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ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA

Crossover Prog • United Kingdom


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Electric Light Orchestra picture
Electric Light Orchestra biography
Founded in Birmingham, UK in 1970 - disbanded in 1986 - Reunited briefly in 2000/2001 - Reformed since 2014 (as "Jeff Lynne's ELO")

An incredible 35 years since their formation, the music of the Electric Light Orchestra is still as popular as ever. All over the world, people are tuning into the sound of ELO via radio, the internet, cinemas and TV. The seemingly ageless songs of ELO leader Jeff Lynne are even being heard again in the singles charts, thanks to the cream of today's young dance acts sampling the band's original music and turning on a whole new generation of fans.

ELO thrived under the guidance of Lynne, recording twelve original studio albums and releasing twenty-eight hit singles in the UK alone. At their peak between 1974 and 1981, ELO amassed a string of nine consecutive gold, platinum and multi-platinum albums. The band were one of the biggest arena and stadium draws during the seventies and early eighties, with spectacular shows including massive flying saucer stage sets and vibrant light and laser displays.

Originally a 1970 experimental offshoot of sixties English hitmakers The Move, ELO's initial concept of a rock band augmented by a string section struggled to find success. Though early singles such as 'Showdown' and 'Ma-Ma-Ma-Belle' were hits, ELO albums failed to make the charts in the UK and the group was virtually ignored as a live act.

It was the USA that first embraced ELO, thanks to lengthy coast-to-coast tours that helped propel singles 'Evil Woman' and 'Strange Magic' and albums 'On The Third Day', 'Eldorado' and 'Face The Music' into the American charts. UK acceptance finally came in 1976 with 'A New World Record' and Top 10 singles 'Livin' Thing', 'Rockaria!' and 'Telephone Line'.

A double album masterpiece, 1977's 'Out Of The Blue' was a worldwide smash on pre-orders alone and featured global hits 'Turn To Stone', 'Wild West Hero', 'Sweet Talkin' Woman' plus the song Lynne considers to be his greatest ELO achievement, 'Mr. Blue Sky'. Recently voted "Anthem Of The Midlands" by the public, the track continues to appear in film soundtracks and ads to this very day. The bands' legendary 1978 tour set audience attendance records wherever it played and established ELO as one of the most popular acts in the world.

'Discovery' in 1979 consolidated that success with the singles 'Shine A Little Love' (sampled back into the charts in 2005 by The LoveFreekz), 'Don't Bring Me Down' 'The Diary...
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ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA discography


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ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.62 | 258 ratings
Electric Light Orchestra [Aka: No Answer]
1971
3.61 | 237 ratings
ELO 2 [Aka: Electric Light Orchestra II ‎]
1972
3.79 | 254 ratings
On The Third Day
1973
3.84 | 361 ratings
Eldorado
1974
3.37 | 251 ratings
Face the Music
1975
3.38 | 277 ratings
A New World Record
1976
3.65 | 315 ratings
Out Of The Blue
1977
2.80 | 233 ratings
Discovery
1979
2.30 | 138 ratings
ELO & Olivia Newton-John: Xanadu (OST)
1980
3.38 | 256 ratings
Time
1981
2.63 | 161 ratings
Secret Messages
1983
2.10 | 135 ratings
Balance Of Power
1986
2.43 | 54 ratings
ELO Part II: Electric Light Orchestra Part Two
1990
2.52 | 53 ratings
ELO Part II: Moment Of Truth
1994
2.97 | 126 ratings
Zoom
2001
3.03 | 67 ratings
Jeff Lynne's ELO: Alone In The Universe
2015
2.40 | 16 ratings
Jeff Lynne's ELO: From Out Of Nowhere
2019

ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.37 | 37 ratings
The Night the Light Went On In Long Beach
1974
1.75 | 4 ratings
Electric Light Orchestra - Greatest Hits Live [LIVE] (Electric Light Orchestra Part II: post ELO)
1992
1.98 | 7 ratings
One Night, Live in Australia (Electric Light Orchestra Part II: post ELO)
1996
1.88 | 5 ratings
Greatest Hits Live, Part II: The Encore Collection
1998
3.18 | 18 ratings
Live at Winterland '76
1998
1.78 | 11 ratings
Live at Wembley '78
1998
4.10 | 20 ratings
Live at the BBC
1999
3.67 | 3 ratings
The BBC Sessions
1999
2.50 | 7 ratings
greatest Hits Of E.L.O.- Part II
2001
1.25 | 4 ratings
Strange Magic (Electric Light Orchestra II: post ELO)
2003
3.55 | 11 ratings
Electric Light Orchestra Live
2013
3.93 | 14 ratings
Jeff Lynne's ELO - Wembley or Bust
2017

ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

2.08 | 6 ratings
Live (Electric Light Orchestra Part II: post ELO) (VHS)
1991
3.60 | 5 ratings
The Very Best of ELO
1991
3.23 | 12 ratings
"Out Of The Blue" Tour Live At Wembley / Discovery
1998
3.68 | 21 ratings
Zoom Tour Live
2001
2.67 | 6 ratings
Access All Areas (Electric Light Orchestra Part II: post ELO)
2003
3.22 | 8 ratings
Live: The Early Years
2010
4.50 | 6 ratings
Wembley or Bust
2017

ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.43 | 11 ratings
Showdown
1974
3.27 | 15 ratings
Olé ELO
1976
2.64 | 12 ratings
The Light Shines On
1977
2.83 | 31 ratings
Greatest Hits
1979
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Light Shines On Vol. 2
1979
3.08 | 5 ratings
Classics
1990
3.23 | 14 ratings
Afterglow
1990
3.48 | 5 ratings
Burning Bright
1992
3.96 | 7 ratings
The Definitive Collection
1992
3.08 | 8 ratings
Strange Magic: The Best Of Electric Light Orchestra
1995
2.73 | 6 ratings
Roll Over Beethoven
1996
3.00 | 2 ratings
The Best of Electric Light Orchestra
1996
4.00 | 3 ratings
The Gold Collection
1996
3.13 | 10 ratings
Light Years, The Very Best Of
1997
1.50 | 2 ratings
Beyond The Blue
1999
0.00 | 0 ratings
Flashback
2000
2.26 | 4 ratings
The Essential ELO
2003
4.45 | 11 ratings
ELO 2/Lost Planet
2003
3.91 | 15 ratings
All Over The World: The Very Best Of Electric Light Orchestra
2005
4.14 | 5 ratings
The Harvest Years 1970-1973
2006
3.67 | 3 ratings
Ticket to the Moon: The Very Best of Electric Light Orchestra Volume 2
2007
3.21 | 9 ratings
Mr. Blue Sky: The Very Best Of Electric Light Orchestra
2012

ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

4.17 | 6 ratings
Roll Over Beethoven / Queen of the Hours
1973
2.60 | 7 ratings
Showdown / In Old England Town (Instrumental)
1973
3.00 | 2 ratings
Daytripper / Daybreaker
1974
3.00 | 1 ratings
Can't Get It Out Of My Head
1974
4.00 | 2 ratings
Rockaria!
1976
4.00 | 1 ratings
Mr. Blue Sky
1977
4.50 | 2 ratings
Turn to Stone
1977
0.00 | 0 ratings
The ELO EP
1978
2.05 | 3 ratings
Rock 'n' Roll Is King / After All
1983
3.00 | 7 ratings
So Serious
1986
2.41 | 4 ratings
Getting to the Point
1986
2.31 | 12 ratings
Calling America (single)
1986

ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Face the Music by ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.37 | 251 ratings

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Face the Music
Electric Light Orchestra Crossover Prog

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

3 stars ELO slips easily into the pop world leaving behind serious progressive music almost completely in this album. Yes, it has been hinting towards that end ever since their 2nd album. "El Dorado" had a nice thread running through it, almost making it a suite of songs in disguise as the tracks are tied together with somewhat campy, yet believable orchestral threads. The orchestra returns for the band's fifth album, but there is no cohesive thread holding it all together, and unfortunately, the album suffers from this. There really isn't a pleasing balance here, this album leans toward less creative tracks and more radio-friendly sound, and this is evident in their singles "Evil Woman" and "Strange Magic", which really use the orchestra more for atmosphere than any kind of structural backing.

So, everyone knows these two tracks, but surely the deeper tracks are better right? Well, not in my opinion. To me it sounds forced. "Fire on High" tries to generate some excitement to start off the album, but the orchestral additions seem very formulaic and even the backwards talking and the dark effects have become somewhat cliché by now. Nothing new is ventured here, but it is decent enough to open the album with. "Waterfall" goes for the "romantic" side with a slower track that tries to be the "Can't Get It Outta My Head" of this album. Yes, it's nice enough, but nothing really new here either. In fact, this track sounds better in the instrumental version that closes the 2006 expanded reissue. A bit schmaltzy, but it's okay. It is nice how it follows into the hit "Evil Woman" however, but that track has been overplayed and for me, quickly lost it's charm, almost touching on the disco/dance sound that was becoming more prevalent in the day. The use of strings that opens "Nightrider" brings back the cliché sound that ELO was using to the point of overuse, and when the song picks up tempo, it continues to hold no surprises or interesting turns, just rock mixed with orchestral swashes of usualness. And side one is over without any real standouts.

"Poker" opens the 2nd side with a heavier rock and roll sound and a swirling synth riff that might grab your attention before it descends into the same old territory. Verse, chorus, riff, repeat. It does manage to add in some extra between-chorus bridges that really don't add any emotion to it all. "Strange Magic", the 2nd hit for the album, is actually the best track in my opinion, even if it has also been overplayed. It is a nice, lush and soft track that feels like a cool breeze on a hot summer night, and the orchestral sections are reminiscent of El Dorado, but not really connected to anything else on the album, so it sounds like they were added as an afterthought, and the high falsetto background singing might remind you of The Bee Gees in their disco era. "Down Home Town" tries to add a little hoedown, country sound to it all, but comes across a bit cheesy. Then, before you know it, the album closer "One Summer Dream" shoots for the nostalgic ballad style, again trying to emulate "Can't Get It Outta ...." again. Then it's all over, and I am always left thinking, "is that it"?

Overall, the album comes across as not being very cohesive which was the one saving grace for the previous album "El Dorado", and now it all just sounds like the clichés are just glued together, or recycled into an average sounding album. However, the album ended up doing better than any of their previous releases, so Jeff Lynne accomplished what he had set out to do and turned an exciting concept into pop music and did it over the course of 5 albums. While it's true that the next full length album "A New World's Record" would feel more authentic with songs that seemed to be more thought out, this one was a definite misstep for me. I did like it the first 2 times I heard it many years ago, but it quickly wore out its welcome in my early years. I can manage to give it 3 stars, at least it's not as bad as what would come along eventually, but it's still not an album I return to hardly ever.

 Face the Music by ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.37 | 251 ratings

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Face the Music
Electric Light Orchestra Crossover Prog

Review by iluvmarillion

4 stars As another reviewer says, ELO got better as they shed their progressive roots. That's opposite to what people on a prog rock site expect to hear and consequently the ratings go down as you chronologically move through the ELO discography. If you seek lengthy compositions, unusual time signatures, flashy musical technique and multiple styles within a song, you won't find it on Face The Music, nor any subsequent album. However, in terms of song writing craft Jeff Lynne hits his strides in a trio of albums beginning with this one. The result is eight superbly written pop songs performed by a multi-instrumental rock band. The value you attach to song writing craft and arrangement over musical technique and style determines your rating score. Any star rating between one and five is equally valid here, as this is an instance where bad prog rock doesn't align with bad album.

