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The Electric Light Orchestra's “Out Of The Blue” is the kind of record that many ELO fans never name as their favourite; like The Beatles' “Sgt. Pepper”, it's the kind of legendary album that is just so obviously good, people will automatically choose another title to champion as their personal pick. It almost goes without saying that it's one of the best pieces of work Jeff Lynne has written, performed and produced, but I'm not going to just assume people know that and, for the record, would like to happily state that I believe “Out Of The Blue” to be a work of genius. You only have to scan the titles of the songs to recognise more than a handful of massively popular hits (“Turn To Stone”, “Sweet Talkin' Woman”, “Mr. Blue Sky”, “Wild West Hero”), but, as this is a double album, you'd probably expect the vast majority of the album to be excellent if anyone declared it a work of genius, right? Well, “Out Of The Blue” meets all of these expectations in so many ways and, although there are a handful of tracks which perhaps fall short of greatness, the overall character of this work is one of overwhelming, remarkable prolific creativity. Indeed, although I believe “A New World Record” (1976) to be Jeff's most flawless work, “Out Of The Blue” is his magnum opus, his greatest achievement. He made excellent albums before and after this one, but his one and only double album has a worthy place in history as his most commercially and critically successful.

At the start of the album are two of the most radio-friendly hits, the shimmering, catchy “Turn To Stone” and the gloriously overblown “Sweet Talkin' Woman”, with the grandiose piano ballad “It's Over” (also a single, but not a very successful one) sandwiched in between. The dramatic Richard Tandy piano on it is breathtakingly beautiful and, such is the emotional nature of the track, the fact it shares its title with a Roy Orbison song doesn't appear at all coincidental. With its driving tempo and energy-packed string section, “Across The Border” is an terrific rocker whereas the brilliant “Night In The City” has a trapped, intense feel to it, frenetic, edgy strings giving the track a wonderfully paranoid quality; both tracks could easily have been singles. The dreamy, lush “Starlight” evokes memories of those big American orchestral numbers from the thirties and forties (with a discernible ELO character, naturally) and “Jungle” is utterly charming, with an excellent percussion section and a ridiculously catchy hook. It's wonderfully silly, of course, but so much detail has been packed into four minutes, it's almost impossible to not love it.

Jeff's love of dramatic, big, emotional music is evident on “Believe Me Now”, a reverb-drenched mostly instrumental track which serves as in introduction to “Steppin' Out”, one of the greatest moments on “Out Of The Blue”, being one of Lynne's heart-wrenching tear-jerkers, a remarkably beautiful composition full of both sadness and hope, masterfully augmented by Louis Clark's magnificent string arrangements. Arguably, the most artistically ambitious moment of the album comes on what was side three of the original vinyl double album, the “Concerto For A Rainy Day”, four songs that run together consecutively, starting with the adrenaline fuelled “Standin' In The Rain” and culminating in perhaps ELO's most loved song, “Mr. Blue Sky”. Inspired by Jeff writing music in a Swiss chalet and being interrupted by torrential rain beating on the door, it's actually difficult to hear this sequence of four songs without becoming rather awestruck at the sheer genius and accomplishment of Lynne's compositional ability. “Big Wheels”, for example, the second song in this concerto, is one of the most magnificent pieces of music on the album, arguably of of Jeff Lynne's greatest songs, and yet a casual listener owning only a greatest hits would never have heard it. The exuberant “Summer and Lightning” is no weak link either, with the breezy, summery melody drifting over blissful harmonies and sublime strings.

What can be said about “Mr. Blue Sky” to do it justice? This irrepressible five minutes of wistful, sentimental, optimistic loveliness bounces along and makes the listener feel, for just a short while, that everything is right with the world. The chorus, the orchestra, the superb performance by Bev Bevan, adding little flourishes on ride cymbal... are there many moments in popular music more perfect than this one? It would be perfectly understandable if any track following “Mr. Blue Sky” on an album felt flat by comparison, but it is to Lynne's credit that the airy, romantic “Sweet Is The Night” is anything but and the close-knit backing vocals as well as Kelly Groucutt's crystal-clear lines all result in a swooning, caressing jewel of a song. “The Whale” is a pleasant, listenable, expansive instrumental, but it and “Birmingham Blues”, a likeable song about being on the road and missing home, both suffer from being on an album with so many better compositions and, so, give the double album the impression of tiring a little towards the end. Thankfully, the last track, the magical “Wild West Hero”, conjuring up childhood memories of watching westerns and dreaming of being the courageous, capable lead in such fantastical tales, finishes the album with a last piece of Jeff Lynne genius, featuring a superb vocal performance from the man himself and a dizzying honky-tonk piano solo from Tandy.

