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Electric Light Orchestra - Secret Messages CD (album) cover


Electric Light Orchestra


Crossover Prog

2.59 | 155 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
2 stars ELO's Secret Messages is probably more interesting for its history than the actual music that was on it. Lynne admits that Secret Messages was just a fulfillment of contractual obligations with the record company, so really I guess he wasn't giving his full 100 percent. The record was originally planned to be a double album, but the record company indicated that it would have been too expensive (and besides, their sales appeal had been waning by 1983). I have to wonder if making a double album would have relieved Lynne of his contract, as he had to make one more album for them (Balance of Power in 1986). Anyway, he was left with six songs that would find their way onto B-sides and the Afterglow box set (released in 1990). The remaining material formed the Secret Messages album. Strangely enough, the songs that didn't make the album were often better than the album itself (e.g. Hello My Old Friend and Mandalay).

Although Lynne was only fulfilling a contract, the music he did create for this album really wasn't that bad for this time period in music history. In fact, many of the songs could still stand on their own years later as decent, nicely arranged pop rock, although the album did contain some filler. I would opine that Secret Messages was about on par with Time in quality, but sounded more polished and more "electric." The orchestra was completely missing on this album with only a guest appearance of Mik Kaminski on one song. Real strings were replaced by synthesizers (which was common for this time period). Thus it sounds sort of like a remodeled ELO and some might say a colder ELO because of the digitized sound, lacking the warmth of their traditional analogue instruments of the 1970s.

Secret Messages, as the title suggests, has scattered hidden messages throughout the record. These include backmasked messages and the album's name spelled out in Morse code at the beginning and end. This was Lynne's response to allegations that earlier ELO albums had hidden Satanic messages. This album would also see the dismissal of bassist Kelly Groucutt after it was completed. Groucutt later sued Lynne for lost royalties and settled out of court.

An interesting, yet inconsistent album. If Lynne had not been just fulfilling contractual obligations, I have to wonder where ELO would have been and how they would have sounded. Probably the same pop rock as before, but maybe better and higher quality material than what was released. Who knows? Definitely an interesting acquisition for ELO and Jeff Lynne fans. Since it lacks any real progressive rock, I can't go past two stars.

progaardvark | 2/5 |


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