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Electric Light Orchestra....


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You are so right.

Electric Light Orchestra is certainly the world's readiest candidate for 'Most Grossly Misinterpreted And Most Unjustly Despised' band of the past thirty years. And that's a fact, baby. I can't even say that this happened because of the world not being properly acquainted with ELO - most of their hit singles that used to 'pollute' radio waves for years on end were pretty typical of their material, and a normal 'greatest hits compilation' would be able to give any listener a pretty adequate, if certainly incomplete, picture of the band's identity. But somehow, based essentially on the critical disillusionment about the band, their image has been dirtied up so much throughout the last decade that nowadays, ELO often stands for the ultimate example of 'cheesy boring sappy crappy pap' or something like that. It might be possible that this also has a lot to do with obvious gaffes like Xanadu or that idiotic parody on the band, Electric Light Orchestra Part Two, that have been d*cking around for a large part of the Nineties, but let's face it with dignity - the world actually listened to 'Evil Woman', 'Telephone Line', 'Sweet Talkin' Woman', and other songs of their type, and intentionally turned away from them.

Which was a dreadful and unforgivable mistake. With all sincerity I state the following: Electric Light Orchestra are, in fact, one of the best, most creative, inventive and productive bands of the Seventies, a band of truly giant stature and nearly limitless potential; no other band in the Seventies could put out excellent records with a minimal amount of filler as consistently as ELO did since about 1973, and even in the Eighties they managed not to suck entirely.

ELO was originally the brainchild of Move leaders Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne, and their intention was to effectuate a complete and genuine synthesis of rock music and classical music, a grandiose plan that had in this way or other been partially worked on by many bands, but only ELO in their prime came the closest to realising (sic) that dream. Wood and Lynne only managed to release one record together - a record that was rather spotty and perfectly reflected their clash of personalities, so Wood abandoned the project right after the first record, and Lynne was left to carry on. Now, as much as Mr. Lynne has been badmouthed through the years, even the worst of his enemies would not dare to deny the man's talent. Lynne is a master of hook and vocal melody, one of the best pop songwriters of the Seventies, and even if John Lennon's replica about the Beatles possibly metamorphosing into ELO had they carried on into the Seventies was supposed to be a sarcastic one, I actually take it as a compliment - second-rate Beatles is, after all, much better than most bands can manage.

In any case, the 'classical-rock' synthesis of ELO worked amazingly well on albums like Eldorado, even if every time that Lynne tried to clash classical and rock with each other directly, it resulted in kitschy moves rather than in something truly fine ('Roll Over Beethoven', 'Rockaria'). However, pretty soon he realized that all that was needed was to write a masterful pop hook, spice it up with a steady rock rhythm section, on one side, and a trusty strings' arrangement, on the other, and hoopla, the cat's in the well. The formula steadily evolved over the years – Eldorado and Face The Music are still essentially 'symph-rock', with drawled out, loose, swooping arrangements, but starting from A New World Record, Lynne added more punch to the sound and pushed his songwriting into a somewhat more commercial direction, which is why prog fans usually only digest the band's pre-1976 output. On Discovery, Lynne put his dance-pop exercises into disco rock stylistics, and later on, the band went from strings-dominated to synth-dominated, like every nice commercial band of the epoch did; however, even at their worst, Electric Light Orchestra always had something to offer, and it should also be mentioned that certain things that Lynne did with synth-pop were quite experimental and innovative. And much as the infamous "Lynne Production" is hated when it is applied to outside artists, there's no denying that it exists, and that it is unique - you can tell a Lynne-produced record at first sight. Speaking of which, I actually like the way he produced Harrison's Cloud 9.

Of course, ELO's music was always 'safe' - Lynne constantly groped for commercial success, and one could easily accuse him of the same things I often accuse Queen of: namely, this is 'artsy music' rendered a bit sterile and simplified so that it would appeal to even the 'lowest common denominator', if you get my drift. There's no denying all the numerous faults of ELO: they often went overboard with pretentiousness (mainly on the early records), Lynne's lyrics are tremendously inconsistent, ranging from nicely formulated, if not thoroughly original, observations, to hideous romantic and sci-fi clichés, and, of course, the band was so formulaic it could be easily possible to develop an alergy (sic) on their general sound.

But my usual practice is - let us concentrate on the good sides, and if they overshadow the bad ones, who gives a damn? The good side is that Lynne is the master of melody, THE master of melody, and he's penned more memorable and inventive pop masterpieces than most power-pop bands I'm aware of. As for the sci-fi thematics, bombast and pretentiousness... well, let's just note that Lynne is not as pretentious as it might seem. His primary mood is that of introspective melancholia, not of universalist prayer or something like that. Even Eldorado, arguably the most 'pretentious' record among ELO's good ones, is essentially devoted to the inner world of a small humble guy, nothing else. No 'Bohemian Rhapsody' or 'We Will Rock You' in Lynne's catalog - Jeff always knows what he's writing and singing about, and that's the key.

:beatnik:

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I gotta say for me the song 'Telephone Line' has the effect of transporting me back to my early youth. No other song does that so completely for me. Not sure why either. I probably heard it at a crucial point in memory development and it has never failed to exert a power hold over me ever since.

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ELO takes me back to high school days. I loved their songs and Jeff Lynne is a talent that I think gets over looked. My cousin would always want ELO albums when we did our Christmas exchange, we would hope we would get each others name so we would get albums. Then we would share the albums. He saw ELO twice in concert and said it was one of the most coolest concerts he has ever been to, still says that today. Great group!

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....has to be one of the most underrated bands i have ever seen. Jeff Lynn is a genius. Listen to Mr. Bluesky....it is freaking amazing. It saddens me to see bands like AC/DC (WAY overrated IMO) get more radio play then a great band like ELO.

I think ELO is also underated. I have always been a huge fan. But I personally don't agree with your comment about AC/DC being overated. I know their music is and always has been an acquired taste,much like ELO,but there is no doubt in my mind for pure,hard rocking rock and roll,few have done it better than AC/DC. Just my opinion and I respect yours.

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Randy knows whereof he speaks.

I think Randy just wanted to do a rock and roll song with strings and sound like ELO a little so what better way than to honor them with a song?

I'm not sure if Randy Newman has Classical roots but I've heard him play Classical Music and he's good. I think he appreciiates Lynne's incorporation of Classical into rock.

I know I sure do.

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Its funny how songs will send you reeling back in time...I remember how hot the summer of '77 was here in Canada..all I have to do is hear the instrumental at the beginning of that track and I'm sent hurtling back to another time..another place!

Telephone Line was the track by the way!

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  • 2 weeks later...

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