on December 6, 2003
Electric Light Orchestra were quite a phenomenon in, and throughout the 70s with their catchy, infectious harmonies blended with lush orchestral arrangements. However, not unlike their contemporaries, they were also the source of infamy for the many ambitions that typified that respective decade: mythological/fantasty-oriented lyrics, overblown orchestral arrangements, spectacles (including a live tour featuring members playing inside of a flying saucer) and other such things, but regardless, ELO have created some wonderful music that continues to be enjoyed by many.
Talented singer, guitarist and main songwriter Jeff Lynne set out to create a concept album about the "going's on in a dream world." Thus, ELDORADO: A SYMPHONY BY THE ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA (1974) was born. One thing that struck me about this album was the cover art featuring a girl with red shoes, and how it reminded me of Dorothy and her magical "ruby slippers" in THE WIZARD OF OZ.
To try and describe the music to someone who possibly hasn't heard this, or anything by ELO before without possibly sinking into lowest common denominator territory (in the pejorative sense), their music resembles The Beatles in slight traces, particularly in the vocals (Jeff Lynne's vocal mannerisms at times resemble John and Paul), while everything else seems quite unique and futuristic. This album in particular recalls some Beatle elements, while reminding one even more of The Moody Blues; particularly their DAYS OF FUTURE PASSED (1967) album, where a concept was consistent, and lush orchestration could be heard through many of the songs; as interludes, as segues, and as a backdrop to blend naturally into the atmosphere of each track. However, ELO don't necessarily sound *like* The Beatles and The Moody Blues, but elements of these two bands can be traced in some of their music.
"Eldorado Overture" starts this album off as an exciting orchestral instrumental, and in typical overture fashion, features snippets of songs that will appear later in the album. The beginning features a robotic voice, before slipping into some exciting orchestral passages. Then, comes the lovely hit "Can't Get It Out of My Head," which bears some small traces of The Beatles, with the switches from major to 7th modes, and the vocal mannerisms. "Boy Blue" is a sunny number with lovely vocal harmonies, and a breathtaking instrumental section with elegant piano, violin and strings to resemble some of the elegant works of Beethoven or Schubert. This track is probably one of the earliest examples of a *condensed* prog-rock track, along with the impressive contrasts, the complex arrangements, and the infectiousness of it all. Fabulous track.
To enhance my point on the chameleonic ability of Jeff Lynne's voice, "Laredo Tornado" features vocals that recall Todd Rundgren. The song doesn't sound too radically different in style to a Rundgren song either. A sophisticated pop track highlighted by Jeff's compelling falsetto on the chorus, as well as the orchestration underpinned by a funky drum beat.
Elsewhere, "Mr. Kingdom" is a beautiful, haunting, atmospheric number with lovely chord changes (the Bbmin6-ish chord is an excellent touch), orchestration, and vocals, while later tracks like "Illusions in G Major," are pure rock n' rollers -- with the orchestration. The title track is probably the most poignant lyrically, as it deals with the dreamer, and his wish to escape reality, and withdraw back into his dreamworld. The instrumentation is generally of a melancholic, minor tone, and Jeff Lynne's vocal mannerisms, and the piano tones bring some slight resemblance to Queen, and it's lead singer, Freddie Mercury.
The bonus tracks on this release feature an instrumental medley of many of the tracks on this disc, as well as a brief piece that showcases the formative beginnings of what would become "Laredo Tornado" (listed as "Dark City.")
I'm not sure who to recommend this to, as the music on here is multi-dimensional, and features more than the sum of it's parts would possibly indicate. Think of a futuristic Beatles, with more orchestral leanings. Think of the Moody Blues with more of a 70s flavor (as opposed to a 60s flavor.) Chances are if you like The Beatles, The Moody Blues, Todd Rundgren, Supertramp, or imaginative rock with ample orchestration and subtle amalgamations, you may like ELO.
on June 22, 2001
Well, I finally got this album, not totally knowing exactly what to expect, but having a vague idea as of what to expect. After I heard the actual album (before listening to the bonus tracks), my first impression is WOW!
