You may not have noticed, but 3rd December is the 30th anniversary of the issue of debut Electric Light Orchestra album.
EMI have, and the result is this lavishly-packaged release that, for a limited period, includes a bonus CD of alternate versions, live performances and a handful of quadraphonic mixes that, for some bizarre reason, were previously only available to the residents of Brazil (OldrockerBR: Huhu!!!, I hear these Brazilian SQ Quad version there the first time 38 years ago!)
The brainchild of Move members Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne, the original ELO's brief was to take the baroque sound of late-period Beatles to its logical conclusion by seamlessly fusing pop and the classics, though some of us would suggest fellow Brummie Denny Laine got there first back in 1967.
At the time of ELO's inception, however, Lynne was considered by the pop pundits of the era as Wood's junior partner, a fact made clear in the accompanying booklet by a contemporary Melody Maker review: "oh Roy Wood, you've done it this time, you've really done it - a fascinating album".
As is now apparent, this is a bit like praising the essentially marginalised Lennon for the extended Side Two suite that gave Abbey Road its enduring reputation.
Wood is clearly the weaker contributor to Electric Light Orchestra, responsible for the album's less convincing moments, like 'Eleanor Rigby' clone, 'Look At Me Now', and the grating "we've got a cello and we're gonna use it" kitchen-sink arrangements that suffocate 'The Battle Of Marston Moor (July 2nd 1644)' and the shameless 'Classical Gas' rip-off 'First Movement'.
By way of contrast, the album is, arguably, the first indication of Jeff Lynne's emergence as a first division songwriting talent (and yes, I have heard the Idle Race).
Later ransacked to no great effect by Paul Weller, '10538 Overture' (a 1972 promotional video is featured at the end of the enhanced CD) is a toweringly eccentric creation that fulfilled the band's stated intention of picking up where 'I Am The Walrus' left off.
Three decades later, it achieves the notable distinction of sounding far more daring than it did at the time, which must say something about the conservative nature of British pop in the 21st Century.
Elsewhere, 'Nellie Takes Her Bow' is a fairly traditional piano-based ballad with a mildly superfluous cello arrangement, but 'Mr. Radio' is an airwaves-friendly pop song that, shorn of its quasi-classical middle section, is startlingly similar to the mid-70s singles that would lead Lynne and his minions to world domination.
Not everything here is perfect, but there are some genuinely sublime moments, and the spirit of adventure looms large throughout.
It may be 30 years too late, but those of us who've always summarily dismissed ELO as bland, unworthy successors to the mighty Move, may just have to think again (by John Sturdy).
Disc one: The Electric Light Orchestra
01."10538 Overture" (Lynne) – 5:32
02."Look at Me Now" (Wood) – 3:17
03."Nellie Takes Her Bow" (Lynne) – 5:59
04."The Battle of Marston Moor (July 2nd 1644)" (Wood) – 6:03
05."First Movement (Jumping Biz)" (Wood) – 3:00
06."Mr. Radio" (Lynne) – 5:04
07."Manhattan Rumble (49th Street Massacre)" (Lynne) – 4:22
08."Queen of the Hours" (Lynne) – 3:22
09."Whisper in The Night" (Wood) – 4:50
10."Battle of Marston Moor" (Take 1) (Wood) – 1:00
11."10538 Overture" (Take 1) (The Move / ELO) (Lynne) – 5:46
Disc two: First Light
01.Brian Matthew Introduces ELO
02."10538 Overture" (Acetate version)
03."Look At Me Now" (Quad mix)
04."Nellie Takes Her Bow" (Quad mix)
05."Battle Of Marston Moor (July 2nd 1644)' (Quad mix)
06."Jeff's Boogie No 2" (Live) - (Early version of "In Old England Town")
07."Whisper In The Night" (Live)
08."Great Balls Of Fire" (Live)
09."Queen Of The Hours" (Quad mix)
10."Mr Radio" (Take 9)
11."10538 Overture" (BBC Session) - (Hidden track) "Whisper In The Night"' (Take 1)
*Jeff Lynne: Guitars, bass guitar, piano, keyboards, vocals.
*Roy Wood: Guitars, Bass guitar, Cello, Oboe, Bassoon, Clarinet, percussion, period woodwind instrument; Krumhorn, vocals
*Bev Bevan: drums, Percussion, vocals.
*Bill Hunt: French horn, Hunting horn.
*Steve Woolam: Violin.
*Rick Price: bass on some original tracks (erased and redubbed by Wood and Lynne)
Additional personnel live tracks disc 2
*Richard Tandy - Bass guitar, Keyboards
*Wilfred Gibson - Violin
*Hugh McDowell - Cello
*Mike Edwards - Cello
*Andy Craig - Cello
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