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Author Topic: Week 9 - Electric Light Orchestra : Out of the Blue (1977)  (Read 10589 times)
James_H
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« on: March 21, 2011, 10:03:15 AM »



Back on slightly more familiar territory this week for most Fishtankers, with an absolute classic from 1977. This week, chosen by our very own Uncle Bulgaria.

This is a personal favourite of mine as it brings back memories of my aunt who first played it to me whilst driving around the Kentish countryside in her car. She had the vinyl edition with the cut-out spaceships and everything!  Smiley

Anyway...

Electric Light Orchestra - Out of The Blue

1. "Turn to Stone"   3:47
2. "It's Over"   4:08
3. "Sweet Talkin' Woman"   3:47
4. "Across the Border"   3:52

Side Two

5. "Night in the City"   4:02
6. "Starlight"   4:30
7. "Jungle"   3:51
8. "Believe Me Now"   1:21
9. "Steppin' Out"   4:38

Side Three (Concerto for a Rainy Day)

10. "Standin' in the Rain"   4:20
11. "Big Wheels"   5:10
12. "Summer and Lightning"   4:13
13. "Mr. Blue Sky"   5:05

Side Four

14. "Sweet Is the Night"   3:26
15. "The Whale"   5:05
16. "Birmingham Blues"   4:21
17. "Wild West Hero"   4:40

Quote

Jeff Lynne wrote the entire album in three and a half weeks after a sudden burst of creativity while hidden away in his rented chalet in the Swiss Alps. It took a further two months to record in Munich. The album had 4,000,000 pre-ordered copies and quickly went multi-Platinum upon release. Out of the Blue spawned five hit singles in different countries, and was ELO's most commercially successful studio album. It was also the first double album in the history of the UK music charts to generate four top twenty hit singles. Side three of the original double LP consisted of the symphonic Concerto for a Rainy Day, composed of four separate tracks which together made up a cohesive suite. The inclement weather effects heard on "Concerto" were real and recorded by Jeff Lynne during a very rainy summer in Munich 1977. The Concerto suite would be Lynne's last dabbling in symphonic rock.

Jeff Lynne considers A New World Record and Out of the Blue to be the group's crowning achievements and both sold extremely well, reaching multi-platinum according to RIAA Certification. Capital Radio and The Daily Mirror Rock and Pop Awards (forerunner to The Brit Awards) named it "Album of the Year" in 1978. Jeff Lynne, the album's composer, received his first Ivor Novello award for Outstanding Contributions to British Music the same year.

The large spaceship on the album's cover (by now symbolic of the group) was designed by Kosh with art by Shusei Nagaoka. It was based on the logo Kosh designed for ELO's previous album, A New World Record which connected with Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind fever. It also looks like a space station with a docking shuttle from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).The number JTLA 823 L2 which is featured on the shuttle arriving at the space station is the original catalogue number for the album. The album also included an insert of a cardboard cutout of the space station as well as a fold-out poster of the band members. The space theme was carried onto the live stage in the form of a huge glowing flying saucer stage set, inside which the band performed.

Side three of the release is subtitled "Concerto for a Rainy Day", a four track musical suite based on the weather and how it affects mood change, ending gloriously with the eventual sunshine and happiness of "Mr. Blue Sky". This was inspired by Jeff Lynne's experience while trying to write songs for the album against torrential rain outside his Swiss Chalet.

"Standin' in the Rain" opens with a haunting keyboard over a recording of real rain, recorded by Jeff Lynne just outside his rented studio. Also heard at the 30 second point of the song marking the beginning of The Concerto is thunder crackling in an unusual manner voicing the words "Concerto for a Rainy Day" by the band's keyboardist, Richard Tandy. ELO used the song to open their 1978 Out Of The Blue concerts.

"Big Wheels" forms the second part of the Concerto for a Rainy Day suite and continues with the theme of the weather and reflection followed by the more optimistic third part "Summer and Lightning". Apart from its inclusion on the Out Of The Blue album, the song has never appeared on any compilation or B-sides until 2000, when Jeff Lynne, the song's composer, included it on the group's retrospective album Flashback.

"Summer and Lightning" is the third song in the "Concerto for a Rainy Day" suite. The raining weather theme is continued throughout the track though the mood and lyrics are more optimistic eventually leading on to the classic finale of...

