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The Finest ELO Songs On Out Of The Blue
By Harry Trowels

A series of bands following The Beatles who decided to occupy the similar environs of melodic pop have largely been disregarded by many inhabitants of the mainstream music press. Groups such as Pilot, 10cc and Squeeze whilst achieving a commendable level of commercial success, would never be likely to appear in the average rock journalist's all time, top ten list of great bands. Another melodic pop collective who I believe have been unfairly overlooked in a similar way is ELO, the band taken to prominence in the 70s and early 80s by Birmingham songwriter and performer Jeff Lynne, later to become an honorary Travelling Wilbury alongside George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison and drummer Jim Keltner.

Back to ELO days, and it's the 1978 LP, Out Of The Blue, that I would consider their best work; a double album of some musical breadth, although found a little wanting in terms of meaningful lyrics. It spanned four sides (in the days of vinyl records) and a prog-rock style graphic design, which probably served to give the album a falsely, portentous allure. In truth, it's a beautifully produced collection of pop singles, with a few, faux symphonic movements included such as side three's 'Concerto For A Rainy Day' - Louis Clark's classically romantic string arrangements underpinning this and all the other, ear-friendly pop hooks.

It has taken some serious deliberation for me to arrive at my list of finest ELO songs on the Out Of The Blue album, but I've finally managed it:

*Night In The City - some guitar similarities in part to the Boston hit 'More Than A Feeling', a grandstanding amalgam of pop, rock and strident orchestral strings. Bassist Kelly Groucutt rubber-stamped his mark on ELO history with his inimitable backing vocals on this track and the rest of the album.

*Steppin' Out - another Beatles-flavoured, mid-tempo anthem, with a little extra lyrical depth than most of the other cuts, managing to portray a combination of world-weariness and hope.

*Mr Blue Sky - a glorious, Beach Boys/McCartney pastiche with echoes of Penny Lane, made further distinctive by its grandiose coda of massed choirs and violins. Lynne showed his guitar proficiency with a sweetly executed solo and stretched his vocals in the middle eights with some impressive falsetto.

*Sweet Is The Night - a great chorus and deftly arranged verses punctuated by trademark ELO backing vocals. Kelly Groucutt was even given some lead vocal lines of his own! The whole was pounded out by Bev Bevan on his Slingerland drum kit and finished expertly by another, florid guitar jangle from Lynne.

There's a UK artist I've discovered called James Henry, whose style is reminiscent to that found in many ELO songs. Checkout a song of his, "Tomorrow May Be Too Late", which you can download via the link below for free. The guy has serious talent...


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