This is a two-disc reissue of the first Electric Light Orchestra album, originally released in 1971 when the band featured Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne. The 40th Anniversary Edition includes a CD with the original album plus six bonus tracks. The other disc is a DVD featuring the 1973 Quad mix, now newly transferred to DTS and Dolby Digital surround formats. There is also a promo video of the band’s debut single, 10538 Overture.
The genesis of ELO coincided with the end of Birmingham band The Move, the band that Roy Wood had started back in 1966. After scoring hits with Flowers In The Rain, Fire Brigade and Blackberry Way, lead vocalist Carl Wayne left in 1970 to be replaced by Jeff Lynne. Wood indicated he wanted to incorporate string and classical themes into their work and Lynne was agreeable. The first song the two collaborated on as “Electric Light Orchestra” was 10538 Orchestra, a tune written by Lynne and orchestrated by Wood.
Move fans must have been confused in 1971, a year that saw the release of The Move album Message From The Country and The Electric Light Orchestra’s self-titled debut. Both albums featured the same basic personnel: Wood, Lynne and drummer Bev Bevan. To further muddy the waters ads were placed in the British music weeklies announcing “The Move have a new single out by The Electric Light Orchestra”.
Eventually The Move was “disbanded” and all focus was put on ELO. 10538 became a hit in Britain in 1972 just as the glam scene was hitting its stride with hits by Slade, Bowie, T Rex and Mott.
The new group made their live debut in April of 72, but even as 10538 Overture was racing up the charts, the band was splitting in two. Wood and Lynne began to clash and by August Roy Wood was performing with his new group, Roy Wood’s Wizzard, while Lynne and Bevan continued on with ELO, making the band one of the biggest hit makers of the 70s and 80s.
So how does the first album hold up after 40 years?
Well, it’s interesting. Wood and Lynne were fascinated with The Beatles’ use of strings on tracks like I Am The Walrus and Eleanor Rigby, and that interest is reflected in the stirring 10538 Overture and on the album’s second track, Roy Wood’s Look At Me Now.
The band then takes off into uncharted musical territory with the 6 minute Nellie Takes Her Bow (featuring a brief musical nod to God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen) and the self-indulgent, meandering prog-rock of Battle Of Marston Moor.
1st Movement (Jumping Biz) sounds suspiciously like Mason Williams’ 1968 instrumental hit Classical Gas. Single number two, Lynne’s Mr. Radio is more restrained. Lynne would “re-appropriate” elements of the song for the 1976 ELO hit, Telephone Line.
The remainder of the album is rather unremarkable. Its clear Wood and Lynne were having fun playing in the studio, but their pop sensibilities were clearly elsewhere.
The main selling point for this package is the Quad mix. There is quite a bit of separation between the instruments and the mix puts the listener right in the middle of the action.
The bonus tracks are relatively uninteresting…a tinny “Acetate version” of 10538 Overture, an unnecessary alternate take of Nellie, the single edit of Mr. Radio.
The video clip is good fun. It feature Wood, Lynne and Bevan dressed as pirates miming to 10538 Overture and joining in with the glam sprit of the time.
Roy Wood’s Wizzard mined that vein even further with 50-influenced glam rockers like See My Baby Jive, while Jeff Lynne turned ELO into a sleek, efficient hit making machine.
Their initial collaboration as Electric Light Orchestra, documented here, was at times thrilling and overblown.
Click here to listen to Look At Me Now from The Electric Light Orchestra: