Time Album Story (1981): Electric Light Orchestra (ELO)
At the start of the 80s, ELO has changed significantly, if we compare it with the beginning of the path. The dissonance is especially strong in comparison with the work of The Move at the end of the 60s, which changed English mass rock to original power rock with a riff base without solo parts. At the turn of the decade, after the emergence of Jeff Lynn, ELO was considered by The Move leader Roy Wood as an opportunity to embody a new idea - combining effects from the world of rock with classical music. There was a time when the profits received by The Move from studio recordings were completely spent on the recording of ELO albums. These were two projects at the same time: young people were so overwhelmed with emotions and a thirst for realization. The idea was notable for its originality, it continued to be implemented after the departure of Roy Wood, although Lynn, who took on the role of leader, gravitated towards rock and roll. But violins and cellos distinguished ELO for a long time: in parallel with the guitar fragments, rock arrangements of the classics were recorded. All this ensured success with fans.
Gradually and unobtrusively, the group leaned towards lyricism. By the end of the 70s, she made an attempt to organically give out disco motifs - it was then “in trend”. Like many others, the group also experienced a punk craze, but this period of synthesis ended around 1981. The album "Time" turned out to be a powerful breakthrough: it was some kind of special combination of rock and pop music. Synthesizers played an active role, and even the drummer in the style of a drum machine did not reduce the density and virtuosity of the sound.
The album was conceived as a concept album - quite in the tradition of ELO. His theme was time travel. The prologue was the song "Twilight", where an application was made for a new sound - synthesizers dominated, the composition of the song remained classical (in the form of a verse-chorus), however, the variety of melodies was very wide, and with vocal polyphony. The guitars remained somewhere in the background, the solo parts were absent. It was like the best version of The Move, but with an upbeat charge. Lynn nevertheless returned to the roots again, only on a new round, having completed the revision of the plans of Roy Wood and The Move.
After the prologue and drums of "Yours Truly 2095", the song "Ticket to the Moon" began, which became a hit. It's like echoes of the past: there are no synthesizers, but the piano part is captivating. There are guitar fragments, Mika Kaminsky's violin and the tonality is such that it sticks in memory almost immediately. A small choral synth-polyphonic insert in the middle of the performance brings us back to reality from a futuristically directed album, but the song itself gives energy in this new world full of mysteries and uncertainty.
With the end of the lyrical fragment, there is no hasty leap into the illusory world of the future, the musicians suddenly plunge into the origins even deeper and give out the song "The Way Life's Meant to Be", sounding in the style of Buddy Holly of the late 50s with an acoustic guitar, only with a more modern sound . This will be repeated on the other side - in the song "Hold On Tight", as if performed by Roy Orbison in disco rhythms, but in early rock and roll style with a powerful guitar fragment and piano.
The A-side closes with "Another Heart Breaks", a synth tune in a minor key that reduces the excitement of fantasizing about the future. The song tends towards advanced rock, and the newly emerged drum machine does not smooth this impression.
The opening of the second side is the impressive and grandiose slow "Rain is Falling", with a prologue in the form of a piano piece, but creating a sense of otherworldliness due to solo modulations. Pianos are replaced by synthesizers, literally enveloping the voice part. The composition is saturated with lyricism, while the minor begins to grow and creates a certain tension. In the finale, a rather heavy disco sounds - a unique fragment of the entire album.
Apocalyptic notes are replaced by a new birth in light reggae - "The Lights Go Down". The entire palette of styles implemented by the musicians organically merges into something whole. The group has surpassed itself: it has combined the incompatible - a spectrum of styles, rhythmic patterns and genre features, sometimes contradictory. It's really unique, and certainly represents the central moment of the album, the climax.
In the middle of the second side, another mega-popular composition is recorded - "Here's the News". Its beginning is the sound of synthesizers, and this basis will be preserved throughout the composition. However, it is art-rock. This is evidenced by the rhythm sections and drummers in moments of high tension. Lynn's voice is tense and exciting, the synth riff is heard at different levels and in different variations, but he dubs the same musical syntagma over and over again.
This is the song that clearly illustrates: the role of ELO in the development of electronic music is really great. They remained original and retained their uniqueness.
In Here's the News, a frightening picture of the future is recreated rather repulsively, but the subsequent song compensates for this feeling with faith in the representative of the new century. The title of the song is "21st Century Man" and it's very similar to the ending, although there will still be a sequel after that. The song gives the impression of being acoustic, although the presence of synthesizers is clearly audible, but the sound is absolutely clear and strong. How is this possible? Synthesizers seem to belong to a violin group, and therefore their sound is appropriate.
The forecast of the man of the new century is followed by "Hold on Tight", a nostalgic composition for Roy Orbison's irretrievably gone time. In the previous track, the bright sound of melodic fragments, prologue and epilogue is noticeable, and the general mood from this song is ascending, it's like a result. However, the band members decided to create a different composition. According to the conceptual idea of the album, the cycle ends with an epilogue, where the dynamic "Hold on Tight" smoothly transitions. The epilogue duplicates the sound of the opening of both "Twilight" and "21st Century Man", but with the voice and guitar solo in the background, it's another strong reference to progressive rock. The group is difficult to attribute to this direction, however, its motives and spirit in the work of the musicians of the Electric Light Orchestra are very tangible.
The secret and success of the album
All this speaks of the ELO phenomenon in a rather difficult year in the history of music in 1981. In the 80s, every domestic rock and even heavy metal fan took this album with absolutely no problems and put it on his personal top list. Many had no idea what kind of music the group played in the early 70s and what direction they belonged to. However, the musicians created something that deserved everyone's attention: not even in the style of rock, but it attracted and for a certain moment reconciled fans of completely different directions in music. And this is the greatest merit: in expanding the musical horizons of a whole generation, embodying bright and original eclecticism in one. This album is a truly impressive journey through time, as well as a jump into the desired future, represented by those distant people of the 80s. The album sounded and still sounds very deep, accurate, sincere, and its relevance does not decrease with the passage of time. It is that it contains important meanings, and not for one, but for many generations.