Jeff Lynne hasn't shaken off all the influences that went to making Eldorado. We still get the heavy choruses, spoken word and strings that go into the instrumental opener, Fire On Water. However, this time the writing is much tighter. After the classical intro it moves into a fast rock beat with synthesizers and guitars and finishes with choir voices and flash of acoustic guitars.

Waterfall is a great song, one of Jeff Lynne's best, with great lyrics. This is a slower track with Beatles like harmonies and better use of the chorus. Evil Woman is another great song with a dance like beat with a catchy chorus and piano and clavinet riff. Would have sounded even better without the kitchen sink approach of adding too many strings and too many female voices.

Nightrider starts with synthesizer, then comes the ubiquitous strings and choruses as it develops into a very strong vocal line before the quiet piano finish. Again, great lyrics. Poker gives Bev Bevan something to do on drums and the song goes through a few time changes in a fast-paced guitar rocker with lots of synthesizer and drum fills. Strange Magic is another impressive song from Jeff Lynne. The orchestral intro is great but the strings in the middle spoil it a bit. It has breezy guitar at the start before it moves into piano and this time the female chorus really complements the song. Down Home Town is a play on Land Of Dixie with a catchy beat and chorus.

The final track, the acoustic ballad called One Summer Dream, is I think the best thing Jeff Lynne ever wrote. It could do without the orchestra and even the choruses because it works brilliantly purely as a guitar piece. You feel as if you're floating off into the sunset as you listen to it.

My major complaint with Face The Music is there are too many string arrangements on the album. I also think it could have done without all the choruses featuring on every track. You can achieve great harmonies with just a few voices. You don't need massive choirs. Sometimes less means more. But I'm quibbling here. The other instruments are fine with clever use of guitars, synthesizers, voices and piano. These songs are so strong they would survive any format. Jeff Lynne has peeled off some of his best songs, many of which were deserved single hits. He would outdo himself on his next album, A New World Discovery.

 Eldorado by ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.84 | 361 ratings

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Eldorado
Electric Light Orchestra Crossover Prog

Review by iluvmarillion

1 stars Jeff Lynne is an extraordinary talent, a bit like his fellow troubadour, Justin Hayward. They have that unique ability to turn out guitar ballads which resonate on the ears. Writing rocker numbers is a bit more difficult. Hayward wrote a beauty, Question, while Lynne hit the jackpot with Livin' Thing. On The Third Day is a continuation of the Roy Wood formula of lifting classical music pieces such as Hall Of The Mountain King and applying rock musical instruments to them. The issue is when Roy Wood leaves the band many of the progressive elements which make the style of ELO distinctive depart with him and Jeff Lynne has to assume the direction for the band. On the evidence of On The Third Day Lynne is still feeling his way, writing good tunes, but still searching for a formula that moves the band forward.

With Eldorado Jeff Lynne tries to hedge his bets and fails to make either a solid pop album, or a satisfying rock album that builds on the ideas of On The Third Day. Firstly, basing an album around a concept isn't particularly new, or fresh at this time and doesn't suit his style of song writing. Secondly, ELO are their own orchestra. Why would they get Louis Clark to do string arrangements for the band when they have all the strings they need to make their concept album?

The album doesn't start well. We get a prologue of spoken word which may have worked well in 1967 for Days Of Future Passed, but here in 1974 it comes across as pretentious. For good measure the voice is distorted. After the strings overture we get to the best song on the album, a ballad, Can't Get It Out Of My Head, but it's treatment of choruses and strings almost ruins the simple piano theme of the song. After that it's no better. The baroque sounds of trumpets introduce Boy Blue, a very ordinary rocker that goes on and on. Guitars and everything except the kitchen sink drag the music along until we get to the piano riffs of a John Lennon like song in Mister Kingdom, but all that is ruined by more violins. Nobody's Child has a catchy tune but even that reminds me of something else I've heard before. More strings and rock and roll leads into the finale of more strings and spoken voice until it all thankfully comes to an end.

There are dozens of musicians featured in this album, Little Richard, Chuck Berry and John Lennon to name a few. The only one missing is Jeff Lynne.

 Secret Messages by ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1983
2.63 | 161 ratings

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Secret Messages
Electric Light Orchestra Crossover Prog

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

3 stars (The rating for this review is for the 35th anniversary double album released in 2018)

'Secret Messages' is the 10th album released by Electric Light Orchestra, and by this time, the band was pretty much all about Jeff Lynne that it was about a rock band founded on the idea of being a band that utilized classical instruments to create rock music. The orchestra part of the band was pretty much just happy background support, not unlike the brass section of another 'great band turned pop', Chicago. Yes, these bands were selling records at the time, but their identifying sound had become just secondary layers turning them both into just another commercial band.

The original version of this album really has nothing that stands out from any of ELO's previous work, in fact it just all seems like top 40 versions of rehashed material, and it is hard to find anything really memorable out of the ten tracks that make up the album. There are a couple of great tunes here like 'Four Little Diamonds' and 'Secret Messages' but they soon wear out their welcome as time passes.

However, in defense of this album, Lynne originally wanted it to be a double album much like 'Out of the Blue' was. He had enough tracks to make it that way, but CBS decided that a double album was too expensive to make and was less likely to sell a lot of copies. So, instead they released the stripped down version. In 2018, Lynne finally was able to release the album the way he wanted it, as a double album with all of the songs (except one) that were originally planned to be on the album and with the tracks in the order that he wanted them to be in the first place.

