Looking On


Before they magically morphed into Electric Light Orchestra (a/k/a ELO), thus ending their tenure in 1971, The Move were considered by their fans as being the greatest rock band in U.K. music history. It never mattered to long time disciples that the MOVE weren’t an instant stateside phenomenonlike Jethro Tull or even King Crimson (to name a couple bands that became huge in the U.S. circa 1969). The four studio albums released by The Move are still considered the holy grail for those fans and in 2016, Esoteric Records released multi-disc versions of the first three albums—Move (1968), Shazam (1969) and Looking On (1970). For purposes of musicology in this review, the first two Move albums are somewhat similar in scope although their second, Shazam was a much more determined and a much heavier album from a rock recording perspective. Either way, with Move now expanded to 3 CDs, including 61 songs—with a stunning mono mix of the entire first album, stereo mixes and BBC sessionsand Shazam, expanded to 2 CDs with 40 tracksincluding the entire late 1969 album released in early 1970, Shazam era singles in mono and stereo and more BBC session datesfans of The Move will be in orbit with these 2016 Esoteric remasters. The liner notes for the first two albums, written by Mark Paytress, are quite exemplary, filling in missing pieces behind the band’s long and winding pre-ELO history. Clearly, Move mastermind Roy Wood, drumming master Bev Bevan and their late, great lead vocalist Carl Wayne remain heroes among British rock enthusiasts and Esoteric’s multi-disc CD remasters of the first two Move albums puts the defining touches on a vital slice of rock music history.

The first two Move albums were and still are incredible to say the least, however from a musical perspective, things really
came into focus in a big way when Move vocalist Carl Wayne moved out and Roy brought fellow Brummie and Idle Race founder Jeff Lynne into the Move fold. In his liner notes for Esoteric’s 2016 double CD remaster of Looking On, rock scribe (and my esteemed Facebook friend) Mark Paytress boldly declared that “Released as Fly HIFLY 1 on December 11th 1970, Looking On flopped.” From this writer’s "Stateside" perspective, nothing could be further from the evidential truth. Despite the painful fact that Herb Alpert's then incredibly influential A&M Records unexpectedly booted the Move from their historic roster following Shazamwith The Move then moving to Capitol Records starting with Looking Onan essential part of rock history was serendipitously unfolding before our eyes and ears. From this writer's Stateside perspective, as a devout Move fan who was watching as this was all happening, I (in retrospect) would have to possibly credit then Capital Records’ A&R guru Herb Belkin (and also his A&R boss Artie Mogull) for being there when The Move were signed to Capitol Recordsthus ensuring that the EMI / Harvest / United Artists Records connection would be in place by the time The Move were near ready to release the debut, self-titled Electric Light Orchestra album late in 1971. More intriguing from a musical perspective than anything ELO ever released, Looking On was a huge success for Stateside Move fans, despite the totally unusual and quite surreal album production (and bizarre album artwork). Perhaps most importantly, Looking On led in turn to the penultimate Move album Message From The Country (including the band’s final singles featured on the 2005 MFTC reissue on Capitol Records) and even more importantly, leading to the original band's first album as Electric Light Orchestra, released in late 1971 by EMI on their Harvest label and in the U.S. on UA Records.

Stateside perspective pt.2; without knowing the full ramifications of the Move's David Platz / FLY / Cube Records connection, Capital did very little to promote both Looking On and then again Message From The Country, (the latter bought by this writer the day of its U.S. release as a suspiciously sealed, cut-out Lp at Nappy's Records in Times Square!) Yet, both of the final
two Move albums on Capital Records still remain totally essential listening, as were / are the final Move singles like “California Man”, “Down On The Bay”, "Chinatown", etc., which were all featured originally in the U.S. on the United Artists' Lp Split Ends, and decades after, on the above mentioned EMI CD reissue of Message in late 2005. That said, Esoteric’s 2016 double CD set of Looking On is a fantastic, ear-opening experience to say the least. The 20 page CD booklet is complimented by a poster which features a batch of period piece press clippingsincluding an interview with Move bassist Rick Price. Like their historic remasters of the first Move album and Shazam, Esoteric’s Looking On double CD set is filled with sonic surprisesboasting a number of out-takes and rarities, including a mono mix of “Brontasaurus” and a Frankenstein-ed composite of the title track, “Looking On”, mixing two different out-takes for a unique version that almost betters the original. The history of The Move and how Roy, Jeff and Bev went on to create the Electric Light Orchestra, and the band’s inexplicable and unexpected split, could fill a musical encyclopedia. Even so, these three Esoteric remasters are essential listening for Move and ELO fans. Imagine that in a hundred years, when we’re all dead and gone, and younger, fresher ears are checking out these albums out for the first timeprobably in their U.K. rock music history 101 classI’ll bet the kids will still be blown away at how incredibly inventive and brilliant The Move truly were.


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