Electric Light Orchestra
(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

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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.

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