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Electric Light Orchestra - Out Of The Blue CD (album) cover


Electric Light Orchestra

Crossover Prog

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4 stars A bona fide, mega-selling classic, this double album (now on 1 CD) contains more hits than most bands have in their entire career. "Turn To Stone", "Sweet Talkin' Woman", "Wild West Hero"... the list goes on. However, the 4 track "Concerto For A Rainy Day" has much to recommend it to any prog fan, being one big 20 minute piece, really. The quirkiness of "Jungle" and the strings-drenched sadness of "Steppin' Out" are other highlights. Like most of ELO's output, it's pop but it rocks; it's not prog but it's quite often progressive; it's superficially pleasing, yet meticulously constructed, revealing layers of detail within tight, concise song structures. And, of course, as all the songs are written by Jeff Lynne, it's effortlessly melodic. An outstanding album.
Report this review (#68458)
Posted Sunday, February 5, 2006 | Review Permalink
2 stars Out of the Blue is pretty much in the same vein as ELO's previous release, A New World Record. Again, it is solely a pop album from beginning to end, except this time it was a two-record (now one CD) release. The most notable thing about it is the fantastic flying saucer cover, one of the best album covers in rock history. However, the music is far from being spacey. It's basically filled with cheesy songs about nothing in particular with titles like Turn to Stone, Sweet Talkin' Woman, Night in the City, Mr. Blue Sky, and so on. This would be one of their most popular albums and one of their best sellers.

I must admit that I did find one song interesting, that being The Whale, with it's vocoder passages and actual recordings of whale song. Also of note is the four-track "Concerto for a Rainy Day" featuring Standin' in the Rain, Big Wheels, Summer and Lightning, and Mr. Blue Sky. However, this is not a progressive rock epic. It's just four pop songs tied together under a loosely related theme.

Overall, it's nice album, but it's not progressive rock. Therefore, I can only recommend this to fans and collectors only. All others avoid. Start with ELO II or On the Third Day instead. They are far superior to this.

Report this review (#69195)
Posted Sunday, February 12, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars I listened to this album for the first time in December 1977. It is not a Progressive Rock album. It is a Pop Rock album with "Progressive" arrangements. It is much better than "A New World Record", IMO. The arrangements are very good, and they show the eclecticism of ELO with orchestral and choral arrangements done by Jeff Lynne, Richard Tandy and conductor Louis Clark. Again, the songs are not very complicated, but the arrangements are great. Also there are some Bee Gees`Disco Music influences in the Falsetto vocals. But the songs in this album are better than in "A New World Record".

Some of the best songs and arrangements are:

-"It`s Over": with a great piano arrangement by Richard Tandy. -"Sweet Talking Woman": with very good Classical Music orchestral arangements. - "Across the Border": with "Mariachi Band" trumpets, similar to the arrangements done by Herb Alpert with The Tijuana Brass in the 60s. -"Jungle":one of the most different songs and arrangements in ELO`s repertoire, with a lot of percussion instruments, sound effects, and a "Tarzan shout" included with humour. -"Believe Now" and "Steppin`Out": great orchestral and choral arrangements. Two of my favourite songs in this album. - "Concert for a Rainy Day":again, great orchestral and choral arrangements. The lyrics for this "Concert..." start with a "bad weather" and end with "the sun shinning again in the blue sky". -"Sweet is the Night": with some parts of the song sung by Kelly Groucutt.

The predominant theme in the lyrics is broken communication between a couple, loneliness due to a broken relationship. Both recurrent themes in some of ELO`s albums.

All the vocals (with the exception of the choir) in this album are credited to Jeff Lynne, Kelly Groucutt and Bev Bevan, and the vocal harmonies are great, even with the Falsettos a la Bee Gees. There is a special credit for Richard Tandy in one of the inner slevees of the old 2 L.P. set:"Unique keyboard sounds and effects from the magic finges of Richard Tandy". He particularly shines playing in this album a great Classical Music piano arrangement in "It`s Over".

In my opinion, this album represents the peak of ELO as a Pop Rock band. This album was done with a lot of work, it seems, as each song seems very carefully arranged. A very polished album. I give it 3.5 stars because it is not a Progressive Rock album in the strict sense, but is has very enjoyable songs and arrangements.

Report this review (#74531)
Posted Sunday, April 9, 2006 | Review Permalink
Prog Folk Researcher
4 stars For me the best music is the music that has a personal story wrapped around it to give it some lasting context. Some fans get irritated by these kinds of reviews. They only want to know one thing – is the music good? Well, my opinion is – that really depends. Some of the most technically proficient music in modern times has also been some of the most boring to listen to (see the term “supergroup” on Wikipedia for several good examples on this point). By the same token, some of the most memorable music would certainly not be too challenging for even a modestly talented grammar-school student to play (see…… never mind – you get the idea). And anyway, the people who hate stories with their reviews have stopped reading already anyway, so here we go. Props to the dreamers.