It has been a long time since an album has had a strong first impression on me. The orchestra worked so seamlessly with the band, and the songs are very memorable...just as well as the arrangements. They definitely hit upon something with this album.
The opening overture is very lush and beautiful, and then it goes into full gear with the strings up at maximum volume and IN YOUR FACE. And it does all this without losing its delicateness or its acoustic power. Kudos to Louis Clark and Richard Tandy and of course Jeff Lynne for writing well for orchestra.
Can't Get It Out Of My Head is the obvious single from the album. There's not much I can say about this, but on the remastered version, it brings the sweetness of this ballad some new life, which is actually something that comes to life on all the remasters that I've heard so far.
Boy Blue starts out with a nice cadenza from the brass and the strings countering with their little nice bits. Also, a nice harp bit in this as well. Then goes into a nice rocker with some pretty cool guitar licks from Jeff.
Laredo Tornado is a nice soulful tune where the strings get a bit jazzy. Nice tune with some cool falsetto from Jeff.
Poor Boy (The Greenwood) is nice as well. It shows one of the big tunes from the album where everything climaxes towards the end, and the main theme of the album comes back that was heard previously from the Overture.
Mr. Kingdom is a nice ballad that has nice string work and some beautiful arrangements throughout.
Nobody's Child is a nice bluesy tune with the choir keeping it in the symphonic realm. The strings defintiely show off their soulful stance on this number. This would sound really good if he had done it today.
Illusions in G Major - A hardcore 50s type rock and roll number. This one really shows that the band can really rock, and he brings the orchestra along for the ride.
Eldorado...well, it's the title song, and it's also the song that really shows that the main character doesn't want to leave the world that he has explored throughout the album. I don't really blame him. I wouldn't want the album to end either, but it must...and so it does with the
Eldorado Finale. An awesome revisit to the main theme, with a nice finish from the entire orchestra and the choir and the band as well. Very classically influenced rock and roll, and a fitting end to this masterpiece.
The bonus tracks basically feature a nice "cliff's notes" of the album, at least instrumentally. The Eldorado Instrumental Medley is a nice sumnation of the whole album. Well put together, and very full of life and panoramic in its scope and sound quality.
Dark City (demo of Laredo Tornado) is a nice place to see where that song started and finally hear what changes took place when you hear the actual song.
All in all, it's a wonderful album. Nice concept album of a man in a dream world, who lives and breathes in the dream world and then finds himself back in the doldrums of reality, choosing to go back to the world that he loved...many people can relate to that story. I know I can.
Not many rock bands can actually adapt their style with a full symphony orchestra, but then again, ELO is not really a typical rock band. Call it prog, call it classic rock, call it symphonic rock, call it whatever you like. I call it good music.
on September 10, 2000
I've recently become reacquainted with this recording, which I first fell in love with at the age of 12-13. It's funny that we live in an age that has been willing to redefine the likes of Abba and the Bee Gees as respectable music -- that is, even the most superficial pop can be celebrated from a countercultural sort of mindset -- but the art-rock excesses of the 1970s are still taboo. Over the last 20 years, pretentious displays of musical erudition within the bounds of pop music have become the unforgivable sin. Accordingly, any record with a title like, "A Symphony by the Electric Light Orchestra" is going to be sneered at. So if you buy this CD, you may feel compelled to hide it from your friend who works in the record store.
This isn't the ELO of "Livin' Thing" and "Sweet Talkin' Woman." If you've come looking for ELO at their most snappily pop, you've come to the wrong place. But what *is* here is far, far more rewarding.
