A bit of Blue for the dads…

Prog - - Limelight - JE

Given its iconic sleeve art­work cour­tesy of al­bum cover de­signer John Kosh and Ja­panese artist Shu­sei Na­gaoka, it's some­what sur­pris­ing that ELO's 1977 break­through al­bum has never ap­peared on a pic­ture disc be­fore. Up un­til now, blue vinyl has been the best that col­lec­tors have been able to get their hands on.

Now over four sides, brightly high­light­ing ele­ments from the orig­i­nal gate­fold sleeve, Out Of The Blue cel­e­brates its 40th An­niver­sary in some style. Writ­ten by Jeff Lynne in a manic three-and-a-half week burst whilst hid­den away in the Swiss Alps, this is the al­bum that strad­dles the di­vide be­tween the pro­gres­sive-lean­ing early ELO years and the con­sum­mate hit­mak­ing ma­chine the band would be­come from hereon in (though never for­sak­ing loftier mu­si­cal ideals).

In­deed, de­spite be­ing cred­ited as band mem­bers, cel­list Hugh McDow­ell does not even ap­pear on the al­bum, whilst Melvyn Gale plays piano only on Wild West Hero, and vi­o­lin­ist Mik Kamin­ski only fea­tures on three songs. All three were gone for 1979's

Dis­cov­ery (al­though oddly ap­pear in all the mu­sic videos). But one can see Lynne tam­per­ing with his prized baby for op­ti­mum suc­cess here.

Turn To Stone, Sweet Talkin' Woman, It's Over, Mr Blue Sky and Wild West Hero were the mas­sive world­wide hits, and re­main in­stantly recog­nis­able to this very day. But side three's sumputous Con­certo For A Rainy Day is likely to hold a place in the hearts of those who picked up on the band's ear­lier pro­gres­sive in­cli­na­tions.

From here, Lynne would dab­ble with disco rock (Dis­cov­ery), dance with Olivia New­ton John on the ill-fated Xanadu, re­turn to prog con­cepts with 1981's

Time and then slowly lose in­ter­est over the more pop-fu­elled Se­cret Mes­sages and Bal­ance Of Power. Here though, the band are at the very peak of their of­ten be­guil­ing pow­ers.

Alas there's no replica space sta­tion to be built with this re­lease, but then you can't have every­thing. The mu­sic still more than makes up for it.

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