This album was released late in 1977. ELO was certainly not an unknown band, having had all six of their previous studio albums chart in the UK, US, or both, and having produced a whole pile of hit singles. But Out of the Blue arguably marked the peak of their professional career. It’s not the most progressive album, but then this was ELO so really – expectations were already set. The vinyl release was four sides of highly accessible, mostly upbeat, often danceable, and extremely well-produced pop music with just the right hint of sophistication with Mik Kaminski’s violin and the twin cellos of Hugh Mc Dowell and Melvyn Gale. Really, only my opinion but if it weren’t for the strings this album (and much of ELO’s other work in the latter 70s and early 80s) would be considered nothing more than dance pop. Some people consider it that anyway, but again – those people probably haven’t made it this far into my ramblings, so que será.

It came out late in 1977, but really only started to make a big impression over on my side of the big pond during that latter part of the winter of 1977-1978. Times really were slower then, MTV wasn’t around, and Al Gore hadn’t invented the Internet yet, so it often took weeks after an album hit the stores before people started to really notice it.

But “Turn to Stone” was out around Christmas that year, and for a fifteen year-old kid who had just moved with my family more than 1,000 miles away from my girlfriend, that chorus line just ripped me apart on many a late night as I listened to it on the radio –

“I turn to stone when you are gone, I turn to stone. Turn to stone, when you comin’ home, I can’t go on.”

“Mr. Blue Sky” came out around spring, and I remember thinking Jeff Lynne must be some kind of a genius to put out such a happy tune, just a little ditty about the joy of waking up in the morning to a sunny day, just around the time the snow was melting away and the birds were returning to our little town –

“Runnin’ down the avenue, see how the sun shines brightly in the city on the streets where once was pity,

Mr. Blue Sky is living here today”.

This is the song that started rumors about hidden messages being put into ELO records, with that weird keyboard thing at the end that sounds like someone telling you to turn the record over. The guitars, like many Lynne tunes, are heavily Beatles-influenced, and I read an interview that said the clunky sounding cymbal sounds early in the song were actually drummer Bev Bevan hammering away on a fire extinguisher. Regardless, this was a hit even though it probably shouldn’t have been since it’s really not much of a song, but the timing of an early spring release was pure brilliance.

By this time I had pretty much decided to buy the album myself, even though the only cash I had coming in was from a newspaper delivery route so I was pretty choosy about which albums I would part with cash for. “Sweet Talkin’ Woman” was also on the radio around this time, and by now ELO was one of the biggest radio-play bands in America, especially since some of the stuff from A New World Record was still being played pretty regularly.

After I bought the album I got to hear all of it at once, which turned out to be an advance screening of “Wild West Hero” and “It’s Over”, both of which would be released as singles and show up on the radio later in the year.

The rest of the album includes a number of interesting bits of music that I played until the grooves were pretty much worn out. “Across the Border” had those horns that sounded like something from Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass to me, really out-of- place but charmingly clever amid the soaring keyboards.

“Night in the City” is a song that to me embodies so many sounds of the 70s that it should be used on the soundtrack of any movie made about that period forever. I wonder who I could write to make that happen? I don’t know if that ‘tok…tok…tok…’ in the middle is a cowbell, but if it is that would just be perfect. The cellos on this one surface during the various chorus transitions and really provide a nice flair, almost enough to offset the cheesy vocals. Like I said, this one is all 70s.

“Starlight” is a slow, sort of ballad, but any pretense of seriousness is lost as soon as Lynne’s Robin Gibb-like vocals kick in. No matter, here again the cellos are brief and subtle but add some nice texture.

I don’t know what Lynne was thinking with the truly appalling “Jungle”, but despite the stupid lyrics, hollow vocals, ridiculous percussion, and abrupt ending, I found myself singing along every time I heard it anyway.

More goofy vocals on “Steppin’ Out”, I think bassist Kelly Groucutt sings on this one too as at least one of the backing voices is at least an octave lower than Lynne usually was. The vocoder comes in at the end here too, one of those 70s instruments that was pretty much considered overused any time it was used at all. This one is almost all strings except for the vocals, and I suspect was a big hit in concert.

The third side of the album consists of something called ‘Concerto for a Rainy Day’, since all but “Mr. Blue Sky” have rain themes. There’s a little bit at the beginning of “Standin’ in the Rain” where the cellos and violin do this staccato ‘chop/chop/chop/chop’ thing that I used to think was just to set a kind of tense mood (you know, like the nervous strings in the soundtrack of a horror movie right before the chick gets axed by the bad guy), but I read years later that they are actually pecking out the phrase “E-L- O” over and over in Morse code. I think that Jeff Lynne must have had too much time on his hands on the studio back then. The vocoder announces “Big Wheels” at end as the strings transition to that song. For some reason my older brother totally loved this song, don’t know why. It’s kind of a throwaway really, a slow mellow tune with some nice strings and a brooding, chating backing vocals track, but nothing to write home about for sure.

