Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Move – Message From the Country

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The Move – Message From the Country

September 30th, 2010

Message From the Country was the 1971 parting shot from Brummie rockers The Move, something of a contractual obligation while the now three piece recorded the first ELO album. And as far as contractual obligations go, it’s a bloody good’un.

the move - message from the country album cover

Consisting of Roy Wood, Jeff Lynne and Bev Bevan, this album, recorded for the band’s new label and EMI’s progressive wing, Harvest, saw Lynne move to the fore, sharing 50% of the songwriting, vocal and production duties with the The Move’s regular creative workhorse, Roy Wood.

As a band that’d travelled a musical path from Mod chic and pop, to psychedelic floweriness, through to some particularly weighty progressive rock, Message From the Country sees a return to the realms of the pop song, albeit in a somewhat progressive vein.

Not quite the best album The Move ever recorded (Looking On still pips it at the post), it does contain one of the best songs, if not the best song, to bolt from the stable of Birmingham’s finest. ‘The Words of Aaron’ is a post-psychedelic masterpiece from the pen of Jeff Lynne; a moody and enigmatic tune that features dual vocals from Lynne and Wood, suitably cryptic lyrics and the menacing intrusion of an electric bassoon.

Yes, an electric bassoon! Of all things!

But it isn’t just ‘The Words of Aaron‘ that make Message From the Country such a worthwhile cause. Throughout, The Move play like a band in their prime and the songwriting is top notch, this is despite their attentions having already moved onto the Electric Light Orchestra project. A more conscientious triumvirate of tuneful Brummies, you’d be hard pressed to find.

‘Message From the Country’, the opening track and Jeff Lynne’s meditative ode to impending environmental disaster, is another strong contender for the all-time greats vault, and nestled between these two fine songs is a collection of the diverse, the experimental and the downright bizarre.

The Bevan-penned Elvis pastiche ‘Don’t Mess Me Up’, gives Roy Wood the opportunity to roll out his best Presley vocals, which he’d go on to revisit for both the first and second Wizzard albums. Elsewhere, Bevan himself is given the opportunity to take lead vocals for the first time since ‘Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart’ on The Move’s debut album, this time with the Johnny Cash-flavoured ‘Ben Crawley Steel Company’. As in the case of his previous stint out from behind the drum kit, the results are – at best – interesting.

Such frivolities aside, the remainder of the tracks are all firmly on the right side of decent, with Roy Wood’s Middle Eastern tinged ‘It Wasn’t My Idea to Dance’, being a particular highlight. Even the daft as badger-buggery, music hall wheeze of ‘My Marge’ passes muster. That’s how good this album is.

But it doesn’t end there. The 2005 Harvest reissue of Message From the Country features eight bonus tracks, made up of the final singles The Move released (none of which feature on the original album), as well as three previously unheard session tracks. Nestled amidst these bonuses is the wonderful Jerry Lee Lewis-styled ‘California Man’, the final song recorded under The Move name. A raucous, 1950′s throwback of a rock ‘n’ roller, it serves as a more than fitting end to a cracking legacy, one which began with a very different line-up at Birmingham’s Cedar Club, six years before.

Likewise, Message From the Country is an enviable swansong from one of the great bands sitting on the 60s/70s cusp.

Message From the Country by The Move is reissued by Harvest and available to buy from

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