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Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Move- Shazam (1970)

This album splits the difference between Pet Sounds and Black Sabbath to near perfection. Can’t imagine what that would sound like? Well, familiarity with The Move’s earlier cornucopia of classic psych-pop singles won’t make it any easier. This record was a major departure for the band, right from usually soulful pop crooner Carl Wayne’s rasping howl on the opening punk precursor “Hello, Suzie.” Fans of the time (likely British, as none of the group’s singles made the charts here) may have recovered from their shock with the second track—the beautiful, acoustic-based “Beautiful Daughter”—but were thrown for another loop by “Cherry Blossom Clinic Revisited,” a reprise of the closing track of the band’s classic debut lp. Formerly a 2½ minute pop nugget, the song is transformed into an nearly 8 minute epic whose complex twists and turns reflect its topic—mental illness.

While mastermind Roy Wood’s gift for pop songcraft is less evident on the longer, structured tracks that make up the rest of the album than on the band’s earlier work, his gifted vision is still clear. His acoustic and electric guitars and occasional keyboard flourish blend perfectly—as do the delightful shrieks of his well-placed vocal parts with Wayne’s far more conventional style. The shifting tempos and varying structures that occur within each track take place effortlessly and ensure that the listener doesn’t drift away when the band stretches it out.

Which is a good thing, as the songs only get longer.

“Fields of People,” which surpasses 10 minutes, is a flower power anthem a couple years past due, complete with its Eastern-tinged coda. The closing track, a version of the Tom Paxton standard “The Last Thing On My Mind,” could have been created in a West Coast ballroom rather than a British recording studio. Perhaps it was, as the The Move was unafraid to wear its American influences on its sleeve, but the band turns in a convincing rendition of a tune nearly everyone has covered.

Throughout the album, newly arrived bassist Rick Price and drummer Bev Bevan provide an awe-inspiring rhythm section and lay the foundation for the proto-metal direction the band would embrace (with mixed results) on its next album, “Looking On,” released later in the year. And Wayne’s man-in-the-street interviews with passers by on the state of British pop—interspersed between and even into the songs—are amusing as well.

It’s hard to say that this album is better than the group’s first collection of gems, but this is truly a horse of a different color and—rather than simply collecting songs—brings diverse styles and influences together in the context of one very talented band. This set is unfortunately overlooked in the pantheon of British rock classics, as is The Move itself as both a force in ‘60s pop and a stylistic influence as the ‘70s dawned. Shazam came at a crossroads for The Move and for rock, and consequently there are not many other albums quite like it.


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