Electric Light Orchestra


(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

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Roy Wood, the guitarist of Mike Sheridan and the Nightriders, started the Move in 1966 in Birmingham (England). As Wood became more of a multi-instrumentalist and arranger, the Move had hits (usually sung by vocalist Carl Wayne) in the pop vein of the Beatles: Night Of Fear (1966), a variation on Tchaikovsky's 1812 Ouverture, I Can Hear The Grass Grow (1966), Flowers In The Rain (1967), Fire Brigade (1968), Curly (1969), and Blackberry Way (1969). Move (Regal Zonophone, 1968) contained more Merseybeat ditties (Kilroy Was Here, Useless Information, The Lemon Tree, Walk Upon The Water, Flowers In The Rain), but Shazam (A&M, 1970) included six varied songs that showed more instrumental intelligence (Beautiful Daughter and Cherry Blossom Clinic Revisited, their masterpieces) than regular pop (Hello Susie). As far as pop music goes, Shazam (A&M, 1970) was more innovative than anything the Beatles had ever done (but a lot less innovative than what prog-rock bands had been doing for two years).

Guitarist and vocalist Jeff Lynne, who had replaced Wood in the Nightriders and had then changed the band's name to Idle Race (and recorded two albums in 1968 and 1969, Birthday Party and Idle Race for Liberty), replace Wayne in Move for Looking On (Capitol, 1971), a weird collection of pop ditties (Brontosaurs) and lengthy hard-rock jams. After Message From The Country (1972 - Capitol, 2005), the Move changed name in Electric Light Orchestra, maintaining the co-leadership of Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne on guitars and vocals. The last two Move albums would be summarized by The Great Move (EMI, 1994), which also contains the later singles: Chinatown (1971), Tonight (1971), Do Ya (1972), California Man (1972). The Complete Singles Collection (Crimson, 2000) is the best Move anthology.

The lush orchestral arrangements of No Answer (UA, 1972), ELO's debut album, increased the similarities with latter-day Beatles, although the best tracks, 10538 Overture and First Movement, display a stronger neo-classical flavor and sci-fi pomp.

Wood quit and left Lynne in charge. Lynne redefined the sound of ELO and enhanced the line-up with cello and violin players. The resulting album, The Electric Light Orchestra II (1973) contains In Old England Town and four lengthy orchestral suites (Mama, Kuiama, From the Sun to the World and a Chuck Berry cover). It is art-rock at its most sublime, but also at its most pretentious. Nevertheless, Lynne already displays his uncanny sense of velvety melody and atmospheric arrangement.

Lynne's melodic talent came to the forefront on On the Third Day (1974), particularly with Dreaming of 4000 and Showdown, but the album still represents a transitional period, as it tries too many things at the same time (the boogie MaMaMa Belle, the instrumental Daybreaker , an Edvard Grieg piece).

Eldorado (1975), conceived as a symphony, focused on the melody, and yielded a bonanza of catchy tunes: Can't Get It Out Of My Head, Eldorado, Laredo Tornado, Illusions in G Major.

Face the Music (1975) dropped any artistic pretension (other than perhaps the instrumental Fire on High) and delivered the hits: Evil Woman and Strange Magic .

Almost every song on A New World Record (Jet, 1976) relies on an impeccable melody: Telephone Line, Livin' Thing, Above The Clouds, Rockaria, Mission, Shangri-La and even a remake of Do-Ya (the old Move number).

Even the super-slick production of these albums pales in comparison with the double-album tour de force of Out of the Blue (1977) Considered by ELO's fans as a masterpiece the way Beatles' fans consider the White Album a masterpiece, it is actually as derivative and mediocre as the White Album. It does include two of their best refrains, Turn to Stone and Wild West Hero, that Paul McCartney would kill for, and countless hummable tunes (Sweet Talkin' Woman, Across the Border, Night in the City, The Whale) but the very long album is too much for most people to bear.

