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Electric Light Orchestra - On The Third Day CD (album) cover


Electric Light Orchestra


Crossover Prog

3.78 | 226 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars On the Third Day features the same lineup as ELO II, but with Mik Kaminski replacing Wilf Gibson on violin and cellist Colin Walker departing. Hugh McDowell, his replacement, does not appear in the credits, but is featured on the cover (which features the seven band members pointing to their bellybuttons!). On the Third Day is a departure from ELO II and another step in the evolution of ELO turning into a hit machine later in the decade. Lynne went with a shorter song format here, but did not abandon the the instrumental prowess the band displayed on ELO II. In addition, Lynne's vocals have improved dramatically and the production is very clear and squeaky clean.

On the Third Day starts off with a four-part suite of unconnected songs called Ocean Breakup. The first song is King of the Universe and although Lynne's singing gives this song a very powerful feeling, the lyrics pretty much come off as meaningless to me. Lines like "It's all making me ready, it's all doing what you gotta do, I know "A," I see my life come shine ..." are just mind boggling. Nevertheless, it retains the strong cello presence that was heard on ELO II.

Bluebird Is Dead is a nice, uncomplicated song, showing some Beatlesque influences. Bevan's drums are strong and mixed well. Oh Not Not Susan seems to be about a woman trapped in royal or rich la-dee-da circles and her feeling of this lifestyle not meaning a thing. It has a complex, powerful beginning and ending and some beautiful violin work. Also of note is that it is the only ELO song that uses the F-word, something Lynne would never do again.

The ending song of the suite is the energetic and positive song New World Rising. It oddly enough starts off with a repeating piano note like the future Mr. Blue Sky would use years later. Although this is a pop prog song, it is far superior to Mr. Blue Sky. The instrumental sections are stunning with beautiful violin and the Moog provides a remarkable sound scape. The ending from 3:07 to the end is superb, with the low notes on the Moog almost giving a shivering feeling.

Showdown is the next track, being one of the most popular of ELO's hits with its signature cellos and toe-tapping, funky bass line. Unlike the cheesy stuff ELO would do in later years, this truly is a great pop song. This is followed by the instrumental Daybreaker which features some great Moog playing by Richard Tandy. Tandy apparently really did have the ability to play keys remarkably well, but in future albums he would never be given the opportunity to shine like this. This is a very melodic song with lots of energy. The strings complement the keys nicely.

Ma-Ma-Ma Belle is the second pop song on On the Third Day. It's basically good old rock and roll, with pointless repetitive lyrics. Nothing fancy, but the cello parts blend in perfectly for this style. This is followed by Dreaming of 4000 which seems to be about dreaming and seeing the light, whatever that means, with a character that seems to me to be religious in nature. The song is highly energetic, with Lynne showing some very good vocal range, wonderful violin lines, and having a strong ending.

The final song is a cover of Grieg's In the Hall of the Mountain King. This is a truly stunning performance, with some incredible drumming by Bevan. The violin solo is great and the cellos are just amazing. The song speeds up as it approaches the end with a superb classical ending.

Although the production on this is remarkably better than on ELO II (in fact I would consider it better than Eldorado and Face the Music), the music is more accessible (but still in the art rock/symphonic vein), and Lynne's lyrics are much less inspired. Lynne's vocals, although sometimes undecipherable without reading the lyrics, have dramatically improved showing strong emotion and range. Although, Bev Bevan's performance on the drums is more subdued here, he nevertheless sounds great. Again, the cellos and violin are vital components to the sound making them sound unique compared to their contemporaries. Lynne's guitar playing has improved, but this performance will never win an award. On the Third Day is missing most of the rawness of ELO II, but the performance is much more skilled.

Even though this is more accessible than ELO II, musically it is still quite interesting. If I were to rate this in the art rock subgenre alone, I would give it five stars (okay, go ahead and call me crazy), but in the grand scheme of things, it simply does not compare to the other masterpieces in the whole progressive rock genre. It still is an excellent work, thus four stars seems appropriate to me. Highly recommended and one of the two best ELO albums ever made, far superior to anything made by this band from 1974 to present.

progaeopteryx | 4/5 |


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