Play at full volume on a warm sound system and hear the amazing details on this album. Overall this record is probably the most richly analog sounding album Electric Light Orchestra ever released. I absolutely love the albums that followed this one, but they represent a more fabricated kind of sound. The one sounds like a band, with huge drums and real electric guitars. And strings. 🙂
Two discrete channels of cloud-shifting “weird”, lead into the string intro and obscurely spoken opening narrative (is that a harp?) If you’ve got this record turned up, you know you’re in for a ride when the drum roll starts and the orchestration explodes into descending violin figures. This is the beginning of the dream.
Can’t Get It Out Of My Head
Written on piano, this song is haunting in a way that’s hard to explain. It’s like seeing something you thought was there, but then it wasn’t. And you can’t forget it. Jeff Lynne’s metallic vocal floats over the bed of drums, bass, orchestra, and choir. Listen for the “ghost” harmony on the chorus.
Introduced by a seemingly incongruous orchestral part, alternating with swirling and plucked strings, and trumpets, the distorted narration briefly appears over the keyboard and violins. About a minute in, this is revealed to be a tightly rehearsed, guitar-driven rock song – a lot like Do Ya (which appeared two albums later) in spirit. Superb organic clattering drums, weird interludes and detours between the verses, and wiry slide guitar at the very end are just some of the surprises in this rich track.
One of my favorites on the album, you can play this one loud and feel how great a band leader Lynne was. It’s coy up until the chorus and then takes off with the pounding drums and vocals that tread the line between full chest power and falsetto (similar to the chorus on All Over The World). This track just has an impressive rock groove and sweeps you away in its storm of sound.
Poor Boy (The Greenwood)
This charming acoustic Robin Hood paean gets the full backing orchestral treatment. There is something Lennon-esque about the delivery of the third verse (“sweet maid Marion…”) The vocals are actually mixed down a little toward the end, swept away in the ocean of choir and strings.
Liquid keyboard and vocal start off this subtly brilliant song. Lynne frequently comes up with beautiful verse melodies, and downplays them behind swelling productions. If you turn it way up, you can hear it all and get the full effect of the dynamics in a track like this. Listen for the low, plucked strings on the second verse, and the double tracked vocals.
The Overture theme introduces this eerie old-west kind of song. Listen for the high piano solo in the middle, and the slow groove of the bass and drums. The transition to the next track is sudden!
Illusions In G Major
The most straightforward rocker on the album, Lynne’s vocal is drenched in echo and guitars are blazing with crunch and power. It’s a bit of an odd fit with the dreamy, orchestral sound predominant on the album, but adds a measure of eclecticism just before the farewell.
Story-wise, this is a sad return to the real world and an aching and defiant refusal to remain. Eldorado – the golden city – awaits. Listen for the river-like melody of the verses, and the power of Lynne’s bellowing chorus. The track conjures a windstorm of sound and leads like stepping stones into the closing reprise.
The powerful opening theme concludes the album musically, and the distorted narration makes a final appearance, referencing the “unwoken fool” high on a hill in Eldorado.
A wild trip of an album. Certainly one of the greatest fusions of rock and orchestral sound ever recorded, and just full of great songs.