Looking On is the third album by The Move, released in the UK in December 1970. The LP is their first to feature Jeff Lynne, their first containing entirely original compositions, and the first on the Fly label, its catalogue number being FLY 1. It includes both their 1970 singles, the Top 10 hit "Brontosaurus," released on Regal Zonophone in March, and the less successful "When Alice Comes Back To The Farm," released on Fly in October.
It's also the first LP to feature both Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne as a tandem, with Wood’s use of cello and woodwinds and Lynne's vocals anticipating the work they would later pursue in the Electric Light Orchestra, whose debut album they were starting to record at around the same time. The jazzy fills on the title track also serve as a signpost of the style that Wood would later develop in Wizzard and the Wizzo Band.
The Move was effectively a dead band walking when Lynne joined in February 1970 after fronting (and producing) The Idle Race. Wood had wanted to launch a new group with Lynne that would feature rock and strings -- to pick up, in theory, where the Beatles' "I Am The Walrus" had left off -- and retire the Move immediately. But despite mainstream media reports that the Move were finished -- with Wood's blessing -- contractual obligations and management pressure kept the brand name kicking, regardless of the drastic changes in sound and personnel.
Undaunted, Wood and Lynne took the opportunity to begin work on the embryonic ELO project in the studio and get the Move off the road, for the most part -- the occasional live set in 1970 usually featured most of the tracks on "Looking On," a cover of the Beatles' "She's A Woman," and just one of Wood's classic singles, "I Can Hear The Grass Grow."
Both composers saw the forthcoming album as a chance to experiment with motifs that they could apply to future recordings. Indeed, in July, during the "Looking On" sessions, the band recorded "10538 Overture," a Lynne composition that was originally intended to be a Move 'B'-side. It never got there. When Wood overdubbed a monster cello riff over the basic track 15 times over, he and Lynne decided they'd found the template for something even better than they'd originally planned -- a ground-breaking hit that could launch the ELO with a bang. Their instincts were eventually proven right, although the "10538 Overture" didn't wind up crashing the UK charts until the summer of 1972.
While Lynne was trying out longer and more complex songs and harmonies (foreshadowing the "ELO 2" album by a few years), Wood was trying to play (and successfully) every instrument he could get his hands on. He's credited with handling no fewer than seven of them on "Looking On" -- including the oboe, sitar, cello, bass, saxophone, and the 'banjar,' a banjo rigged to sound something like a cross between a pedal steel guitar and a sitar (featured on "Turkish Tram Conductor Blues"). In addition to guitar and piano, Lynne plays drums on the album's closer, "Feel Too Good," a track that also features P.P. Arnold and Doris Troy on backing vocals and ends with an (uncredited) doo-wop-style coda, "The Duke Of Edinburgh's Lettuce."
Just as "Shazam" had gotten lost in the wake of Carl Wayne's departure and Wood's new, wild on-stage persona, "Looking On" was not a hit. Nor was it extensively promoted by Fly, in part because the Move had fled the company to join EMI's new Harvest label shortly after sessions for the album were completed.
Not surprisingly, the final product was regarded by some critics as uneven, noodling, and self-indulgent. Four of the record's seven tracks are longer than six minutes in length, and drummer Bev Bevan recently told journalist Mark Paytress that even he felt the LP was "ploddy."
Nevertheless, the high points of "Looking On" are widely rated among Wood's most beloved compositions. "Brontosaurus" was eventually covered by Move fans Cheap Trick, and "Feel Too Good" was later featured on the soundtrack of the movie "Boogie Nights."
"Looking On" has been reissued on CD with various combinations of bonus tracks, including in 1998 by Repertoire, and most recently by Salvo in 2008.