Monday, January 11, 2010

Disco E.L.O.

E.L.O. (aka Electric Light Orchestra) dabbled in disco with their 1979 album, Discovery, most notably on the hit songs "Shine a Little Love" and "Last Train to London." But, the title of this post refers to my recent trip through the E.L.O. discography, thanks in part to Lala, my favorite recent web discovery (pun intended).

Lala allows you to listen to just about any album or song, in its entirety, in your web browser. The catch is you get to listen to each song only once. After that, you have to purchase songs to continue listening to them. Web songs mostly cost ten cents apiece for unlimited plays in your browser, with DRM-free MP3s available for an additional 79-89 cents. That's not quite as great a deal as the 37 songs a month I get for $15 from eMusic, but the selection is considerably better and I love the concept of being able to fully preview before you buy.

If you decide to check it out based on my suggestion, do me a favor and sign up here. I believe I'll get rewarded with a few free songs, but my real reason for promoting the site is that I think it's pretty great so I feel the need to share that information. Also, because I really want to see someone make a serious assault on iTunes' market share.

Returning to the E.L.O. discography, I'm ranking all 12 of their studio albums in order here. That, of course, includes only those that involved Jeff Lynne, not the ridiculous Electric Light Orchestra Part II that pretended to be the real deal from 1988 to 1999.

1. A New World Record (1976) - This album and Eldorado are E.L.O.'s masterpieces. While Eldorado is kind of their Sgt. Pepper's, in that it's more ambitious, A New World Record could be considered their Revolver, just one great song after another, and wins out as my favorite. Rating: 5 stars (on a 5 scale)

2. Eldorado (1974) - When I was listening to E.L.O. as a kid, this one was never even on my radar, although I'm not sure why. So, I was pleasantly surprised when, just a few years ago, I realized how great it is. It has since risen the ladder to the status of my second favorite E.L.O. record. Rating: 4 1/2 stars

3. Discovery (1979) - This would have to be considered my E.L.O. guilty pleasure, in that it's far from their most critically acclaimed work, but still one of my absolute favorites. Rating: 4 1/2 stars

4. Out of the Blue (1977) - Maybe the double album idea was on the overly ambitious side, and it could have been better with a little editing. Regardless, it still ranks among their best, in my opinion. Rating: 4 stars

5. Face the Music (1975) - Most would rank this one a little higher than I do, and it is a very good album. But, to me, it doesn't feel quite as cohesive as Eldorado and A New World Record. Rating: 4 stars

6. Time (1981) - This album was a bit of a drop-off after Discovery. I still think it's a pretty good record, but is definitely my least favorite since the first three. Rating: 3 1/2 stars

7. On the Third Day (1973) - I consider this an improvement over their first two albums, but I don't think it deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Eldorado and A New World Record, as some have foolishly suggested. Rating: 3 1/2 stars

8. Zoom (2001) - After a 15-year hiatus, Lynne resurrected the E.L.O. name and released an album that was better than their final two in the '80s, despite its lack of any real knockout tracks. Rating: 3 stars

9. No Answer (1972) - Their debut release was far from their best work, but definitely showed some promise. The album-opening "10538 Overture" is the standout here. Rating: 3 stars

10. Balance of Power (1986) - Things were starting to go downhill after Time, although this one is an improvement over its predecessor Secret Messages, if only because its hit songs are much better, especially "So Serious," one of my favorites among their 1980s material. Rating: 3 stars

11. Electric Light Orchestra II (1973) - This is my least favorite of their earlier albums. "Roll Over Beethoven" misses the mark, so there are no great pop moments here, and most of the more ambitious material doesn't quite do it for me either, with the possible exception of "Kuiama." Rating: 2 1/2 stars

12. Secret Messages (1983) - The '80s provided some serious evidence that E.L.O. was a band on the decline. There are a few solid moments here, but nothing that really compares to Balance of Power's high points, though. Rating: 2 1/2 stars


  1. That "ridiculous" ELO part 2 you mention provided the most amazing and wonderful ELO sound that has ever been made. They played with a passion and love for the music that equalled the passion that was there when i saw ELO play in 1981. Actually, in my humble opinion, the sound was MUCH better that the original!! And you'll be pleased to know that ELO part 2 is still going under the name of "The Orchestra" - so you still have a chance to see them live!! (unfortunatekly without the brilliant Kelly Groucutt who died last year). Check them out and please don't be so dismissive about a group that have kept the ELO sound alive for the last 20 years or so - much longer than the original group were together!

  2. Well, maybe it was unfair to call them ridiculous. But, what I do find ridiculous is the idea of continuing to use a band's name when their primary creative force is no longer involved.

    Also, I did listen to E.L.O.'s Greatest Hits Live and it just doesn't sound like E.L.O. to me. But, that's just my opinion. I encourage anyone who's interested to check them out for themselves.