The last track on the ‘Concerto’ is “Summer and Lightning”, a sort of love-and-hate tune about a summer love that is headed for the rocks. This is another forgettable song except for the lead-in vocals to the chorus (“Hear it comes again….”), and the abrupt tempo change right before the last chorus which sounds a bit like a throwback to “Jungle”. About half of the lyrics for this song seem to be missing from the liner notes of the original vinyl release too, for some reason.

By the time the last side of the album rolls around you can get a little bit numb from listening to so much upbeat, poppy music along with Lynne’s sugary falsetto, but I can still sit through the whole thing at a single stretch today, so that must be saying something (can’t do that with most other double albums, that’s for sure). “Sweet is the Night” is a song that had to have been made as a closing concert number, and would have been a perfect closing to this album with its multi-vocals choruses and simple guitar riffs. But Lynne decides to go on for a bit, for whatever reason, with an eerie, watery instrumental bit that is also pure 70s, before kicking up eventually into almost an 80s Moody Blues-sounding keyboard meandering bit that actually seems to lose focus at times before fading away.

“Birmingham Blues” is almost devoid of strings, favoring Lynne on guitar instead, although the cellos are still audible in the background from time to time. I guess this is Lynne’s ‘back on the road again’ tour weary song.

The album finally winds to a close with the completely silly “Wild West Hero”, yet another acknowledgement that some musicians weren’t nearly as concerned with propriety and airs back in the 70s as they are now. Lynne actually plays this as serious with a mellow piano and pensive vocals that dream about being a true American wild- west hero of the John Wayne ilk. Whatever. The ragtime piano riffs and comically bluesy guitar are actually pretty funny if you allow yourself to laugh at them, but it’s kind of an odd choice to close such an otherwise well-produced album.

So that’s about it. This will never be seen on a best-of list next to Genesis or King Crimson, but I suppose Jeff Lynne managed to buy a few Bentleys with the profits, and it certainly brings back many vivid and happy memories for me. And probably for lots of other middle-aged guys who were young teens at the time. For that it gets its proper due, and four stars.


Report this review (#87711)
Posted Saturday, August 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
Chris S
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This is the a great follow up to ' A New World Record'. In fact it probably goes one better for all round consistency over a double LP. The album starts with the poppy ' Turn To Stone' which sets the trend for the rest of the album. Other great hooks for songs are ' Sweet Talkin Woman' and ' Mr Blue Sky'. Again we have the heavily influenced Beatles sound which is not a bad thing at all but with the obvious commercial thread underlying ' Out Of The Blue'. I like this album a lot for it's upbeat positive tongue in cheek style. I am sure Jeff Lynne was laughing all the way to the bank when he struck the successful formula that ELO put out in the late 70's. Not detracting from their earlier prog roots though. A good album, well worth having.
Report this review (#101369)
Posted Saturday, December 2, 2006 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Bargain bin heaven

"Out of the blue" should have been ELO's crowning achievement. The band were at the peak of their success, Jeff Lynne had found the found the formula for creating hit singles at will, and they had sufficient material to justify a double LP set.

While this is indeed a highly enjoyable set, it is the use of that formula which is the main shortcoming of the album. Virtually every track here has a verse/chorus structure, the sole exception being the instrumental "The whale". Consequently the album has a very commercial feel, and a disappointing lack of anything beyond fairly simplistic pop. Even the four part "Concerto for a rainy day" which occupies side three is just made up of four related pop songs about the weather.

Don't misunderstand me, the quality of the songs is undeniable. Who for example can fail to find pleasure in songs such as "Mr Blue sky", "Wild west hero" etc. There are wonderfully crafted songs with perfect hooks, intriguing lyrics, and melodies other bands would die for. They guaranteed ELO success in the singles chart regardless of which tracks were actually selected for release.

The bargain bins in the record shops a couple of years later though told the fuller story. "Out of the blue" must have enjoyed the dubious accolade of being the most traded-in LP in the history of rock. Not because it's a poor album, but because it is a sickly as saccharine. This album does not stand up well to repeated listening. Play it once every two or three years at most, otherwise it quickly becomes over familiar and lacking in depth. Had they simply made this a single LP release, it may have been deserving of a different fate, but a double album release is usually taken as an indication that a band has something important to say. The problem here is that ELO, and Jeff Lynne in particular, were simply saying the same thing over and over again.

Take any song here, play it a couple of times, and you'll be able to sing along to it. It is a fair bet you'll also find it enjoyable, if invariably unchallenging, to listen to. Play it a few more times though, and you'll quickly tire of it. And there lies the point from a prog perspective. The lasting appeal of prog is that the music does not usually reveal itself fully until you have heard an album many times. The enjoyment grows with each listen. We can therefore safely conclude that "Out of the blue" represents the definition of an anti-prog album!

