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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

The Move

Message From The Country

Review by Gary Hill

I'll admit right off the top that I'm not one hundred percent sure about including this disc in the progressive rock section. Still, in the early days of prog (and this one is from 1971) there was a lot of ancillary weirdness that got lumped into the sound. Besides the group's ability to create complex arrangements served to elevate rock into a much higher zone, so that might also get it included. I must point out that some of the tracks here would definitely fall well outside of that zone, too. But some show enough progressive rock tendencies for me to include it here. For those who don't know this band sort of evolved into Electric Light Orchestra, and this was the final Move album. It showcases a group looking to expand musical horizons, while still keep an eye on traditions and sounds that came before. In some ways that really represents a lot of what progressive rock is all about. While not everything works well, I would say that the potent cuts far outweigh the ones that fail. Overall, this is a cool album that packs a lot of insight into musical history.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
It Wasn't My Idea To Dance
This has a great world music texture to it and yet also a certain air of '60's psychedelia. The vocal segment has a heavy sort of sound which combines acid rock with King Crimson like prog rock and even a bit of proto metal. This cut is dramatic, quirky and very powerful. There are moments that call to mind The Who's "Boris the Spider" a bit from my way of hearing it. The bass line is pretty impressive and the symphonic textures that show up add a nice level of sound here. The powerful instrumental jam later is pretty awesome. I even hear hints of Chicago's "25 or 6 to 4" on the outro. This is adventurous, creative music. 
The Minister
Starting with an odd sort of progressive rock musical introduction this bounces in with a sound that has a lot of the feel of early Electric Light Orchestra. The track has a definite Beatles texture, but also enough prog rock changes to keep the purists happy. This is a little rough around the edges, but still quite palatable. The real progressive qualities come in the instrumental movement that includes a major world music sort of jam. They also eventually modulate this outward into psychedelic chaos to eventually end.
Message From The Country
A rather ballad-like picked guitar sound starts this one off with a lot of drama. As the vocals enter and bring with it the main song structure this feels a lot like very early E.L.O. The Beatles influences are all over this one as they were the previous cut, but this has a lot less of the awkwardness that has shown up on the last couple pieces. A drop back to guitar-based ballad is used for good effect, but afterwards they work it back upwards. The guitar solo on this feels a lot like George Harrison. A staccato, military like breakdown later is a good addition as are the layers of vocals that come over the top of it. I'd have to say that this track is a contender for my favorite of the album.
The Words of Aaron
This one would be one of the biggest pieces of competition for the title of favorite song. Starting on piano this one quickly ramps up in terms of the arrangement and becomes one of the most ELO-like pieces on the album. It has more of a polished approach than some of the other stuff here and is just plain incredible. There are plenty of instrumental showcases and compositional changes to appeal to fans of progressive rock, and this one has some killer textures at points throughout. It's definitely a powerhouse. More of that "25 or 6 to 4" texture comes out in the bass line of this piece.
Ben Crawley Steel Company
A slightly bluesy guitar starts this, but as the verse hits, they turn it to a full on down home country arrangement. This one is rather funny, but doesn't do much for me. If there's a throw away track here, this is it.
Until Your Mama's Gone
Here they lead off with a back porch blues texture. As they pump out into the verse section, though, this is reworked into a pounding hard rocking sound that's pretty cool. This is another that shows definite signs of what ELO would sound like. There's a cool honky-tonk piano solo in the midst of this one. I'm not sure that I'd consider it a prog rock piece, but it is entertaining. They drop it back later to a more full-scale acoustic blues treatment. Once again that sound doesn't stay around long, though. They pump it back out into the song proper and then eventually move it out into an extended hard rocking jam.
No Time
While overall this is a balladic Beatles-influenced cut the arrangement here is what elevates this one. There is so much going on that, while it all seems to complement the main song, it's hard to catch everything without a few listenings. It is definitely another that has a lot in common with ELO. It is also rife with (although they might be a little hard to spot at times) prog rock elements.
Ella James
A bouncing, hard rocking approach leads this one off. It has a more awkward approach than the last piece, but also a lot of late era Beatles influences. This is a solid rocker, but nothing all that special.
Don't Mess Me Up
This is one I'd jus plain pass on by. It's a doo-wop, Elvis inspired rocker. It's just a bit too weird for me. Besides, neither one of those sounds are ones I enjoy.
My Marge
Keyboards start this in a silly little mode, then it drops to a jam that is a very retro textured piece of sound. It has the hurdy gurdy sort of pop song from the 1900's - as in the 0 years. I'm sure you know the sound. The Beatles, Klaatu and Queen all were inclined to jump into this school of musical thought from time to time. It's kind of an odd number and a weird way to end the disc.
 
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