THE MOVE Message From The Country (EMI)
Bev Bevan, Jeff Lynne and Roy Wood recorded Message From The Country, The Moves final album, simultaneously with the Electric Light Orchestras debut, the sessions dovetailing to the extent that work for both sometimes appeared on the same master tape. In retrospect its a fascinating parlour game to ponder why individual songs were steered towards a particular album. A necessary contractual obligation before they could devote their creative energies entirely to ELO, Message From The Country is by far the more playful of the two. The Move felt they had a freedom to experiment, to parody or to wallow in nostalgia that the more self-consciously progressive Electric Light Orchestra were denied. Consequently, their two albums are instructively distinct faces of the same coin.
The heavy soup of the title track sounds like a less contagious 10538 Overture, riding out on complex multitracked harmonies that anticipate Queens later work in this area. Roy Woods contributions here are far more playful and poppy than anything he attempted during his brief tenure with the Electric Light Orchestra, as Ella James and a clutch of snappy, concise contemporaneous singles amongst the extra tracks demonstrate. No Time, with Lynnes plaintive overdubbed vocals and Woods massed ranks of recorders wouldnt have sounded lost on ELOs debut.
Bev Basher Bevans sole writing credit, Dont Mess Me Up, is an affectionate doo-wop homage, a cinema-trashing teddy boy rampage. Until Your Momas Gone is the kind of moon-booted glam stomp that Roy would explore more lucratively in Wizzard, and It Wasnt My Idea To Dance sounds like a lumpen meld of contemporary Jethro Tull and the less digestible moments of The Electric Light Orchestra. The comedy country hokum of Ben Crawley Steel Company is enjoyable enough as long as youre not seeking Man In Black levels of gravitas, although its tale of workplace disgruntlement isnt far from Cashs own concerns. The Words Of Aaron wears an elaborate arrangement whilst being almost entirely bereft of subtlety, a description that some might argue could be applied to much of Lynnes work. Finally, theres the near-obligatory music hall saunter My Marge, positioned squarely in the tradition of When Im Sixty-Four and Mothers Lament.
Cluttered, overblown and, in places, indigestible as it is, Message From The Countrys English theatricality and gleeful stylistic juxtapositions place it on the same line that links Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band to A Night At The Opera. On its own, though, it provides a rather lopsided portrait of late-period Move, something that the extra tracks, intentionally or otherwise, attempt to correct. The clumping exoticism of Chinatown hasnt weathered the years particularly lightly, but the mock-heavy rock of Do Ya, later revisited on the Electric Light Orchestra album A New World Record is one of the discs highlights.
A smattering of startlingly different session tracks are as revealing as sonic x-rays. Dont Mess Me Up is presented in almost totally acapella form save for some piano, handclaps and fingersnaps, although the backing track can be heard bleeding through on occasion. The Words Of Aaron is extended and, again, sparser, just vocals, piano, woodwind and some bleed-through. These versions are unlikely to be demos the elaborately rendered harmonies would mitigate against that suggestion but stripped of the bulk of their instrumentation these songs are somehow much more lithe and appealing.
Electric Light Orchestra