Report this review (#103143)
Posted Friday, December 15, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars It is difficult to state if ELO is or not a prog band for many people. In some aspects that's true but I think that they did a very interesting blend mixing pop music, symphonic prog and delicated orchestral arrangements. This album is very well balanced but maybe a little popish for my taste. One very interesting thing on it is that the orchestra sound is mixed perfectly with the band, a fact that is difficult to find in albums with band and a symphonic orchestra. I think that this album deserves 4 stars. I recommend it to people who want to know how a pop band must sound!
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Posted Saturday, March 17, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars I was not really enthusiast with their last studio album, so I was quite suspect before I heard this one. The commercial and poppy mood is developed more and more but the harmonies are again great. The master in melodies has striked again with pieces like "Turn To Stone", "It's Over", "Sweet Talkin' Woman" : they truely belong to the best ELO repertoire (not taking int account their first two effort which were the most prog ones). These songs might sound childish or easy listening but they are really nice. Nothing to do with "Kuiama" of course but pleasant to hear. No need of thinking too hard : they are just meant to provide a good peaceful moment and they reach their goal.

"Across the Border" is more rock'n'roll oriented : good violins like in the good old days. Another nice moment. "Night In The City" is more complex : wonderful vocal harmonies and great orchestration. "Starlight" is a pop ballad but again, nothing wrong with it. Somewhat remininscent of "El Dorado" which means great cellos and vocal harmonies. This album is really pleasant so far : only good numbers which is a good surprise after the disappointing "A New World Record".

"Jungle" is the first poor song so far : the elements are not really working together and the melody attemps to be catchy but fails. It is premonitory of what will await the fan in later works, unfortunately. I will never understand that "Believe Me" only lasts for 1'21". This should only be the intro of an epic ELO track. A fabulous song. It is very rare that I am so keen on such a short piece of music, but really it is a very subtle track. A short but intense moment. "Steppin' Out", "Standing In The Rain" and "Big Wheels" are great ballads with beautiful chord arrangements (but this is no surprise of course) and very Beatles oriented. IMO, it is obvious that Jeff wanted to achieve another "El Dorado" but just missed it by an inch. Some more rocking songs would have boosted this effort and make it a bit more varied because the problem here is the feeling of repetitiveness even if almost all songs are very nice they are built on the same structure and tempo.

"Summer & Lightning" : for very brief moments (in the intro and twice iduring the song we have a kind of string guitar like in "Just A Little Bit" from Supertramp - also released in 1977). Melody is sub-par comparing with the rest of the album (but it is only the second weaker track).

"Mr Blue Sky" is fortunately a more rythmy tune, just to wake up a bit : great vocal harmonies (as usual) and a very nice backing band (this song would have fit with no problem on El Dorado - my ELO fave album if you don't know yet...). One of the best song on this whole effort. "Sweet is the Night" is another trick from Jeff's hat : either he was tought on how to write such wonderful melodies or he must be a bloody gifted song-writer (probably both actually). A pure pop beauty.

"The Whale" is the weakest track of the album (but so far only two of them were poor). Some computerized voice upon supermarket/elevator music. Skip it. "Birmingham Blues" with its West Side Story background violins is another weak track : I guess Jeff got tired at this point. "Wild West Hero" is an average closing number : I would have expected a more inspired or brilliant number to finalize this work.

It is a pity that this very good album closes on three very average tracks (I guess their management cleverly recognized this and deliberately placed these songs at the end of the fourth side of this effort).

But even the Beatles with their White Album will have some weaknesses (to say the least) to release a consistent double LP, so who can blame Jeff for these (very) few weaker moments ? How fantastic would have it been to get a collaboration with Jeff and three (John, Georges and Ringo) of the fab four at the time of their split (1970) which corresponds to the early days of ELO ? No one will never know (although two of them will join in 2001 for "Zoom"). Four stars.

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Posted Saturday, April 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars You know there is an awful lot of snobbery out there! a lot of people refuse to accept ELO as Prog band merely because they had a long run of international hits that maybe so but what made this band unique certainly up to this point is that they were still an album orientated band as well as hit single roller coaster there were still Prog elements even on this ie: Concerto for a Rainy Day suite ,some very heavily orchestrated pieces at times truly the Last Great ELO album
Report this review (#125138)
Posted Friday, June 8, 2007 | Review Permalink
Crossover/Symphonic/RPI Teams
2 stars ELO had completely abandoned any leftover vestiges of their progressive rock roots with their previous release, A New World Record. Out of the Blue is basically an expansion of the band's new direction into pop stardom, this originally being a 2-LP release (with a fantastic cover by the way). Here and there you can hear some signs of interest. These include the neat vocoder lines in songs like Believe Me Now and The Whale, and the neat thunder and rain sound effects between the various parts of the pop rock epic (if there was such a thing) "Concerto for a Rainy Day."

However, for the most part, Out of the Blue is an entirely pop rock affair. There are no doubts to my ears though that this is really good pop rock and quite an enjoyable listen, although Jungle and Night in the City seem more like gimmicks for chart success (neither one was ever released as such). Out of the Blue should rank quite nicely on a "Pop Archives" site, but alas this album does not fit very well at Prog Archives (indeed the band is here chiefly because of their earlier period). A great album if you're into well-crafted, toe-tapping pop rock. All others should start with their first three albums. Two stars, collectors and fans only.

