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ELO Recommendations?


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I plan on hopping over to Amazon and buying some ELO CDs tonight. What's a good place to start? I get the impression that the prevailing wisdom is that Eldorado, Face the Music, A New World Record and Out of the Blue are their best, but I know LC likes the earlier albums.

If I were going to buy 3, what should I go for? Are they all even in print?

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I'm not an ELO expert to the degree some are.

But my favorites were "Face The Music" ("Poker", "Fire On High", "One Summer Dream", were my favorite songs from this album. "Evil Woman" and "Strange Magic" were the hits and both were real good, IMHO.) .....and "Eldorado" - a concept album that I like a ton.

"ELO II" had "Roll Over Beethoven" and "On The Third Day" had "Mama Belle" - 2 kick fanny rockers (I love heavier rocking stuff).

I didn't own anything past "New World Record". Their later stuff ("Do Ya" etc.) was good, but it didnt' draw me like their earlier music.

When I think of the literal meaning of "Progressive", when I think about it, there's not too much out there that was more progressive than what Jeff Lynn created for his band "ELO". The fusion of an orchestral sound with genius pop melodies and some pretty strong heavy rocking at times...

...very progressive was ELO.

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I guess the trouble with being a fan of any group is that we tend to like everything and have trouble reccomending one over another. The albums I most liked at the height of their popularity were "Out Of The Blue" and "Discovery". As concept albums go, I really like "Time" but it only yielded one hit and doesn't seem to make the favorites list of most other ELO fans. Lastly, I think their comeback "Zoom" is terrific. Of course, I also like "Face The Music" and "A New World Record" too. See what I mean. I don't like the very early albums nearly as much.

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I do love the early ELO albums (I would consider Eldorado to fit in with those), but the "middle" ones are even better. This is fun, so I'll give you my ranking of ELO's album.

I would think the one I've listened to more than any other is Out of the Blue. It came out shortly after Eric's Boats, so it was a big "college" record for me, and it was a two-LP set and thus had lots to absorb. Yet I probably wouldn't call it ELO's best album.... This would be my list:

1) A New World Record (1976). I thought this was where ELO hit its stride. It has "Tightrope," "Rockaria," "So Fine," and "Do Ya," plus the hits "Telephone Line" and "Livin' Thing." Also has a nice Beatles tribute called "Shangri-La" (which even mentions "Hey Jude").

2) Face the Music (1975). Just an awesome record, starting with the instrumental "Fire on High" all the way to "One Summer Dream," which we talked about on another thread. Also has the hits "Evil Woman" and "Strange Magic."

3) Out of the Blue (1977). The third side of this two-LP set had a thematic "suite" that goes from dark to optimistic; it's called "Concerto For a Rainy Day," and the four songs are (IMHO) brilliant: "Standing in the Rain," "Big Wheels," "Summer and Lightning," and "Mr. Blue Sky." Also has the hits "Turn to Stone," "Sweet Talkin' Woman," and "It's Over." And there's a great ballad here called "Steppin' Out." Being a freshman in college when I bought it, I was impressed by the packaging: a spaceship mobile and at least one poster. Had to have stuff to hang on the dorm walls! :-)

4) Eldorado (1974). On another day, I might actually have this at the top of the list. It's a great concept album that pushes the envelope like ELO's first three albums but isn't overly polished like later ones.

5) On the Third Day (1973). This is an underrated album that covers lots of ground: rock'n'roll numbers ("Ma-Ma-Ma Belle," "Showdown"), quirky ballads "Bluebird Is Dead," "Oh No Not Susan"), and even a classical work (Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King"). I feel bad ranking it so "low" on this list.

6) Discovery (1979). Just a nice pop record, disco influence or not. "Don't Bring Me Down," "Shine a Little Love," and "Last Train to London" were the hits. I also like the ballad "Need Her Love" and the oddball story-song "Diary of Horace Wimp."

7) ELO 2 (1973). Here's where you'll find the unabridged "Roll Over Beethoven" — all 8 minutes of it. In fact, the shortest song on the original five-track album is around 7 minutes. I also like "Kuiama," an 11-minute story-song told from the viewpoint of a WWII German soldier who's explaining to an orphan girl why he killed her parents (if you don't mind long, gloomy, dark epics...).

Wow — those were all 1970s albums, weren't they? Well... from 1974-1977, ELO was sizzling. As for the 1980s, I think Jeff Lynne's best work was with Traveling Wilburys. The ELO albums were uneven, though certain songs stand out (like "Rain Is Falling" and "Hold on Tight" from 1981's Time and an awesome pop song called "Stranger" from 1983's Secret Messages).

