THE MOVE – SHAZAM: When Flower Punks Become Cinemascope Rockers

The Move was a success at home, with a string of hit singles from their inception and a top-20 album in 1968, a year where competition on the U.K. charts was downright furious.  However, a mixture of management and band lineup issues, topped off with a heavy workload as a live act, kept them from capitalizing on their early success.  Their second album, Shazam, didn’t emerge until February of 1970 and failed to chart, a trend that would sadly be true for their subsequent albums.

However, the pop chart’s loss is the rock cultist’s gain as Shazam is an entrancing blend of late-period psych and proto-progressive rock, showing the Move mutating from a singles group with a wild live act into an early ’70s rock act that could channel its songwriting smarts into heavier, more progressive material that fit the “underground FM” ethos of the day.  Unlike a lot of its contemporaries, it also shows a sense of humor about undertaking this explorations, with some between-takes chatter and vocal recording goofs kept in for amusement as well as some funny “man on the street” interviews conducted by Wayne used as interstitial bits between songs.

Shazam is divided into two neat halves.  The first is devoted to two Roy Wood originals and a remake of a Wood tune from the prior album.  “Hello Susie” kicks off the album in grand fashion: it’s as cleverly structured as anything from the first album, with a hooky chorus that instantly insinuates itself into your mind, but the arrangement makes it a guitar-heavy basher with the kind of lumbering tempo favored by hard-rock acts.  It essentially feels like a prototype of Cheap Trick’s early years.

Elsewhere, the first side features “Beautiful Daughter,” a string-quartet ballad in the “Eleanor Rigby” vein suited to the pop-friendly pipes of vocalist Carl Wayne, and the aforementioned remake “Cherry Blossom Clinic Revisited.”  The latter is no mere retread: it strips away the string and horns from the first version, goes for a heavier sound and boasts an elaborate, extended instrumental second half that goes full “prog rock” on the listener with cleverly arranged quotes from classical pieces like “Jesu, Joy Of Man’s Desiring.”

The second side is devoted to a trio of covers.  “Fields Of People,” a song from early progressive act Ars Nova, is an epic that allows the group to show off their acoustic skills and their heavy side as well as their formidable vocal harmonies.  It even boasts a fake fade-out that leads to a surprise raga-inspired coda.  A cover of Frankie Laine’s “Don’t Make My Baby Blue” sounds like Black Sabbath playing a soul song and doubles as an excellent, high-drama vocal showcase for Wayne.  A lengthy take on Tom Paxton’s “The Last Thing On My Mind” is a perfect closer, offering a mixture of dreamy vocal harmonies and driving guitar breaks from Wood.

These diverse elements add up to an album that is radically different from Move in style, arrangement and song lengths but satisfies in its own way, acting as the testament of a band of opening its collective mind to the possiblities offered by mixing pop, rock and classical influence to fill both sides of an L.P.  Shazam captures the magic of a time when all things were possible in popular music and the skill and talent invested in its grooves reward multiple listens.

CD Notes: like the other Move albums, this has been a reissue staple in the CD era.  A recent 2-CD set from Esoteric Recordings is the best version to date, offering the album as well as singles from the same era, some edits and alternate mixes and a string of BBC recordings from the Move’s “cabaret act” era.  The latter make for a stunning listen, with the group covering everything from “Higher And Higher” to “The Christian Life.”  Buy this version with confidence.

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