Report this review (#146384)
Posted Monday, October 22, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Where did all the prog go?

Well, Electric Light Orchestra is one of the few bands who really improved (both critically and popularly) when they dropped away from their prog roots. While there are still a few hints of prog here and there, they are only hints: this is prog pop at it's best, which is, unfortunately, a different species entirely. Still, this is a VERY solid outing, especially considering that we are talking about a double LP back in the days before the CD took over. I won't say that there is no filler at all, but there isn't much and it's of a very high calibre. Plenty of songs here should have received airplay but didn't, due to the album being packed with great material (Night in the City, Sweet is the Night and Birmingham Blues all jump to mind.)

So to sum this one up, it's a great album (probably ELO's best, although El Dorado comes close) and definitely worthy of 4 stars. Unfortunately, since there is hardly any prog on the album at all (the only meaningful exception might be The Whale, which sounds like something early Floyd might have done if they weren't perpetually depressed and paranoid, think Careful with that Party Favor, Eugene), this only rates 4 stars.

Report this review (#146918)
Posted Thursday, October 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I think the album name "Out of The Blue" represented the situation and the facts that this album was coming out in out of the blue fashion by its composer, Jeff Lynne. It took only three and half week to write the music followed by two months period of recording in Munich. Surprisingly, the result was a good album which reached chart positions in many countries. I can only see from musical standpoint that after the success of their previous album "New World Record" (1976) the band faced another challenge to maintain the success of its predecessor or even making it better. The result is quite an ambitious product: a double album, which represented the band's first. The album includes an epic "Concerto for a Rainy Day" comprising four tracks : "Standing in the Rain" (4:20), "Big Wheels" (5:10), "Summer and Lightning" (4:13), and "Mr.Blue Sky" (5:05).

Through this album Jeff Lynne proved that he was a chart maker through making the music in orchestral arrangements which attracts both music lovers: regular pop and classical music fans. All seventeen tracks in this album are song-orientated arrangement and putting more emphasize on melody line. As far as orchestral arrangement this album is thicker than the predecessors. I admire the band for being successful in marrying regular pop music with orchestra. Well, actually, if I go into deep with what constitutes an ELO music, most of their compositions are basically neat even without an orchestra or string arrangements. Just imagine, you take out the orchestra part at "It's Over" and replaced it with piano, you still can get the beauty of their music.

Let's have a look on some of the tracks .

Pop Music with grandiose orchestration

The flavor of pop has been put upfront by the band through "Turn to Stone" (3:48) which is an upbeat music with good melody augmented with excellent orchestration. It flows beautifully to the hit "It's Over" (4:08). No question, this hit was quite popular at the end of the seventies as it was a regular radio play all over the world including my country. It's a neatly composed song. The following track "Sweet Talkin' Woman" (3:48) is another excellent track with nice melody which without string arrangement this track is still a nice track. "Across The Border" (3:52) not that popular but it has a nice violin intro followed with Beatles-like music augmented nicely with brass section. "Night in the City" (4:02) follows the path of previous track with its upbeat music and choir work.

"Starlight" (4:30) reminds me to the kind of Supertramp especially on its piano style. Through this album ELO wants to include some experimental track in "Jungle" (3:51) by maintaining its main style. It sounds like an African music dominated by percussion. "Believe Me Now" (1:21) serves like an overture in mellow style with grandiose orchestration which bridges nicely to "Steppin' Out" (4:38), a mellow track with Hawaian guitar in its intro followed with nice vocal line.

"Concerto for a Rainy Day" starts with "Standing in the Rain" (4:20) which kicks with an ambient sound of rain followed with string section resembling the classical music segments combined with great piano work and solid orchestra. The song moves in crescendo with intense orchestration and dynamic choirs supported by piano work. The second part of the epic, "Big Wheels" (5:10) represents psychedelic flavor with nice flow and melody. It moves to the third "Summer and Lightning" (4:13) using acoustic guitar rhythm section. The end part of the epic is an excellent track "Mr.Blue Sky" (5:05) which brings the music in upbeat The Beatles way. I like the female choirs which has enriched the textures of this song.

Overall, this album is very good in terms of composition as well as musicianship as all songs contained here in this album were nicely crafted by Jeff Lynne and friends. I consider, like other albums of ELO, this album is quite easy to digest for regular music buffs. It's recommended for those who love music with string arrangements / orchestration. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW (i-Rock! Music Community)

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Posted Saturday, June 28, 2008 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
2 stars Just another ELO album, this time a double. Yawn!

This is a very typical ELO album, and it sounds basically exactly the same as the band's two previous albums! Indeed, listening to this double album is a bit like listening to the two previous albums - one directly after the other! Do I need to add that it becomes rather tedious? ELO had established a formula by this time, and they stick to here by the book. The melodies are extremely Beatles inspired, on the verge of being rip-offs.

