The Move might not have made their final album Message From The Country if new label Harvest hadn’t insisted on it as part of their concession to Roy Wood’s Electric Light Orchestra idea – rock’n’roll with banks of cellos? The man was clearly nuts. Good job they did though, because Message is magnificent.
With Jeff Lynne’s arrival in 1970 as Wood’s sparring partner, The Move slimmed down to a trio, the mighty Bev Bevan being the only other original member. The title track is a doom-laden masterpiece that fulfils Lynne’s desire to “pick up where The Beatles left off”. The Jeff and Roy show was a dense hydra with an almost conceited amount of exotic instrumentation and bizarro songs that provide the axis between power pop Americana (Ella James) and Black Country grit (My Marge).
The key three then finished off their baroque debut and the Electric Light Orchestra’s monstrous classical metal astounded all who saw them unveil 10538 Overture on Top Of The Pops in 1972.
Creating a sonic compression that outdid even George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, the fusion of sawing strings and hunting horns boiled over during The Battle Of Marston Moor (July 2nd 1664). Lynne’s Queen Of The Hours and his even more atypically pop-drenched Mr. Radio either delighted or infuriated Wood, who must have felt as if he was looking into a mirror and seeing someone else’s reflection.
Wood’s solo disc Boulders (1973) is almost entirely a one-man band affair, the first light of its maker’s obsessive control-freak nature. Or it may just be the best thing he’s ever done, since the multi-tracked vocals and arcane references confirm him to be the premier maverick of his era during Songs Of Praise (which he wrote for Eurovision hopefuls the New Seekers) and the whacked-out Wake Up. It still sounds grand.
Thrift-shop glam infuses Wizzard Brew, except Roy’s found himself a sonic terrorist get-up and he thrashes the listener into jelly during the lengthy Meet Me At The Jailhouse and Wear A Fast Gun.
On The Road Again (1979) is the surprise package. Unreleased in Blighty, import buyers were surprised to hear Carl Wayne’s return and John Bonham’s percussion cameos, as well as Roy’s jolliest, Beach Boys-flavoured moments.
Rather meanly, this slim box set sticks to its title: there are no liner notes, no bonus material, no nuffink – apart from five brilliant British albums, of course. God save The Move./o:p