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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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1 stars Secret Messages was almost the end for Jeff Lynne and ELO. There would be one more album (Balance of Power) a few years later, but I'm not really sure why. By this point Lynne was simply punching a ticket to fulfill record company contracts. Long gone are the lush and exciting cello/violin string arrangements, as well as most of the other non- synthesized instrumentation. Also gone is any semblance of creative expression in the music.

Lynne always had a knack for churning out assembly-line, by-the-numbers tunes, but usually reserved such tripe for movie soundtracks (Xanadu, Electric Dreams, Shanghai Surprise), or for his ultra-cheesy solo dance albums (Doin' that Crazy Thing, Every Little Thing). With this album he no longer kept up a facade of separating the band from his own fad-conscious sensibilities. The result is an incredibly boring and lifeless album, and one which features virtually no actual musical instruments on several songs, Lynne relying instead on DMX drum tracks, synthetic keyboards of all varieties, and something called a Bottronix (whatever!). There are a couple tracks with uncredited strings, but frankly it's hard to tell if even these are real given the heavy amount of studio remixing, overdubs, and other wizardy Lynne had by then become so adept at. Mik Kaminski does make an appearance with his violin for the last song ("Rock and Roll is King"), but this is such an obvious and trite attempt at a radio hit that even Kamisnki can't save it.

There's really not much point in walking through this track-by-track, since most of them are uniformly bland and lifeless. A couple of small highlights will do:

"Stranger" sounds like it's right out of Discovery, but without any real instruments except the voices, and even these are highly massaged. The rest of side A ("Loser Gone Wild", "Bluebird", and "Take Me on and On") are slow, highly-synthesized numbers that appear to have been recorded for the sole purpose of providing a middle-school roller-skating party with some slow music for the couples-only session.

Side B is quite frankly worse, primarily because Lynne appears to have decided to try and pass off some really low-grade Beatlesque music as something new ("Stranger", "Danger Ahead"). The next two tracks aren't worth expanding on.

The album closes with "Rock and Roll is King", an upbeat, rocking number (hance the name), but like I said - an obvious attempt at a single (which I believe it was, in fact). Aside from a mildly interesting violin solo by Kaminski, the rest of this one sounds like a poor imitation of the highly-annoying 80s retro-band Stray Cats.

I'm as strong an apologist as anyone for Jeff Lynne, especially in the early part of his career where not everything the band tried was a success, but at least they tried. On Secret Messages the 'band', if you could even call it that by this point, was simply phoning this one in to satisfy a contract. Stay away, not even for collectors. One star.


ClemofNazareth | 1/5 |


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