The truth was that the ELO had begun its commercial decline (the artistic decline had begun after the third album). The boogie-like singalong Don't Bring Me Down and Shine A Little Love are the hits taken from Discovery (1979), that also features Last Train To London, Midnight Blue, Confusion. But, again, this is generic pop muzak.

Lynne wrote the best songs off the Xanadu soundtrack: Don't Walk Away, I'm Alive , All Over the World , Xanadu.

The ELO was trapped in its own "perfect" sound and "perfect" melodies. Time (1981), which features Hold on Tight, Ticket to the Moon, Another Heart Breaks, Rain is Falling, was still excellent by the standards of pop muzak, but hardly innovative at all.

Secret Messages (1983) sounded senile at best, leaving the upbeat tune (Rock 'n' Roll is King ) for the end and indulging in dejection and melancholy (Stranger , Letter From Spain , Secret Messages , Four Little Diamonds).

Ditto for Balance of Power (1986), whose Calling America, Getting To The Point and Without Someone sound like mediocre imitations of the ELO. Despite the artistic decline, ELO remain one of the few bands that wrote all their material, from start to finish (only one cover in twelve albums).

Lynne was faring a lot better as a producer and as a member of the Traveling Wilburys with Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, George Harrison and Roy Orbison.

Afterglow (Epic, 1990) is a three-CD box-set anthology.

The ELO reformed without Lynne and changed name to ELO II.

Lynne launched his solo career with Armchair Theatre (Reprise, 1990), that contains the sprightly Merseybeat refrain of Every Little Thing and Now You've Gone.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Giovanni Minieri)

Roy Wood, chitarrista dei Mike Sheridan and the Nightriders, fondò i the Move a Birmingham (Inghilterra) nel 1966. Con l’evoluzione di Wood in multi-strumentista e arrangiatore, i the Move scrissero alcune hit di successo (di solito cantate dal vocalista Carl Wayne) nello stile pop dei the Beatles: Night Of Fear (1966), una variazione della Ouverture 1812 di Tchaikovsky, I Can Hear The Grass Grow (1966), Flowers In The Rain (1967), Fire Brigade (1968), Curly (1969), e Blackberry Way (1969). Move (Regal Zonophone, 1968) conteneva più canzoni in stile beat (Kilroy Was Here, Useless Information, The Lemon Tree, Walk Upon The Water, Flowers In The Rain), ma Shazam (A&M, 1970) conteneva sei canzoni che mostravano una maggiore capacità compositiva (Beautiful Daughter e Cherry Blossom Clinic Revisited, il loro capolavoro) più che il solito pop (Hello Susie). Per quanto fosse pop, Shazam (A&M, 1970) era più innovativo di qualunque cosa avessero fatto i the Beatles (ma molto meno rivoluzionario di quanto facessero i gruppi prog-rock già da due anni).

Il chitarrista e cantante Jeff Lynne, che rimpiazzò Wood nei the Nightriders e a cui cambiò il nome in Idle Race (e con i quali registrò due album, Birthday Party nel 1968 e Idle Race nel 1969 con l’etichetta Liberty), prese il posto di Wayne nei Move per Looking On (Capitol, 1971), una strana collezione di canzonette pop (Brontosaurs) e di lunghe sessioni hard-rock. Dopo Message From The Country (1972 – Capitol, 2005), i the Move cambiano il nome in Electric Light Orchestra, mantenendo la leadership condivisa di Roy Wood e Jeff Lynne alle chitarre e alla voce. Gli ultimi due album dei the Move saranno riassunti in The Great Move (EMI, 1994) che conteneva anche gli ultimi singoli: Chinatown (1971), Tonight (1971), Do Ya (1972), California Man (1972). The Complete Singles Collection (Crimson, 2000) è la migliore antologia dei the Move.

I piacevoli arrangiamenti orchestrali di No Answer (UA, 1972), album di debutto degli ELO, aumentò le similitudini con gli ultimi the Beatles, anche se le traccie migliori, 10539 Ouverture e First Movement, mostrano un gusto neo-classico e pulsazioni sci-fi.

