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Electric Light Orchestra - 10538 Overture CD (album) cover


Electric Light Orchestra

Crossover Prog

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4 stars '10538 Overture' marks the very beginning of ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA. I cite Wikipedia on the formation of ELO: "In 1968, Roy Wood -- guitarist, vocalist and songwriter of THE MOVE -- had an idea to form a new band that would use violins, cellos, string basses, horns and woodwinds to give their music a classical sound (...). Jeff Lynne, frontman of fellow Birmingham group The Idle Race, was excited by the concept. (...) In January 1970, when Carl Wayne quit the band, Lynne accepted Wood's second invitation to join [The Move]. On 12 July 1970, when Wood added multiple cellos to a Lynne-penned song intended to be a Move B-side, the new concept became a reality and '10538 Overture' became the first E.L.O. song."

The Move was originally supposed to end at that point, but to help finance the new band, one further Move album was recorded and released during the lengthy ELO recordings in 1970-71. Only the remaining Move trio of Wood, Lynne and drummer Bev Bevan played on all songs of E.LO.'s debut album The Electric Light Orchestra that was released in December 1971.

'10538 Overture' is about an escaped prisoner, hence the number in place of a person's name. Both Wood and Lynne sing on it. I find especially the vocals quite terrible here, they remind me of John Lennon on 'I Am the Walrus'. The sound quality is rather muddy really, but for the playing it is sufficient enough. The cellos, French horn and other wind instruments give the arrangement the unique flavour, and I also like the guitars. The song in itself is pretty repetitive, it's definitely the classical intruments, despite not being played the purest possible way, that make '10538 Overture' worthy.

The single's B side track 'First Movement (Jumpin' Biz)' also appears on the debut album, starting its second side. It's an instrumental, with acoustic guitar playing the lead melody and Roy Wood's cellos shaping the soundscape, at times giving associations to the string arrangement on 'Eleanor Rigby'. Some horns are also heard, for a moment. I sympathize an album reviewer comparing this piece to early FOCUS instrumentals such as 'House of the King' or 'Sylvia', although I clearly prefer Focus. Again, the composition itself is not very exciting.

The single peaked at no. 9 in the UK singles chart and visited also the Dutch top 40. My more subjective rating would be a lukewarm three stars, but let's make it four for the historical value. Wood, Lynne and co. indeed "picked up where The Beatles left off", as they had planned.

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Posted Monday, July 10, 2023 | Review Permalink

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