Saturday, December 19, 2009

They Came From Birmingham

The Move were at least three bands rolled into one. The initial version to appear was a first class pop outfit, delivering two and a half minute hit singles with great regularity in the UK starting in 1967. The dandy Carl Wayne and slightly freaky Roy Wood were a killer pair of lead singers, and of course Roy had the secret formula to writing melodic hooks. And Trevor Burton, initially a rhythm guitarist then bass player, was a fine vocalist in his own right, and between the three of them their harmony work was right up their with their contemporaries. Last but not least, Bev Bevan was a force to be reckoned with on the drums.

The second incarnation grew organically from the first. Burton was replaced by Rick Price on bass, but the big change was an opening up of the musical scope. Roy was a fan of the new US West Coast sound, and all kinds of musical ideas from bands such as The Byrds and Love crept into their recordings in 1969. The musical forms were expanded and Roy began to experiment with the production. This culminated with their 1970 LP Shazam. There are only six tracks, but several of them are miniature rock symphonies with multi-part structures. And Roy's guitar playing comes front and center. There is no doubt he was one of the most gifted rock musicians of the flower power era. The first side was comprised of three original Wood tunes, the second side was all covers.

The last track is American folk singer Tom Paxton's The Last Thing On My Mind. It takes a cue from the Byrd's twelve string interpretations of Dylan then carries it about as far as the fabric will stretch.

It's a lesson too late for the learnin'
Made of sand, made of sand.
In the wink of an eye my soul is turnin'
In your hand, in your hand.

The yearning for a lost love in the powerful original version is surrounded by a haze of ringing guitar arpeggios and harmonics. Adding to the sonic mix are repeating quaverings in both the vocals and the guitar lines. Mr. Bevan's percussion work is sensitive yet powerful throughout. Somewhere around 3:34 Roy lets loose with a multi-tracked psychedelic guitar solo for the ages.

Shortly after the completion of Shazam Carl Wayne and Rick Price left The Move, and upon the entry of Jeff Lynne the third incarnation was off and running.

1 comment:

Who Am Us Anyway? said...

That's 2-plus minutes of guitar i keep coming back to too. Thanks Mr. P! I truly love the West Coast psych sound -- i think i was supposed to have outgrown that by now but ... :-)