Somewhere in 1973 I must have heard Electric Light Orchestra for the first time. Without knowing it. My favourite pirate radio station Radio Veronica, broadcasting from the North Sea, used one of the songs of ELO's first album as a jingle. Then the band's famous, totally pumped up cover version of Chuck Berry's 'Roll over Beethoven' made it into the charts and I just loved this song. My first exposure to it, to be honest. I got to know many of Berry's songs in the 70ties, but never the originals. I never became a true fan of ELO, but man do they have a load of fun singles and a lot of them are bundled on Mr. blue sky. Or are they?
The selection of the songs shows a clear divide in the career of the band. Nothing past 1979. With one noticeable exception: 'Point of no return' is a new released song. A leftover from The Travelling Wilburys sessions? If so, a good one. The year of 'Xanadu' was also the year I totally lost interest in the band, so Mr. blue sky aims at the right years for me.
Of course ELO is The Beatles. Jeff Lynne has even been able to associate himself with the Fab Four later on his career. ELO is what The Beatles could have sounded like without the break up in 1970. Sometimes the band even managed to fool me. Hearing 'Tightrope' (not on this album) for the first time I really thought that The Beatles had come back together.
Electric Light Orchestra was started by Roy Wood after he left The Move, leaving it to Jeff Lynne. The concept of a rockestra, rock with strings, was Wood's, but he left ELO quite soon leaving it to ... Lynne. Also The Move's drummer Bev Bevan was part of ELO. It was after Wood left that the band really broke big. First with songs like 'Showdown', 'Evil woman' and 'Can't get you out of my mind'. With recording 'A new world record', released in 1976, ELO went through the roof. One hit after the other and some fantastic album tracks, not included here. 'Out of the blue', a double album released in 1977, contained 'Mr blue sky'. This song has grown into THE ELO song. It's elaborate arrangement, the exuberance, the changes, but above all the up mood of the song capture indeed the joy of sunshine after rain and the break of day. 'Don't bring me down' 1979's hit song of the band, was almost disco, but man, I liked it. The song has this eternal drive, shooting it forward and made and makes me want to sing, sorry, shout along.
For the first time in years I'm hearing 1973's 'Showdown' again and yes I like the 'Brother Louie' structure and the very bluesy guitar solo of this new version. As all the hits were recorded again or added to. Not everything is what I was used to. Here and there I hear distinct differences from what I used to hear. 'Can't get you out of my head' is even more George Harrison than before. I find it's totally okay, as I'm enjoying myself tremendously with Mr. blue sky. ELO deserves some spotlights again. A great band from the 70ties that rightly deserves attention in 2012. The great cover of Mr. blue sky in ELO 1977 stance tops it all off.
You can order Mr. blue sky here