Wood lascia e Lynne diventa l’unico leader. Lynne ridefinisce il suono degli ELO e arricchisce la formazione con violoncellisti e violinisti. L’album che ne esce fuori, The Electric Light Orchestra II (1973) contiene In Old England Town e quattro lunghe suite orchestrali (Mama, Kuiama, From the Sun to the World e una cover di Chuck Berry). Si tratta del più sublime, ma anche del più pretenzioso, art-rock. Ciononostante, Lynne già mostra la sua sconcertante sensibilità per le melodie vellutate e gli arrangiamenti ricchi di atmosfera.

Il talento melodico di Lynne si palesò con On The Third Day (1974), in particolare con Dreaming of 4000 e Showdown, ma l’album rappresenta ancora un momento di transizione, in quanto contiene ancora troppe cose allo stesso tempo (il boogie Mamama, lo strumentale Daybreaker, un pezzo di Edvard Grieg).

Eldorado (1975) è immaginato come una sinfonia incentrata sulla melodia e contiene una abbondanza di brani orecchiabili: Can't Get It Out Of My Head, Eldorado, Laredo Tornado, Illusions in G Major.

Con Face the Music (1975) mollarono ogni pretesa artistica (ad esclusione, forse, della strumentale Fire on high) e azzeccarono le hit Evil Woman e Strange Magic.

Quasi tutte le canzoni di A New World Record (Jet, 1976) fanno affidamento sulla melodia: Telephone Line, Livin' Thing, Above The Clouds, Rockaria, Mission, Shangri-La e anche un rifacimento di Do-Ya (vecchio motivo dei the Move).

Anche l’espertissima produzione di questi album impallidisce di fronte al doppio album Out of the Blue (1977), considerato dai fan degli ELO il capolavoro di questi alla stregua di quello che pensano i fan dei the Beatles del White Album, che è in realtà derivativo e mediocre tanto quanto il White Album. L’album contiene due delle loro migliori sequenze, Turn to Stone and Wild West Hero, per le quali Paul McCartney ucciderebbe, e innumerevoli motivi canticchiabili (Sweet Talkin' Woman, Across the Border, Night in the City, The Whale) ma l’eccessiva lunghezza lo rende insostenibile per la maggior parte delle persone.

La verità è che gli ELO hanno cominciato il loro declino commerciale (quello artistico cominciò dopo il terzo album). I simil-boogie Don't Bring Me Down and Shine A Little Love sono hit prese da Discovery (1979) che contiene anche Last Train To London, Midnight Blue, Confusion. Ma si tratta, ancora, di generiche musichette pop.

Lynne scrisse le migliori canzoni per la colonna sonora di Xanadu: Don't Walk Away, I'm Alive , All Over the World , Xanadu.

Gli ELO erano intrappolati nella loro “perfezione” melodica e sonora. Time (1981), che contiene Hold on Tight, Ticket to the Moon, Another Heart Breaks, Rain is Falling, era eccellente per gli standard pop, ma per niente innovativo.

Secret Messages (1983) suonava, nel migliore dei casi, vecchio, lasciando alle spalle i ritmi in levare (Rock 'n' Roll is King) e abbandonandosi allo sconforto e alla malinconia (Stranger , Letter From Spain , Secret Messages , Four Little Diamonds).

 

Lo stesso dicasi per Balance of Power (1986), le cui Calling America, Getting To The Point e Without Someone suonano come mediocri imitazioni degli ELO. Nonostante il declino artistico, gli ELO rimangono una delle poche band che compongono tutto il loro materiale, dall’inizio alla fine (solo una cover in 12 album).

Lynne se la passava meglio come produttore e membro dei Traveling Wilburys con Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, George Harrison e Roy Orbison.

Afterglow (Epic, 1990) è una antologia in tre CD.

Gli ELO tornano insieme nel 1990 senza Lynne e cambiano il nome in ELO II.

Lynne lanciò la sua carriera solista con Armchair Theatre (Reprise, 1990), il quale contiene il vivace refrain à la Merseybeat di Every Little Thing e Now You've Gone.

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