Great Move! The Best of the Move (1992) ***1/2
The title is a complete lie; it's merely the entire contents of their run at EMI, one album (Message From the Country, 1971) plus some singles tacked on as bonus tracks. Once again the Move prove as lackluster on their studio album as they were brilliant on their singles. Message From the Country is a bizarre record which can't decide whether it wants to explore dark, medieval pop'n'roll or indulge in genre-hopping whimsy. As expected, the gothic art-pop rules so far ahead of the country and '50s rock excursions that you wonder why Wood & Lynne even bothered with crap like the Johnny Cash parody, "Ben Crawley Steel Company," the music hall goof "My Marge," or the '50s sock-hopper, "Don't Mess Me Up." Well, at least "Don't Mess Me Up," has the excuse of being written by Bev Bevan. Why they let the drummer get away with foisting one of his songs on the band a second time is beyond me. Perhaps he strongarmed them into it. Did you know that rock drummers can be as fit as Olympic athletes? Takes a lot of strength and endurance to pound away at the skins for a living. As for the artsy rock tunes that make up the better half of the record, I wouldn't classify a single one as a Move classic, but they are all interesting: Wood & Lynne had a knack for sprinkling all sorts of neat weirdness all over their constructions, so even when stripped down to the core the tunes themselves aren't all that strong, there's so much going on in the arrangements that you can still derive considerable enjoyment from the piece. Take "It Wasn't My Idea To Dance," for example - it's not much of a tune, but it's absolutely brilliant in arrangement, with its rattling maracas and heavily upfront bass thud and sinister oboe (I'm guessing) solo carrying the primary melody. Lynne outshines Wood slightly, again, but only slightly this time: the gothic yet expansive title track, with its rattling bassline and multi-tracked, filtered harmonies gets the album off an odd and distinctive note; while "The Minister," pounds away sinisterly and sneeringly as the album's most effective rocker.
The five bonus tracks knock it up a notch (there a couple of radio advertisements tacked on to the end as well; worth a laff). The singles aren't as consistently brilliant as the bonus tracks tacked on to Looking On, but still well-outshining most of the album proper.
1) "Tonight" - A chipper slice of acoustic-based pop that encapsulates Wood's winsome charm. It's winsome. Not much else to say about this track. 'Winsome' sums up. Very winsome! Winsome it is.
2) "Chinatown" b/w "Down On the Bay" - The A-side indulges in Orientalism with a cuckoo-clucking Cathay melody and gongs to set off the fireworks. Otherwise it's standard but most excellent surging power-pop - the Move at their finest. Lynne's B-side is rockaboogie crap.
3) "California Man" b/w "Do Ya" - This time Wood writes the rockaboogie crap and Lynne writes the perfect power-pop song. What the hell was "California Man" doing as the A and not B-side? It's one of the most irritating songs in the world, to become even more irritating a half decade later under Cheap Trick's thumb. "Do Ya," on the other hand, is a masterpiece. If you've only encountered it in its neutered ELO remake (the one with strings), you might have no idea that it was originally a good song. You don't know what you're missing - one of the finest hard-rocking power-pop rockers of the early '70s. Easily the best song on the CD and bar none Lynne's finest four minutes and six seconds in the Move.