Monday, April 02, 2007

E.L.O. (1979)

Another band that I'm not really sure about the circumstances by which I was turned on to them is Electric Light Orchestra. There was a time when I actually thought that ELO and ELP were the same band. They're not. I know Rob owned a copy of Out of the Blue, but I really think it all started when I took a chance and picked up ELO's Greatest Hits, possibly the best single record intro to an artist that I can recall. Who cares that it ignores their first two albums? Roy Wood? Should it have included their "stirring" classical rock rendition of "Roll Over Beethoven"? I don't think so. This album captures the essence of ELO in the mid-to-late 70's, that is the best thing to happen to pop/rock since The Beatles. Actually, I think they're better than The Beatles. In fact, Jeff Lynne is probably the best songwriter in the whole world, and I'll stand on Paul McCartney's coffee table in my Dr. Maarten's and say so. Okay, maybe I'm taking that a bit about on Billy Campbell's coffee table?

Seriously, though, it feels sacrilegious to make comparisons to The Beatles. It's not that they're my favorite band, but they occupy such an important place in music history that it just doesn't seem right. Therefore, anytime I make a definitive claim about this artist or that artist, you can basically add the phrase, "not including The Beatles", to the end of that statement. That is, of course, except if such statement is in reference to Neil Young. But I digress...ELO is my favorite band today from among those that I idolized as an adolescent.

After ELO's Greatest Hits, my next purchase was their studio release of that same year, Discovery. Despite the existence of their big radio hit, "Don't Bring Me Down", and the lesser hit, "Shine a Little Love", my favorite songs were "Need Her Love" and "The Diary of Horace Wimp". I fell in love with the subtly bluesy guitar intro and cheesy romanticism of the former, and I think I identified with the latter's title character, the ultimate bumbling romantic fool. I know, I know...I was only 12 and didn't have any experiences of my own to relate to Horace's predicament. This just proves how much foresight I had, even at such a ripe young age.

As far as digging into the ELO back catalog was concerned, my explorations would only take me to the mid-70's releases Face the Music and my personal favorite, A New World Record, in addition to the aforementioned Out of the Blue. It wouldn't be until a few years ago that I would discover the beauty of the album that many consider their magnum opus, Eldorado.

Incidentally, the album Face the Music would contain one of the most blatant jabs at the religious right, who claimed that subliminal messages contained in the music of many rock bands, including ELO, promoted Satanism. The instrumental song, "Fire on High", features a moment where a strange voice chants in an obviously intentionally garbled manner. When played backwards, the voice clearly states, "The music is reversible, but time is not, turn back! Turn back! Turn back!" A couple years later, I would become utterly fascinated with the controversy surrounding Satanic messages in many of the bands I was a fan of, greatly influenced by the misguided, but well-meaning, warnings of my born again cousin Lorri...more on that subject later.

Beyond Discovery, I would only purchase 1981's Time before losing interest for a while. While a pretty inconsistent effort, Time had its moments, but my tastes were moving in a heavier direction and distanced themselves from ELO until a late 90's/early 00's renaissance of sorts. Flashback, the 3-cd box set released in 2000, would prove to be an excellent jumping-back point. It helped me discover the earlier material that I had overlooked, and even to appreciate some of their finer moments from 80's releases Secret Messages and Balance of Power.

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