Although “Out Of The Blue”, complete with its iconic artwork, isn't exactly perfect (some may disagree), it hit creative heights that Lynne had yet to reach before and, arguably, has never managed to repeat since. If you were asked to be completely objective and ruthless, you could trim down the album a bit and remove the slightly novelty aspects (“Jungle” and “Birmingham Blues”) and perhaps even decide that the track listing would have an altogether greater impact without “Starlight” and “The Whale”. However, it wouldn't surprise me if the majority of ELO fans would be horrified at such a suggestion; the supposedly lesser songs on “Out Of The Blue” are every bit as much a part of the charm of the album as the big pop songs and ballads. They provide character, texture and variety and even a little bit of comic relief to a piece of work dominated by grandiose strings and big, beautiful ballads. However, the price paid for this texture is that other albums in the Electric Light Orchestra catalogue have the appearance of being trimmer, punchier and perhaps even easier to listen to as a whole. That is the risk of double albums, of course. Even The Beatles' “White Album” provokes discussion by fans as to whether it would have been better off as a single disc. Needless to say, I believe “Out Of The Blue” to be perfectly imperfect, very much like the Fab Four's sprawling double album, but when you consider that the songs on The Electric Light Orchestra's 1977 album were written by just one person, the bearded bard of Birmingham, it makes Jeff's accomplishment here that much more impressive.
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on 28 February 2007
I really miss music on a grand scale. I guess that's why after the glorious '70s I turned to symphonies and opera to avoid the rot of the 80's. But back in '77 Jeff Lynne and the fab E.L.O. (+ pink floyd, elp, Queen, king crimson, yes etc...)felt every listening experience on your frankly rubbish record player or non Dolby tape deck had to be a glorious experience. Through the crackles the listener was regulary launched into space on some great sonic adventure. Sadly (perhaps) many of these interstellar survivors, as they crashed back to earth, found punk as puberty set in and the super group was super no more.

UNTIL suddenly in this enlightened age a feeling that anything goes suddenly spread across this land. Suddenly it was acceptable to enjoy everything you wanted to. With your head up high you can now buy Kaiser Chiefs, Mozart, Take That, The Stranglers (you must buy The Stranglers) and The Electric Light Orchestra. Yes and this time they are digitaly remastered with extra tracks. Yes you can look adoringly on the ELO space shuttle as it docks with the ELO flying saucer and not be afraid of ridicule. Out of the Blue is there once again for you to enjoy (and it sounds fantastic this time too.) The Deluxe edition is a packaging joy with lovely notes by Mr Lynne and a build it yourself space ship. Ah what joy.

To those of you who have no idea what I am talking about (yet are slightly intrigued) give the ELO a listen. It's grand rock with orchestrial pretentions and fantastic tunes. It's fun and nothing to be ashamed of anymore.

Perhaps one day Mr Lynne will write music as grand as this once again. until then my space ship has come to take me back in time to the '70s.
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on 12 March 2007
Freddie Mercury could turn to Brian May to help him out, Brian Wilson could get some aid from Mike Love and Lennon had McCartney, but Jeff Lynne, by his own admission, only had himself. And that is the most remarkable thing about this cd, it really is all one man`s work. And what a work of art it is. Every song stands on it`s own merits, there are no filler tracks and Concerto For A Rainy Day is the best part of it. Lynne has to be the most under-rated musician/songwriter in history, just imagine if any of the current bunch tried to write a whole album? The results just wouldn`t bare thinking about (sorry Robbie/Chris/Lily) yet he managed to produce one of the all time great albums. Genius.
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on 10 February 2007
This album needs to be in every collection - borrow it from your Nan - it'll be in the box of albums your mum left there before she married your dad. Beautifully packaged gatefold sleeve with cut out and keep space ship! This has tunes and melodies to die for - everyone a classic and so soaked into everyones consciousness that we don't know they are there. Jeff Lynne is too talented for his own good. Forget his Beatles fixation and wallow in the strings and multi tracked vocals of a master tunesmith at the top of his game.Each track is a masterpiece of AOR and transatlantic poprock.One word of caution - don't let your mum hear this or else she 'll want it back! Led the way for Cheap Trick and The Feeling. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery! Critical reappraissal is due - at last it's cool to dig ELO.
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on 23 February 2006
Understanding this album requires a proper understanding of real 1970s popular culture. The supergroups of the latter 60s and 70s (Cream, Led Zeppelin) lead to groups who took their musicality a bit too seriously, the Prog Rockers. Most pompous of them has to be Yes, though less mainstream bands like The Enid have to be heard to be believed!
Proggers had this thing about becoming The New Classical Music. They were serious, folks! They started using more and more sounds from classical music, writing symphonies and making albums that went on for hours. Enter ELO. Pure pop, but with an eye on the rock zeitgeist: A bit of Strawbs folkiness, a touch of glam rock & blues, loads of strings and the latest electronics put together with the slickest production in the world. All this with a slight Midlands naffness misunderstood the world over: Most people miss the knowing twinkle in the eye!
This is an album everyone with an interest in pop / rock history ought to own. ELO pricked the Prog bubble and had some fun. Punk lacked their subtlety, merely raging and puking the party over.
Were ELO the last band of the decade of the greatest rock music?
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VINE VOICEon 22 May 2007
Remember the summer of 1977? Anarchy in the UK, the Silver Jubilee and this, rather incongruously sitting amongst the gobbing and puking. And sitting right near the top of the album chart too, as it happens. The reason this album has lived on the memory so long (and why it deserves this deluxe re-issue) is simply that it is chock-full of fantastic songs.

