"Electric Light Orchestra" gives a glimpse into the collective madness of Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne. Hurray for that, says I!
Not content with churning out hit singles as The Move and influenced by some of the Beatles classical work - Wood, Lynne and drummer Bev Bevan combine their pop sensibilities with almost frugal string and horn arrangements to produce this 1971 gem.
Wood's "Look At Me Now" and "Whisper In The Night" are almost revamped "Eleanor Rigbys". "First Movement" contains some very special acoustic guitar work from Wood, who was (and still is) very under-rated as a guitar player. His other track, "The Battle Of Marston Moor" is a very high-brow instrumental - dominated by french horn and wasp-ish cello - but you get the feeling Wood is playing this for laughs.
Jeff Lynne contributes the album's other five songs. Unlike Wood, you feel Lynne can't help writing a single. "Mr Radio" and "Queen Of The Hours" are lovely Lennonesque songs that owe a lot to the "White Album". However, the album's high point is Lynne's "10538 Overture" - built on a confident Abbey Road-era guitar riff - where both Lynne and Wood's combined talents show through. Roy as a multi-instrumentalist is just superb and Jeff's vocal and guitar work are clear and focused.
Both Lynne and Wood are musical geniuses and their stylistic approach to their work here shows. You are constantly suprised at their unbounded melodic turns, arrangements and imaginative production. And yet that real strength is also "ELO"'s biggest flaw and shame. Because no band was ever going to contain two egos as these. Wood knew this, and bailed out as "10538 Overture" hit the Top 10 in the summer of 1972, leaving a evermore confident Lynne, with Bevan, onto bigger things.
But ELO never really got much better than this. Or the Beatles for that matter. Brilliant stuff.