LET THERE BE LIGHT
From page 44 of Classic Rock Magazine November 2006
ELO: ALBUM BY ALBUM by Ken Sharp
Imagine The Beatles, Brahms, Beethoven and Bach all sharing the same recording studio complex, all pooling sounds and ideas, and you’ve got the template for the Electric Light Orchestra. Rising from the ruins of The Move they created a glorious musical monolith that cross-pollinated sublime pop songs and an in-your-face frenzy of cellos and violins.
Electric Light Orchestra (1971) The band’s debut is a confident marriage of pop traditionalism and wacky experimentation, with 10538 Overture the cherry on their proverbial musical cake. Soon afterwards Roy Wood quit the band and formed Wizzard, leaving Jeff Lynne at the controls.
ELO II (1973) Here the group’s master plan began to come into focus. A dramatic reworking of Chuck Berry’s Roll Over Beethoven with requisite ‘classical’ intro signalled ELO’s ascent as innovative record makers.
On The Third Day (1973) On their second album of 1973 Lynne’s lofty sonic and creative ambitions coalesced with the raw guitar crunch of Ma-Ma-Ma-Belle and the funky Showdown – a favourite of John Lennon and prompting him to dub ELO “son of Beatles”.
Eldorado (1974) After the stop-gap live album The Night The Lights Went Out (In Long Beach) in March 1974, October saw the arrival of “A symphony by the Electric Light Orchestra” – Eldorado. A master work of creativity, the album took the group to a new level of commercial success, with the remarkably Lennon-esque ballad Can’t Get It Out Of My Head earning the band their first US Top 10 US hit.
Face The Music (1975) Recorded at Musicland studios in Munich, Face The Music extended ELO’s international run of success, yielding some of the band’s most beloved tracks: Strange Magic and Evil Woman: the latter written in just six minutes!
A New World Record (1976) A New World Record sold more than five million copies worldwide, firmly establishing ELO as one of the most creative and commercially viable bands of the 70s. Lynne’s skills as a consummate producer, arranger and songwriter came to the fore on this record, reflected in such ELO jewels as Telephone Line, Livin’Thing and a solid reworking of The Move’s Do Ya. Debuted in the Top 10 of every country in which it was released.
Out Of The Blue (1977) Filled with crafty production tricks, orchestral whimsy and a feast of immaculately crafted pop tunes, this double album marked ELO’s peak as a commercial machine, crammed with perennial favourites Turn To Stone, Sweet Talkin’Woman, the Vocoder-laced Mr Blue Sky (sounding like an out-take from The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper), and Wild West Hero.
Discovery (1979) ELO’s first UK chart topper. Just like Rod Stewart (with D’Ya Think I’m Sexy), The Rolling Stones (Miss You) and Kiss (I Was Made For Lovin’ You), ELO weren’t immune to catching some of that disco fever, and several tracks on Discovery successfully incorporated dance rhythms and club grooves: witness such infectious toe tappers as Shine A Little Love, Don’t Bring Me Down and Last Train To London.
Time (1981) After a successful collaboration with Olivia Newton-John on the No.1 UK smash Xanadu (still one of Lynne’s favourite ELO tracks), the group released Time. While ELO no longer ruled the charts, the record has a few high points including the global hit Hold On Tight, Twilight and Ticket To The Moon, yet on this album you could sense that Lynne was beginning to run out of ideas.
Secret Messages (1983)
Despite the group’s fading commercial fortunes and Lynne’s creative fatigue, he remained a first-rate record maker. Released in the summer of 1983, Secret Messages remains a favourite among hard-core ELO aficionados. The return-to-roots twang of Rock’n’Ro l Is King and the wily experimentalism of the title track are among the sonic treasures.
Balance of Power (1986) While a disappointment commercially, Balance Of Power is perhaps ELO’s most underrated album. The stately ballad Getting To The Point is one of Lynne’s best. Also worth checking out are the shoulda-been-a-smash album opener Heaven Knows and Endless Lies (note out Lynne’s spot-on Roy Orbison operatic wail), all illustrating Lynne’s standing as one of rock’s most distinctive and talented writers, producers and musicians.
Zoom (2001) With guests George Harrison and Ringo Starr, 15 years after the last ELO album and 10 years on from his solo debut, Lynne entered the new millennium with this album but failed to capture the imagination of a public that had moved on.