No Answer [US Bonus Tracks]

by: Electric Light Orchestra

Electric Light Orchestra's debut album is an astonishing creation in its own right, but neophyte listeners should be aware that it bears very little resemblance to the sound for which ELO would become known on its subsequent records. No Answer, as it ended up being called in America through a miscommunication with ELO's U.S. label, is a minimalist work by comparison with anything on the band's later albums. The core trio of Roy Wood, Jeff Lynne, and Bev Bevan, augmented by one horn player and a violinist, approaches the music alternately like a hard rock band attacking a song and a string ensemble playing a chamber piece. Filled with surprisingly loose playing and sounds throughout, and with a psychedelic aura hovering over most of the music, No Answer is unique in ELO's output. Written and sung by Lynne, "10538 Overture" is the opener and the best song on the album. Wood's "Look at Me Now," by comparison, plays like a sweet, melodic follow-up to "Beautiful Daughter" from the Move's Shazam, with some digressions on the oboe and a cello and violin subbing for the guitars. The rest moves from period-style popular songs to strangely cinematic conceptual pieces, on which the rock elements almost disappear in favor of quasi-classical playing by all concerned. A beautiful acoustic guitar workout by Wood, "1st Movement" also features the song's composer on the oboe, while "Mr. Radio," an exercise in 1920s nostalgia written and sung by Lynne, digresses for a moment into 1940s-style classical piano pyrotechnics. His "Whisper in the Night" ends the album with a lean and textured acoustic sound that, ironically, disappeared from ELO's repertory when he exited the lineup following these sessions. [The long-awaited American upgraded reissue of Electric Light Orchestra's debut album won't be a disappointment -- for a change with this band, Sony's Legacy division has gotten it right, at least within the confines of a single-CD reissue; it's still only a shadow of the deluxe double-CD set issued in England by EMI a few years earlier, but for sound quality and a basic array of bonus tracks, this is a very solid upgrade and one of the better efforts in association with this band to show up in the United States. The bonus tracks consist of alternate mixes and outtakes of "10538 Overture," "Mr. Radio," "Nellie Takes Her Bow," and "The Battle of Marston Moor," which are different enough to hold the listener, assuming one doesn't already have this material on the earlier U.K. double CD. It's good to get it all out into the group's American catalog, especially with the accompanying boost in overall sound quality for the entire album, and the new annotation by Lynne and Wood -- in which each lavishes tons of praise on the other -- is not only informative but gives the whole CD a really good vibe.] ~ Bruce Eder

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