Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Out Of The Blue

Electric Light Orchestra/1977

Out of the Blue descended from on high like the mother ship of all ELO albums – perfectly symbolized by the humongous flying saucer art work on the front cover. Perhaps saucer pilot Jeff Lynne had seen “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” once too often. Heck, the album even included a do-it-yourself flying saucer cut-out (ah, the glory days of vinyl when you’d get all sorts of cool stuff with records like posters, stickers, postcards…and yes, flying saucers). It had been a long, spacey voyage for the Orchestra to get here, an album that many would consider ELO at its peak. Lynne’s unique philosophy toward what was basically pop music was quite progressive for its day. Creating a kind of Beethoven-meets-Berry-meets Beatles-meets-Berkeley (as in Busby), much of ELO’s music had a retro, almost 1930s-movie soundtrack vibe. We’re talkin’ deliberately cheesy orchestrations mixed with spooky choirs set to a decidedly ‘60s rock n’ roll beat. After the breakthrough Face The Music and the equally huge New World Record, Lynne was hell-bent to create the ultimate ELO album – a two-record set crammed with weirdly out-of-step-for-its-time, yet immensely popular string-laden pop rock. This stuff was so irresistible, it would easily cross over between the shaggy-haired FM radio hipsters and the bubble-gum popping AM radio teenyboppers – catchy tracks you can’t get out of your head, like “Turn To Stone,” “It’s Over,” “Night In The City,” along with lush Lynne ballads including “Steppin’ Out” and “Big Wheels.” The centerpiece of the album is the “rainy day” song suite that took up an entire album side, and would have made a nice Side 3 to an alternate-universe Abbey Road. The suite culminates in what is probably the greatest ELO song of them all, “Mr. Blue Sky.” I’d imagine when Lennon and McCartney first heard it, they looked at each other wistfully and said “Why the hell didn’t we write something like that…” There would be a few more albums to follow, but even Lynne hinted later that Out Of The Blue was probably the true last hurrah for ELO. Ground control to Major Lynne: Mission accomplished on this record. (Ed. Note: This review dedicated to Chris and Erica!)

Essential Tracks: Way too many to list here – listen to the whole album.


  1. Lynne is a genius..writer, producer, musician..melody maker..he is "Mr. Blue Sky" The band you just had to like because it was ELO. You are so right, you can't get it out of your head..which he wrote about too. G. still sing along huh?

  2. A one-man "Fab Four"! So many great tunes, ELO/Jeff Lynne owned the '70s.