So, the question is, does this make the album any better? Actually, it does to a certain extent. The music that was left off is still more pop-oriented. There is no progressive music on the double album version either. However, a few of the tracks that were left off were better than some of the ones that were included in the original album. ELO lovers will definitely want to check them out.

The first four tracks take up side one of the anniversary edition in the same order as the original album, no changes there. Side two starts to see some differences as the next track is the strong track 'Stranger', and this is followed by the first 'new' track 'No Way Out' (which was previously available as a bonus track on the CD reissue) which is also one of the stronger tracks. At this point, the track 'Beatles Forever' was supposed to follow according to Lynne's original concept. This was the only track still left off of the Anniversary Edition. If you get a chance to hear a bootleg version of the track, you will understand why it has never been used, it's quite tacky and it uses many of The Beatles lyrics, they probably have a hard time getting clearance to use the lyrics, especially on something so embarrassingly awful. This side then finishes with the more lackluster tracks 'Letter from Spain' and 'Danger Ahead'.

Side Three begins with one of the highlights of the original album 'Four Little Diamonds' and then the side loses steam with 'Train of Gold'. Two previously unreleased tracks follow with 'Endless Lies' (appeared as a bonus track on the CD reissue) and 'Buildings Have Eyes' both of which are pretty much more of the same commercial fare, then ends with the hit from the album 'Rock n Roll is King'. Side Four begins with an okay, previously unreleased track 'Mandalay' followed by 'Time After Time' from the original release. After this is a shortened version of what was an instrumental sleeper 'After All', the full version of which was included on one of the past CD reissues, but not on the original album. It was a smart move to only leave a snippet of that track on here because it works better as a short introduction for the last track, which is also the previously unreleased 'Hello, My Old Friend'. This is the best track written for this album in Lynne's original concept. If the album was made up of tracks like this one, the album would have been much better. It's sad to think that it had been left in the unused bin for so long as it is the best track produced by ELO in their later years. Even though it is progressive lite, at least there is a small dose of progressive style to it.

Overall, the double album version is maybe only a half star better than the 'label's' version of the album. But for the avid fans of ELO's pop sound will definitely love this. I can only manage to give it 3 stars, and most of that is because of the last track. There is a little bit more variety to this version of the album too, which is something the original definitely lacked. So, if you are an avid fan (and I do know of some people that are), then you will definitely want to get this edition. Otherwise, if you are hoping for something that sounds like the older, unique sound of the band, then you will be disappointed. This is not one for those searching only for progressive music as there is nothing here for you unless you love pop, Roy Orbison and Beatles impressions and 50's nostalgia.

 Eldorado by ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.84 | 361 ratings

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Eldorado
Electric Light Orchestra Crossover Prog

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

4 stars When an album is released, whether it is considered groundbreaking or not, time actually determines if the album continues to age well or not. When ELO released their 4th album in 1974, progressive rock was already a thing. However, the fact that ELO would have such an influence on symphonic prog by mixing orchestra and rock instruments with classical music and progressive music was probably not even thought about during its inception. Jeff Lynne had this thing for mixing rock and classical together, that came naturally to him, and even this album wasn't the first to do such a thing, however, it has become known as one of the major albums in history to influence progressive music according to Classic Rock magazine and Rolling Stone considers it one of the 50 greatest prog rock albums of all time.

No doubt that this album was a major release back in the day, and it was easily a 5 star album. After all of these years, however, this is one of those albums that aged okay, but not as well as what it might seem back in 1974. Now, it's not because of the instruments, recording or sound that this is the case. I believe, at least for me, that it is because Lynne used all of the classical music clich's out there, and now that is more apparent than ever. This is the thing that keeps me from giving it a 5 star rating. But, I can't deny that I love to listen to this album upon occasion, but too much of it can start to get on my critical nerves. The concept of the album is a good one though. It takes a typical 'Joe' and gives him the power to visit any fantastical place he wishes to.

Typically, in the past, Lynne didn't use an actual orchestra, but instead overdubbed several lines of strings to make it sound more orchestral. On this album, however, he utilized a full orchestra along with his usual band members playing their respective string instruments and such. This was a new experience for Lynne, and you have to admire him for his huge dream on this album. Opening with the 'Eldorado Overture', Lynne begins right away to use themes that were already available to him, thus the reason why I say he used classical music clich's. After Peter Forbes Robinson introduces the concept in a spoken word passage, the orchestra comes in using an excerpt from Grieg's famous piano concerto in A minor, a theme that almost anyone may recognize. After two minutes, the overture flows into the extremely wonderful 'Can't Get It Outta My Head', a song that in and of itself became not only an ELO classic, but a rock ballad classic. It is lush, dramatic and beautiful, an odd way to open after a rousing overture, but no one ever seems to mind, do they? This song would be the one to bring ELO into the spotlight in the States, but it didn't do so well in the UK.

The 2nd single follows in 'Boy Blue', another song that took a bit longer to become an ELO classic. Just like 'Kuiama' from the 2nd album, this is an anti-war song set during the Crusades. It is another personal favorite of mine, though the song is a lot simpler than the more complex 'Kuiama'. However, there are still some great riffs in it, but it has become more overplayed now several years later. This one flows into the fantastic 'Laredo Tornado' which shows off Lynne's vocal range quite well and is another favorite of mine. The 1st side ends with 'Poor Boy (The Greenwood)' which has the main character fantasizing about being one of Robin Hood's merry men. Each track is joined together in a continuous musical suite usually interconnected by familiar sounding orchestral interludes.

