Electric Light Orchestra

Out of the Blue

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The last ELO album to make a major impact on popular music, Out of the Blue was of a piece with its lavishly produced predecessor, A New World Record, but it's a much more mixed bag as an album. For starters, it was a double LP, a format that has proved daunting to all but a handful of rock artists, and was no less so here. The songs were flowing fast and freely from Jeff Lynne at the time, however, and well more than half of what is here is very solid, at least as songs if not necessarily as recordings. "Sweet Talkin' Woman" and "Turn to Stone" are among the best songs in the group's output, and much of the rest is very entertaining. The heavy sound of the orchestra, however, as well as the layer upon layer of vocal overdubs, often seem out of place. All in all, the group was trying too hard to generate a substantial-sounding double LP, complete with a suite, "Concerto for a Rainy Day." The latter is the nadir of the album, an effort at conceptual rock that seemed archaic even in 1977. Another chunk is filled up with what might best be called art rock mood music ("The Whale"), before you finally get to the relief of a basic rocker like "Birmingham Blues." Even here, the group couldn't leave well enough alone -- rather than ending it on that note, they had to finish the album with "Wild West Hero," a piece of ersatz movie music that adds nothing to what you've heard over the previous 65 minutes. In its defense, Out of the Blue was massively popular and did become the centerpiece of a huge worldwide tour that earned the group status as a major live attraction for a time. [Out of the Blue was reissued in 2007 as a 30th Anniversary Edition with new photos, liner notes, and three bonus tracks, including "The Quick and the Daft," "Latitude 88 North," and a home demo of "Wild West Hero."]

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