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Electric Light Orchestra - Secret Messages CD (album) cover


Electric Light Orchestra


Crossover Prog

2.67 | 188 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars "I don't mind if violins don't play" (Loser gone wild)

The penultimate ELO album with Jeff Lynne until he repossessed the name in 2001, is very much a case of "Time" part 2. Indeed the title track which kicks off the album sounds very much like a discarded outtake from "Time", in terms of both the lyrics and the musical style. This was originally intended to be a double album, but the record company, probably wisely, vetoed the proposal. Some of the omitted tracks can be found on the re-mastered version of the CD.

If you regretted that ELO had surrendered to the lure of the pop pay-cheque on previous albums, you are going to be especially disappointed here. The contents make everything which came before seem positively complex and challenging. Every song here is a potential hit single, except that by this time the ELO bubble had burst. Their audience were tiring of the same verse/chorus pop songs which the band persisted in releasing as singles, becoming less and less receptive to continued requests for their hard earned cash. The "Orchestra" part of the band name is by now something of a misnomer, violin not even featuring in the line up. That said, Louis Clark arranged strings on three tracks, and Mik Kaminski returns for a violin solo on the last track. The album sold well nonetheless, but is largely forgotten in terms of their back catalogue.

The real problem here though is that the song writing is rather hit and miss. Jeff Lynne writes all the songs as usual, but it seems he has finally run out of inspiration, and is running on empty. Songs such as "Loser gone wild" and "Bluebird" are little more than facsimiles of facsimiles. They still have the strong Beatles influence which has always been an acknowledged feature of ELO's work, but they come across as little more than reworkings of previous ELO songs.

It would be wrong however to imply that the album is a complete disaster. Lynne is one of the masters of the three minute pop song. His production, the walls of sound, and the catchy melodies are all still here. Had this been the first album by ELO, it could have been a minor pop classic. The fact is though that it follows a string of such albums without ever breaking out of the well worn rut.

The album title by the way, is a reference to the accusations that ELO and other bands had included secret message in their albums. The sleeve here bears the notation "Warning: Contains secret backward messages".

Easy Livin | 2/5 |


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