Electric Light Orchestra – Out Of The Blue (1977)

AllMusic Review: The last ELO album to make a major impact on popular music, Out of the Blue was of a piece with its predecessor, A New World Record, as the most lavishly produced album in the group’s history, but it’s a much more mixed bag as an album, suffering from overkill in several departments. For starters, it was a double LP, a format that has proved daunting to all but a handful of rock artists. The songs were flowing fast and freely from Jeff Lynne at the time, however, and the idea of a double LP was probably tempting as a chance to release an album that was irrefutably substantial. And well more than half is very solid, at least as songs, if not necessarily as recordings. “Sweet Talkin’ Woman” (which is a worthy successor to the previous album’s “Livin’ Thing”) and “Turn to Stone,” are among the best songs in the group’s output. And much of the rest is very entertaining — “Across the Border” sounds like what would result if the Beatles’ “Paperback Writer” and the Beach Boys’ Heroes and Villains” had somehow produced an offspring, with some synthesizer digressions and phased drumming typical of mid- to late-’70’s progressive rock. Those digressions and the heavy sound of the orchestra, as well as the layer upon layer of vocal overdubs, however, also often seem out of place. “Night in the City” would be a solid enough rock number without the extensive orchestral overdubbing or the synthesizer effects being as invasive as they are; “Jungle,” which might have been a decent little rocking number, just seems pretentious here with its thickly layered vocals, and “Believe Me Now” scarcely benefits from its synthesizer voice. All in all, the group was trying too hard to generate a substantial sounding double LP, complete with a suite, “Concerto for a Rainy Day.” The latter is the nadir of the album, an effort at conceptual rock that seemed archaic even in 1977, and which is more a vehicle for Jeff Lynne the producer than Jeff Lynne the musician, with the band practically disappearing under the orchestra and overdubs on songs like “Summer and Lightning.” The “suite” would be unsalvageable except for the catchy “Mr. Blue Sky,” which sounds like a weird musical genetic amalgam of various Paul McCartney songs from “All Together Now” through “Another Day” — and even it gets too pretentious in its final minute. Another chunk is filled up with what might best be called art rock mood music (“The Whale”), before we finally get to the relief of a basic rocker like “Birmingham Blues,” which borrows a melodic orchestral phrase from George Gershwin’s An American in Paris, but is still the best piece of straight rock & roll on the album. Even here, the group couldn’t leave well enough alone — rather than ending it on that note, they had to finish the album with “Wild West Hero,” a piece of ersatz movie music that adds nothing to what we’ve heard over the previous 65 minutes. In its defense, Out of the Blue was massively popular and did become the centerpiece of a huge worldwide tour for the group which earned them status as a major live attraction for a time. — Bruce Eder

Track Listing

Side one
No. Title Length
1. “Turn to Stone” 3:47
2. “It’s Over” 4:08
3. “Sweet Talkin’ Woman” 3:47
4. “Across the Border” 3:52
Total length: 15:34
Side two
No. Title Length
5. “Night in the City” 4:02
6. “Starlight” 4:30
7. “Jungle” 3:51
8. “Believe Me Now” (instrumental) 1:21
9. “Steppin’ Out” 4:38
Total length: 18:22
Side three (Concerto for a Rainy Day)
No. Title Length
1. “Standin’ in the Rain” 4:20
2. “Big Wheels” 5:10
3. “Summer and Lightning” 4:13
4. “Mr. Blue Sky” 5:05
Total length: 18:48
Side four
No. Title Length
5. “Sweet Is the Night” 3:26
6. “The Whale” (instrumental) 5:05
7. “Birmingham Blues” 4:21
8. “Wild West Hero” 4:40
Total length: 17:32

 

Schill Score:  8.5/10

 

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