Review: Out of the Blue by Electric Light Orchestra (1977)

Jeff Lynne’s actual spaceship.

You probably know a bunch of the songs from this album already. It’s the one that’s got Mr. Blue Sky on it. You DO know that song. Don’t begin to pretend that you don’t.

What makes Out of the Blue a special album is that it manages to be a mostly cohesive record despite having so many well-known songs on it. A song like Jungle, for instance, is just as fantastic as Sweet Talkin’ Woman or the aforementioned Mr. Blue Sky.

All that said, this is not a perfect album. It’s not unlike if you happened to be making yourself some noodles. You start out with the pack, you think to yourself, “I’m just going to have myself a nice and simple noodle meal.” As those are boiling, you start getting some pretty grand ideas. You throw in all sorts of fantastic things, things you’ve never seen before, brilliant combinations of herb and spice that blow your mind.

The problem here is that you’re eventually going to run out of inventive ways to use that star anise in the back of the cupboard. There are definite signs of brilliance throughout the album, despite a relatively plain start (Sweet Talkin’ Woman is where it really picks up), and it all culminates in the original Side Three of the album – the Concerto for a Rainy Day suite – featuring the inevitable Mr. Blue Sky.

Unfortunately, what goes up must come down. The final four songs are by no means bad but they do suffer somewhat for their placement in the album. After you’ve just gone and stuck the best song in the whole world partway through your album, what are you going to do?

Sweet Is the Night is probably the best of the bunch and bears a slight resemblance to the Smashing Pumpkins’ Sweet Sweet (from Siamese Dream). The Whale is a very nice instrumental that helps tuck the album in for bed, with Birmingham Blues and Wild West Hero being the final romp before sleepytime.

Now, I don’t mean to distract from the other songs on the album at all, I just feel there’s not much you can say about such absolutely, undeniably great songs that they don’t already say for themselves.

What does surprise me about the album (and Jeff Lynne’s output as a whole) is that a lot of the material is a bit on the melancholy side, something that is obviously evident in It’s Over, with even Wild West Hero expressing some deep longing.

“My life is pain.”

It’s this that helps to elevate the album from the cheesy pop-prog relic that it could be – it can be a bit of a shock in 2013 to hear music so shamelessly poppy alluding to something far darker in itself.

That’s not to say that Out of the Blue is an Alice in Chains-style dirge-fest, but ELO can often be unfairly dismissed on the basis of what’s heard on classic rock radio. If you don’t already own it then pick up this album (it’s cheap!) and decide for yourself, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

Out of the Blue track list:

  1. Turn to Stone
  2. It’s Over
  3. Sweet Talkin’ Woman
  4. Across the Border
  5. Night in the City
  6. Starlight
  7. Jungle
  8. Believe Me Now
  9. Steppin’ Out
  10. Concerto for a Rainy Day: Standin’ in the Rain
  11. Concerto for a Rainy Day: Big Wheels
  12. Concerto for a Rainy Day: Summer and Lightning
  13. Concerto for a Rainy Day: Mr. Blue Sky
  14. Sweet Is the Night
  15. The Whale
  16. Birmingham Blues
  17. Wild West Hero
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