"Mr. Blue Sky" is the finale of "Concerto for a Rainy Day". It is an uplifting, lively song celebrating sunshine. It is the only piece from the Concerto to be excerpted as a single. In the last orchestral note, the phrase "Please Turn Me O-ver" spoken through a vocoder can be heard (This bit has been misheard repeatedly as "Mr. Blue Sky, why?", but original keyboardist Richard Tandy confirmed the actual lyric to members of the Showdown ELO fan list). (This is an instruction for owners of the original vinyl album to turn it over to listen to the following side.)
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Uncle Bulgaria
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« Reply #1 on: March 21, 2011, 10:18:16 AM »

This was the first record I ever deliberately went out and bought with my own money. It was £2.99 - quite a sum to a ten year old in 1978.

It had the press-out  and build spaceship which adorned my bedroom for many a long year. Sadly it's one of those things that does disappear throughout life, like the stickers from Darkside of the Moon. I can't Ebay everything.

Musically it was a revelation. I had one of those big padded box record players with the speaker on the front, so for years I only had this in mono, but even then it was an amazingly big sound.

I was a big Abba fan at the time I got Out of the Blue - I'm still a sucker for lush harmonies.

Okay I admit that the pretty cover did sway me a little, but also hearing Mr Blue Sky on my little plastic radio helped. I think the vocoder swung it.

It's not absolutely flawless. I find Starlight a little insipid, and Stepping Out is pretty much exactly the same song as Sweet is the Night, albeit a very fine song.

It was the oddities - Jungle and Wild West Hero that really turned this into an interesting album I played again and again.

And of course Concerto for a Rainy Day - genius to put the BIG song at the end of side three. I find it hard to listen to Mr Blue Sky without internally backfilling the whole of side three (and for me it will always be side three).

It's still one of my favourite albums, hence the nomination. Without it I wouldn't have appreciated possibly harder fare such as The Wall and 2112 which came into my consciousness the following year. And in all likelihood my musical appreciation may have drifted off in other directions.
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« Reply #2 on: March 21, 2011, 10:18:37 AM »

Usual place for the link.
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« Reply #3 on: March 21, 2011, 12:10:04 PM »

I think that this came out while I was in the 6th form.  I always felt that ELO produced good songs, but they were generally despised at school by the metal-heads for not being LedZep or Deep Purple, and by prog-rockers for not being Yes or Genesis.

I never had the money to buy music then but I did listen to the radio all the time, and ELO were a mainstay.  I'll look forward to getting home and listening to this.  For the first time for over 30 years.
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« Reply #4 on: March 21, 2011, 12:12:55 PM »

Ah, possibly the most influential album I own. I received a copy of Out Of The Blue as a gift from my parents back when I broke both of my arms when falling of a roof. The reason for me wanting this particular album as opposed to say, Slade, Sweet or Mud (who I loved as a kid) was that my best mate at the time called Geoff owned a copy and whatever Geoff had, I wanted too.

I couldn't quite understand back then the concept behind the album format. To me it seemed a waste that all the music contained within wouldn't be released as singles but gradually I began to understand that albums didn't work that way and they were in fact, a thing unto themselves.

Being a young and impressionable (almost) teenager, I began to devour everything about this record; the cover design and the little details e.g. the unfinished section of the space station on the back cover, all the crew members on the bridge of the ship in the gatefold were members of ELO, etc.

The music itself was a revelation, it felt like every kind of genre of music I was interested in at the time was catered for within its four sides; classical music (Side 3ís Concerto For A Rainy Day), rock and roll (Birmingham Blues,  Across The Border & Night In The City), pop (Turn To Stone & Sweet Talking Woman), esoteric (The Whale),  power ballads (Wild West Hero & Sweet Is The Night Ė the latter being one of my favourite ELO tracks of all time)  and even bizarre faux world music (Jungle). As a side note: I nicked the idea of the alarm clock going off at the end of Wide Awake At Midnight directly from the end of this song.

Despite the wide array of styles and genres, Louis Clarkeís string arrangements and engineer Mackís trademark wet haddock drum sound gave all four sides a unifying feel which makes Out Of The Blue quite unlike any other ELO album before or since.

I know every guitar lick, drum fill, backing vocal harmony and bass run by heart and even though I probably havenít listened to this album from start to finish in around 20 years, I recognise everything as if it were an old friend and yet Iím still hearing new things pop out of the song mix even today as I listen through it on my iPod. What strikes me most about this record is how well the tracks sequence over all 4 sides. There isnít a single track which doesnít lead perfectly into the next one.

