The former members of the Electric Light Orchestra and the Electric Light Orchestra II joined forces and combined their musical prowess for the first time to hold an unforgettable performance at the Resort Casino Hotel in Atlantic City on January 2nd. Going under the moniker themselves “The Orchestra,” the two groups managed to bring classic rock hits with an orchestral touch to the thousands of guests who watched at the casino’s Superstar Theater. The Orchestra performed hits like “Strange Magic,” “Evil Woman,” “Livin’ Thing,” “Do Ya,” “Telephone Line,” and “Sweet Talkin’ “Woman.”
The Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) was originally an arena band that toured the world from 1971-1986. In the late 1980s, however, the arena band branched out and gave birth to a symphonic rock band called The Electric Light Orchestra II (ELO II). Both bands are well known for their extravagant performances, unique approach to rock music, and individual personas that garnered a huge following over the years.
Joining The Orchestra are original ELO Members Lou Clark and Mik Kaminski. ELO II members Gordon Townsend, Eric Troyer, Parthenon Huxley, and Glen Burtnik also joined as members of the newly formed super group.
The Resort Casino Hotel was a fitting venue for the arena band’s reunion. The Superstar Theater is well known for its amazing musical concerts all-year round, which actually help the resort stay in operation. Ever since the dawn of online gaming, which offers not only convenience when it comes to slots and staple casino games but also through their integration on mobile as well as daily freebies that seem to be absent in land-based casinos. As a way to drive tourists and revenues back into the city, casino establishments are expanding their entertainment options to the public, and this includes holding big concerts with marked-down prices. Tickets for the concert were sold for only $25, $35 and $45 via Ticketmaster.
Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) made a huge leap forward with Eldorado, the first complete concept album by the group. Rich melodies with various rock and classical influences made this album highly accessible and well received by mainstream audiences making this ELO’s commercial break through. Composed by vocalist, guitarist, and group leader Jeff Lynne, the tune sequence loosely follows the story of a dreamer trying to escape reality. Along the way there are plenty of mixed metaphors using various classic stories and characters from Robin Hood to William Tell to Lancelot to The Wizard of Oz and, of course, Eldorado.
When formed in 1969, ELO declared its purpose as to “pick up where the Beatles left off with ‘I Am the Walrus’.”. The idea came from Roy Wood, formerly of the band, The Move, who had the idea to form a rock band that would regularly use orchestral instruments. He recruited Lynne from fellow Birmingham group, The Idle Race. The debut ,The Electric Light Orchestra, was released in 1971 but tensions between Wood and Lynne led to Wood’s departure during the recordings for ELO 2, which spawned the group’s first US hit, a cover of Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven”. Released in late 1973, On the Third Day, featured the hit single, “Showdown,” and continued the band’s rise in popularity.
On those early albums, Lynne would overdub the strings during recording. However, on Eldorado a 30-piece orchestra and choir was hired, with Louis Clark brought on to arrange and conduct the strings (Clark would later become a full group member). This inclusion limited the group’s three resident string players to a few lead sections on scattered songs. Also during the recording of this album, bassist Ike de Albuquerque quit the group, leaving Lynn to also take on those duties. The inspiration for this ambitious record came from Lynne’s father, a classical music lover.
Eldoradoby Electric Light Orchestra
Released: September, 1974 (Jet) Produced by: Jeff Lynne Recorded: De Lane Lea Studios, London, February–August 1974
Can’t Get It Out of My Head
Poor Boy (The Greenwood)
Illusions in G Major
Jeff Lynne – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Bass, Keyboards, Orchestration Richard Tandy – Piano, Keyboards, Orchestration Mik Kaminski – Violin Mike EdwardsHugh McDowell – Cellos Bev Bevan – Drums, Percussion
“Eldorado Overture” commences with a dramatic entrance with haunting synthesizer sounds by Richard Tandy along with a spoken word poetry introduction before it breaks musically into the climatic main theme. Like many of the tracks on the album, the end dissolves directly into the next song. “Can’t Get It Out of My Head” is a calm yet desperate melody about the dream of something deeper and more romantic. Very well produced and filled with rock and orchestral motifs and operatic backing vocals, this song would go on to become the first really great song by Electric Light Orchestra as well as the band’s first Top 10 single in the US.
