Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Welcome, Mr. Lynne

Hooray, hooray, I have finally discovered Electric Light Orchestra! By ”discovering” I of course mean the beginning of active listening. Now that I think about it is quite strange that it didn't happen earlier. ELO is a dream come true for a popster like me but I never got round to checking out the band until about a month ago.

It all began almost Out of the Blue. One day I noticed I had put some ELO into my mp3 player and thought about trying something ”new”... I listened to the album once and immediately heard a lot of pop beauty. Repeated listening revealed new dimensions and soon I was hooked to everything on the album.

The sound... The songs! The string arrangements... The mood! Based on my current listening experince of Out of the Blue and Time (1981) I can only say that I have discovered some sort of a missing link that explains certain common things about many bands that I admire. I feel I understand now why many bands sound like what they sound like. Even right now, as I listen to ELO, I constantly think to myself that the music really sounds like the Flaming Lips, or the Apples in Stereo. While being pure 70s pop gold ELO is a link to both the past and present. ELO is an intriguing combination of 60s influence (the Beatles etc.) and being the influence for countless later bands.

Out of the Blue was released as a double LP in 1977. By today's standards it doesn't feel like a double album but it doesn't matter at all... I can't really think of any other album that contains as many songs as 17 all of which are really great. In addition to great songwriting, beautiful melodies and hooks there are stunning strings everywhere. The album has a good balance between classic single hits (Turn to Stone, Sweet Talking Woman, Mr. Blue Sky), rock-oriented material (Across the Border, Birmingham Blues), powerful ballads (Stepping Out, Big Wheels) and songs that, in my opinion, are memorable especially because they are instrumental-driven (Standing in the Rain, The Whale)

So, what else would I like to mention about this album (or ELO in general)... Of course it has to be said that the harmonies are gorgeous – very Queen/Styx, I think. But there is a lot of the Beach Boys as well. On the other hand, the vocals often remind me of disco-era Bee Gees... Another really interesting thing about ELO is that the music tends to have a nice, gentle psychedelic vibe. The songs with their arrangements create such a strong atmosphere that it almost scares me! Music like this is from another world – a world more interesting and colorful but also more dramatic and sometimes wondrously melancholic, when you think about it..

Perfect, catchy symphonic pop/rock with big harmonies, rich sounds, a wonderfully grandiose mood and impeccable songwriting. Gee, ELO's got everything! Why doesn't music like this sell millions anymore, why oh why... (If it did it would probably have many nice by-products - more frequent concerts, for instance.)

There is so very much to cherish on this one album [Out of the Blue] alone... But I intend to listen to the other ELO albums as well. I don't want to rush but sometimes I just can't keep great pop waiting. And there is of course the Move. We'll see what happens next...

2 comments:

Keiju said...

(I'll put this here in English, because it feels nice if all those millions who read your blog can understand this as well!)

I am so happy with your ELO enthusiasm. Your kind of pop music freak seems to lack something essential if ELO is not mentioned as often as The Beatles and The Beach Boys... or almost. Out of the Blue is my favourite as well, while I also like Face the Music, Time, Balance of Power and Zoom very much. Time is often called names like 'the synth pop album' or 'the futurist album', but on the other hand, I recall someone calling "21st Century Man" the most Flaming Lips-like song EVER before the time of the Lips themselves.

Beside these albums, I warmly recommend the ELO stuff on the soundtrack album Xanadu – however disco-like the songs are, they are still pure ELO – and the Jeff Lynne solo album Armchair Theatre. I consider the opening track (and single pick) of the latter, Every Little Thing, really 'power pop' at its best.

side3 said...

If you are looking into Jeff Lynne, you need to check out The Idle Race. They were very Beatlesque. It was the band Jeff led prior to joining The Move:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Idle_Race

After Lynne left, former members ended up in the Steve Gibbons band with another former Move member Trevor Burton.