The second side opens with 'Mister Kingdom', another great track that follows in the footsteps of The Beatles 'Across the Universe', sounding somewhat similar to that song. The music continues in the same vein as before. The tracks are all short and sometimes a bit too quick as Lynne balances between making a big orchestral rock record that sounds both innovative yet easily adaptable to a commercial radio format in each and every track. At the end of the album, Lynne picks a great track to end it all off wrapping the concept up with the title track. Of course, the church goers got a hold of this track and said that it had a satanic message to it when played backwards. So, unintentionally, Lynne ended up getting the same treatment as his musical heroes The Beatles. 'He is the nasty one, Christ you're infernal, It is said we're dead men, Everyone who has the mark will live.' These were the words they accused him of backmasking. Some people just have way too much time on their hands. The album ends as it begins, with a reoccurrence of the overture theme in the 'Eldorado Finale'. This ends way to quickly and abruptly that it ends up taking away the punch of the album.

I can't deny that I enjoy this album from time to time and that it is a classic. But, it really is also quite accessible, not as complex as previous albums at all. I can only take it in small doses, so once I hear it, I have to put it away again for a while otherwise it can sound a bit trite to me. However, I will not hold that against this album. It does say something that I can still find it fun to listen to at times, and I really enjoy it when I do. For that reason, I can easily give this a four star rating also because it did have an impact on progressive music.

 ELO 2 [Aka: Electric Light Orchestra II ‎] by ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.61 | 237 ratings

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ELO 2 [Aka: Electric Light Orchestra II ‎]
Electric Light Orchestra Crossover Prog

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

5 stars 'Electric Light Orchestra II' (titled 'ELO 2' outside of the US), was a big move away from the more stark and raw sounding first album and released two years after the debut. Ron Wood stuck around long enough to be recorded for two of the album's tracks playing bass and cello, but he left while the album was being finished and formed the band 'Wizard'. Interestingly enough, he was not credited on the original release. This left Jeff Lynne completely in charge of the band. Bev Bevan remained with the band and Richard Tandy joined at this time on keyboards. Mike Edwards and Wilf Gibson replaced Wood and along with other guests, provided the 'orchestral strings' that worked to retain the original goal of the band, to use strings in place of guitars for the most part.

What resulted was a more concise album, the best and also the most progressive that the band would put out in it's long history. Originally, the album was to be titled 'The Lost Planet', but that was eventually shelved. The album has 5 tracks, all of them longer than most pop fare, and definitely more complex and progressive than what you would hear on the radio. However, there was also a more blatant use of rock n' roll mixed with a classical sense throughout the record.

The first track sounds the most like the previous album, but is much heavier and uses more guitar, though it is dense and heavy like the debut album. This is one of the tracks that Wood performs on, but was not credited. 'In Old England Town (Boogie No. 2)' contains Lynne's rough vocals, but, in my opinion, some of his best work is on this album. A long instrumental introduction plays through and introduces the themes of the track in a dark and heavy, cello-laden manner. Jeff's vocals are quite gruff on this one, giving it more of a hard rock sound than most of the music they were writing at the time. The tricky timing and changing meters shows the progressive side of the band which after this album would unfortunately appear less and less as the years went on. (Personal opinion: I would almost bet the theme from 'Jaws' came from one of the cello riffs on this song.) It has always been a puzzler for me why this would have an alternate name of 'Boogie No. 2' when there is no boogie present on this at all. It is more of a slow blues, albeit quite complex.

'Momma'' (titled 'Mama' in the US) is more of a rhapsodic ballad, one of ELO's most beautiful, but then they had several beautiful ballads through the years. The strains of the strings are pleading and emotional and Jeff's vocals are perfect, sometimes bringing a 'stage' over-the-top feeling, very dramatic, yet full of passion and feeling. This is followed by the only song not written by Lynne on the album, a cover of 'Roll Over Beethoven'. While it is true this is a rock and roll tune that had already been covered countless times, this cover goes on for over 8 minutes (edited down to under 8 minutes in the UK), is introduced by one of Beethoven's famous themes performed mostly by the strings, and then it suddenly breaks into its usual rock and roll sound, but improvised on to create an excellent jam based off of the Chuck Berry tune but also throwing in bits of Beethoven throughout the rousing version. This is by far the best cover of that song in existence (or at least that I have heard). It is also the song that best emulates the direction that The Beatles were taking of combining more complex structures with old time rock, the goal that the band originally set out to make. Rock and Roll and Progressive Music? The answer here is 'Yes!'

So, as good as the first side of this album is, can it be possible that the 2nd side is even better. It is, as it contains the two best tracks that Electric Light Orchestra would ever produce. 'From the Sun to the World (Boogie No. 1)' is the 2nd track with Wood performing, but it's still Lynne's vocals. The alternate name 'Boogie No. 1' fits this track much better than the previous one as there is actually some excellent boogie riffs in here, but you have to wait for them. Wait patiently, because the pay off is worth it. It begins as a passionate rhapsody with piano and synths providing a lovely beginning, which builds in a nice synth riff backed by cello following the synth riff almost note for note. Lynne's voice is rough again, but not as heavy here as the song is more upbeat, but with the complex rock sound. The cello riff combined with the violins is an excellent pairing, and you don't miss the guitars at all. This gives way to a piano solo returning to the rhapsodic beginning for a lovely passage that gets joined by a pleading violin. So lovely and emotional! When this ends, there is a pause and then the piano bursts into that boogie riff that comes out of nowhere. Excellent! Now the piano plays the rhapsody melody with fast churning boogie riff playing behind it and the other instruments join in. I absolutely love this track!