“Boy Blue” is an upbeat rocker with a message, describing the reaction of townspeople to the return of a soldier from conflict. The song is driven by piano and bass during verses and choruses with a break for orchestral flourishes above piano during mid-section. “Laredo Tornado” starts with a heavy, droning rock guitar but soon settles into a moderate, clavichord-driven soul and funk tune that takes its time navigating the first verses. The most seventies sounding cool of any track, the song climaxes during the chorus hooks with Lynne’s high-pitched vocals and has extended outro for some string parts to compliment the opening guitar riff. “Poor Boy (The Greenwood)” returns to upbeat, old time rock n roll, with the song’s finale briefly touching on the main theme to finish the first side.
The second side starts with an electric piano version of The Beatles’ “Across the Universe” (albeit uncredited and with alternate lyrics), renamed as “Mister Kingdom”. The song does break into different sections, but not enough to consider it an independent composition. “Nobody’s Child” starts with strong strings, almost a wedding march, which dissolves into a marching piano and cinematic club jazz arrangement. “Illusions in G Major” is a pure fifties rocker, highlighted by a shredding lead guitar during the quickest and most straight-forward song on Eldorado.
The melancholy but beautiful title song “Eldorado” starts with strings playing an almost siren-sounding rotation before it settles into the calm ballad. Lynne’s vocals are most somber and deep with the lyrical vibe being of melancholy resignation and living in dreams with expiration. Late in the song is a pleasant orchestral link to the climatic finale. “Eldorado Final” echos and extends the opening song but with a more furious, driving passage to the finale.
Although Eldorado would not chart in ELO’s home UK until four years later in 1978, it was an instant hit in the US and several other nations. More importantly, the sound forged on this record would set a template for success on future ELO albums.
Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1974 albums.
Out Of the Blue was the seventh album by Electric Light Orchestra (ELO), which began its life in the Swiss Alps after the band wrapped up it’s New World Record tour in April 1977. ELO’s lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter Jeff Lynne rented a small chalet near Lake Geneva. He brought his guitar and rented an electric piano and tape recorder, giving himself about a month of solitude to compose new music. But for about two weeks the weather was terrible and Lynne struggled to write anything of substance. Then one morning, the sun came out exposing the majestic mountains and Lynne’s writer’s block disappeared. Starting with the suite “Concerto For a Rainy Day”, the songwriter composed the bulk of this upcoming double album in total, about fourteen tracks in two weeks. The songs were then rehearsed by and arranged for the band and orchestra before production began at Musicland in Munich, Germany, a place favored by Lynne because of its proximity to “a great football pitch out the back for having a break”.
Lynne was happy to get 40 orchestral musicians into the relatively small Musicland after originally booking and being unsatisfied with a much larger studio where there was too much natural re-verb. In the end, every one of the 19 tracks on Out Of the Blue were composed and produced by Lynne and the album was on the shelf in mere months. Out Of the Blue was a great success, reaching the top five on album charts in seven different countries and becoming the most highly regarded album by ELO. The album also benefited from being highly relevant to its time, having some disco-friendly sounds in the year which brought us Saturday Night Fever and spaceship-centered artwork in the year that brought us Star Wars.
Creatively, it was the apex of Lynne’s ambition to blend basic rock’n’roll with orchestral overtones, something many fans and critics believe was his independent crusade to continue the Beatles musical direction of their latter years. Ironically, Beatles producer George Martin felt their only double album, 1968’s White Album could’ve been edited back to form a really excellent single album and Out Of the Blue may have been better served to follow that advice. The songs tend to be overproduced, which is sonically fulfilling at the beginning but gets mundane as the album progresses, especially with a rather weak fourth “side”. The rich vocal arrangements and the method of call and return by Lynn’s lead and the harmonized backing, especially wear thin as the album progresses.
