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.