Like Teragram, I picked up Zoom (2001) when it came out, and there are some outstanding songs on there. While it's better than the '80s albums, I personally wouldn't rank it with 1970s ELO.

There you have it — way more than you wanted to know, but... I can't help it. ELO is very close to that top level of my favorite bands/artists: Beatles (and their solo work), Beach Boys, Raspberries/EC, Fleetwood Mac, and (my curve ball) folk-rock singer-songwriter John Stewart.

PS: If you get the early- and mid-2000s reissues of the above, you'll get bonus tracks that can be cool to hear. Most notable among them are:

• a stripped-down "Evil Woman" on Face the Music;

• the previously unreleased "Surrender" plus two different versions of "Telephone Line" on A New World Record;

• and "Latitude 88 North," an unreleased outtake from Out of the Blue that I thought was a pretty cool "buried treasure." It's here if you want a listen:

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Thanks for the reviews! I love detailed information. I also love Amazon.com! I just placed my order. I picked up all 5 of the ELO CDs at the top of LC's list...the Beatles' Please Please Me remaster (the last Beatles album I didn't own)...and a combo cd of Angel's first two albums...so that's a total of 8 albums: 5 ELO's, 2 Angels, and a Beatles...for $83 including sales tax. Free shipping, and I only have to wait 5-7 days. I'm psyched to check out all of this ELO stuff, I've always liked the songs of theirs that I heard, but I somehow never pulled the trigger on buying any of it. Can't wait!

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Two addendums...

• You wanted the full effect of ELO's albums, so I didn't touch on compilations. But anyone who wants the hits might grab All Over the World and Ticket to the Moon — 40 tracks between the two single CDs. The best-of compilation that turned me onto ELO, really, was called Ole ELO; it had great liner notes and a memorable LP cover, but it came out in 1976, just before A New World Record, so it's outdated.

• Be careful of CDs by "ELO Part 2." That was drummer Bev Bevan's off-shoot group from the late 1980s. I think I've seen some live ELO Part 2 albums out there (may have even bought one!), but... it would be like buying a Rolling Stones Part 2 album featuring Charlie Watts as the leader. (No offense to Charlie Watts! I'm just sayin'...)

• I didn't mention Jeff Lynne's pre-ELO bands (Idle Race, the Move), because... it didn't quite fit. But I should mention his post-ELO solo album, 1990's excellent Armchair Theatre. On it is one of my three or four favorite Lynne songs ever (including his ELO output): "Now You're Gone." If you haven't heard it, "Now You're Gone" is well worth a few minutes, especially if you dig the Beatles (Sgt. Pepper era) and George Harrison. It's got a real haunting feel, and despressing lyrics, and a cool Indian influence:

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Wow. "Now You're Gone" is great. I'd never heard it.

And great reviews LC. I'm sure Paul appreciates the detail. I enjoyed reading it.


Hey Paul, you'll like the ELO albums. I do. But if you don't for some reason, don't blame me, blame LC!!


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Yikes — I didn't realize that Armchair Theatre had become somewhat of a collector's item. I see on Amazon.com that you can buy it new (unopened) starting from $85!

I read somewhere earlier tonight that there's talk of an Armchair Theatre reissue coming out in 2011. That'll be awesome. I'll buy it again... as long as it's not $85! (An old friend of mine actually sang some backup vocals on that album. I remember when he returned from England after the album was finished in 1990 — he was buzzing about the songs, including the one I just posted, "Now You're Gone.") Anyway... I also read that Lynne has a new solo album coming out in 2011. Something to look forward to....

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James, would your rankings of ELO be pretty similar? It's a tough task.... It's like the 'berries — I rank 'em differently at different times, but usually it's Fresh; Starting Over; Side 3; and Raspberries. Anyway, how would your ELO list look?

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LC, I'm not an ELO wall to wall expert.

Back in the day, I owned "On The Third Day", "ELO II" and "Face The Music". A few years ago I bought "Eldorado". I was familiar with "A New World Record" and may have even owned it in college, but it was with that record ELO left me a little. I never bought any of their albums after "A New World Record".

They became a little more commercial then...which is ok, but my infatuation simmerred down some. I loved the early more unique, less refined, less commercial stuff.

So of the albums I've owned, I'd take "Eldorado" & "Face The Music" as tops.

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Fair enough. I think my infatuation probably lasted two albums longer than yours (Out of the Blue (which I think you'd like) and Discovery (probably not). I bought their 1980s albums but none of them got a lot of playing time on my turntable/CD player. They were like 5th-string wide receivers... they got into a few plays here and there, but were usually stuck to the bench.