But what follows is a masterpiece in progressive music, the absolute perfect track 'Kuiama'. It is the longest track that ELO would ever produce. It follows the story of a soldier trying to console a young girl whose parents he had to kill during wartime. Talk about a strong statement. This track was apparently one of the band's favorites, as it should be since it is a track that broke from the commercial boundaries that seemed to bind the band in later years. The song is emotional and dramatic with ever changing instrumental passages, a mini concept album in and of itself. Heavy and dark through most of its long run time, it also has some experimental and minimal sections. The reappearance of melodic themes throughout makes this more of a singular, long form composition than it does a suite, which is the route most progressive bands seem to take, and this incorporation of changing and recurring themes makes this track even more complex. Simply astounding and masterful, this is one of my all time favorite epic progressive works. The fact that the strings are used so well here only makes it that much better. And the loud, climactic and cinematic ending leaves the sounds of war presented through the strings echoing through your head which only strengthens the anti-war message of the song. Simply incredible!

There are a few other reissues of the album that add bonus tracks to the album, but they are great only as supporting material. The best bonus tracks come from the 'First Light Series' 30th anniversary edition which adds in an early version of 'Showdown' (which would appear on their next album 'On the Third Day', a session outtake called 'Baby I Apologize', some early versions of 'Ma-Ma-Ma Belle' called 'Auntie' in its early incarnation, and some other outtakes along with another take of 'Roll Over Beethoven'. As I mentioned, this is only great supplemental material for interested fans, but doesn't really add to the album itself. Most of the material in the bonus tracks was recorded for the next album "On the Third Day" which was already in production at the same time as this album. You can already tell the outtakes are more pop-oriented than anything on this original album.

It makes me sad to think about the potential this band had if it continued in this direction. But unfortunately, even though subsequent albums would be pretty good for a while before it headed completely down hill in the 80s, nothing in their discography would match this masterpiece of an album. The band proves its worth in progressive music mostly on the 2nd side of the album, but the entire album is worthwhile. This is one of my own personal 6 star rated albums, one of the few.

 Electric Light Orchestra [Aka: No Answer] by ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.62 | 258 ratings

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Electric Light Orchestra [Aka: No Answer]
Electric Light Orchestra Crossover Prog

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

4 stars In 1968, a band called 'The Move' consisted of 3 individuals, Roy Wood, Jeff Lynne and Bev Bevan. That band was basically ending, but the 3 musicians wanted to have a smooth transition from that band to a new band that focused on strings and woodwinds rather than guitars to give their new music a more classical sound, and at the same time, continue where they thought The Beatles had left off. So, while finishing The Move's last album 'Message from the Country', they were also focusing on the new band to be known as 'The Electric Light Orchestra'. In December of 1971, the debut album was released, originally misnamed 'No Answer' due to a funny mistake, it eventually became known by the same name as the band.

So, this new album and band sounded nothing like the previous band. Little did they know that this album would also not sound much like subsequent albums either. This one definitely focused on the idea that Ron Wood had for the band, something unique and distinctive. Even today, listening to this album gives the listener a unique experience as far as music goes. It sounds nothing like the pop and disco sounds that the band would eventually morph to. So it is quite interesting to hear how it all started, and just for that alone, it is worth it for everyone to hear how it was originally intended.

The music is heavy and dark, but not at all in a guitar heavy way. The music is far from the slick sound that the band would eventually adopt in the 80's. It sounds much more raw and unique, just as it was supposed to sound. Lynne was just figuring out how to use his voice, and at times sounds his vocals are garbled and hard to understand. Yet, there was something exceedingly charming and wonderful about it all, it gave the music character, especially in a lot of the earlier albums to follow. In fact, the more Lynne's voice became slicker, the less interesting it would get. Same thing with the music. Even the earlier, more accessible albums like 'Eldorado' were still attractive in the way they were more raw and heartfelt. But nothing in their discography would ever match the sound of this first album. While it's true they still had some perfecting to do, which they come much closer to achieving on their 2nd album than on this one, it is still a very fascinating and entertaining album, and unsuspecting 'fans' of the groups later music will probably be shocked at how different this album is.

The album starts off with Lynne's track, the most famous song on the album '10538 Overture' which was originally supposed to be a song for 'The Move', but Wood and Lynne traded the guitar riffs for cello riffs, and this was the result. To me, it is a fascinating track that has become a favorite in their discography with the cools cello sawing sounds which are double tracked to make it sound more orchestral. It starts based off of the famous Beethoven motif, but soon becomes heavy and thick. I remember playing this track when I was quite young, and my father said it sounded like an unbalanced washing machine. Even to this day, I hear that and think that he wasn't too far off, but I still love the track. It was released at the 1st single for the album and it has shown up on several of the band's greatest hits albums.

Most listeners will notice that the album moves further away from the 'rock' feeling at this point and becomes more 'classical' sounding. 'Look at Me Now' is written by Wood, and it begins accappela, with a more of a folk sounding and baroque centered track, more minimal as most of it is performed with his vocals and a viola and some sparse wind instruments. 'Nellie Takes Her Bow' is mostly performed without drums as a rhythmic instrument, but more as an orchestral instrument along with the strings and wind instruments. The song veers from rhapsodic to progressive classical with Lynne's obvious writing, and even uses a motif from 'God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen' at one point. The track is also quite dramatic and showy. At this point, more dissonance comes into play along with dynamic and mood changes. 'Battle Of Marston Moor' once again takes a sparser approach and once again is penned by Wood. There is the sound of the mini-orchestra, made dark with emphasis on the cello and a rather dramatic reading instead of sung lyrics. It is obvious that Wood's songs are more baroque-classical based where Lynne's are more romantic-classical sounding. Though this one is more baroque oriented, it still has a bit more variation in thematic elements than the typical baroque style song would have, the more linear sounds often shifting to various melodic themes. This one is also more instrumentally driven.

