Album review: The Move, Looking On

Posted: January 18, 2011 in Album Reviews

Last week, I took a look at Message from the Country, the final (and perhaps best album) from brilliant English rock band The Move. Since I enjoyed that album so much, I ordered Looking On, the other Move album with Jeff Lynne in the fold.
Coming a year before Message and the debut album from spin-off group Electric Light Orchestra, Looking On finds the Move in transition as it adjusts to having a pair of strong songwriters in the group (Lynne and Roy Wood) as opposed to one.
The sound on Looking On is much heavier on the whole. It’s got a bit of a muddy sound, very early heavy metal type stuff. Actually, think Black Sabbath with songwriters that can actually, well, write songs and you’ve got a decent idea. Of course, that would be simplifying things a bit too much because as heavy as some of these songs are, they can take completely left-field turns, as is the case on the title track. Through five minutes of the 7:30 opus, it’s a pretty conventional hard rock tune, then it spazzes out into a baroque pop jam with oboes, other brass instruments and the guitars melding together in what surely was a test run for the early ELO sound.
The songs on Looking On are much longer and more jam-oriented than on Message, with all but two of the seven songs featured on the original album clocking in at five minutes or more. And they aren’t just your typical guitar freakouts. There’s a backwards drum solo on one of the two Lynne contributions – “Open Up Said the World at the Door”, Wood shows his flare for playing everything under the sun on tracks like “Turkish Tram Conductor Blues” and “When Alice Comes Back from the Farm” as he shreds on the guitar and can also play a mean sax or oboe solo, wherever the mood strikes him.
I find the Move’s music to be very interesting. Sure, it can be all over the map, but these guys weren’t your average rock band. Their music isn’t very well known in the United States, but they were huge in England and other parts of the world. Their catalogue definitely is worth exploring for the uninitiated (like I was as of a few weeks ago).

Album rating: ****
Key tracks: Looking On, Turkish Tram Conductor Blues, Feel Too Good, Open Up Said the World at the Door, What?

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