Out Of the Blueby E.L.O.
Released: October 1977 (Jet) Produced by: Jeff Lynne Recorded: Musicland Studios, Munich, May-August 1977
Turn To Stone
Sweet Talkin’ Woman
Across the Border
Night In the City
Believe Me Now
Standin’ In the Rain
Summer and Lightning
Mr. Blue Sky
Sweet Is the Night
Wild West Hero
Jeff Lynne – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards Richard Tandy – Keyboards, Guitars Louis Clark – Orchestra Conductor Kelly Groucutt – Bass, Vocals Bev Bevan – Drums, Vocals
The album fades in with the hit “Turn to Stone” with a beat equivalent to early techno and Lynne’s call-out vocals returned by thick harmonies (something that will be repeated all too often on this album). The song contains great texture, a key component to many songs on the album along with the skill of mixing string-laden pop hooks with driving rock and roll. The next song, “It’s Over” is an odd song to be placed anywhere but at the end of a side. The song contains a driving acoustic through the verses with a nice piano piece in the lead
A short wedding march introduces “Sweet Talkin’ Woman”, a tremendous pop song with fine melodies, harmonies, and overall great use of vocals. “Jungle” is a song of just plain fun with its various types of sound effects, upbeat tempo, and use of nonsensical vocal flourishes and jungle animal noises provided by Lynne along with bassist Kelly Groucutt and drummer Bev Bevan. “Believe Me Now” is a short yet entertaining instrumental that introduces the melodic an melancholy “Steppin’ Out”, written in a similar vein to past classics like “Telephone Line”.
Based on old-time rock, “Across the Border” adds mariachi horns into the already-packed musical palette of sound effects, Moog synthesizer, and violin by Mik Kaminski. The album’s second side starts with “Night In the City”, a definitely disco-influenced track with just a hint of prog-rock experimentation through the changing chord structures and vocal arrangements. “Starlight” is a dreamy, slow dance influenced, piano driven song with topical, new-age sounds.
The entirety of side three is subtitled “Concerto for a Rainy Day”, a four track suite based on the weather and how it affects mood change, ending gloriously with “Mr. Blue Sky”, an uplifting celebration of sunshine. The song has liberal use of vocoder from keyboardist Richard Tandy. Beyond this, the song contains the best vocals on this vocal-rich album, from the cool lead by Lynne, to the multi-part harmonies in the chorus, to the building arrangement following the second verse, to the great choral arrangement later in the song. Leading up to this climatic final song, the concerto (which would be the end of Lynne’s dabbling in symphonic rock) contains the haunting “Standin’ in the Rain”, the dramatic, string-driven “Big Wheels”, and the acoustic, pop-oriented “Summer and Lightning”.
Side four is, unfortunately, the weakest side on Out Of the Blue as this otherwise fine album fizzles to an anti-climatic end. It is not that these songs are terrible, just that all the spectacular moments have passed and nothing here seems too original or inspiring. “Sweet Is the Night” may have been a hit single if it were released, as it does have some pleasant and melodic moments. “The Whale” is an instrumental which is largely an experiment with synthesized sounds by Tandy. “Birmingham Blues” is mainly uninspired filler, and the album’s closer, “Wild West Hero” adds some “honky tonk” elements which seem forced and underdeveloped.
Still, Out Of the Blue contains some fantastic songs and there were actually even a couple of very good songs that were originally kept off (although later added for the 30th anniversary edition. These were the fine instrumental “The Quick and the Daft” and the melodic, pop-oriented “Latitude 88 North”, which has a sound that may have actually been ahead of its time for 1977. Then again, Jeff Lynne and ELO always seemed to be just a little ahead of their time.
Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1977 albums.
The sixth overall album for Electric Light Orchestra (E.L.O.), A New World Record would become the band’s breakthrough worldwide. Lead singer, chief songwriter, and producer Jeff Lynne later said he considered this album to be the band’s pinnacle (and he may be right). The album combines the better elements of ELO’s of previous works – great pop sensibility and melody with deeper orchestral arrangements and polished production. It is also a transitional album where the sound of the band becomes less progressive and more radio-friendly, with no less than four “hit” songs charting from A New World Record, helping the band to finally break through in their native England.