There are some good songs on this album for sure, but they all sound too similar to each other and to previous ELO songs to really stand out from the crowd. Like previous albums, this album too is full of well-written and well-recorded Pop music, but variation and, especially, "progression" is basically absent. It is first with Standing In The Rain that the album really gets off the ground, and that is clearly too late. If I had been ELO I would have made this into a single album and opened it with this song. There are some traces of progressive Rock in this song. But it is really only traces. Overall, this is about as "progressive" as the music of Elton John.

Like most post-Eldorado ELO albums, this is only for fans and collectors of the band.

Report this review (#188233)
Posted Friday, November 7, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is not prog, but it is the highlight of ELO's post-transformation career. Very well-crafted sophisticated pop/rock songs like Turn to Stone, Starlight, Sweet is the Night, Steppin' Out, and Jungle are hard not to enjoy. If you're in the mood for some less complex, but still artistic music, this is ideal!

The Concerto for a Rainy Day is the biggest treat. This is really just four songs on the actual album, however, and it is not a traditional prog epic, but they all have to do with weather. They are all heavily enjoyable and crafted meticulously to art-pop/rock perfection. Other standout songs include the depressing It's Over, the quasi-prog instrumental the Whale, and the closing anthem Wild West Hero.

I hesitate to say this is an excellent addition to a prog collection, but it certainly is a good album! If you want to hear the best of straightforward sophisticated 70s pop/rock, this should be the 1st album on your list.

Report this review (#194087)
Posted Wednesday, December 17, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Whilst struggling to eke out a living amid the smoggy environs of the greater Los Angeles metropolis in the late 70s I relied on my trusty 8-track player to spare me from depending solely on local radio for decent music when in my car. (Believe me, to find oneself figuratively imprisoned in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the San Diego freeway with only the current hits to keep you from going postal is to tempt disaster in a major way.) Pooh-pooh the clumsy, fat cartridges that audio device required all you want but those things came through when it counted. I didn't have many tapes because it was too expensive to buy separate copies of prized prog for both my Toyota and the turntable in my flat so the mobile selections tended to be less serious overall. This recording was better than most of the other plastic boxes rattling around my dusty floorboards so it got a lot of play. It was music suitable for cruisin' or for barely inchin' along, whichever situation I found myself in, and I never felt guilty for missing part of it while I screamed obscenities at the imbecile drivers around me. The surprising thing is that the contents of "Out of the Blue" hold up today as well as ever. It's still a fun listen.

I was never as big a fan of ELO as I was the group they evolved from (the stupendous Move) but their leader Jeff Lynne retained enough of that band's unorthodox spirit to keep me intrigued by what they were doing. And you couldn't avoid ELO if you tried. In '77 they were at their peak (radio loved them) so they put out their first double album with full confidence that it would kill. It did. You might scoff at those who willfully indulge in proggy pop like this but go ahead, I can't help myself. There's something imbedded inside Jeff's tunes that makes me cock my head like a parakeet and not just any artist can do that. Pay close attention to what's going on in the background (or forefront sometimes) with this enigmatic ensemble's offerings next time you hear them on the classic rock airwaves. You may hear something you didn't notice before.

They begin with the peppy shuffle-beat of the infectious "Turn to Stone." The flanged fast- talking chant halfway through is an example of what I'm babbling on about. It's just enough of a detour to keep things from being too formulaic and the song's fade out is a respectable homage to the Beatles' "A Day in the Life." The opening of "It's Over" reminds me of the aura their cool "Eldorado" album possessed years earlier but the number is a Motown- across-the-Mersey deal that only treads shallow waters despite its quirky soap opera soundtrack finale. "Sweet Talkin' Woman" follows and it's a nostalgic nod aimed at doo- wop. Obviously it succeeded in seducing the public since it hit #17 on the singles chart but it's not something I want to sit through repeatedly. The proceedings get a kick in the buns with "Across the Border," an energetic rocker that meshes Mexican Mariachi horns, deep strings and synthesizer lines to create a tune like no other in their repertoire. "Night in the City" is a fascinating fusion of the Move's oddness with the slick mind-set of the Bee Gees, resulting in a composition that makes me smile. (Not all prog has to be brow-wrinkling serious, ya know!) Who but ELO could sing infantile words like "I'll get you, yes, I'm gonna get you" and make it legitimate? "Starlight" is the only true throwaway cut to be found here. It's not all that terrible, just too puny to wander the schoolyard alone. Yet I like it and don't know why.

Wild noises (including a gallant Tarzan holler) populate the intro to "Jungle," a rhythmic musical stroll with some children's-story lyrics I find hard to resist. I never knew what to expect from these boys but, for a gang of superstars, this is as unpretentious as it gets. It's stuff like this that makes them so charming. "Believe Me Now" is a drama-filled instrumental segue into "Steppin' Out," an R&B-tinged ballad with dense orchestration and heavily stacked vocals (what they were able to do so effortlessly). "Concerto for a Rainy Day" is a side-long excursion that starts with a shower followed by a pulsating symphonic theme featuring dynamic accents leading to "Standin' in the Rain." The kind of large-scale production you're treated to on this song makes ELO prog-worthy in that it's wholly pompous and completely over-the-top in self-important grandeur. I love it. (You gotta problem with that?) "Big Wheels" is a soulful, slow dance number that drags its heels until they spice up the bridge movement, a tactic that, unfortunately, is tardy in its arrival. "Summer and Lightning" sports a thunderous onset and promises huge dividends but it backs down quickly and suddenly there's one too many light ballads. At this juncture ELO teeters dangerously on the brink of routine and, as much as I've championed their methodology, I admit I was tempted to nap at the wheel.

