we’re all guilty of procrastinating on checking out certain books, TV shows, films and – yes – music that we know we’d probably like if we gave it half a chance, but simply haven’t because we either don’t feel we have the time, have some strange hang-up or are more comfortable in the familiar. Well, listening to The Move has been a long time coming for me. ELO has been in my playlist for almost as long as I’ve been a fan of prog rock, and I’ve owed it to myself to check out Roy Wood’s previous group to understand their roots. What held me back? I can’t lie, while 10538 Overture is a rock triumph, the rest of the baroque debut album from ELO does little for me, and I’m aware that’s where Wood’s influence mostly lay.
So I was positively shocked to put on Shazam and hear something completely different from ELO’s first album. Instead of melancholy strings we have chugging proto-metal riffs and progressive arrangements. Moreover, compared to the gloom of The Electric Light Orchestra, Shazam’s production is bright and bouncy, and I was consistently dazzled by the timbre of all the instruments; the mixing is spectacular.
While the crunchy riffs of Hello Susie are a great introduction, it was Cherry Blossom Clinic Revisited that made me sit up. A new arrangement of a previously recorded song, this slower, more metal-driven version has a Zappa-esque quality to it, right from the spoken word intro that suddenly shifts gears: “because I was going off my HEEEEEEEEEAD!” This crazy tune is about a ‘nuthouse’ and features multiple tempo changes before shifting into a new classically inspired instrumental that borrows themes from Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring and other well-known compositions. This adventurous and unpredictable section is just what I’m looking for in a prog recording. Still, I think I’m more fond of Apollo 100’s Joy, if we’re comparing rock adaptations of this tune.
This album was reissued by Esoteric on CD in 2016 and the deluxe edition contained no less than 37 bonus tracks, which sounds totally overwhelming when the album itself only contains six. I feel fortunate to have just gotten the ‘album experience’ but I do miss the liner notes that could have given me some guidance on what I was listening to. Instead, I had to do my own research and was once again surprised to read that there was only one brand new song on the record, the baroque and string-led Beautiful Daughter that points forward to ELO.
The rest of the songs are covers, recorded because The Move had had no time to write new material between their busy touring schedule. Shazam would not prove to be like the Beatles’ cover-ridden Beatles for Sale – widely regarded as their worst album – however, as the new arrangements for these songs are brimming with energy and bring something new to the table.
The stomping Hello Susie was actually originally penned by Wood for Welsh outfit Amen Corner, so it feels only right that he should reclaim it. Fields of People is another adventurous cover that drags the three-minute folky original (by the American group Ars Nova) out to ten minutes and makes it a lot heavier. In fact, the true cover only lasts six minutes, but is extended with a four-minute Indian-inspired section with what sounds like a sitar. I’m not quite sure how necessary this section is to the song or the album, but it’s inoffensive, unlike the random clips of interviewers talking to people on the street. One of them seems to doubt that a non-white person is British and is shocked when he lists his place of birth as “Stepney”. Why are these clips included? I have no idea.
The album ends on a bit of a downer with the bluesy Don’t Make My Baby Blue and the loose, rambling The Last Thing on My Mind failing to make much impression while taking up nearly a quarter-hour of my time. Overall, however, it was a fun outing and I was surprised how easily it slid into the ‘prog’ classification despite being a fairly early release in the genre’s history. I’ve rarely heard such a well-produced album – except from audio nerds like Steven Wilson – especially from this era. Tracks like Hello Susie and Cherry Blossom Clinic Revisited seem to contain very purposeful arrangements and production to make the whole recording shine and the album deserves to be heard with a decent sound system. I’m sure audiophiles will jump at the chance to own a new vinyl pressing of this wacky album.
01. Hello Susie (4:56)
02. Beautiful Daughter (3:04)
03. Cherry Blossom Clinic Revisited (7:44)
04. Fields of People (10:10)
05. Don’t Make My Baby Blue (7:02)
06. The Last Thing on My Mind (7:41)
Total Time – 40:34
Roy Wood – Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards
Bev Bevan – Drums, Percussion
Carl Wayne – Vocals
Rick Price – Vocals, Bass
Trevor Burton – Bass
Tony Visconti – Bass (on Beautiful Daughter)
Record Label: Esoteric Recordings | Cherry Red Records
Catalogue#: ECLECLP 2538
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 24th November 2023