A New World Record was recorded at Musicland Studios in Munich, Germany, the same location where ELO recorded their previous album Face the Music the year before (it is also the same location where our most recent review Presence by Led Zeppelin was recorded). This studio in the basement of a majestic hotel along with its famed engineer Reinhold Mack.
Many have describe the band’s sound as The Beatles advanced about a half decade later, and there is definitely audio evidence to back that assertion, but there is much more here. Although on one level completely unique, the sound that Jeff Lynne and the band forged through the mid-to-late seventies was the perfect soundtrack for the colorful, bright, and “Star Wars” motif of the era. Further, while many sentiments migrated to the polar extremes of disco and punk when abandoning the over-indulgent virtuosity of progressive rock, E.L.O. chose a more mainstream, roots-rock core just as the generation which grew up in the 1950s were feeling nostalgic for this music. This same core was never truly abandoned by the Beatles, through all their late sixties innovation, so there may be the true comparison.
A New World Recordby Electric Light Orchestra
Released: September 11, 1976 (Jet) Produced by: Jeff Lynne Recorded: Musicland Studios, Munich, July 1976
Mission (A World Record)
Above the Clouds
Jeff Lynne – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Piano Richard Tandy – Piano, Keyboards, Vocals Kelly Groucutt – Bass, Vocals Bev Bevan – Drums, Percussion, Vocals Mik Kaminski – Violin Hugh McDowell & Melvyn Gale – Cellos Louis Clark – Orchestral
A New World Record begins with “Tightrope”, which comes in with a deep and doomy synth that gives way to strings and orchestral vocals before finally kicking in fully at around 1:15 with the thumping rhythm of drummer Bev Bevan and bassist Kelly Groucutt. An excellent rock song interspersed with the “edge” of orchestral strings and choral vocals, this song sets the pace for the rest of the album allthe way through its concluding “Shangri-La”. This last song seems to be a play on to the theme song to the band’s 1974 album El Dorado, both mythical places where the music of E.L.O. tries to take us.
The beautiful and serene “Telephone Line” is a more traditional love song with a definite late-era-Beatles “Golden Slumbers” vibe, especially during the verse. Vocally, the song is superb with Lynn’s voice starting at extreme mid-range for the “telephone” effect before slowly morphing towards normalcy and the chorus “do wap” section adds an undeniable hook. In contrast “Rockaria”, while still very poppy and entertaining, could not be any less conventional. Perhaps the best song on the album, it literally adds opera to a true rock song, in a way as smooth (if not smoother) than Queen did on A Night At the Opera a year earlier. “Rockaria” constantly fluctuates between an aria and an old time, thumping rock song, all very seamless and sweet, yet truly unique.
The first side ends with “Mission”, a quasi-thematic piece with heavy strings throughout with nice sprinklings of Lynne’s guitars and Richard Tandy’s clavichord. The second side kicks off with “So Fine”, a funky song with some modern, almost synthesized sounds complementing that show the band was trying to fit into the disco world as well.
A signature orchestral riff is carried over from “So Fine” to the hit song “Livin’ Thing”, driven by an excellent acoustic rhythm, some majestic lead vocals, and a couple of violin interludes by Mike Kaminski, This would one of the most popular songs ever by the band. “Above the Clouds” follows as an odd but interesting, McCartney-esque song with thumping piano and a subtle Theremin whining in the background through two verses before breaking down with a slow string-led ending. “Do Ya” is pop/rock at its finest, perfect for the era as a radio hit as well as a nice counter-balace to the more serious material on the album. The song is a simple rocker yet impossible to ignore and puts the album well over the top as a commercial success.
In the wake of the tremendous success of A New World Record, E.L.O. would go on to produce their most ambitious effort the following year with Out Of the Blue in 1977 and would remain a relevant force in the pop and rock world into the early eighties.
Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1976 albums.