Electric Light Orchestra´s Return Marks a Return to Classic Rock “In the Modern World”

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Electric Light Orchestra´s Return Marks a Return to Classic Rock “In the Modern World”

LO performing with old and new members at Wembley Stadium on Saturday 24th, June 2017

LO performing with old and new members at Wembley Stadium on Saturday 24th, June 2017

LO performing with old and new members at Wembley Stadium on Saturday 24th, June 2017

LO performing with old and new members at Wembley Stadium on Saturday 24th, June 2017


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By: Sean Slayton

In the age of rap, alternative rock, pop, and dubstep that every teenager is restricted to listening to (and enjoying), some within their age group, as well as those who grew up listening to radio, view the newer generation´s lack of diverse tastes as a sadly missed opportunity to listen to the gems of the past. While the advent of Spotify and other music-streaming apps act as an infinite library for musical history, the current teenage and young adult generations seem to only be concerned with the newest of the new; only occasionally going beyond the ¨top-listed¨ sections of their apps.

While many would look forward to young and new talent, some could argue that the best way to find something truly innovative is to look to the past. Despite the stigma of ¨older music,¨ many teenagers who give older genres like jazz and rock a chance can enjoy those platforms as much as contemporary music.

One band from the bygone age of rock and roll has recently stepped back into the limelight- Jeff Lynne´s Electric Light Orchestra. Originating in the 1970s, during their original 10-year period of album production, the band sold 50 million records, and (when introduced from the UK to the US) topped The Billboard Hot 100 top 20, 20 different times, holding the record for most songs in said position. ELO recently had a revival in 2014 and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017 followed by a tour throughout Europe and the United States.

Now with a second tour in 2019, with one of their stops being here in Grand Rapids, there is no time like the present to look into a forgotten genre of music.

The band´s 2003 album; The Essential Electric Light Orchestra, was made for fans in America, featuring a collection of 37 of their most prominent songs paired with some lesser known ones. Aside from being free on Spotify, reducing listeners´ financial risk to zero, the music is diverse and relatable to fans of rhythmic melodies and creative lyrics.

The album starts with their first song, ¨Overture 10538,¨ a merge between classic rock, Beatle´s pop, and symphony orchestra (known as symphonic rock) that defined their style for years to come. The song focuses on the deeper message of falling through the cracks of civilization.

If one isn´t into orchestral music, the members of ELO aren´t afraid to change their style.  Songs like ¨Don’t Bring me Down¨ and ¨Rock and Roll is King¨ ditch string instruments for heavier guitar riffs and ear-pounding base. The style again changes to the direct opposite with songs like ¨Strange Magic¨ and ¨Don´t Walk Away¨ that replace keyboards with piano and add extra emphasis on vocal harmony.

Most songs are hybrids between the two styles, the most notable two being ¨Roll Over Beethoven,¨ and ¨Rockaria,¨ the former mixing classic rock with old orchestra and the latter being a blend of rock and opera. These hybrids act to build the tone of the song which is either utilized in ¨Four Little Diamonds¨ to help the listener feel the betrayal of the protagonist and, therefore, support his revenge quests, or in ¨Diary of Horace Wimp¨ to ally the listener with Horace in quest for love by appealing to people’s emotional desires. In fact, many of the songs´ narratives could be confused with Shakespearean ballads. This only helps to cement Lynne as not just a songwriter, but a storyteller who can inspire millions.   

With all the metaphors and ¨secret messages¨ in the lyrics, it´s easy to assume that ELO is solely for literature connoisseurs or hipsters, the unique chords and melodies of each piece (especially ¨Hold on Tight,¨ ¨Twilight,¨and ¨Do Ya¨) ensure that listeners can enjoy their music by simply tapping their foot to the beat.

ELO works as a band because their music retains the mass appeal rock and roll had in the 80s and because of the variation in sound and sense of their music from song to song. ¨Evil Woman¨ and ¨Sweet Talking Woman,¨ while having similar names, represent two opposing scenarios of love and relationships: One is of betrayal and comeuppance while the other is more light-hearted illustrating the wants and desires of young love.

Jeff Lynne’s music is completely timeless in the messages shown and does the one thing any musical composition should do: enable listeners to truly feel the music as well as hear its message. His music is underrated compared to other artists from the same time period. Yet many have heard their music before without knowing who they´re listening to. Most can attest to hearing ¨Mr. Blue Sky¨ in movies featuring characters overcoming challenges, or ¨Livin´ Thing¨ in the recent Volkswagon commercial with the gorilla balloon. While these two scenarios are completely different, the overall theme is the same. Music isn´t about spraying garbled speech onto a piece of paper, it´s an art of linking creative phrases, realistic (sometimes wholesome, sometimes not) themes about life, and building a connection in multiple people unified not by culture, belief, or status; but by emotions we feel every single day.

 

 

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