Graded on a Curve:
The Move,
Shazam

This is what fans of The Move call a masterpiece? You might it expect it to be, seeing as how it’s the product of the bizarre mind of professional eccentric Roy Wood, future co-founder of Electric Light Orchestra and founder of the glam rock band Wizzard. And that’s the major flaw of 1970’s Shazam–despite the presence of Wood, the album isn’t eccentric enough.

The Move take a scattershot approach on Shazam, delving into art rock, classical rock, raga rock, and proto-metal, while also taking stabs at The Beatles and sixties folk rock. But their most important influence is the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, and that’s where things fall apart. The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band kept whimsical tongue firmly planted firmly in dada cheek, but on Shazam The Move want to have it both ways. They wander into Stanshall/Innes territory on a couple of cuts, but for the most part they play it straight. Shazam is a case of a split personality, and it’s too late for it to seek therapy.

“Cherry Blossom Clinic” makes the comedy grade, what with its light-hearted treatment of “they’re coming to take me away ha ha” lunacy, but the song is ruined for me by the extended foray into the music of Bach and Paul Dukas. Sure, it’s all in fun, but I don’t enjoy being classically gassed–if I wanted to listen to the likes of Bach I’d have to become a different person, because the person I am is bored stiff by the stuff.

Far less funny is the opening of the tender and very serious “Beautiful Daughter,” in which the band takes the same “talk to the man in the street” approach the Bonzo Dog Band employ in their masterpiece of absurdity “Shirts.” Trouble is, with the exception of the old women who responds to the question of whether she likes pop music by saying, “Well, it’s nice in its way, you know some of it, not uh, not when they go naked,” the Q and A just ain’t that funny. One laugh line doesn’t not a comedy classic make.

“Fields of People”–which veers from Jethro Tull English folk to big-time raga–suffers the same fate. It may or may not be a parody of Ars Nova’s insufferable classical music-influenced flower power ode from 1968, but the only real evidence of its being a parody are some laughter and repeated interjections along the lines of “Good evening, madam. It’s a recording, yes” and “Hello Uncle Bill.” One could argue that the subject matter itself (weeds of hatred, etc. etc.) are self-satirizing, but the reed is a thin one. For all I know, The Move could actually be in earnest.

The remaining songs on Shazam stand up, even if they are jarringly different than “Cherry Blossom Clinic “ and “Fields of People.” Hello Susie” opens with a riff copped straight from Vanilla Fudge’s “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” before becoming one of my all-time favorite Cheap Trick songs, this despite the fact that it was written by Roy Wood and Cheap Trick wouldn’t arrive on the music scene until 1973. The LP’s final tracks also make the grade; The Move make heavy metal gravy of Frankie Laine’s“Don’t Make My Baby Blue,” then abruptly veer into Byrds/Buffalo Springfield folk rock territory on their cover of folkie Tom Paxton’s “The Last Thing on My Mind.”

What we have with Shazam is a Frankenstein monster of an album by a band in the throes of an identity crisis that culminated with the departure of Carl Wayne–The Move member who advocated for the serious stuff–who was replaced by Jeff Lynne, who would soon join Wood in founding Electric Light Orchestra. Recommended to 20th century schizoid men and people who don’t mind being bushwhacked by legendary classical composers. As for those looking for hilarity, stick to the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band.

GRADED ON A CURVE:
B- 

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