Rod Wood opens up the 2nd side with a guitar led instrumental called 'First Movement (Jumping Biz)', which sounds very much like 'Classical Gas' by Mason Williams. In fact, the artists now admit it was based on that song. The music is upbeat and more rock oriented making it a great opening track for the 2nd side, even though it almost steals the Classical Gas melody. Lynne writes the next 3 tracks starting with 'Mr. Radio', which actually sounds more like subsequent ELO tracks than anything else on the album. This also blatantly demonstrates Lynne's love of The Beatles songs as would many of his future songs. This track was slated to be the 2nd single from the album, and would have probably done quite well as it is somewhat accessible, more so than 10538 Oveture, but it was shelved. The song still uses the trademark (for this album anyway) heavy use of strings and the orchestrated feel, plus the Lynne penchant for rhapsodic, romantic inspired tracks, plus he adds a vaudeville atmosphere to it, and uses some effects like backward tracking to give it more character. It's a great track that foreshadows some of the amazing songwriting Lynne would do for the 2nd album.

'Manhattan Rumble (49th Street Massacre)' continues the dramatic and cinematic style developed from the previous track as the two flow into each other. Again, a lot of the same elements of classical verses vaudeville work against each other in some fascinating ways. This track is entirely instrumental, though it works as an extension to the previous track and could have easily been morphed into one track. 'Queen of the Hours' finishes off the Lynne written tracks. More sawing strings open this one up and soon Lynne's vocals return, the happy vocals sounding almost contradictory to the heavy sound of the thick strings here. This is probably the least interesting track on the album. The album ends with 'Whisper in the Night' by Wood. Again, the contrast between Lynne's complicated sound and Wood's simpler sound is quite apparent along with the more structured, almost folk-tinged sound, it sounds like a stage song from the baroque era.

As most people, on my first listen to this album, I was not that attracted to it, but as the music opened itself up to me more, I was able to appreciate it more. There was a time when I would have said it was there worst album, but now I consider it one of their best. Though it is not as great as their second album, I still consider it a strong 4 star album. It is quite original, and, though it has a few weak moments, it demonstrated the beginnings of what could have been an amazing group had they continued in this path. Alas, all we have is this one album with both Ron and Jeff together, as Ron would leave the band shortly after the first single was released. I suppose it all had to do with their differences musically as Lynne wanted to center of the rhapsodic and romantic connection of classical and rock music while Wood was more interested in the classical and olden sound. Wood would continue on to be part of the band 'Wizard', but Lynne, of course, would become famous for leading ELO, but unfortunately, eventually going down a completely commercial path. But, at least we were able to get some unforgettable and unique music from the early years of the band.

 ELO 2 [Aka: Electric Light Orchestra II ‎] by ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.61 | 237 ratings

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ELO 2 [Aka: Electric Light Orchestra II ‎]
Electric Light Orchestra Crossover Prog

Review by Jochanan

3 stars I remember when I was a teenager. I bought in a sale a double cd of Concerto for Group and Orchestra by Deep Purple. I recorded it on MC cassette and when I went on a trip by car with my father, I played it. What expectations did I have! And in the end I thought: "That was it?!" That's not the way you make an album with an orchestra! Anyway, I felt similar disappointment with this album. I had great expectations- I had known some famous songs before and then I came across this album from ?the prog era", 8-minute-long songs, I thought it would be something, but it is not so good.

I want to be brief (even though I probably won't be), without description of each song, so I'm going to say what's bad about this album and then what's good, (which is only my opinion of course, not an objective measurement.) Well, the songs tend to lack intuition and flow- that kind of creativity. Instead, I hear kind of mathematical structures like in In Old England Town where there is some number of parts that are randomly put together to fill in the 7- minute time range. The deviations from the Chuck Berry core in Roll over Beethoven seem to me like helplessly groping for something sophisticated ending with a poor filler.

All the songs are basically too long. Either the lack of ideas or the insecurity to confidently develop those ideas make the songs repetitive, without gradation. I sometimes trace too much noise as in In Old England Town or From the Sun to the World that tries to hide something, maybe those insecurities in the composing. It's like "Let's make it prog, long compositions, tempo and melody changes, some violin and guitar solos, but actually I'm not sure how to do it and maybe, just maybe, I don't want to do it this way." Guitar solos are especially helpless. Roll Over Beethoven- that's a hit, no doubt, but 8 minutes is far too much, like Hocus Pocus by Focus. Take We will Rock You, there's no use making it 10 minutes long. (Except for Vanilla Fudge)

Then there are blank parts, Mama is good example, there are places where there are attempts to stir some melody up, but it goes halfway through, without balls and then it is cut by the main melody. This relates to the whole album being blurry, dull, in a way that it is not strong, with clear features, with drive, with exact idea where the album goes. There's a lot of good work done, but it is not drawn to the end.

The fusion of classical music with rock is best seen in Roll over Beethoven, which is perfect idea. Dark cellos make great and original atmosphere, I like the raw sound ELO had before Eldorado, the wild sound of Bev Bevan's drums. But the reason why to listen to this album are From the Sun to the World and Kuiama. They both are kind of collages that go through different melodies and genres with piano, violin and cellos. The violin and cello part in Kuiama is the best moment of the album for me, but still, there's something missing. I miss the confidence, the violinist should be stating "look at me!", but it is rather insecure statement "This is my 2 minutes of the album, so please listen."

So to sum up, comparing with it's older brother and the younger one. 1st album is braver, crazier, more experimental, more interesting and provoking thanks to Roy Wood. His departure is felt on this album. And the third album, as some guys said here, is more accessible, but is free from the disadvantages of this album. If you are choosing between the first three albums, start with the third one, then taste the first one, and then complete your experience with this one.

 Out Of The Blue by ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.65 | 315 ratings

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Out Of The Blue
Electric Light Orchestra Crossover Prog

Review by Jochanan

3 stars After many years of avoiding ELO's production of the second half of the 70's, and rather prefering the first half with the Eldorado highlight, I finally found enough courage to go through the "sweet" disco era.

