From proto prog to pris­tine and pol­ished. Here, the B-sides come out of the blue.

Prog - - Echoes - JE

Any­one doubt­ing Elec­tric Light Or­ches­tra’s prog cre­den­tials should lend an ear to the live ver­sion of Day­breaker, the B-side to their 1976 sin­gle Nightrider. Or Fire On High, B-side to 1976’s more pop­tas­tic Livin’ Thing. Or Poor Boy (The Green­wood), B-side to 1977’s Tele­phone Line. It’s all there to hear, from rolling key­boards, con­cep­tual sto­ry­telling, even the odd quirky time sig­na­ture. Of course no one is say­ing that ELO were up there with Yes or Gen­e­sis or even Greenslade, but there has al­ways been more to Jeff Lynne’s mu­si­cal imag­i­na­tion than pas­tich­ing his beloved Bea­tles.

In this set of the first 15 ELO sin­gles plus 1978’s The ELO EP, the Birm­ing­ham band’s prog­cliv­i­ties are writ large, sat hap­pily along­side the band’s more pop­u­lar and pop­pier mo­ments. In fact, given the im­mense pop­u­lar­ity of the band’s hit sin­gles from 1976’s Livin’ Thing on­wards (the band racked up 15 Top 10 hits, al­though only 1980’s Xanadu, fea­tur­ing Olivia New­ton John and from the failed movie of the same name, got to No. 1), it’s very easy to over­look quite how ex­ploratory Jeff Lynne’s song­writ­ing could be. Look no fur­ther than the band’s very first sin­gle, 1972’s 10538 Over­ture, which cracked the Top 10 and would later have its cas­cad­ing riff shame­lessly pur­loined by none other than Paul Weller for 1995’s The Chang­ing­man at the sug­ges­tion of Weller’s co-writer Bren­dan Lynch.

Aside from their wal­lop­ing cover of Chuck Berry’s Roll Over Beethoven, most of the early sin­gles and B-sides are the re­ally proggy fare, even more than the al­bums from which they came, al­though even the big­ger hits from A New World Record and the mega-sell­ing Out Of The Blue all have some­thing go­ing for them. For this writer, the bet­ter sin­gles would ac­tu­ally fol­low on from 1978, so it will be in­ter­est­ing to see if a sec­ond vol­ume of this ever ar­rives. But we chal­lenge you to lis­ten to Poker with­out jump­ing around the room with a mas­sive grin on your face!

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