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Electric Light Orchestra - Eldorado CD (album) cover

ELDORADO

Electric Light Orchestra

 

Crossover Prog

3.85 | 241 ratings

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ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk Researcher
4 stars El Dorado was the first true concept album by ELO and was almost completely a Jeff Lynne creation. While the sound is musically quite dated, it also stands the test of time very well, and is just as inspiring to listen to today as it was more than thirty years ago. One of my favorite ELO albums.

The intro “El Dorado Overture” is not an overture per se, but it is an elegant introduction that sets a dream-like atmosphere thanks to the 30 piece orchestra that presents to open the album. This instrumental lead-in gets the listener’s attention and signals that this is not going to be an ordinary pop album.

I have such wonderful memories of listening “Can’t Get it Out of My Head” as a young teen in the summer of 1974. This is basically a song about daydreaming – frankly, the whole album is one big daydream. The lyrics here are kind of nonsensical, half-formed thoughts in much the same manner that our own daydreams are incomplete ruminations of fantasy loosely intermingled with reality. The strings are just beautiful, gracefully complementing Lynne’s vocals and providing a context for some very faint backing vocals that are almost chamber-like. There are also some unaccredited horns which get a more proper treatment on “Boy Blue”. This was the first significant hit for the band in America, and the references to exotic faraway places and mystical historic figures combined with the orchestral treatments really caught the attention of those of us who were growing tired of blues-based pothead music, but hadn’t quite built up to progressive heavyweights like King Crimson or even Yes way back in the early 70s.

“Laredo Tornado” is a nostalgic bit recalling simpler days when the world wasn’t covered in concrete and skylines were open instead of framed with steel and glass buildings. Lynne’s falsetto projects a sense of this loss of innocence and the intruding brunt of progress on the carefree summer days of youth. Musically there’s nothing particularly complex here – this is just a great song to listen to in the park during the summer while lounging around with good friends and a Frisbee.

For “Poor Boy” Lynne cranks up the piano overlaid with strumming guitar and those flowing strings once again. This is a little tale about a Robin Hood-like character who saves the fair maiden and slays a dragon (okay, there’s no dragon, but you get the idea). The backing vocals here are an early incarnation of the same type of haunting voices that would make Out of the Blue such a treat. “Mister Kingdom” is a similar character sketch, this one about a guy who’s looking for what lies at the end of the rainbow (El Dorado!).

“Nobody’s Child” actually sounds more like Klaatu than ELO, largely due to the vocals which I think are mostly Richard Tandy rather than Lynne. Tandy has much more of the British nasally vocal attribute than Lynne. This is a short fantasy ditty about a young lad who is being seduced by a mature lady, kind of a Mrs. Robinson in the dream world of Jeff Lynne. I’m not sure why this is on the album, but then again we’re usually not sure why our dreams wander to certain places and certain themes either, so maybe that’s the point.

The title of “Illusions in G Minor” is rather misleading, since the song is really a late 50s/ early 60s throwback in the vein of performers like early Kinks or Jerry Lee Lewis – rocking piano, upbeat guitar and a thwacking one-two dancing drum beat. This is about a disjointed old rocker revealing some of his dreams and thoughts to his shrink.

In “El Dorado” the dreamer awakes, finds himself in a much more drab and uninteresting world of reality, and struggles unsuccessfully to return to his dream world. Kind of like when you get woken up from a great dream and try like hell to reenter, only to come to the realization that world is lost to you. Another great tune for lazy afternoons in the park.

The “El Dorado Finale” is another full orchestra instrumental, this one a bit more complex than the opening, and a great way to bring this rock ‘symphony’ to a close.

The digital remaster is technically well-done, with all the instrumentation coming across quite clearly and the vocals just brilliant. But frankly the original vinyl was pretty well engineered, so there’s no real surprises here. The additional tracks include a wonderful orchestra and chamber choir instrumental simply titled “El Dorado”, and a rough early demo of “Laredo Tornado” entitled “Dark City”. I would have loved to see a more detailed set of liner notes to include full attribution for all the players, and maybe even some anecdotes from the band members, but neither of those appear here. There is a great concert photo on the inner CD sleeve I found quite funny, but I won’t spoil the surprise by sharing that here.

All told this is a very good album that, much like Face the Music, shows a band in the process of perfecting their craft and developing a signature sound that would propel them into the stratosphere of music stardom. I wouldn’t call this an essential piece of progressive music history, but its certainly a worthwhile addition to any collection. Four stars without reservation.

peace

ClemofNazareth | 4/5 |

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