The Move – Looking On (1970) review

July 30, 2016

The Move – Looking On (1970) review

Fourth And Final Esoteric Reissue Of The Move Rocks!
“Looking On” by The Move (Esoteric Recordings, UK 2016)
November, 1970, marked the release of the third album by The Move “Looking On.”  This marked the first LP to feature ex-Idle Race guitarist/vocalist/pianist/songwriter Jeff Lynne, who replaced lead vocalist Carl Wayne.  The band’s sound changed as “Looking On” featured five Roy Wood compositions and two by Jeff Lynne, the first album to include only original compositions .  As with its predecessor “Shazam” the album features the band continuing to grow musically as evidenced by their extended, more complex performances.

“Looking On” opens with the title track, a heavy tune written by Roy Wood and featuring the dual guitars of Wood and Lynne.  Rick Price and Bev Bevan pound out the beat as Lynne’s guitar gives the song a nice melody while Wood’s lead guitar roars.  Sounding not unlike Black Sabbath at its best, the song’s heavy riff is complemented by Wood’s sitar and Lynne’s piano on this nearly eight minute tune.  “Turkish Tram Conductor Blues” opens with Wood’s guitar wailing before the band settles into a heavy groove.  Wood’s vocals are simply gorgeous.  An incredible guitar solo is joined by Wood’s oboe to give the tune its texture before Roy’s slide guitar drives the song home.  “What?” is the first Jeff Lynne penned title, another heavy tune, with great guitar work by Wood and gorgeous, heavily echoed lead vocals and piano by Lynne.  Wood’s cello gives hints of the music recorded by Wood, Lynne and Bevan later, as ELO.  Wood’s guitar solo aided by his wah wah pedal is amazing, while Bevan’s drums stand out on this seven minute track.  Wood’s slide guitar opens “When Alice Comes Back To The Farm” which also features Wood’s cello and Bevan’s percussion.  Another incredible guitar solo by Wood is accompanied by Lynne’s piano.  At the three minute mark Wood’s guitar takes over completely steering the song to its conclusion.  A real change of pace, Lynne’s “Open Up Said The World At The Door” is much mellower with Wood’s sitar at the fore, while Lynne’s piano is reminiscent of Traffic’s Steve Winwood.  Wood’s oboe is added for flavor, while Bevan’s  drum solo is phased and quite interesting.  Wood’s guitar solo is simply stunning.  “Brontosaurus” is an incredible piece of hard rock, with Wood’s lead guitar line soaring over the heavy beat of Price’s bass and Bevan’s drums.  Wood’s acoustic guitar enters, followed by an amazing slide guitar solo joined by Lynne’s pounding piano to play the song out.  “Feel Too Good” a gentle tune, features Wood’s slide guitar and gorgeous vocal harmonies in addition to tasteful piano and drums by Lynne.  The band settles into a mellow, Traffic “Low Spark” type groove aided by P.P. Arnold and Doris Troy’s beautiful vocal harmonies and Lynne’s piano.  Wood’s guitar takes over half way through this tour de force before Lynne’s piano joins in leading up to more of Wood’s slide guitar.  As a coda “Do Wop” vocals and gentle piano bring this nine and a half minute tour de force and album closer to its conclusion.  Disc one of this set closes with its first bonus track, the Rick Price penned “Lightning Never Strikes Twice” a non-LP b-side which relies on Wood’s acoustic guitar to lead the way until he switches to sitar for the remainder of the tune.

Disc two contains four outtakes and rarities from the “Looking On” sessions and nine BBC recordings, including  interviews with Roy Wood and Bev Bevan, a total of thirteen tracks with a run time of just over 47 minutes, almost exactly the same as disc one.

The familiar outtake, “The Duke Of Edinburgh’s Lettuce” is an interesting ditty dominated by Lynne’s piano.  An alternate take of the album’s title track follows.  As with the released version Wood’s guitar and the driving rhythm section give the track a heavy feel offset somewhat by Wood’s sitar and oboe.  This take runs a bit over nine minutes, slightly longer than the LP track.  An interesting US promo single edit of “Brontosaurus” sounds wonderful and its a real shame the side didn’t hit record stores as it sounds perfectly suited for both AM and the newly emerging FM radio formats in the US.  Lynne’s heavy guitar riff dominates the song throughout.  An interesting alternate take of “Turkish Tram Conductor Blues” displays Wood’s vocals and guitar work at their best.  The BBC tracks included come from sessions in March and July of 1970.  As usual The Move performed songs not recorded for albums including two takes on Lennon and McCartney’s “She’s A Woman” which, while remaining loyal to the original have more punch than The Beatles’ version wile retaining the gorgeous harmonies.  Wood’s guitar is rather restrained on the first version.  “Brontosaurus” rumbles as Price and Bevan belt out a beat and Wood’s guitar roars over them.  Definitely the heaviest number among the BBC takes.  Jeff Lynne’s light, breezy “Falling Forever” features jangling, chugging guitars and gorgeous vocal harmonies, sounding much like ELO while benefiting from incredible, snaking lead guitar by Wood.  “Lightning Never Strikes” sounds snappy and features Wood’s cello.  The song builds as Wood’s guitar twists and turns.  “Looking On” is announced as a possible follow up single to “Brontosaurus” in the UK and it is alluded that the band may stretch it out to twelve minutes for the new album.  Roy Wood’s guitar work is nothing short of amazing as he easily races through this three minute version.  “When Alice Comes Back To The Farm” features Wood’s cello and slide guitar more prominently than the album version.  Add Lynne’s boogie woogie piano and I actually prefer this take.  The set closes with the second version of “She’s A Woman”, this time given The Move touch and sounding much heavier, thanks to Wood’s guitar,  yet remaining melodic.  A great take and an ideal closer for this reissue of “Looking On.”

Compiled for Esoteric Recordings by Mark Powell this deluxe edition of “Looking On” has, in addition to its 14 bonus tracks, a 20 page full color booklet, with an essay by Mark Paytress, complete track annotations, tons of incredible photos and 24-bit remastering by Ben Wiseman, making this by far the best sounding and most definitive version of “Looking On” ever released.  To top things off, the set includes an interesting mini-poster for this reissue with news clippings and even more wonderful photos on the reverse side.  This release completes the four title reissue campaign by Esoteric Recordings of the pre-EMI Harvest catalog of The Move.  All four are essential to lovers of mod and psychedelic rock and I truly cannot recommend the entire series highly enough.  Obviously a labor of love, my hat is off to Mark Powell, his wife Vicky who helped compile the series, Ben Wiseman for the incredible sound and the folks at Esoteric Recordings for releasing this incredible series on this most treasured band.  Cheers!  
– Kevin Rathert
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