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Electric Light Orchestra/E.L.O.

Countless groups have covered Chuck Berry. Nearly all stayed relatively close to the source. One notable exception was Electric Light Orchestra's rendition of "Roll Over Beethoven." Aside from the inescapable guitar riff, the song had definite "classical" overtones (figures, given the song's title) with a creative arrangement. What made it work was the violins and cello were played aggressively, with a Rock attack. This approach fit E.L.O.'s original concept, "to take up where "I Am The Walrus" left off."

E.L.O.'s early principals were ex-Move member Roy Wood, guitarist Jeff Lynne and drummer Bev Bevan. But group stability was not an E.L.O. trait. Originally, the group had a French horn player, Bill Hunt, but he soon left with Wood to form Wizard. A succession of violinists and cellists worked on the first two albums, "Electric Light Orchestra" and "E.L.O. II," before the group settled into a fairly standard Rock line-up (with no strings attached). Soon Lynne assumed leadership, with he and Bevan being the only constants.

E.L.O. showed some life with Rock 'n' Roll songs, "Evil Woman," "Living Thing" and "Don't Bring Me Down." All these songs had Art Rock flourishes but they didn't get in the way. E.L.O. also had a tendency toward airy/dreamy ballads like, "Strange Magic" and their first #1, "Can't Get It Out Of My Head."

In the late '70s, Lynne wrote and recorded several songs for the "Xanadu" soundtrack. Olivia Newton-John, who "starred" in the film, sang the title track with E.L.O. backing. It was a huge hit despite the fact the movie was dreadful and deservedly bombed.

E.L.O. delivered their last great Rocker, "Hold On Tight" from the "Time" album, in '80." The group soon fragmented with Bevan joining Black Sabbath (that was a switch!). He returned for a weak E.L.O. comeback effort in the mid-80s. He even tried to launch, unsuccessfully, his own version of E.L.O., without Lynne. That led to a lawsuit and the group eventually became E.L.O. Part II. A bad move all the way around.

Meanwhile, Lynne busied himself as a producer working with Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, George Harrison and Bob Dylan. They all briefly became the Traveling Wilburys. Lynne produced albums by non-Wilburys, including Joe Cocker and Paul McCartney. He also assembled "The Beatles Anthology." Though Lynne released a solo album, "Armchair Theater," he seemed to enjoy being in the background.

But the spotlight lured him back. A resurgence of E.L.O.'s popularity led to "Alone In The Universe," the group's first album of original songs in nearly 15 years. The group's 12th album contained the track "When I Was A Boy."

Electric Light Orchestra Discography


1971 The Electric Light Orchestra
1973 ELO 2
1973 On The Third Day
1974 Eldorado, A Symphony
1975 Face The Music
1976 A New World Record
1977 Out Of The Blue
1979 Discovery
1980 Xanadu
1981 Time
1983 Secret Messages (Part II)
1986 Balance Of Power (Part II)
2001 Zoom
2015 Alone In The Universe

E.L.O. records sound awful. And it's not the musician's fault. As the group's producer, Jeff Lynne uses all sorts of studio effects but he over compresses and gives tracks odd equalization. The songs sound boxy and muted. Whatever he is trying for, it's safe to say he fails. It's amazing Lynne built his production credentials on these recordings.

E.L.O. is a singles band. Their albums, with the possible exception of "A New World Record" tend to wander off on pointless Art Rock journeys. Fortunately, there are a number of E.L.O. compilations that capture the group's essence. "Flashback" is a box set that does the group justice but it's a bit pricey. More economical options are "Strange Magic - Best Of E.L.O." or "E.L.O. Classics." Despite Lynne's efforts or maybe because of them, E.L.O. is a generally faceless band. In addition, many of their best songs a pure studio creations that don't translate to a live venue. For those reasons, it's a good idea to avoid the numerous live albums.

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