The Electric Light Orchestra – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

A++ sound on both sides for the crazy and wonderful debut album from ELO, an album that almost never sounds good! We had a bunch of these on hand and put them to the test recently. Most of them did not have the kind of sound that we were hoping for, but with enough copies on hand we were able to find a couple of winners. This one had our highest rated side one (A++ was as far as we wanted to go) and one of the better side twos as well. It isn’t a Demo Disc by any means but if you’re a fan of the band I’m sure you’ll be surprised at how much better a Super Hot Stamper like this one communicates the music.  

We really enjoy the music of ELO, but it’s tough to find good sounding copies of their albums.  We’ve been collecting copies of this album for years but it wasn’t until recently that we heard one that sounded good enough to be worthy of the Hot Stamper designation.

Side one was the best we’ve heard. It had more weight and punch to the bottom, more presence and more energy than we heard elsewhere. There’s nice texture to the violin and the overall sound is quite transparent. We held off from giving any side one an A+++ grade because none of them hit the heights of the very best side two, but it’s hard to imagine you’ll find a better sounding side one than this one.

Side two has many of the same qualities going for it — textured violin, lots of presence, lots of energy and a punchy bottom. The songs on this side in general seem to be a bit better recorded than the material on side one, so this A++ side will probably impress you a bit more than the A++ side one.

The music is a bit more “out there” than the band’s later work, and you can probably thank Roy Wood for that. When he left the band, Jeff Lynne finessed ELO into a more accessible act and eventually they became a household name pretty much around the world. If you’re looking for a big catchy rocker like “Do Ya”, this ain’t the album where you’re going to find it. (The trippy “10538 Overture” that opens side one was actually a Top Ten hit in the UK. My, how times have changed!)

TRACK LISTING

Side One

10538 Overture 
Look at Me Now 
Nellie Takes Her Bow 
Battle of Marston Moor (July 2nd 1644)

Side Two

1st Movement 
Mr. Radio 
Manhattan Rumble (49th St. Massacre)
Queen of the Hours 
Whisper in the Night

AMG Review

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.