In terms of their enduring place in rock history, ELO will forever be seen as Jeff Lynne’s baby, the makers of a formidable succession of elaborate three- or four-minute pop symphonies, often with a Beatlesesque bent. The band’s 1971 debut album, however, is more a tale of two creative dynamos trying to wrest control from each other.
It’s largely considered that the group was the brainchild of Roy Wood, as a broader canvas for himself and fellow Move member Lynne to indulge their more progressive whims. The nine original songs (augmented here by a slew of outtakes and remixes) show little sign of genuine collaboration, none of them credited to both writers in tandem. Wood’s baroque fancies and classical leanings are at the fore of The Battle Of Marston Moore and Whisper In The Night, the latter in the same vein as his solo Boulders project.
Lynne equally embraces violins and cellos on his songs, but the likes of 10538 Overture and Mr Radio retain a tighter grip on more accessible pop sensibilities, arguably the building blocks of what was to follow. Ironically, Wood had the greatest initial pop success after quitting ELO to form Wizzard, but this album is an intriguing illustration of two driven men striving for perfection but failing to agree on the best way forward.