To be fair, pop musicians did get carried away with this stuff in the 1970s. No doubt impressed by the Beatles' ability to combine and sequence several songs seamlessly (Sgt. Pepper, Abbey Road) in a sort of medley or symphonic-movement format, as well as their ability to incorporate classical instruments into pop songs, bands from ELP to Pink Floyd to ELO to the Moody Blues all seemed to determine to show off their classical "chops" and technical wizardy, and in the course of this, the pop aesthetic was lost amid in-your-face "Look what we can do!" messages. The difference between Eldorado and most of these records is that Jeff Lynne's songs are so darn good in a purely pop way.
Jeff Lynne throws the whole kitchen sink in here -- lavish orchestrations, a choir singing backup, lyrics that steal from Shakespeare and Walter Scott, musical stylings borrowed from the soundtracks of old Hollywood. And I disagree with those who find this to be pompous; rather, it's done with a wink, and it is pure fun.
The opening strains of the record, the Eldorado Overture, sound like the soundtrack of some old 1950s film version of a Grimm's Fairy Tale. It's far too whimsical to be taken as anything other than a bit of parody, but the energy that is kicked up when the orchestra and the band get going is very real, and when the Overture settles into ELO's classic Can't Get it Out of My Head, only a callous listener could avoid being affected by it.
One thing that the CD reminds me of is how lush and distinctive was ELO's sound then, the way that Lynne combines the string section and his electrical instruments with great ingenuity. As soon as the full ensemble starts playing together halfway through the first verse of Can't Get it Out of My Head, you're reminded that nothing else sounds like this.
And there are plenty of other truly great songs on this album. Laredo Tornado is forbiddingly bluesy, and I can't quite put my finger on the style that is being riffed off of with the strings. Mister Kingdom is a lovely melody and is made more beautiful by a restrained performance of the verses. Illusions in G Major is mindless fun, and Eldorado is really a gorgeous tune, one of Lynne's best.
But even the ones that rank below those masterpieces -- Boy Blue, Poor Boy, Nobody's Child -- show off Lynne's ability to pull off impressive atmospheric styling (for instance, a film noir feel in Nobody's Child.)
Is it all too over-the-top to be a rock classic in the sense of the Rolling Stones or the Beatles' music? Indeed it is. But that doesn't diminish what Eldorado is -- a combined display of musical virtuosity and pop music composition that is nearly without parallel. Jeff Lynne went on to propel ELO to pop music stardom, but this creation of his, on the brink of that stardom, is a jewel, an expression of a talent that is no less unique and amazing simply because pop music chose afterwards to go in a different direction.
'Eldorado' is the only ELO album that accomplishes ELO's goal: to carry on where the Beatles left off with "I Am the Walrus." The production values on this album are stunning, and pack a serious punch lacking in ELO's later, more singles-oriented sound. Arrangement-wise, ELO expertly mixes real string instruments, a straightforward rock rhythm section, the occassional electric guitar, plenty of synthesisers (I hear the MiniMoog in a few instances), and some Mellotron choirs. None of which would matter if the writing were weak - but with 'Eldorado,' Jeff Lynne contributed a strong series of songs examining the conflict between fantasy and reality, escapism, hope, and depression. Thus, 'Eldorado' holds up as a true concept album and it's difficult to discuss any of the songs in isolation. This is a CD that holds up to repeated listening, compares favorably to late-period Beatles, and has its own unique identity. It's a consistently entertaining CD in which the various songs blend nicely into one another, unlike most of ELO's work.
"Mister Kingdom" is the best song here, with a chord structure and tempo similar to "Across the Universe," although with a considerably sadder message. All songs on the CD, however, are similarly concise. ELO ditched extended solos starting with this album but hadn't yet succumbed to poppier songwriting structures so, despite the melodramatic orchestration nothing seems overblown or kitschy.
