My favorite album from this Birmingham band’s impressive back-catalogue (much of it sadly out of print in the US, where they never had the impact they deserved) is 1970’s Shazam. Their command of pop and psychedelic moods, combined with an increasingly heavy rock sound (before they morphed into ELO by 1972), makes that record one of the finest from the British progressive scene. They combined typically eclectic and often cleverly revamped covers such as Ars Nova’s “Fields of People”, Frankie Laine’s “Don’t Make My Baby Blue” and Tom Paxton’s “The Last Thing on My Mind” with the ambitious original “Cherry Blossom Clinic Revisited” which presaged ELO’s classical rock blend. “Hello Susie” was a hit for the Amen Corner in a lighter version than Roy Wood’s, indicative of the more brutal, if still tuneful, sound the later band was incorporating before Jeff Lynne joined, and the drift away from pop and psychedelia gave way to the hard-rock meets classical crossover.
Five out of Shazam‘s six songs are supplemented on these tapes kept by the band’s singer, the late Carl Wayne. The concert adds their earlier hit “I Can Hear the Grass Grow”, “Goin’ Back” (the Gerry Goffin-Carole King song covered by the Byrds), and lengthy, bruising adaptations of two Todd Rundgren songs, “Open My Eyes” and “Under the Ice”, both penned when he was still in the Nazz. The latter’s rumbling, extended treatment on stage does outweigh its welcome, but it shows how the Move generously acknowledged its colleagues and influences.
On the tapes from October 17 and 18, 1970, while the San Francisco audience can barely be sensed, the band delivers a molten version of some of their best original and cover songs, even denser than the arrangements on Shazam. While touring tensions between Wood (who does not contribute to the liner notes which bassist Rick Price and drummer Bev Bevan supplement) and Wayne apparently accelerated the breakup of this lineup, the Move, despite U-Haul-tugging road weariness and Price’s unknowing ingestion of bad acid, manage to pummel Californians for more than 80 minutes in concert.
Additional “night performances” reprise three of the songs. Some of these tracks stomp on longer than their LP versions, but that adds value for loyal fans. Wood excelled at mordant shorter tunes, but the mood of the Move by late 1970 tilts toward bashing, amplification, and assault, all the while keeping the lyrical wit and intricate layers of the music they had by then made elaborate.
Overcoming the limited fidelity of the master tapes, 45 years later, these last dates of a tour where they played on the same bill as Joe Cocker and Little Richard shows the four musicians straining to break through to a “hard to please” American audience. Bev Bevan’s phrase, from the notes and his affable recollections which close the second CD, captures a commitment to musical quality and sly invention which the Move did so well.