Forgotten series: The Move – Looking On (1970)

Here’s another British band that attained superstardom in their native land, but struggled to attract attention in the U.S. If Americans are aware of the Move at all, it’s probably because they morphed into Electric Light Orchestra.

Formed in 1965, the Birmingham-based band went onto score hit singles like “Night Of Fear,” “I Can Hear The Grass Grow,” “Flowers In The Rain,” “Fire Brigade” and “Blackberry Way” that rank as some of the coolest psychedelic scented pop picks of the era. Not only did the Move work their mojo on record, but their live shows exploded with shocking excitement. Dressed in wild costumes, with axes in hand, the band brazenly smashed objects onstage, ranging from television sets to cars to even a bust of Adolf Hitler.

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Last year saw the release of some interesting archival footage, as the Move appeared on a series of rare, early-1970s television broadcasts in Germany.]

Noted for being the first album to feature Jeff Lynne, who of course secured the role as ringmaster of Electric Light Orchestra, Looking On (Fly Records) marked the Move’s third full-length disc, and captured them donning a rather different stripe of apparel. Dumping the mod mettle in favor of thunderous hard rock pitch, the Move now had more in common with Blue Cheer than the Beatles.

Aiming to create the most over the top racket imaginable, the band played a variety of instruments on Looking On to drive the point home. Cramming strains of classical music, jazz and raga rock into one mind-numbing mass of excess, the title track of the album tumbles and trembles with flashy flourishes, while the equally paralyzing “Open Up Said The World At The Door” hurls a hair-raising operatic chorus into the twisting, turning, burning brew for added effect.

Thick and heavy, “Brontosaurus” swaggers and boogies to a charmingly clumsy beat, “Turkish Tram Conductor Blues” crackles and crunches with commanding incentives, and the positively petrifying “Feel Too Good” throws the listener for a loop by slipping a shot of street corner doo-wop ala Danny and the Juniors across the brash and boisterous canvas.

Shaped of pummeling rhythms, chugging riffs, weighty harmonies and elastic arrangements, not to mention a couple of drum solos and bouts of incisive jamming, Looking On stands as the ultimate progressive metal experience. Pushing inventiveness to the limit without losing their own colorful personality in the process, the band rocks loud and proud on this arresting album. Shamelessly self-indulgent, Looking On teems with sly tricks that only a band as great as the Move can get away with.

Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson was born the day Ben E. King hit No. 4 on the national charts with "Stand By Me" - which is ironically one of her favorite songs, especially the version by John Lennon. She has also contributed to Lance Monthly and Amplifier, and served as associate editor of Rock Beat International. Paterson's own publications have included Inside Out, and Twist And Shake. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.

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