Jeff Lynne, cofounder of ELO with Ron Wood, has been very busy in the studios restoring 11 of their original studio albums in expanded versions for reissue by Sony Legacy. This is one of the two final ones, along with Balance of Power – which will be released in a month. The band was founded in 1970. The name of their first album originated from their U.S. label trying to reach their UK manager on the phone; the secretary wrote down “no answer” on the phone note, and that mistakenly became the album title. While the band had a built-in three-piece electronic “string section,” with their 1974 album Eldorado they expanded the strings to 30 orchestral players. ELO was more than successful in popularizing orchestral rock. During the group’s peak they had nine consecutive RIAA gold, platinum and multi-platinum albums spanning three different record labels, and they had over two dozen singles on Billboard’s Hot 100. Lynne wrote some irresistible tunes, created very clever symphonically-oriented arrangements, and had a wonderful ear for production values. In fact, as a jazz fan, I’ll admit ELO is one of the few rock groups since the Beatles I want to listen to.
The 1977 double-LP Out of the Blue is considered ELO’s definitive masterwork. Lynne observed during the restorations that it only took three months to make the album then, “but now it takes years.” The band made a big splash with the staging of their live show during an eight-month tour. It featured a 100-foot laser-fueled spaceship onstage (similar to the cover art) and played to two-million-plus fans in 92 shows. Some of their huge hits included on the album were Turn to Stone, Sweet Talkin’ Woman, It’s Over, and Mr. Blue Sky. The last tune is part of a 19-minute Concerto for a Rainy Day, which took up Side 3 of the original double-LP.
Three previously unreleased bonus tracks are added to this expanded edition, the major of them being an evocation of the howling arctic winds titled Latitude 88 North. As with the previous reissues in this series, sonics are tops, and the note booklet has some rare photos from ELO’s archive as well as notes from Jeff Lynne. Lynne’s restorations benefit from his high standing as one of the top record producers – for such artists as Paul McCartney, Randy Newman, Brian Wilson and Joe Cocker.
TrackList: Turn to Stone, It’s Over, Sweet Talkin’ Woman, Across the Border, Night in the City, Starlight, Jungle, Believe Me Now, Steppin’ Out, Standin’ in the Rain, Big Wheels, Summer and Lightning, Mr. Blue Sky, Sweet is the Night, The Whale, Birmingham Blues, Wild West Hero, Bonus Tracks: Alternate bridge for Wild West Hero, The Quiet and the Daft, Latitude 88 North.
– John Henry
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