Jeff Lynne was at the peak of his song-writing powers, seemingly unable to write anything that couldn't have been a top-ten single. This was demonstrated amply by the previous year's A New World Record (also very highly recommended) and OOTB merely continued his prolific run, and in spades.

If ever a song was a signal of intent for an album, then it is 'Turn To Stone', with its fade-in blossoming into a lush, panoramic sound, replete with the by-now trademark Beatlesque harmonies and swooping strings. 'It's Over' adds wistful to the canon, and only really serves to lead us into two absolute treats: 'Sweet Talkin' Woman' (about which much has already been said) and the gorgeous, Mariachi-flavoured 'Across The Border' which, to this day remains one of my favourite ELO songs ever.

The second quartet of songs seem to lift off the pedal a little, with 'Night In The City' almost feeling like ELO by numbers and 'Starlight' being pretty but ultimately lightweight. 'Jungle' is a silly, fun confection full of cowbells, hand claps and foot stamping (to much the same effect as Queen's 'We Will Rock You') and is guaranteed to make you smile. It is followed by 'Believe Me Now', which is one of those short, sweet Lynne interludes that takes things down ready for the beginning of something big...

...that comes in the form of 'Concerto For A Rainy Day': an unalloyed pleasure. The whole thing is beautifully pitched but the stand-outs for me at least are the winningly joyous 'Summer and Lightning', followed by the seminal 'Mr Blue Sky', the song that, even on its own, is worth buying this album for.

The back-end of the album has perhaps been maligned elsewhere in the past, but I believe it is a strong finish. 'Sweet Is the Night' is indeed sweet, while 'The Whale' is a wonderful, atmospheric instrumental, full of the trademark swelling strings and imaginative use of the electronics available at the time. Then, to close, 'Birmingham Blues' and 'wild West Hero'. The first is a joking homage to the band's home that still has enough mojo make it fun, while the latter has all the epic aching plangent qualities that all the best ELO songs possess.

This deluxe edition rounds things out with a demo of an alternative vocal bridge for 'Wild West Hero' and two out-takes: 'Quick and The Daft' and slightly less stellar 'Latitude 88 North' which are filler, but interesting filler at least. The former a rollicking and brio-filled short instrumental, the latter something that sat on the shelf for a while before being dusted down.

Even the weaker tracks on this album are songs that most other artists would have killed for, but Lynne has always struggled to throw off the Beatles-Lite accusations rather unfairly thrown at him over the years. The Wilburys canon and George Harrison's later solo work on which he was involved, amongst others, reiterated his great talents as a writer, producer and player that his album so wonderfully demonstrates.

Of course, it was all downhill from this point, with a brief bounce when the really rather wonderful 'Time' was released in 1981. but that doesn't matter, just enjoy the wonderful quality of this classic on its own terms.
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on 31 January 2008
There is no material here to fill up spaces, it's all top drawer stuff. From the moment Turn To Stone fades up, you are transported into a world of wonderous melody, perfect harmony and a polyphonic experience which just makes you ask how such sublime music can be played. The answer is simple, expert ans innovative songwriting being performed by a series of musicians in tune with each other, in tune with the material and at the top of their game. There are many tracks which became hits such as Sweet Talking Woman, Wild West Hero and Mr Blue Sky but the album tracks, especially the simply exquisite Sweet Is The Night and Summer and Lightning are stunning. The album marks the end of the greatest period in the groups life as they embraced the commercial a little too much later on although some of the stuff on Discovery is as good as ever but Out Of The Blue has a touch of Magnum Opus about it. The band had been building up to this "concept" type album for some time with the brilliant A New World Record and El Dorado etc and they reached a zenith. After this, it could never be so good again.

