Electric Light Orchestra



by Jonathan Shannon (Astrel) USER (11 Reviews)
July 18th, 2007 | 16 replies

Release Date: 1981 | Tracklist

Review Summary: If you like 80's songs with themes about time travel, you just might enjoy this. If not, you will still probably enjoy it. It's that good.

Imagine my awe and amazement at the fact that there is not one singe album review for the absolute powerhouse that was Electric Light Orchestra (From hereon mentioned as ELO). ELO did one of the rarest and difficult feats in the music industry. They mixed two of the most polarly opposing genres in music seamlessly into music, and they do it quite well I might add.

The genres are, for those who haven't heard this band, pop and orchestral rock. Let me repeat this for you. This band bridges the gap between the some of the most sweeping orchestral melodies and places them amongst what could simply be disposable pop-rock otherwise.

It was an interesting turn in Electric Light Orchestra's sound. Almost all of their songs from the past were made up of the typical band line up (vocalist, bassist, guitarist, drummer) juxtaposed amongst orchestral instruments (violin, cello, piano). They completely removed all of their string instruments and went entirely synth on this album. (Some of the synth mimic strings to keep their sound a bit, so don't fret too much) The synth-strings aren't used that often, though. This is probably one of their more pop-influenced albums out of their collection as well. That's to say it isn't more disposable, though.

In fact, if I were forced to choose an album that truly encapsulates the 80's, Time would most definitely be my choice. This album is damn dancey. There are also some very dated effects regarding the robot voice that makes a few appearances in the album. I already mentioned the synth's. The fact that this album just ***ing rocks also comes to mind as well. Many might find Xanadu to be a more effective choice by the band, and more of an impact on the 80's culture as a whole, but it just wasn't as enjoyable nor as great as their concept album Time was.

Did I forget to mention that Time was a concept album? Well let me indulge you. The basic premise behind the album is an unwilling time traveler gets stuck temporarily into the year of 2095. As per expected, it is somewhat of a negative utopia, similar to novels like 1984 and Brave New World. The unwilling time traveler spends the finale of the album in sorrow over what the future holds, returns home with the knowledge of what the future holds to warn society of their mistakes. It is somewhat of a simpler concet album (more complex than Tommy at least), but they are really effective in their delivery of this concept. Each song is lyrically driven with a powerful conviction and slowly gets darker and darker as the album progresses. Most amazing though, is that the lyrics can come so close to being cliché that they stretch towards simplistic genius. The best example to this enigma is probably best located in the song, The Way Life's Meant To Be.

As I wander around this wreck of a town
Where people never speak aloud
With its ivory towers and its plastic flowers
I wish I was back in 1981
Just to see your face instead of this place
Now I know what you mean to me
And I wonder (oh, I wonder)
Yes, I wonder (yes, I wonder)
Is this the way lifes meant to be?

The musicality on this album is also sublime. Most of it is placed for the general atmosphere of the song not to show off pretentious wankery. Nothing might shine or really grab your attention at first, but repeated listens will almost give you something new to grasp upon and say, "well that was pretty neat." When the guitars manage to make into the mix, which isn't actually that often on that album, they add that perfect twang to push the song that much more forward, but don't expect any crazy face-melting solos. One of few let downs (for me at least) was the boring drumming, many of the songs are using recycled beats, with little to no fills. It does suit the music well, and there is never really any point at which it feels awkward. The real musicality of this album lies within the bass and the synth. If the bass line in the should-be-but-wasn't-single Yours Truly, 2095 doesn't make you at least groove a little bit, then there must be something terribly wrong with you. The synth/piano has quite a few powerful influences on songs such as the intro to the ballad Ticket To the Moon, and the unforgettablely awesome intro to the album Twilight.

The most powerful force behind this album is the differentiality between tracks. Usually with pop, there is the ever-present problem of each song sounding the same. Now although each song tends to follow the verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure (which might be an instant turn off to some), the songs are set up with such differing moods that it is barely noticeable. Songs switch from dancey to ballad to Latin, and that is just the first half of the album!

There are also no weak tracks. This is one of the few albums I listen to all the way through, almost every time I play it. Songs flow effortlessly into one another and nothing is ridiculously overdone. They are just really well orchestrated pop songs that carry along a story.

Should I buy this?
Well, one look at my rating should be indication enough of what my answer to this question is. This is a great album that is enjoyable all the way through. Be wary if this is your first ELO album, however. It is somewhat of a large departure from their older stuff. It is still great album that should be listened to by all.

- Good album all the way through.
- The instruments are simple but effective.
- Differentiation instrumentally between songs.
- Good concept behind the album.

- Similar verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure.
- Outdated 80's effects might be seen as cheesy by some (although I appreciate them)

Overall Score: 5/5

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user ratings (88)

Comments:Add a Comment 
July 18th 2007


Album Rating: 5.0

They have a special edition with 3 extra songs, and although they are good, they somewhat ruin the full circle feeling this album gives otherwise, so I decided to omit them from the review.

July 18th 2007


My Dad told me about this band and how he saw them live a bunch of times. I can probably find some of their albums on vinyl.

Digging: Titus Andronicus - The Most Lamentable Tragedy

July 18th 2007


Excellent review. I like the ELO that I've heard, but havn't heard this. I'll have to check it out.

July 18th 2007


I have ELO's greatest hits and its amazing. This is truly a great band, but I dont own this.

July 18th 2007


Album Rating: 5.0

I highly recommend you guys to get this. I suggest checking out the songs "Yours Truly, 2095" and "The Way Life's Meant To Be." If you like them, then you will probably enjoy this album immensely.

July 26th 2007


Album Rating: 5.0

I was looking off of their greatest hits album, and it doesn't even include one song off of this album, which is unforgivable. 80s ELO was just as good as their earlier efforts, damn it.

November 18th 2009


Album Rating: 3.5

Eldorado's the best by far, but this album and A New World Record are easily their most pleasurable.

Digging: Craft Spells - Idle Labor

April 25th 2010


Album Rating: 4.0

This is the only record I've ever bought based solely on hearing it played in the record store. I still listen to it. The CD, though: my record of this has so many scratches that I think it's only 15 minutes long now...

April 25th 2010


Album Rating: 4.5

Love this so much.

I have the original vinyl.

June 15th 2011


Album Rating: 4.5

Last great ELO album. It's downhill after this one...

October 20th 2012


Album Rating: 4.5



November 8th 2012


love this

December 1st 2012


twilight, another heart breaks, rain is falling, and the way life's meant to be are my favourites.

May 15th 2014


Album Rating: 4.5

This album is the absolute fuckin tits, good review

Contributing Reviewer
August 27th 2014


Album Rating: 4.5

I have the fondest memories of listening to this album with my parents time and time again. That nostalgic feeling I get when "Twilight", "Rain is Falling" and "21st Century Man" come on the stereo is unmistakeable, and for that reason Time is definitively my favourite ELO album. As for the music, this is in my opinion ELO's most varied album. Aside from the obvious pop and rock songs in "Twilight" and "News of the World", there is also reggae ("The Lights go Down"), a softer rock 'n' roll style ("The Way Life's meant to Be") and music which could fit a Disney soundtrack (Prologue and Epilogue, and "Rain is Falling"). Excuse me if I come across as over-hyping an album, but Time is genuinely a superb record.

Digging: Strapping Young Lad - Alien

August 27th 2014


Album Rating: 4.5

Yes, fantastic album.

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