Beginning here is my thoughts on some of the classic albums we all grew up with, so it seems fitting the first album to review is The Electric Light Orchestra's Out Of The Blue. A two record album, it became the group's ultimate masterpiece in 1977, with the memorable cover art done by Japanese illustrator Shusei Nagaoka, the portraits of the band done my Michael Bryan and the rich classical string sounds all from the hours and days from the tunesmith work of frontman Jeff Lynne.
Turn To Stone:
The breakthrough tune, which opens side one (in which its theme is breaking up and tring to reconcile), based on an interstellar shuffle pattern, with lush strings and a get go chorus, along with the famous bridge:
Yes I'm turnin' to stone
'cos you ain't comin' home
Why ain't you comin' home
if I'm turnin' to stone?
You've been gone for so long
and I can't carry on
Yes I'm turnin', I'm turnin'
I'm turning to stone
So it's sung real fast; it takes a trained ear to make out what they're saying. What a difference a lyric sheet makes. Unrequited love, in which our hero hopes to wait for his woman to come back.
Yet another break up in which it's not only real, it's truly over. Good vocal work there, with strings. with portamento in all the right places.
Sweet Talkin' Woman:
The follow up to Turn To Stone, it's where our hero sets out to look for his lady asking kindly everyone he meets, again with superb string work. Originally titled as One Way Street, it was said to be the inspiration for Robert John Lange when he penned Do You Believe In Love for Huey Lewis & The News.
Across The Border:
It's hard to tell if they used real trumpets, but the tune's just the thing for people trying to get back to the ones they love. Some synth strings in addition to the real ones, and a phased and flanged drum coda--the makings of a good tune to finish side one.
Night In The City:
Opening up side two (in which all the tunes seem to connected with what happens at night) is a tale that starts in the lives of two people--one is a woman that seems to miss getting onboard the plane and a boat, heading back to the city and our hero who tries look for her, only to run in some "crazy ladies that wait and slide around like a snake." Arrangements in instrumentation work well as do the voices.
Written on a starry night whilst Jeff was writing the tunes in a mountain chalet in Bassins, Switzerland, near the Jura Mountains, Starlight was written with Al Green in mind with the Bee Geesesque voices melding with the strings, synths and the lot--just the thing for couples staring out at any starry night sky.
Even with a serious band like The Electric Light Orchestra, a sense of humour helps, and Jungle sees the group trying their hand at something that even Al Yankovic would love--a joyful jungle fantasy in which an explorer in a jungle meets with several animals all singing under the moonlight, believing that "wondrous is our great blue ship/that sails around the mighty sun/and joy to everyone that rides along." A free for all singalong with the chorus "Chooka chooka hoo la ley/looka looka koo la ley," it also includes some famous highlights like the lion saying, "Come and join us if you so desire," using an Eventide Harmoniser and a part where we hear dance footsteps done by Jeff, Bev Bevan, Richard Tandy and Michael Kelly Groucutt using their tap dance skills, all regarded as major highlights in the tune.
Believe Me Now:
The strings and the vocoderised electric piano voice play a big part in the short instrumental, which is a seague in the tune which closes side two, Steppin' Out. Short and sweet, Believe Me Now is a work of sound art.
Closing side two, is a dreamy ballad in which our hero is stepping out and moving on, ready to see the world, whilst the clouds gather (an obvious hint to side three's rain themed suite known as Concerto For A Rainy Day). Highlights include the vocoderised electric guitar and the string interlude mixed with the deep all male chorus.
Standin' In The Rain:
Maybe it was The Beatles' connected suite like side on Abbey Road that inspired Jeff Lynne to create the Concerto For A Rainy Day suite, with real rain sounds rcorded during his stay in Munich, Germany; staring with the vocoderised thunder saying "Concerto for.....a rainy.....day.....," and the morse code strings doing E.L.O. a few times, the gloomy Jeff is standing in the rain, and can't seem to get along. With the thunder and strings, we seague into the next track.
Largely dominated by bass, synth and strings with the drums, it's a ballad that may envision someone staring out in the street, staring at the wheels of cars that pass by on a rainy night. Listen for the starting vocoder intro that says, "Big wheels/keep turning/they go on and on forever....."
Summer & Lighting:
Wirtten possibly as a Garth Brooks type of tune, we hear Jeff saing of waiting for someone's love. Here, the rain storm effects can be heard more here, as can the line, "Here it comes agi-you." The strings sound like they came from the John Wayne universe.
Mr. Blue Sky:
Sooner or later, even the rains must stop and they do when we hear a radio wirelss announcer say, "Good moring, to-day's forecast calls for blue skies." A rocking tune that was just used in the Jet Blue commercial, it's a joyful one with the makings of a Zeigfield musical, with a vocoderised piano, a chorus, a fire extinguisher getting hit, and a lush chourus and string section all working well right down to the vocoder coda that says,"Please turn me over." Thus endeth side three and the suite.
Sweet Is The Night:
Side four's theme must be all 'bout travel as we hear in the tune here tells the tale of a woman is doing her big city shopping and travelling. How could a tune like that lose when it comes to its strings and Bee Gee harmonies?
It's said that when Jeff saw a documentry on the slaughter of whales, he set to conposing the album's second instrumental, with guitars sounding like whales, and a vocoder interjection here and there. a rich lush srtring section punctuated with Jeff's guitar hooks.
Partly an homage to Jeff's favourite soccer team, the Birmingham Blues (evidenced by the opening shout of "Play soccer!!") and partly an homage to travelling on the road most of the time and missing their hometown of Birmingham, England, we learn that according ot Jeff, even when you DO get back home, you've still got "the rest of the world blues."
Wild West Hero:
Influenced by the American wild west cinema films Jeff grew up with, he composed the album's finale in which he wishes he could move to the states and be a real wild west hero and do all the things all the real cowboys did. Listen for one of the group's string players playing the honky tonk piano solos on the tune.
Out Of The Blue deserves to be a classic album and a must for any serious collector. Plain and simple.