Buy it, put it on the car CD player, turn it up loud and it will transport you to a state of musical ecstacy.
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on 1 August 2005
This album was the moment Jeff Lynne pefected his fusion of Beatles, Pop and Classical music. This is probably one of the greatest pop albums of all time and is a masterpiece of production and arrangement. The album is a prime candidate for a remaster but even so the production is so good it still shines 30 years one. Mr Blue Sky has become an all time classic but there are so many songs worth hearing on here including songs you think should have been singles like sweet is the night, stepping out and one of my favourites "Big Wheels". ELO were never cool to like (a bit like Abba) but unlike Abba they have not experienced the revival they are surely due. There are quite a few songs on here so it may take a while to get to know but if you have any interest in great production or great "pop" start here. There are a few stinkers like "Jungle" or "The Whale" but considering this album is 17 songs long that's still a pretty good hit rate. Next stop try "A New World Record" that contains the hits Living Thing and Telephone line and sounds very similar to Out Of The Blue in Style and arrangement. The ELO revival starts here!
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on 31 October 2011
I bought the 30th anniversary edition, and it is absolutely brilliant, just like it was in 1977, the sound of pure unadulterated optimism! Most of the brilliance was down to Jeff Lynne, however ELO's string arranger Louis Clark deserves a mention, as does the string section itself: they would never be better.

The songs (including 4 top ten hit singles) are of course excellent, yes they are over-produced, but that is part of their appeal: nobody does over-production quite like ELO: just check out Across The Border, possibly the most layered recording of all time!

The chord structures are often beautiful in a Walt Disney-ish way. lyrics-wise some of the songs are superficial, but then you wouldn't say that about Big Wheels, one of their most moving songs and for me the highlight, along with Mr Blue Sky.

ELO were critically reviled, however no music critic could ever come up with a masterpiece like this.
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on 21 July 2007
Thirty years ago, as a kid with an unhealthy Beach Boys obsession, I heard 'Mr Blue Sky' on the radio and decided 'modern music' wasn't quite so bad after all. I saved up my hard earned pocket money (double albums weren't cheap, you know) and bought 'Out of the Blue'. I played nothing else for a full year, bought their entire back catalogue (even the Roy Wood stuff) and counted the days until 'Discovery' was released. I don't think I've ever been so excited about anything either before or since. Then it was released. And it was rubbish. Then came 'Xanadu'. Even worse! I so wanted them to be good again but my mates had been right all along. 'ELO' as they were now referred to, were a joke. I had been completely duped and made to look a fool by my OMD-loving pals. I put my 'ELO' albums away and vowed never to listen to them again. And I didn't for the best part of 30 years. Never even thought of it. Until a few months ago when I was watching some corny movie and 'Blue Sky' came on and it made me feel all nostalgic. I really wanted to listen to 'Out of the Blue' again, but i couldn't because I'd only bought it on cassette and I'd played it so much I'd worn it out. Then I saw that this had been released so, under cover of darkness, I purchased it, quickly transferred it to my ipod so I could pretend I was listening to 'Arctic Monkeys' and prepared myself to feel slightly amused that this album could ever have been so important to me. But I wasn't amused. I was amazed. This is a truly brilliant album and I can't stop playing it.
Jeff Lynne may be known to many as the man who made Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, and even 'The Beatles' all sound exactly the same but around about this time he was a god-like genius producing some of the finest music of the decade. On this album he succeeded in creating an epic sound, but one that's never bloated or self-indulgent. He throws everything in here, strings, choir, hugely complex vocal and musical arrangements, but his pop sensibility ensures that each track is tightly constructed. There's no filler or waste here.
Highlights? Well there are just so many great songs.'Turn to Stone' , 'Wild West Hero' and the brilliantly bonkers 'Blue Sky'. Sure one or two tracks are a little weaker than the rest but in the seventies you didn't have the ability to skip from one track to another quite so easily and this album demands to be listened to from beginning to end. It's a real musical experience and one that hasn't aged a bit. Hats off to Louis Clark, an unsung hero of the classic 'Electric Light Orchestra' sound. His highly distinctive string and choral arrangements are all over this record and are just as critical to it's success as Lynne's power pop songwriting and production skills. There is a wondrous moment, just before the second verse strikes up on 'Big Wheels', where the strings sweep down from the highest notes on the violin to the lowest note on the cello. Pure musical drama.
The extra tracks here are OK. For 'ELO' completists really. But everyone, regardless of their musical tastes and prejudices, should have a listen to this album and consider whether music with such melody and ambition is still being made these days. I think not.
If you 'discover' this wonderful and sadly under-rated band through this album and decide you'd like to hear more of them then please work backwards and not forwards from here. I'd hate you to be as disappointed as I was all those years ago. Still, I can probably forgive Jeff Lynne for that, because at least he gave me this; 'Out of the Blue', one of the finest albums ever recorded.
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