Dad Rock Bi-Weekly: Electric Light Orchestra – Out of the Blue

By Jessica Jones, Staff Writer
[Epic; 1977]
Original Release Date: Oct. 3, 1977

Using orchestral instruments and opera influences as the base for a rock album isn’t something most people would think of as being successful, but that wasn’t the case for Electric Light Orchestra frontman, Jeff Lynne. Out of the Blue, ELO ’s seventh studio album, was commercially the most successful album to come from the British rock group. With four million pre-orders and five hit singles, Out of the Blue proves that experimental can be upstanding and has the power to influence the future generations of the music world.

Read more: Dad Rock Bi-Weekly: Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Written entirely by Jeff Lynne in just under four weeks, the band seemed to have truly solidified their sound within this album. Following the success and positive reception of their previous album, A New World Record, ELO continues on with the use of strings, operatic sections, and orchestral sounds. The idea behind the band had always been to fuse together the exciting, bright moments of rock with the preciseness of classical music. This unique blend of two different genres provides listeners with an extraordinary distinct sound. Layers upon layers of music flawlessly melt into one another, with sometimes using as many as 250 tracks of instrumental and vocals in each song.

The double album features four sides, with side three being affectionately named Concerto for a Rainy Day, a four-movement suite about weather and the moods surrounding it. Each movement is it’s own song, beginning with “Standing in the Rain” and “Big Wheels”. Real recordings of thunder and rain can be heard in both of these songs, while the lyrics describe the heartache and sorrow one goes through during a breakup. The latter half of Concerto is more uplifting, ending with “Summer and Lightning” and the famous “Mr. Blue Sky”. Lynne was inspired to write this suite after being trapped inside his home during a particularly rainy period while writing the album. Perhaps the most popular song to come from the album, “Mr. Blue Sky” wins over hearts with its undeniably catchy beat and magical guitar solos, celebrating sunny days and good times to come. At the very end, a voice can be heard saying “please turn me over” signaling the end of side three and Concerto. Genius. Other than “Mr. Blue Sky”, another well known single was “Turn To Stone”, released right in the middle of the disco craze. A fun, fast-paced dance number full of strings and subtle cymbal crashes. “Sweet Talkin’ Woman” peaked at number six on the UK charts and 17 in the US, another violin-heavy song utilizing synth wherever possible.

While they may not be the most well-known band when it comes to pop-rock of the 70s, Electric Light Orchestra lives up to its name. Incorporating a full orchestra sound into nearly every song is a bold choice that not only paid off but inspired generations of music to come. ELO’s impressive discography is one that shouldn’t be overlooked; the beautiful imagery and range of lush, deep sections of music, as well as bright funk-pop ensure that this album is worth the listen.

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