It was all about “Shazam.” This was the album that was gonna break the Move through in the U.S. But the record came out, the tour was canceled, and not another thing was heard until…
ELO. The Electric Light Orchestra. A splinter group that became the main thing.
The first album yielded a track that got more press than airplay, but “10538 Overture” had more impact in the U.S. than the Move ever did. And “Roll Over Beethoven,” from the second LP, was even stickier. Then came “Showdown.” It was a radio staple. Setting up Jeff Lynne’s masterpiece, “Eldorado,” a winner from beginning to end, far superior to the double album “Out Of The Blue” that ended up killing the band. Yup, put your finger to the wind and test your own momentum before overreaching. It was the four-sided “Tales From Topographic Oceans” that put the stake in the heart of Yes, without Trevor Rabin almost a decade later, the band never would have come back. And then there’s Leon Russell, with his triple live album, a victory lap no one was waiting for. Yup, just when you think you’re cementing your legacy, you’re already done. It took the soundtrack to “Xanadu” and a playing to tape controversy to truly kill ELO, but it was done in ’77, with the double album.
But I purchased a Move’s greatest hits album back in ’74, a few months before “Eldorado.” And then I purchased another one two years later, with almost completely different material, you couldn’t buy the original studio albums, everything was rare…but I discovered a few tracks so spectacular…
That I’m gonna tell you about ‘em now.
“Message From The Country”
Kind of like “Pictures Of Matchstick Men,” this is so hypnotic you can’t stop playing it, because you don’t want to leave the space it puts you in.
It’s got a typically weak Jeff Lynne vocal buried in the mix, but the harmonies are so delicious they make you want to buy a three thousand dollar stereo just to hear them.
But it’s more than that.
It’s the lyrical intro.
The anthemic repetition of the title.
The guitar solo.
But mostly it’s those harmonies.
That’s something you don’t get in hip-hop. Something so sweet we’re all lemmings following in its wake. It was the secret sauce of Crosby, Stills & Nash and studio wizard Lynne knows how to get that sound.
You’ll never hear “Message From The Country” on the radio. But if you run into someone who knows it you’ll share a bond akin to spending a summer together at camp.
You can’t help but nod your head in time, it’s an involuntary movement, you’ll love it!
And if you’ve never heard it, be sure to play it all the way through, to when the rhythm changes and all the instruments drop out and you’re truly in the church of rock and roll.
Yes, from “Heaven Tonight”!
That’s right. The follow-up to “In Color,” Cheap Trick’s best.
And “Heaven Tonight” contains “Surrender,” but my favorite was and still is the second side opener, “Takin’ Me Back”…what a powerful riff!
But on side one, smack dab in the middle is a cover of “California Man.”
That’s right “California Man” was written and recorded by the Move! And the original is just zany and free enough to reference California, but at this late date I have to admit Cheap Trick’s cover is better. They lose some of the dynamics, but they add a rocking element, a power the original does not possess. But if you only know Cheap Trick’s version, you’ll be fascinated by the Move’s original. It stands on its own. But unlike Cheap Trick’s remake, it would never get airplay in ANY era!
The apotheosis. The ELO remake is not as good. It’s too slick. It’s got that added sliding guitar part. I credit Jeff Lynne for reaching back and lifting “Do Ya” out of obscurity, but the original is just a bit more rough, a garage band take whose energy immediately infects you.
It’s the break that’s so magical.
In the country where the sky
Touches down on the field
He lay her down to rest
In the morning sun
They come ‘a running just to get a look
Just to feel, to touch her long black veil
They don’t give a damn
This is the essence of rock and roll. The unexpected sweetness, the “Lady Jane” effect. But in this case the magic is encapsulated right in the center of this tearing rocker, it’s better than nougat, you’re drawn to the music, the words paint the desire of every horny boy listening to rock music ever!
The ELO remake is absent the dynamics. It’s too rote. Lynne knows he’s gonna get airplay. He’s perfecting it. Whereas the original has no blueprint, you get the feeling the band just learned the song fifteen minutes before.
Except for that break…
Where did that come from? How’d they channel that?
In my rock and roll museum, the original replaces the remake. See if you don’t agree.
And you can explore beyond this. There’s more Move on Spotify. Especially the lauded “Hello Susie.”
But start with these three tracks.
If you don’t get it you never lived through the sixties, you never knew the joy of playing music, of believing that the right sound could change the world, or at least make you not care about what’s outside your front door.
When we were listening to our music, we just didn’t give a damn.
About anything but the sound.