Don't forget ELO's Xanadu contributions, either. I think ELO got pretty roundly slammed in the press around that time (1980). Remember this?

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I think that "Out Of The Blue" was that album that set the standard for ELO that most fans never thought that they were able to reach again. When albums reach such popularity, (such as Out Of The Blue in this case) fans want the follow up to be Out Of The Blue II, and when it's not, they are disappointed and are quick to dismiss them. I personally believe that Discovery & Time rank right up there among ELO's best, and since I am usually for the underdog, it's probablt why Time holds a special place in my heart.

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Hey LC, I think you should pull TIME out and give it another listen.

Craig, I love the song "Rain Is Falling," and "Ticket to the Moon" too. I will definitely go out and buy the Time CD again. I had a copy years ago, but the disc is defective and won't play. I'll pick it up again, because when I looked at the track listing again, I'm remembering that — contrary to my "5th-wide-receiver" comment above — there are other songs that make it worth owning: "Prologue/Twilight," "The Lights Go Down," the hit "Hold on Tight," and "Another Heart Breaks," which is a nice ballad. And, of course, "Rain Is Falling." So maybe I wasn't generous enough with Time. Paul, after you've absorbed the five you just bought, consider Time.

I guess it was a case of, out of sight, out of mind. Heck, now that my memory is getting rattled back into shape, I'm remembering that I when I was a cub reporter and intern in the early 1980s for a small-town newspaper, I wrote a glowing review of Time. So... to revise... Time is the best 1980s ELO album to get, followed by Secret Messages (which I still think is uneven), and Balance of Power (which I should probably pull out and listen to!).

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SECRET MESSAGES was supposed to be a double album. The original track listing according to Wikipedia. Somewhere I have a demo version of Buildings Have Eyes which isn't a bad song.

Side A

"Secret Messages" - 4:51

"Loser Gone Wild" - 5:17

"Bluebird" - 4:13

"Take Me On and On" - 5:02

Side B

"Stranger" - 4:30

"No Way Out" - 3:27

"Beatles Forever" - 4:30

"Letter from Spain" - 2:59

"Danger Ahead" - 3:47

Side C

"Four Little Diamonds" - 4:12

"Train of Gold" - 4:22

"Endless Lies" - 3:35 (1983 Version)

"Buildings Have Eyes" - 4:04

"Rock 'n' Roll is King" - 3:10

Side D

"Mandalay" - 5:20

"Time After Time" - 3:56

"After All" - 2:24

"Hello My Old Friend" - 8:37

Most of the cut tracks have since been released as bonus material on various re-released or greatest hits CD's. I agree that this one is uneven and is one of my least favorite, but still not bad in my opinion.

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Anyone remember the "Spaceship" they used on tour in 1979?

One of my first concerts ever and it was one of the best stage "props" ever!

Harry, that was my introduction to rock concerts, back in 1978. The first sight I saw at my first-ever concert (I was a college sophomore) was that huge white flying-saucer spaceship. When the lights went down and lasers started shooting in all directions and the fog rolled out and music started blaring at a deafening level, the top half of the saucer began rising to reveal the band playing. I swore the first song was "Night in the City," but the website I just mentioned says it was "Standing in the Rain." Either way, it was a killer first concert, with an impressive set list.

The site I just mentioned, http://www.jefflynnesongs.com/ootbtour/, notes that the spaceship wasn't part of every show on that tour:

"Unfortunately, as much fun as this stage was for the audience, it caused a lot of havoc for the band. It was incredibly expensive to operate and transport. It used many technicians to construct, operate and deconstruct it for each show; and it required thirteen 18-wheelers to transport it from city to city. In fact, it was so expensive and time-consuming to use that it was mostly used at every other performance (dubbed the "A-shows"), with the non-spaceship parts of the tour using a regular stage at the venue (dubbed the "B-shows"). The hydraulic lifts did not always work properly, which meant that sometimes the entire band would not be on stage when the show (including the taped song intros) began. Worst of all, it caused the music to suffer as the spaceship set was a very hot place in which to play. This caused the band's instruments to often go out of tune, particularly the cellos and violin. And the acoustics in the spaceship made it difficult for the band to hear themselves properly."

The site also notes that the show I saw, in Buffalo, was on 9/11/79. Back then, 9/11 didn't mean anything, so I never remembered the date. Now I will.

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The eagle has landed...all 5 ELO CD's are on my dining room table. Will probably have to wait days for an opportunity to listen, but I did already devour the liner notes from "Third Day"....

Awesome! Christmas in January.... You'll love "Third Day" (I hope). It's the most "out there" of the five you bought — not the most commercially successful but maybe the most daring. ELO was hungry at that time....

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