Thank God for the prog cavalry arriving in the nick of time with what I consider their apex, "Mr. Blue Sky." Lynne must've kidnapped the muse that inspired Lennon & McCartney during their "Sgt. Pepper/Magical Mystery" phase because this magnificent track's a Beatleized jewel that shines like the sun. Everything about it is delightful. It's ridiculously uplifting, clever counter-melodies abound, each section introduces a new sound into the mix and the giant-sized coda is pure greatness. I couldn't wait for it to come around on my 8-track (those babies didn't have fast-forward) so I could crank it loud and bathe in its proggy majesty. It never grows old. "Sweet is the Night" comes next and no ditty should have to follow a tune that splendid but at least it doesn't make a fool of itself. It's light fluff, to be sure, yet a well-crafted number that might've been another hit for them if they'd released it as a single (but, then, what do I know?). They slip out from under that creamy diversion to present the spacey, curious instrumental "The Whale" with its appropriately bubbly intro. Yeah, it's corny as a can of hominy but it works in a weird sorta way. "Birmingham Blues" is a beefy entree of American rock & roll garnished with generous pinches of English posh and glitz added for style points. Jeff tosses in a gritty guitar solo and there's even a hint of Bowie to be tasted in the pan gravy. "Wild West Hero" is a scrumptious dessert. The lonely piano with Lynne's wistful vocal at the beginning is excellent and the tight harmonies on the chorus are sublime. The hard-rockin' interruption they sneak in twice is much like something the Move would've dared to do and the a capella breakdown is genius. The whole shebang finishes in a brilliant ascending chorus and a subdued but fitting tail end.

I'll admit that ELO wasn't the most consistent of prog-related bands but in the case of "Out of the Blue" they did avoid careening off the road completely while delivering their best batch of songs ever. What they lacked in jaw-dropping talents they made up in originality and verve and that's what appeals to me most. I think. I mean, I reckon that's what it is but I confess my sinful affection for them while cognizant that I shouldn't give a carp for them at all. With ELO I find myself enjoying music I'd hate and abhor if it was by anyone else. I'm not alone, evidently. I've read that in '06 they were ranked in the U.K. magazine "Q" #11 on their list of musical guilty pleasures. They're even higher than that on mine, right alongside the brothers Gibb and Missing Persons. ELO is a conundrum. There'll not likely be another akin to 'em, though, and this record contains the essence of what made them so magnetic to millions as well as to strange proggers like me. I only asked them for honesty and that's what they gave me.

Report this review (#412486)
Posted Monday, March 7, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Jeff Lynne's compositional method is very much song-orientated rather than album- orientated. Yet, his very balanced command of mood, sound and thematic material leads to this being one of the most radio-friendly yet 'deep' concept albums out there. It seems to loosely tell a tale about aliens arriving on earth in their spaceship; encountering strange phenomenon such as our planet's weather, the contrast between the ocean, jungle and city environments, and of course, their relationships with each other and with humans.

The four sides of the album are similar musically but with different things to say and varying degrees of listenability. 'Turn to Stone' is a wonderful piece of synth-rock that expresses the pain one of the aliens feels as their lover leaves for planet earth. Perhaps 'It's Over' is the other alien's response! Both are very catchy, yet high quality emotional and musical constructions that set the tone for the rest of the album (90% of which could work as singles). 'Sweet Talkin' Woman' and 'Across the Border' deal with the alien's experiences on earth; perhaps falling in love with humans was a bad idea.... They expand the musical array into rock and roll territory, as well as some 'tijuana brass' style accompaniments on the latter song. Synths and vocoders are used to good effect.

Experiences of city night life are expressed wonderfully in the next song 'Night in the City', with its quirky and energetic sections that blend pop with the avant-garde. 'Starlight' has a more "relaxed disco" feel to it, and deals with the spaceship's attempts to call the alien to come back home. 'Jungle' sounds as it's name suggests, complete with Tarzan-calls! Then comes the conclusion to the first two sides in 'Steppin' Out' (and it's prelude 'Believe Me Now'); an epic, symphonic song that describes how the alien's former lover has decided to leave the spaceship and come down to earth to find them.

The aptly named mini-album 'Concerto for a Rainy Day' is almost a side-piece to the main storyline, describing the second alien's experience of Earth's variable weather. 'Standin' in the Rain' is very prog-rock, with Overture-like sections that introduce the suite with quite a dramatic effect. 'Big Wheels' links the inclement weather to the alien's sadness over their lost friend, while 'Summer and Lightening' is much more positive, conveying an increasing optimism as the sun comes out, with plenty of percussion and acoustic guitar. The finale here is the very famous 'Mr Blue Sky', ELO's biggest single yet one of their more complex, multi-part songs. It needs no description I'm sure.

The final side of the album details the aliens finding each other, firstly in 'Sweet is the Night'. The instrumental 'The Whale' is a calm, techo-ballad that conveys the mood of the ocean without the need of lyrics. The last two songs 'Birmingham Blues' and 'Wild West Hero' are less serious pop songs, adding western and ragtime styles to the already eclectic mix, and even stealing some Gershwin! Although the closer is a high-point on the album, it bears little relevance to the main storyline as far as I can tell.

Out of the Blue is a somewhat misunderstood "pop" record that needs a bit more attention from listeners before they appreciate it as a complete work (and not a mere list of okay-good songs). Only two or maybe three of the songs are forgettable; all of the rest stand up well on their own and as part of the story. The instruments are of course band-based and orchestral, which, in addition to plenty of innovative electronics and sound-effects, makes for a very rewarding, thick sound. Vocal harmonies and thoughtful lyrics complete the mix; just don't judge this monster based on any pre-conceptions.

Report this review (#449068)
Posted Tuesday, May 17, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars This was ELO's most infectious album, which absolutely deserves a four star rating for its excellence. While it may lack the more experimental touches on the band's first 3 albums, this for me was their artistic climax (it was their commercial climax too!) and they never got better than this! It's just packed with very well crafted orchestral pop-rock songs, each with a mini symphony of its own. As for style, there were always some Beatles influences, you can hear some Beach Boy's rock'n'roll-like melodies too among others but always with a twist particularly with the melodic experiments going on. The songs have a very 70's feel of course, but that definitely gives them more character and we had a nice revival of some trendy 70's groove over the last couple of decades that were surely influenced by some kinds of music here, especially from the floating synth driven "The Whale". There are many personal favourites on this whopping double record but the best have to be "Sweet Talkin Women", "Standing In The Rain", the two heartbreaking ballads "Stepping Out", "Believe Me Now" and the most fantastic of all "Mr Blue Sky". Highly recommended!
Report this review (#564102)
Posted Tuesday, November 8, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars One of the best things about owning this treasure on vinyl is the album cover and awesome spacey gatefold. The imagery is unforgettable and captured my imagination in the late 70s. The music is also tinged with sci i themes and spacey effects.

The blend of classical music and rock is astonishing, and it begins so well with Turn to Stone with infectious chorus and trademark harmonies. Sweet Talkin' Woman is one of the most well known singles that dominated radio airwaves but I also like the lesser known songs such as Night in the City, and one of my favourites on this double album is Starlight.

Other treasures include Big Wheels, and the indispensable Mr.Blue Sky that catapulted ELO to number one and became as iconic as the starship on the album cover. Another nice song is The Whale and overall this is perhaps one of the greatest studio albums of the band and I believe it is one of the most popular of this great innovative band.

Report this review (#834125)
Posted Sunday, October 7, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars After many years of avoiding ELO's production of the second half of the 70's, and rather prefering the first half with the Eldorado highlight, I finally found enough courage to go through the "sweet" disco era.

I got interested in this 2 LP album to start with. And I find the album very pleasant, listening-friendly, colourful and idea-full. It showed me nice idea- It is better to do sincere and common stuff than trying to create something sophisticated, but failing, because it is not just my true way:

There comes to me a comparison of this album with ELO2. The average length of songs on ELO2 is somwhere about 8 minutes per song (which is an utter rarity for ELO :-)), I found the album empty and rigid- Roll over Beethoven could have been done within 5 minutes IMO, avoiding boring repetitions, but that's a different story. I believe that Roy Wood's departure meant death of progressivity with ELO. Trying to be proggresive for Jeff Lynne and his band was not the way. Jeff Lynne's recipe is Sweet Talking Woman, Living Thing, a little bit of Fire on High and then some Xanadu and Mr. Blue Sky.

I pricked up my ears for some Gilmourish guitar solo, for an Emersonish keyboard solo, for some improvisation and they are very very scarce. What is rather important is consciousness in composing and richness of sound. Eveything here is neat, yes, there are a lot of ideas and colours, but they are subtle, somehow balanced. It is like a sightseeing in a tour bus. It's comfortable. You are taken everywhere and told everything imporatnt. Everything is safe: "See, there's museum, and there's parliament, and there's the oldest bookshop in the city and see- there's city park".

So, I want to say that I enjoy the sightseeing ride, it is sincere and fresh. My favourite higlights are Sweet Talking Woman, Believe Me Now, Sweet is the Night with beautiful Jeff's background singing and Concerto for a Rainy Day for its violin parts. It's better than 3 ***, but I don't want to give it 4, I don't know, all the songs are good, but in the end, it doesn't matter if they are part of this album, or that best of, or other platinum collection cd- 3,5 is a deal.

Report this review (#2307525)
Posted Friday, January 17, 2020 | Review Permalink

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