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What’s So Cool About The Electric Light Orchestra [Playlist]

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norm3 Norm Winer
XRT Program Director Progressive Radio and New Media Programmer...
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[pullquote quote="ELO (and/or The Move) was a 'Featured Artist' on the early WXRT a total of 35 times through 1988." credit="Norm Winer, XRT Program Director"]Some cultural phenomena are hard to explain. The resurgence in recent years of artists like Hall & Oates, who were in the prime of their career decades ago, can easily be overanalyzed. Other than an artist’s death, or some other tragedy, it’s hard to predict renewed interest on the part of the public. But nowadays YouTube and other media can literally rejuvenate an artist’s finest moments and restore their place in the eyes and ears of the public, including subsequent generations of new fans who may have never previously had access to these performers and their hit songs.

That would explain the recent worldwide rediscovery of the Electric Light Orchestra, a group formed in the early 70′s by Roy Wood of one of the UK’s great rock bands, The Move, and Jeff Lynne, of The Idle Race.

Their initial “Eleanor Rigby”- like string arrangements set them apart from other bands, and their career was marked by having an unprecedented string (pun intended) of combined UK and U.S. Top 40 hits from 1972 to 1986. During the course of their career, they were more popular in the U.S. than in their native U.K. It should be noted that their album output, especially 1971-1977 was marked by an impressive number of songs embraced by then FM “progressive” rock stations. In fact, ELO (and/or The Move) was a “Featured Artist” on the early WXRT a total of 35 times (!) through 1988.

Admittedly, other than on Saturday Morning Flashback, their recordings have been absent from XRT since the early ’90s, but since our role is to reflect the tastes of our listeners, we are poised and ready to bring them back to the airwaves, by popular demand. We eagerly await your input.

In the meantime, here are my personal choices for ten ELO songs that have stood the test of time:

1- Nightrider from Face the Music (1975) Love the cinematic quality of the string arrangements. Pretty sure St. Vincent borrowed these on her latest CD.

2- Showdown from On the Third Day (1973) Worthy addition to the library of rock & roll “rain” songs, with a veiled apocalyptic quality.

3- Mr. Radio from No Answer (1971-72) As a huge fan of The Move, I eagerly anticipated the debut of Roy Wood’s new band. Throw in a song that starts with the sound of tuning a radio, and I was sold!

4- So Fine from A New World Record (1976) Not a fan of most of their Top 40 hits, but this one has a lot going on, isn’t too wimpy or overblown and didn’t ever get overplayed.

5- Turn to Stone from Out of the Blue (1977) When you hear this one, it stays in your head all day. Not a classic, by any means, but irresistible.

6- Tightrope from A New World Record (1976) A lot of stuff going on here too. Dramatic strings, good hooks. ELO is at their best when there’s a range of dynamics.

7- Laredo Tornado from Eldorado, A Symphony (1974) Love the drama here too. Good vocals and tension with the strings.

8- New World Rising/Ocean Break-Up Reprise from On the Third Day (1973) When I was a morning DJ years ago in SF, I played this more progressive offering to ease listeners into the day. Brings back memories of watching the sunrise.

9- Boy Blue from Eldorado, A Symphony (1974) What ELO was originally all about: perfect integration of rock dynamics and classical elements. All good.

10- Roll Over Beethoven from ELO II (1973) Put this band on the map, in many ways. Neither Chuck Berry nor Ludwig Van could have ever imagined this!


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