Out of the Blue (1977)


 
1. Turn to Stone 2. It's Over 3. Sweet Talkin' Woman 4. Across the Border 5. Night in the City 6. Starlight 7. Jungle 8. Believe Me Now 9. Steppin' Out 10.Standin' in the Rain 11.Big Wheels 12.Summer and Lightning 13.Mr. Blue Sky 14.Sweet is the Night 15.The Whale 16.Birmingham Blues 17.Wild West Hero

 

If there were ever a definition of "weighted down by its own ambition"..... This record really isn't a surprise - let's look at the facts: The band were riding the biggest crest of success in their history at this point, not to mention that this was the over indulgent flashy seventies. With a band that had the word "light" in its title, this was pretty much par the course. Not only was this a double album, but the original album packaging actually had perforated cut-outs where you could "take apart" the album cover and assemble the pieces into a flying saucer. The flying saucer was the album's "theme" and their live show even featured the band "emerging" from the saucer at the beginning of the stage. Speaking of the live shows, the string players had neon "lights" on their cellos and violins as well. Yep....it was pretty "spectacular" for the time.

It's a bit of a shame that the album comes across as a bit much. After all, about half of the album is as strong, or stronger than anything they had ever done before. The entire side 3 of the original "album" has a sub-header titled "Concerto For A Rainy Day" that, played by itself, is worthy of the hefty price. The band always finds ways (and not for the first, nor last time) to focus songs around "rain" - all of them a bit different, but all exceptional regardless, before launching into the rosy finale of Mr. Blue Sky.

Other highlights include one of the band's best ever tunes, Turn to Stone along with their other upbeat hit Sweet Talkin' Woman. Steppin' Out is a beautiful "hit that never was" as well. There are a few other good songs as well, but unfortunately they get a bit mired by all of Jeff Lynne's "experimentation" with weirdness and strange themes. He was trying to be creative, and you can tell that he was having a blast in the studio, but many of his ventures seem a bit tired and dated.

Jungle is a prime example. It's actually a bit of a fun listen, but when you try to mix a jungle theme with wild animals, violins and disco, well, you can let your own mind decide. Other songs like Wild West Hero and Night in the City manage to sound just like you think they would sound and pushes the band a bit too far out of their comfort zone. I mean, try to imagine a disco-orchestra song about the wild west, and you can (shudder) just imagine. Then there's the instrumental The Whale which would have made adequate background music for a 1970's made-for-T.V. boogie movie.

I think, but I'm not sure, that because of the length of the album, they were actually able to transfer this to one compact disc. That would make the experience better. If you think about it, most CDs ,because of more flexible time constraints, now seem to aim for a set of strong songs that are always accompanied by a bit of "filler", which is exactly what this record turned out to be. So rather than look at this as a double-album that should have been a single album, look at it as a single compact disc with a lot of "bonus" material added.

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