Amongst aficionados of English rock, knowledge of The Move is a topic that separates the professionals from the dilettantes.  They were a phenomenon in their homeland (4 consecutive top ten hits in their first 13 months as a recording act) but couldn’t break through commercially in the U.S. despite American touring and record releases.  After the mid-’70s, you had to hunt for their work in the States if you wanted to hear it.  That said, their work made enough of an impression to influence bands like Cheap Trick and Kiss.

The key to their work was also its biggest commercial drawback: they wanted to do lots of different things and their style was a moving target, resulting in a body of work where the sound and approach change from album to album.  Their debut album, simply titled Move, shows how this stylistic evolution went on within the grooves of a single LP.  The result sounds like a block of songs from different groups taken from the playlist of a particularly hip U.K. pirate radio station of the era.

Most of the material here was written by Roy Wood as the group was shifting from mod-style rock to flowery psych-pop.  As a result, his writing seems like the work of a group of different songwriters, veering from driving freakbeat numbers (“Yellow Rainbow”) to gentle psychedelia (“Flowers In The Rain”) to a string-and-horn-laden number that anticipates prog rock (“Cherry Blossom Clinic”).  Despite all the genre-hopping, everything here is sturdy and hook-laden, proving that Wood had the goods from his earliest years.

The remainder of the material was covers of material popular in the Move’s live act but even that is eclectic to the point of schizophrenic: Eddie Cochran cover “Weekend” plays like a mod rave-up while “Zing Went The Strings Of My Heart” is a ’50s doo-wop send-up, complete with cavernous bass vocal from drummer Bev Bevan, that would fit in on Zappa’s Cruisin’ With Ruben And The Jets.

And the schizoid nature extends to the vocals, with Carl Wayne and Roy Wood dividing up most of the singing work here.  Wayne has a big, “front man” voice that is suited to both rockers and R&B material while Wood has a keening tenor that is perfectly suited to the poppier material and the ballad-style tunes.  On a few numbers – most notably U.K. hit singles “Fire Brigade” and “Flowers In The Rain” – they actually split duties with Wayne handling the verse vocals and Wood’s pop-friendly tone coming in to drive the chorus home.  Other members chime in on a few other numbers, most notably Trevor Burton’s lovely, understated vocal on the string-driven ballad “The Girl Outside.”

Move would ultimately be the Move’s biggest long-player hit, as they would soon get even more diverse in a way that was friendlier to underground FM stations rather than the pop charts.  It remains a fantastic listen start-to-back because the diversity of the material keeps the listener leaning forward and the road-tested band tears into everything with a commanding level of energy (the presence of Tony Visconti as an arranger on the more orchestral items is also a big help).

Beyond the quality of the work, Move doubles as a time capsule of one of the most revolutionary times in rock music as the Move dives into that era’s waters and takes advantage of all the genre-blurring fun it could offer in one tidy package.

CD Notes: this album has been reissued several times on several labels in the CD era.  The best version to get is the most recent reissue from Esoteric Recordings, a generous 3-CD set that provides the album’s original mono mix, a variety of recent stereo remixes that are worth hearing, the singles that led up to the album’s release and – best of all – a killer disc of BBC recordings that show they could perform all their diverse stylings live in the studio.  It offers hours of top-notch listening for the discerning Britpop fanatic.