For this reissue, Jeff Lynne also included two pointless bonus tracks and minimal liner notes. The first bonus track is a re-edited medley of several instrumental segments of 'Eldorado,' most likely created exclusively for this collection, and a brief demo of 'Laredo Tornado.' Neither bonus is anything special, and it's particularly disappointing that Jeff Lynne has nothing interesting to say about "Eldorado," but the CD's main content is so good that it's impossible to deduct stars because the bonuses are so weak.
on November 22, 2006
Today from one of my favorite long-term look-outs ... HIGH ON A HILL, IN ELDORADO))))))))
Don't laugh, this is one of the most magic-filled, melodic & memorable albums of the 70's in my opinion ("I CAN'T get it out of my head", damn that song for being overly infectious). Music like this does repel evil! This guy has such an ear for bridges, choruses, hooks, tie-ins and hopelessly dreamy anthems that you are left at the end gazing at your ruby red slippers in an unshakeable golden-glow trance. What a perfect blending of the technology (i.e., lots of Moogs, etc.), instrumentation, emotion and songcraft of the era.
The (30 piece) atmospheric orchestra with resonating cellos and booming lower register contrasting with the electric guitars (I enjoy his focused, structured playing), violins and Lynne's oddly soothing singing (and falsetto choruses with 20 piece choir in spots) ... "THE LOVE OF AGES FILLS THE HEAD" (Overture). The tradition of great music craft is respectfully channeled, albeit more simply for the pop song structure. Eldorado WILL take you on a journey if you let it, and messages shared lyrically (yes they are included with notes from lynne on meaning) add depth and timelessness that can't be ignored:
"The city boys and the country boys, They come from miles around. To defy their King and country, Save the poor folks from the hand, Of thieving dukes and abbots, And the gentry of the land" (Poor Boy - One of my favorites by ELO).
"One thing I have learned through these years, Is that no man should be stricken with fear - It should be that he walks with no care in the world. So my friends that are gathered here today, HEAR THIS CLEAR, for I'll not further say, That NO MAN shall cause me to take up arms again" (Boy Blue, a catchy and brilliant song with a good message).
"...IN BETWEEN THEIR LIES, THE PLACE TO CLOSE YOUR EYES" (Instead of the North & South, a recent parallel presents itself??? We shall always dwell in Eldorado it seems, the Earth spins round @ and never slows down).
This was my first ELO album and helped ignite a lifelong musical love affair with prog-rock for me (I did love the Beatles, Moodies and Elton when I was younger, which leads naturally to ELO) and got me thinking more about picking up the guitar (after I bought the album myself in the mid 70's around 6th grade - I was soon to delve into YES a few months later which kicked it into higher gear), which has turned into an ongoing and permanent passion thankfully, as luck would have it.
The nice package on this 2001 remaster makes the time spent (about 48 min.) all the more worthwhile. The sound quality is beautiful to me and far better than my ancient record. You will be pleased I'm sure (Some good pictures, notes and two excellent extras to close the album with a welcome extra dose of swirling magic). Put aside all prejudices and go on a Laredo Tornado ride with Jeff Lynne & ELO (FEEL IT, DON'T ANALYZE IT) ... enjoy when the world closes in!
