ELO – Eldorado, A Symphony (1974)

Electric Light Orchestra – Eldorado, A Symphony (1974)

Imagine the band meeting: ‘OK guys, we’re gonna fuse rock with classical elements and try to make music that picks up where The Beatles left off. Let’s see how we go. There’s no pressure.’ ELO set out to make this ambitious concept a reality. When ELO co-founder Roy Wood left the band during the recording of the second album (ELO 2 [1973]), Jeff Lynne took over the reins and continued the original vision of the band. In the late 70s, they would become one of the biggest platinum selling acts of the time with their signature lush productions and immaculately crafted disco-tinged pop. The albums A New World Record (1976) and the epic Out of the Blue (1977) yielded the hits: “Telephone Line”, “Livin’ Thing”, “Turn to Stone”, “Sweet Talkin’ Woman” and “Mr. Blue Sky”. But I reckon their fourth album, Eldorado, is the hidden gem that accomplishes their original objective most successfully. Jeff Lynne is a seriously talented guy. He is a brilliant songwriter (and arranger), a master producer, and has one of the most versatile voices in the world of rock/pop. Not only can he emulate Lennon/McCartney, but he also channels David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and The Beach Boys.Eldorado is a concept album, and its neo-prog structures are full of ornate orchestrations that fashion an atmosphere fit for an Off-Broadway smash. “Can’t Get It Out Of My Head” is a beautifully paced slice of Beatles-esque balladry, and one of ELO’s stand-out songs. (When Jeff sings: ‘Breakdown, on the shoreline’, and the ghostly keyboards kick in, you can even imagine Radiohead or The Flaming Lips covering this song.) The instantly catchy “Boy Blue” (like “Poor Boy”) bounds along like something from Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue. There are theatrical falsetto hints of Freddie Mercury and David Bowie in “Laredo Tornado”. In “Mister Kingdom” one can hear traces of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”/ “Strawberry Fields” and also Pink Floyd’s “Echoes”. The album is bracketed with the orchestral ‘Overture’ and ‘Finale’, but the last vocal track “Eldorado” is the song that seals this victory at the finish line. This is a great song. And here, again, we witness Jeff Lynne’s chameleon vocal-chords shift from Lennon-like soul in the verses, to soaring Roy Orbison heights in the chorus. Really incredible stuff. ELO are often viewed as a little corny by a lot of people, but I’m here to tell you that they’re wrong. ELO are one of the great bands that gave us a unique blend of ambitious pop that ranks up there with The Beach Boys, Pink Floyd, Queen, David Bowie, Abba, The Bee Gees and all those other 70s artists who managed to achieve mass-appeal by creating music that outlived the satin flares and platforms and beards and afros and light-shows.