Time: Electric Light Orchestra's Timeless Hidden Gem
Edited by Anna Mengani
Electric Light Orchestra is one of the most underrated bands from their era despite having so many hits. When people think of 70s/80s British pop/rock bands they usually think Queen, Pink Floyd, and even Genesis before they think of ELO. Despite that, the people that can associate the name of the band with their many hits likely only have a knowledge of songs up until their 1979 release. For example, the album Discovery, features their mega-hit, "Don’t Bring Me Down.” This brings us to the record in review this week, Time.
Time is the album that got me to deep dive into ELO's discography. When I saw my record shop selling it for $1.99 I couldn’t have said no. It also happens to be an original promotional copy, as shown by the "FOR PROMOTION ONLY, Sale is unlawful” stamp on the back. Despite being just over four decades old, and being one of the thinner records I’ve owned, it still plays perfectly and sounds quite nice. Otherwise, it has a fairly simple package. The eye-catching artwork looks great on the large sleeve. I wish I could say more about the artwork as it’s what initially dragged me into trying out the album, but sadly there is no information about Guy Fery other than that he’s the one who did it.
Musically this album is a massive leap from the unique sound ELO had built for themselves, being very heavily string-oriented (hence the name.) Time instead trades in the string section for a ton of synthesizers, a big reason is due to how controversial it was at the time. It’s also widely considered the first-ever concept album about time travel.
This record takes the relatively new technology of synthesizers for a real spin, covering and fusing genres such as reggae, new wave, and rockabilly, and throughout managing to tie the whole thing together into a cohesive journey. Every song on the album is fun, catchy, and coated in 80s splendor despite only being one year into the decade. The biggest and only lasting hit on the album is "Hold on Tight," which even now is dwarfed by the band’s previous singles. Another fun fact is it has the title for having (at the time) the most expensive music video, costing about $41,700.
Despite being a somewhat odd moment in the band’s history, Time manages to showcase the legendary writing and production skills of Jeff Lynn as well as any of their biggest hits.
Find more about Electric Light Orchestra here