THE UNIVERSAL DREAMER RISES UP ABOVE HIS EARTHLY BURDEN. JOURNEY THROUGH THE DEAD OF NIGHT ... HIGH ON A HILL IN ELDORADO~
on November 19, 2004
ELO was already on a roll after their first three albums, but with 1974's ELDORADO (their fourth studio album), the Electric Light Orchestra launched an unabated 12-year, 9 album trail of consistently incredible brilliance. Not only did this album raise the bar for ELO, but for all progressive rock bands. ELDORADO, billed as "A Symphony by the Electric Light Orchestra" is a powerful concept album about the grandiose renaissance dreams of a poor worker, stuck at a "bank job in the city." "Overture" and "Can't Get it Out of My Head" lay out the foundation for the story, and remind us that, in dreams, "no pain may kiss the brow/the love of ages fills the head." Musically, the orchestral richness of ELO is in full bloom throughout the album...a heavenly concoction of strings, synths, and guitar work that is alternately shimmery and biting. "Boy Blue" is an underrated ELO classic, with the great line, "I have fought in some of the holiest wars/I have smashed some of the holiest jaws." "Poor Boy (The Greenwood) is a vivid Robin Hood tale and "Illusions in G Major" is another of those great ELO retro-rockers. "Mister Kingdom" is a fine prog-rock ballad and "Eldorado" is all majestic magnificence, as Jeff Lynne's voice ventures into Roy Orbisonville, singing "I will stay, I'll not be back...I will be free, of the world." Lynne carries the listener with him..."free, of the world." With this album, ELO broke free from the obscurity of being a really good "unheard" band into the pantheon of enduring classic rock artists. ELDORADO was an ambitious concept that paid off handsomely 30 years ago, and still continues to pay dividends to the listener who is willing to make the investment today. (By the way, listen to ELDORADO and TIME back-to-back sometime, and be amazed as the story continues.) Former ELO co-founder Roy Wood named this as one of his all-time favorites, and it's hard to disagree. Certainly, ELDORADO qualifies as one of the most brilliant art pop rock classics of the 1970s...and beyond! This re-mastered, expanded edition includes restored artwork and two bonus tracks that are quite interesting. Don't miss this one.
on March 26, 1999
With 1974's ELDORADO (their fourth studio album), the Electric Light Orchestra launched an unabated 12-year, 9 album trail of consistently incredible brilliance. Not only did this album raise the bar for ELO, but for all progressive rock bands. ELDORADO, billed as "A Symphony by the Electric Light Orchestra" is a powerful concept album about the grandiose renaissance dreams of a poor worker, stuck at a "bank job in the city." "Overture" and "Can't Get it Out of My Head" lay out the foundation for the story, and remind us that, in dreams, "no pain may kiss the brow/the love of ages fills the head." Musically, the orchestral richness of ELO is in full bloom throughout the album...a heavenly concoction of strings, synths, and guitar work that is alternately shimmery and biting. "Boy Blue" is an underrated ELO classic, with the great line, "I have fought in some of the holiest wars/I have smashed some of the holiest jaws." "Poor Boy (The Greenwood) is a vivid Robin Hood tale and "Illusions in G Major" is another of those great ELO retro-rockers. "Mister Kingdom" is a fine prog-rock ballad and "Eldorado" is all majestic magnificence, as Jeff Lynne's voice ventures into Roy Orbisonville, singing "I will stay, I'll not be back...I will be free, of the world." Lynne carries the listener with him..."free, of the world." With this album, ELO broke free from the obscurity of being a really good "unheard" band into the pantheon of enduring classic rock artists. ELDORADO was an ambitious concept that paid off handsomely 25 years ago, and still continues to pay dividends to the listener who is willing to make the investment today. (By the way, listen to ELDORADO and TIME back-to-back sometime, and be amazed as the story continues.)
on October 10, 2001
I love this album, especially all the characters that popped out of Jeff Lynne's head for this concept! Let's see, we have "The Dreamer" who finds himself in "El Dorado," but then faces reality with his everyday life (Eldorado Overture, Can't Get It Out Of My Head, Eldorado), the Arthurian Superman (Boy Blue, Poor Boy), the everyman who asks God to find the rainbow's end (Mr. Kingdom), the crying indian character from the T.V. anti-litter commercial (Laredo Tornado), the teenage loser who is seduced by the "painted lady of the Avalon" (Nobody's Child), the guy on the couch talking to a p-shrink about his visions... probably LSD-fueled (Illusions in G Major). You wonder which character Jeff draws from imagination, and which one is a version of himself.
The bonus tracks were a welcome addition. I liked the melded instrumental. The first time I heard it I fully expected lyrics to start up in several places... the jazzier "Nobody's Child" instrumental is just FUN! "Dark City" could have been better expanded. Being a Texan, I like Laredo Tornado, even though it has no basis in Texas fact. (Laredo is one of the smaller cities in Texas.) It's demo is okay, and I can see where it grew into "Laredo Tornado" but it kinda left me hanging.