I got interested in this 2 LP album to start with. And I find the album very pleasant, listening-friendly, colourful and idea-full. It showed me nice idea- It is better to do sincere and common stuff than trying to create something sophisticated, but failing, because it is not just my true way:

There comes to me a comparison of this album with ELO2. The average length of songs on ELO2 is somwhere about 8 minutes per song (which is an utter rarity for ELO :-)), I found the album empty and rigid- Roll over Beethoven could have been done within 5 minutes IMO, avoiding boring repetions, but that's a different story. I believe that Roy Wood's departure meant death of progressivity with ELO. Trying to be proggresive for Jeff Lynne and his band was not the way. Jeff Lynne's recipe is Sweet Talking Woman, Living Thing, a little bit of Fire on High and then some Xanadu and Mr. Blue Sky.

I pricked up my ears for some Gilmourish guitar solo, for an Emersonish keyboard solo, for some improvisation and they are very very scarce. What is rather important is consciousness in composing and richness of sound. Eveything here is neat, yes, there are a lot of ideas and colours, but they are subtle, somehow balanced. It is like a sightseeing in a tour bus. It's comfortable. You are taken everywhere and told everything imporatnt. Everything is safe: "See, there's museum, and there's parliament, and there's the oldest bookshop in the city and see- there's city park".

So, I want to say that I enjoy the sightseeing ride, it is sincere and fresh. My favourite higlights are Sweet Talking Woman, Believe Me Now, Sweet is the Night with beautiful Jeff's background singing and Concerto for a Rainy Day for its violin parts. It's better than 3 ***, but I don't want to give it 4, I don't know, all the songs are good, but in the end, it doesn't matter if they are part of this album, or that best of, or other platinum collection cd- 3,5 is a deal.

 ELO & Olivia Newton-John: Xanadu (OST) by ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1980
2.30 | 138 ratings

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ELO & Olivia Newton-John: Xanadu (OST)
Electric Light Orchestra Crossover Prog

Review by patrickq
Prog Reviewer

3 stars First and foremost, it should be made clear that Xanadu: From the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is not a prog-rock album. At all. It's really not even a "crossover prog" album. As siLLy puPPy and other reviewers have stated, this is a pop album, half of which is performed by the Electric Light Orchestra (ELO), a sometime semi-prog group. I'll also mention that although it was released in 1980, this is not a stereotypical eighties record; it's a big-production late-1970s album with live musicians, orchestral overdubs - - each and every one of the proverbial nine yards. Luckily for the producers, this (presumably) big-budget product was a hit, reaching #4 in Canada and the US, #2 in the UK, and #1 in Australia and several European countries. Furthermore, in the summer and fall of 1980, Xanadu spawned five top-twenty hits on the Billboard Hot 100 and six top-forty hits on the UK Official singles chart - - not to mention hundreds of thousands of copies in other countries.

One more bit of background: the first side of the album (not "Side One," but the "ONJ Side") is performed by Olivia Newton-John. Two of the five songs she performs solo; each of the others is co-performed with a well-known act. The "ELO Side" has four songs by ELO and one by ELO with lead vocals by Newton-John.

As is so often the case, the singles from Xanadu tend to be the strongest. Among the minor hits, ELO's "Don't Walk Away" and the Newton-John/Cliff Richard duet "Suddenly," both aimed at the adult-contemporary market, are decent tunes, although neither is among anybody's greatest or most-remembered hits. Two other ELO songs did a bit better on the charts: "I'm Alive" (#20 UK, #16 US) and "All Over the World" (#11,13), and both are fantastic pop-rock numbers. Among ELO's six US top-forty hits from August 1979 to 1980 (beginning with "Don't Bring Me Down"), these are easily the best. An added plus is that "I'm Alive" seems to relate specifically to the movie: it's said to underpin a scene in which ancient characters come to life.

The two biggest hits from Xanadu are also wonderful pop songs, and each relates to the otherworldly theme of the movie. "Magic" is one of Olivia Newton-John's absolute best songs (in my opinion only "Make a Move on Me" is better); its chart success (#1 for four weeks in the US and for two in Canada) was no accident. And someone should give John Farrar, who wrote and produced the song, a medal for the guitar part he plays beginning at 3:11 of the album version. Her follow-up single was "Xanadu," a #1 hit in at least eight European countries. I was a kid when it came out and I must have heard it a thousand times before I realized that it was, in effect, an ELO song - - down to Jeff Lynne's backing vocals and Louis Clark's orchestral arrangements - - with Newton-John singing leads.

Although it's not quite at the level of "Magic," "I'm Alive," or "All Over the World," my pet song on this album is "Dancin'," credited to Olivia Newton-John with the Tubes. Indeed, four members of that band are credited on the track: singer Fee Waybill, keyboardist Michael Cotton, and guitarists Roger Steen and Bill Spooner. Coming as it did after what many fans consider the Tubes' masterpiece Remote Control, "Dancin'" is probably seen as the beginning of the end of the group. But I love it. It's essentially a faux mash-up; first Newton-John performs a 1940s dance number; then the Tubes cut in with an opposing, then-modern rock song. Back to Newton-John, then back to the Tubes, and then both sections, revealed to be mating parts, are played simultaneously. Very clever.

Rating Xanadu has been tough. It has five very strong songs, and five ho-hum tunes. It doesn't especially hang together as an album, but many of the songs were obviously written expressly for the movie, which is something I appreciate.* I guess it's one good song short of a four-star album. But it's good. ELO fans should definitely have this one, as should fans of late-1970s / early-1980s soundtracks.

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*I'm not saying I appreciate the movie, btw. I've only seen a few scenes and they're not too promising.

Thanks to yanns for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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