The seeds of ELO’s million-selling symphonic pop were sown as early as 1966, when Jeff Lynne joined Brummie R&B outfit The Nightriders. A name change to The Idle Race and a musical rethink led to three albums of Beatlesesque psych-lite, which, despite a wealth of big star fans, never got much public response.
Bringing together the band’s entire recorded output (47 tracks), Back To The Story is both quaint historical artefact and a pointer to its own future. Pseudo-novelty singles such as The Skeleton & The Roundabout haven’t aged particularly well, although the strings of The Lady Who Said She Could Fly or the layered harmonies of Come With Me wouldn’t have sounded out of place on ELO’s Eldorado or A New World Record. You could even imagine the likes of The Polyphonic Spree giving them an airing today.
Seemingly more enamoured with ‘The Quiet One’ than Lennon or McCartney, Lynne’s voice has always had more than a hint of Harrison about it, but he was also a dab hand at the folk-rock quiver of a Fred Neil or Tim Buckley. Voice comparisons aside, it’s a testament to his talent that so many of these songs sound welcomingly familiar, despite having languished in obscurity for so long.