Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) were a British rock group from Birmingham who released eleven studio albums between 1971 and 1986 and another album in 2001. ELO were formed to accommodate Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne's desire to create modern rock and pop songs with classical overtones. After Wood's departure following the band's debut record, Lynne wrote and arranged all of the group's original compositions and produced every album.
Despite early singles success in the United Kingdom, the band were initially more successful in the United States, billed as "The English guys with the big fiddles". By the mid-1970s, they had become one of the biggest-selling acts in music.
Their debut album The Electric Light Orchestra got a reissue lately and was released as a two disc expanded special 40th anniversary edition.
The album is focused on the core trio of Roy Wood (guitars, bass guitar, cello, oboe, bassoon, clarinet, percussion, period woodwind instrument, krumhorn, vocals), Jeff Lynne (guitars, bass guitar, piano, keyboards, vocals, and Bev Bevan (drums, percussion, vocals) who were the remaining members of rock group The Move. The Move were still releasing more radio friendly singles in the UK at the same time as this project was undertaken, but interest was soon to be abandoned in Wood's former band. The sound is unique on this recording in comparison to the more slickly produced ELO albums of the subsequent Jeff Lynne years, incorporating many wind instruments and replacing guitar parts with heavy, "sawing" cello riffs, giving this recording an experimental "Baroque-and-roll" feel; indeed, The Battle Of Marston Moor is the most baroque-influenced track on the album. On this track, Roy Wood, in addition to playing virtually all the instruments, had to provide the percussion as well because Bev Bevan, normally the group's percussionist and drummer, refused to play on the track because of his low opinion of it. However, the overall musical connection to The Beatles (it had been stated by the band members that ELO was formed to "pick up where The Beatles left off...") is quite apparent in this album; tracks such as 10538 Overture and Mr. Radio were strongly influenced by such Beatles tracks as I Am The Walrus and Strawberry Fields Forever. Despite the experimental nature of the album it charted on both sides of the Atlantic. The more mainstream 10538 Overture became a top ten hit in the UK.
The original LP was mixed in quadraphonic sound but was only released in this format in South America. Many of these "quad" tracks appeared with the SQ encoding intact on the First Light series edition of the album and on a later double-CD release entitled Early ELO, 1971-1974. The entire "quad" version with SQ encoding intact has since been released on Disc 3 of the Harvest Years compilation. The original album art was designed by Hipgnosis and the photographs of the band on the back of the album cover, dressed in seventeenth century period costume, were taken at the Banqueting House in Whitehall, adding to the Baroque flavour and emphasis on Stuart Britain found on the record. Mr. Radio was intended to be the second single from the album, but was subsequently withdrawn. The edited single version made its first appearance on the 2005 compilation album Harvest Showdown instead.
The album was originally released in December 1971. In the US, the album was released in early 1972 as No Answer, after a misunderstood telephone message made by an United Artists Records executive asking about the album name. The caller, having failed to reach the ELO contact, wrote down "no answer" in their notes, and this was misconstrued to be the name of the album.
The 40th Anniversary Edition of Electric Light Orchestra looks rather stunning with a booklet that contains lots of pictures and liner notes done by several people who were involved at the time. Music wise you can't have a better copy as this release. The First disc includes of course the original album with the hit 10538 Overture. As a nice extra did they include 6 bonus tracks. Those tracks are most of all special versions of songs taken from the original album. Several takes of the songs and single edits can be heard. Even a version of the hit single recorded for the UK live show Top Of The Pops was used. The bonus DVD has the 1973 Quad Mix to 4.1. Besides that you can enjoy the music in DTS/96/24 and Dolby Digital. As an extra did they include the original video of the hit single. The soundtrack on the DVD is excellent and a real must to hear because much more details can be heard. Although that the music nowadays sounds very dated it has to be said that ELO released at the time a true progressive rock album. Because the album contained a musical style that hadn't been done by anybody else except by the Beatles. Finally I have to mention that even a vinyl version of the album was released in a gatefold sleeve.
*** Henri Strik
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