Although ELO quickly became Jeff Lynne's baby, it was launched as a collaboration between Lynne and his bandmates in the Move, multi-instrumentalist Roy Wood, and drummer Bev Bevan. Indeed, the label on ELO's first album reads "Move Enterprises Ltd. presents the services of the Electric Light Orchestra," and most histories claim that the initial idea for the spin-off group combining rock and classical music was Wood's, not Lynne's. Wood and Lynne split the songwriting duties on Electric Light Orchestra, much as they did on late-period Move albums, but it seems like their visions of what ELO was were widely divergent. Wood's songs are clearly more classically influenced, with the string and horn sections driving the songs rather than merely coloring them, as they do on Lynne's tunes. The difference between Wood's baroque "Look at Me Now" and Lynne's hard rocking "10538 Overture" is obvious, and Lynne never wrote anything as purely classical as Wood's "The Battle of Marston Moor (July 2nd, 1644)" in his entire career. (The Gershwin-like piano jazz of "Manhattan Rumble (49th Street Massacre)" is Lynne's equivalent piece, and suggests an intriguing avenue he unfortunately never explored further.) This dichotomy makes Electric Light Orchestra in some ways much more interesting than later ELO albums. When Wood left to form Wizzard after the release of this album, the tension generated by that clear difference between his and Lynne's songwriting styles was gone. Later ELO albums were much more commercially successful, but they were also considerably more stylistically attenuated. As good as they are, all of the later ELO albums sound pretty much exactly alike. Electric Light Orchestra sounds like nothing either Jeff Lynne or Roy Wood did before or after, and therein lies its fascination.
AllMusic Review by Stewart Mason