Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Move - Shazam

Shazam (1970) ***

All new material, folks!

The Move's second album finds Roy Wood short on material and attempting to cover it up by a) relying overmuch on covers and b) extending the songs into psychedelic jam territory.  Of the six songs, three are covers, and of the three originals, only the gorgeous, "Beautiful Daughter," at 2:51 is at all concise; nearly every other track extends past the five-minute mark.  For once it works brilliantly, on "Cherry Blossom Clinic Revisited," a remake of the old Move chestnut that vastly improves upon the original:  the light-classical borrowings on the extended coda almost justify the history of art-rock pretensions to fusing European 'highbrow' music with Anglo-American rock'n'roll.  But it is distressing that it is a recycling of old material (like I should complain, tee hee); what was up with Wood, one of pop's top-notch songwriters of the era, doing so strapped for good songs?  Perhaps he'd invested so much into the Move's concurrent brilliant singles that he'd blown his wad by the time he entered the studio to record an album, and only realized it until it was too late.  Nevertheless, as I stated above, "Beautiful Daughter," possesses an absolutely lovely translucent melodic Olde Angleland charm, enough so's you can easily ignore the slightly creepy lyrics, which appear to be about an older gentleman being refreshed by imbibing a bit of youth from a nubile maiden.  I hear that Gandhi tried a similar trick, sleeping naked with teenage girls to revive his youthful energies.  Did it work?  Maybe I'll try it out when I'm a dirty old man.  As opposed to merely a dirty young (OK, not so young anymore) man.  "Hello Suzie," kicks proceedings off with a direct and directly catchy slice of Movepowerpop, and would've been brilliant....if it'd had a minute or two lopped off its 4:51 length.

That goes double and even triple and in the case of the nearly eleven minute "Fields of People," quadruple or quintuple for the three covers that take up the B side of the original vinyl.  Not that "Fields of People," isn't excellent for the first few minutes: weird, vaguely troubling in a mass hippie cult kinda way (not just the dippy lyrics, but the unsettling monk-medieval harmonies that segue into the chorus), but it's hard not to get swept along by the folkily-melodic tidal wave of it all, the way the sprightly Celtic verses give way to the forceful Benedictine chorus.  Ars Nova were another one of those ultra-obscure bands completely lost to history, and being covered by the Move is apparently their lone claim to any sort of fame - more's the sorrower, judging by the evidence of this fine song.  If only the buzzily guitar-sitaring coda didn't extend for so freakin' long!  It's not as if it's some prog epic with non-repetitive song structure or fluidly dazzling solos; there's really no excuse for extending a relatively simple pop song to eleven minutes' length.  The other two covers, "Don't Make My Baby Blue," and "The Last Thing On My Mind," are barely worth discussing; the Move don't do anything interesting with either of these '60s MOR pop standards, yet irritatingly extend them to 6:02 and 7:36, respectively. 

The bonus tracks aren't worth much, either:  it's simply a tacking on of their 1968 Something Else live EP, with a handful of other live tracks slathered on as addition.  It's all covers, and the Move do justice to but don't improve upon Eddie Cochran, Spooky Tooth, Love, Janis Joplin, the Byrds, the Moody Blues, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Jackie Wilson.  In other words, check out the originals, this live LP is kind of a waste.  An interesting waste, and worth a listen if you're a fan and want to hear how the Move run through some of their favorite oldies and contemporaries, but not the sort of thing I'll ever feel the need to listen to again.  Much like the rest of this album, with the first three tracks and maybe 1/3 of "Fields of People," very much excepted.

P.S.  Almost forgot to mention it - this album's gimmick is splicing man on the street interviews with older Britishfolk about their opinions on pop music.  "Well, it's all right in its way, except when they go naked," from some old granny, is the keeper.

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