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Electric Light Orchestra - Electric Light Orchestra [Aka: No Answer] CD (album) cover


Electric Light Orchestra


Crossover Prog

3.62 | 258 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

siLLy puPPy
4 stars By the time Jeff Lynne got to recording and releasing the very first ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA album, the idea for the band had been on the drawing board for quite a few years. After all, Lynne's modus operandi from his late 60s days in the band Idle Race was to replicate all those brilliant harmonic laced melodies so perfectly executed by The Beatles only the ones that were accompanied by the lush symphonic orchestration of classical instruments. However at the time The Beatles was still an active band, Idle Race was a great gig so Lynne hadn't didn't exactly have the freedom to bring his musical visions into reality. It was during these same years when Lynne had met Roy Wood who himself had considerable success with his own progressive pop band The Move. The two hung out for many years before they decided that their musical interests were so aligned that they simply must join forces.

While the whole ELO thing had been the plan from the start, how could a hugely successful band like The Move be broken up in its prime? The answer was for Lynne to join The Move and become one of the principle songwriters which gave the two albums "Looking On" and "Message From The Country" a completely different style than the band's first two albums. It was during these days that the ideas for the future ELO started pouring in. Despite tracks like "10538 Overture," the very first track on the very first ELO album having been written and recorded al the way back in 1970 for inclusion on one of The Move's albums, it instead was shelved until the ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA was formed due to the fact that it perfectly encapsulated the prospects of a future ELO (the band name had been planned from the start.)

This was all laid out meticulously by Wood and Lynne and after the release of "Message From The Country," the fourth and final album from The Move, Wood decided to switch gears. Despite The Move still cranking out singles and existing officially, ELO was born and became the focus of Lynne and Wood. As they juggled the interests of both bands for a short time, ELO obviously won out and The Move was retired. Going along for the ride was drummer / percussionist Bev Bevan who as a founding member would also stick around for the majority of ELO's existence unlike Wood who would immediately depart after this debut that was released twice with two different titles. First time out was on the 1st of December 1971 as a self-titled album but due to a hilarious error with United Artists Records, an executive mistook some notes that had NO ANSWER written on it and presumed it was the title, therefore the album was released in March 1972 under that title in the USA.

Any fans of ELO will surely get to this debut eventually which stands out like a sore thumb in the band's canon. Noticeably less slick and polished than what even was created on the following "ELO 2," NO ANSWER was primarily crafted by the trio of Roy Wood, Jeff Lynne and Bev Bevan, all from The Move. Wood became quite the multi-instrumentalist as his personal collection of exotic instruments continued to grow. He mastered the cello, classical guitar, bass, double bass, oboe, bassoon, clarinet, recorder and slide guitar, all rather strange instruments to be included on a rock album but are showcased on NO ANSWER with superb performances. Lynne contributed the more traditional rock instruments such as piano, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, percussion, bass and Moog synthesizer. Bevan provided the lion's share of the drums, percussion as well as timpani. Two other members were recruited for even more unconventional sounds for a rock album. Bill Hunt was featured on French horn, hunting horn and piccolo trumpet and Steve Woolam provided the unconventional role of the violin.

All of the instruments stood out amongst the rock world even in the wildly experimental times of the early 70s. What would have usually been played on guitars in a typical rock band were replaced by a "sawing" cello and the myriad wind instruments conspired to create what many have called "Baroque-and-roll," which ironically were inspired by Tony Visconti's orchestral arrangements in The Move. Given that the members were for the most part unfamiliar with the the proper techniques of playing classical instruments, they pretty much made it up as they went along and although the sessions were riddled with headaches, the members were determined to bring the vision to life despite some of ELO's most grueling session workouts. The results of all this novice intro to classical music composition ensured that NO ANSWER existed in its own world with only Beatles' references in the melodic hooks and harmonic interplay keeping it grounded in the zeitgeist of the early 70s.

Overall the tracks are quite bold and daring and quite different from one another. NO ANSWER ranges from a more familiar ELO sounds of their future as a hybridized rock band with the electric guitar domination of the opening "10538 Overature" however right away the chugging cello riffs that usurp what would usually be performed on an electric bass give the album an instant exotic flair all the while sucking you in with suave seductive melodic hooks with all the Beatle-isms they could muster up. The second track "Look At Me Now' takes on a much more authentic Baroque feel being mostly composed of wind instruments and the cello whereas "Battle Of Marston Moor" exists almost exclusively in the classical world with Wood strutting his multi-instrumental skills to the max. "Manhattan Rumble" stands out as adopting some sort of tango beat while the dramatic piano and screeching violin sound like some sort of soundtrack to one of the Godfather films.

Personally i think this debut is woefully under appreciated. True that the future sounds of ELO fit the band's persona but this one stands out as one of the coolest experimental pop rock album's i've ever heard and a substantial improvement in writing skills compared to the final installation of The Move's canon. The album was roughly divided into Lynne and Wood sharing songwriting duties. Lynne's are the catchier more accessible tracks like "Nellie Takes Her Bow," "Mr Radio" and "Queen of the Hours" whilst Wood's are the choppier forays into yester-century with tight cello chugs and wind rich tunes such as "Look At Me Now," "The Battle of Marston Moor" and "Whisper In The Night." This one has long been one of my favorite exotic sounding albums and ranks high if i were to make a list for my favorite ELO albums. Unlike anything they did afterwards due to Wood leaving the band so soon as Lynne wrested complete domination, NO ANSWER was not only the perfect album to connect what The Move released prior with the future sounds of ELO but also demonstrated that the sounds of The Beatles lived on beyond the solo albums of its respective members. Not a bad track on this one.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |


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