Oh, the overall sound? Fantastic, especially considering the 1974 technology (4-track? 8-track? Today's audio standard is 32-track, and digital can go darn near infinite tracks)! This is definitely an album to put in the stereo, open the windows, crank it up to 22, and annoy the neighbors with! Who knows, you may win converts!
on August 6, 2009
I've been listening to this album for maybe 1.5-2 years now. A lot. It hasn't left the CD changer in my car since I discovered it. To understand why I love this album, you really have to know how I discovered it...
My best friend since 3rd grade and I one day decided that we were going to take some LSD. I'm not a big fan really, but hey, I'd done my research, knew what I was getting into, figured I may as well give it a shot! About 3 hours into that business, my buddy (who has an incredible vinyl collection - we're talking thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours invested) decided it was time to take a listen to his new ELO album - El Dorado. We both liked ELO quite a bit prior to this, but had no idea what we were in store for at the time with this particular collection of songs.
While I was busy marveling at the album cover, he put it on. I was really enjoying "Can't Get It Out of My Head", mellow and dreamy, I was noticing how much more emphasis was being placed on the "Orchestra" portion of "Electric Light Orchestra". And then Boy Blue came on.
It's difficult for me to properly convey how incredible the next 5 and a half minutes were for the two of us. I was loving how goofy some bits of the opening instrumental were, and then the song began to build. The strain of the violins built the tension until everything came crashing down into the actual song itself. By this point, we were both laying on the couch, unable to do anything but just take it in, telling each other how amazing this song was less than halfway through. And that excitment and musical tension built...and built. Boy Blue is brilliant in its simplicity. Each new verse piles on layer after layer of instrumentation to the underlying basic structure. It's a simple idea that's incredibly effective. By the second verse (with the plucked violins), it was all I could muster just to say "Oh my God!". And then we reached the pinnacle: the moment when all the instrumentation cuts, and it's just Jeff Lynnes voice for a couple seconds singing "Iiiiiiii've seen bold KNIGHTS!" and at that moment, EVERYTHING comes back in simultaneously on that word with yet another layer of violins. My mind was entirely blown. "Oh my God!" became "OH MY GOD!!!", and Lynne proceeded to work himself into this wide-eyed frenzy of passion and excitment that I've seen equalled almost nowhere else. More than any other track on this album, Boy Blue is the one that just blows me away every time. It's probably the most epic 5 minute song I've ever encountered. It feels like it should be twice that long when you think about just how much is packed into that little space of time.
Done gushing now. Other standouts on El Dorado for me include Laredo Tornado, Poor Boy and of course the title track. The whole thing, from beginning to end, holds together so well that it's difficult to choose. But Boy Blue haunts me.
I can't recommend this album enough.
on February 9, 2000
ELDORADO strikes me as the culmination of everything Jeff Lynne was striving to achieve from as far back as The Move's LOOKING ON (5 albums earlier). Sweeping string sections (in large part thanks to Louis Clark & a full orchestra!) combining seamlessly with rock & blues guitars. With a unifying theme (daydreaming about a "better life" in the past) and instrumental bridges linking it all together, this is virtually ELO's "Days Of Future Past" (or, to a lesser extent, "Sgt. Pepper"-- Lynne's favorite album!). Standouts are the magnificent "Eldorado Overture", "Can't Get It Out Of My Head", "Boy Blue", "Laredo Tornado", "Poor Boy" (gee, that's the whole first side!) and my personal favorite, "Illusions In G Major" (an ironic "classical" title for the album's sideline into 50's ROCK & ROLL! ). After this, apparently having felt he'd "proved his point", ELO headed back into more pop-based material-- and greater "commercial" success.