Thereís even the trademark ELO secret message (one seems to be included on almost every album they made) during Mr Blue Sky with the vocoder voice asking to Ďplease turn me overí in the dying seconds of the song that leads you to flip the old vinyl disk and place the needle down onto groove for Sweet Is The Night. Great stuff.

Jeff and the chaps got it absolutely right didnít they? Grin
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« Reply #5 on: March 21, 2011, 12:35:14 PM »

ooh, much fun!!
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« Reply #6 on: March 21, 2011, 01:49:16 PM »

Brilliant album; a masterpiece. Will give it a thorough seeing to later in the week.
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« Reply #7 on: March 21, 2011, 02:32:57 PM »

Do you know... I don't think I have ever listened to this as a whole.  Really looking forward to it.  Love ELO.  Well the hits anyway.  Had a fabulous time many moons ago seeing Orkestra at T&C? and also seeing ELO Part 2 at Minehead Butlins.  That was a great drunken weekend of my youth!
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« Reply #8 on: March 21, 2011, 02:52:04 PM »

I only ever got to see ELO Part II, although that was the Wembley gig with the full Moscow Symphony Orchestra.
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« Reply #9 on: March 21, 2011, 08:31:06 PM »

This is an absolute classic.  Full of SONGS with TUNES.  Wonderfully produced as well.  Lovely harmonies. 

I recall that "Please Turn Me Over" bit because the DJs on Capital Radio were claiming it said "Mr Blue Sky" for several weeks (when I could hear it plainly did not).  Then Roger Scott (I think) came out and said that it said "Please Turn Me Over".

I've never owned this album, but I can recall every song.  It really is a classic of 1970s popular (as opposed to pop) music.  This was a time you could be both "pop" and "prog" at the same time - well, at least you could in retrospect - 10cc, Queen, Supertramp.

This album is £4-20 on play - how could I say no at that price.
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« Reply #10 on: March 21, 2011, 08:59:53 PM »

Topper choice.
As soon as the voting buttons turn up I can finally say "got it 'n' love it".

I too took in every little detail of the packaging of this when it came out. Great stuff.
The only small fly in the oitment is that I can't hear it without recalling the rather badly produced/edited concert footage which was a tad spoiled by done-for-the-sake-of-it effects..."we've bought this new fangled video editing desk and we are going to use every last fangle...at least twice!" Not the band's doing I'm sure.
Any road, I'll fish out my CD of this and the journeys to/from work will be all the brighter for it. Smiley
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« Reply #11 on: March 22, 2011, 09:29:35 PM »

think I'll stick to the greatest hits, but nice to hear it in full
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« Reply #12 on: March 22, 2011, 10:23:40 PM »

Hooorah!! one already on the ipod so doesn't take me 4 days to download / reload/ stream etc

been listening to this one in bits and pieces as it came round on the shuffle for a while now..... perfect excuse to listen to it whole for a change....

Whoopee bring on tomorrow's walk to work...
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« Reply #13 on: March 23, 2011, 12:23:12 PM »

I got this on vinyl from my one of my uncles when he passed on his collection to me. All I knew of the band at that point was Mr. Blue Sky, but the incredible artwork was enough to reel me in and give the whole thing a listen. When we moved up North in 2006 and I started sixth form college, the Limited Edition 30th Anniversary release was one of the first things I bought with my EMA. Again, it was thanks to the artwork and packaging. The version I got came in a hardback book and had the cardboard cut-out spaceship re-instated within the pages. I finally gave it a few good proper listens and began to fully appreciate the music.

I'm really looking forward to listening to this again as I've been meaning to for a while now. The track I always go back to is The Whale, which I think is a superb piece of music. I absolutely love it. Imagine my surprise and joy when I was walking back to my flat a year-and-a-bit ago and heard it being blasted out of the pub next door.  Cheesy
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« Reply #14 on: March 23, 2011, 12:49:47 PM »

Altho' a big fan of the really early ELO stuff, which I still play, I'd gone off them a bit by the time this came out. However, my girlfriend at the time got tickets for the infamous Wembley Space Ship show for her birthday, so I got to see that, even though I wasn't that keen on going. They still seemed a bit to "poppish" for me as I was comfortably riding the NWOBHM at the time. After reading all the comments here, I'll have to give it a go with my more (ahem) mature ears!

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