By 1971, it was clear that changes were in the offing for the Move. Message from the Country shows them carrying their sound, within the context of who they were, about as far as they could. One can hear them hit the limits of what guitars, bass, drums, and keyboards, with lots of harmony overdubs and ornate singing, could do. Indeed, parts of this record sound almost like a dry run from the first Electric Light Orchestra album, which was in the planning stages at the time. The influence of the Beatles runs through most of the songs stylistically. Particularly in Jeff Lynne's case, it was as though someone had programmed "Paperback Writer" and other chronologically related pop-psychedelic songs by the Beatles into the songwriting and arranging, but across its ten songs, the album also shot for a range of sound akin to the White Album, except that the members of the Move are obviously working much more closely together. Reduced to a trio and all but wiped out as a live act, they went ahead and generated what was, song for song, their most complex and challenging album. Heard today, it seems charmingly ornate in execution, yet also simple in the listening, very basic rock & roll dressed up in the finest raiment that affordable studio time could provide. Despite the obvious jump from the post-psychedelic "Message from the Country" to the driving, delightful "Ella James" and the leap into airy pop-psychedelia on "No Time," not to mention the novelty interlude of "Don't Mess Me Up," there's a sense of unity here, the entire album somehow holding together as something powerful, bracing, and visceral, yet cheerfully trippy. In that sense, it goes The White Album one better. Based on its musical merits, it all should have sold the way some ELO albums later did, instead of getting lost in the transition between the histories of the two groups. And 35 years on and counting, it's still essential listening for fans of either the Move or ELO, as well as Roy Wood.
AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder