Sound: When you hear 'Electric Light Orchestra' you immediately think 'Classical Music', whilst not knowing anything about the band in question. ELO, wre and still are a succesful band that existed mainly through the 1970's and through some part of the 1980's, as an off-shoot of Roy Woods 'The Move'. In 1983, ELO released 'Secret Messages' a top 5 album in the UK, and a musical mish mash of different styles, time signatures and instruments. After Lynne dismissed the two celloists in 1979, Secret Messages could be described as coming with 'No Strings attached', apart from the cleverly crafted Violin solo in 'Rock 'N' Roll is King' which was the most succesful song fro this particular album. The Album kicks off with it's namesake, 'Secret Messages' with someone whispering 'These Secret Messages are Calling' which has been backmasked followed by a louder voice, Telling them 'And Again'. Morsecode, spelling out E.L.O then kicks in, accompanied by the bass guitarist. The song gets in full flow, and it doesn't feel like ELO. The normal pulsing celloists are no more, and even Groucutt (Bass) sounds disillusioned. However, not all is lost. The song 'Secret Messages' is still as good as anything from 'Out of the Blue' and 'Discovery'. It still has that wholeness which makes ELO what it is. It doesn't sound empty, and is full of clever patterns and progressions.
The second song, 'Looser gone Wild' is musically flawless. The experimentations with the two time signatures works incredibly well, the only shame is, it feels there should be more in there. It misses what I feel is an acoustic guitar, gently playing the chords in the background, yet the Contasnt riff on the Keys by Richard Tandy is very effective. Bluebird is typical ELO. It has everything an ELO song should have, depth and class. 'Take me On and On' is one of those songs where you feel it's good, but not as good as what Lynne should be doing. It seriously lacks a decent Bass Part, and is one of the tracks that doesn't feature bass player Groucutt due to his departure. 'Time after Time' is similar, but clearly shows that Lynne is trying to experiment with different styles, this feeling like a protest march. The genius however, is the short, more upbeat interlude in the middle. 'Four Little Diamonds' is what everyone wants from ELO, a fast upbeat Rock song, although it souds similar to 'Out of the Blue's' 'Across the Border' chord progression wise. However, the intricate guitar interludes make it better than 'Across the Border' musically.
'Stranger' I just love. it's one of my favourites from the album, and the violin echoing in the background is what makes this one of ELO's best songs. The chorus metaphorically shouts 'We are ELO, and we're not finished yet! ' 'Danger Ahead' is quite simple, but effective. A few Violin riffs echoed by the same riff on the guitar is very clever, and is magic compared to the rest of the song. 'Letter from Spain' is beautiful. I wrote down the chords for this the other day (did get a little wrong, but I'm going to fix it! ) and I can't stop playing it over and over. it's so light and delicate! 'Train of Gold' screams 'Showdown' at me everytime I play this on the keyboard for some reason. although it's so different. If you get a chance to listen to this song, in the Chorus, after the first line, there is an interlude of pure geniust floating around the top notes. 'Rock 'N' Roll is King' is ELO. Rock and Roll is ELO. Lynne always writes them, and everytime they turn out different. No real similarities between this, Across the Border, Four Little Diamonds, Birmingham Blues, Send It, Illusions in G Major, Hold on Tight, Ma-Ma-Ma Belle and California Man (Lynne's creation whilst in The Move'. They all are different, and are painted with originallity you could eat. The Three Bonus tracks you get with the remaster (which I got about a month ago for my 16th Birthday) are also pretty good. No Way out stands out as another track that is definately suiyed to the experimental style of 'Secret Messages'. 'Endless Lies' is very similar to 'Looser Gone Wild' and a different (And in my Opinion, worse) version can be found on 'Balance of Power'. 'After All' is a giant mish mash of every piece of technology invented. it's a very confusing peice and hard to try to pull apart. I have to rate it as an eight. The string section does leave a hole in the Heart of The Electric Light Orchestra, and I think 'Balance of Power' killed ELO because there wasn't even a violin played on the tracks. Wioth secret Messages, you still feel ELO are there. // 8
Lyrics: Well. Jeff Lynne. If you don't think this guy is a good signer, your either deaf, or you've been listening to Scremo music too much that you don't know anything. In addition, Kelly Groucutt, sadly only on backing vocals, accompanies Lynne well. I always thought the two were a great pairing, sadly of course Groucutt left half way throught the album and I still think the rest of his hair is stuck on the set of the live 'Time' gigs. The only lyrics you can really pull apart are those of 'Take me On and On', which I feel shows Lynne's intent to finish with the band, similarly 'Bluebird' almost mirrors Groucutt's departure. 'Looser gone Wild' thurthermore shows Lynne's feeling towards the old string section. Quoting 'I don't care if Violins don't play, I don't listen to them Anyway.' The Lyrics are clevery used to convey Lynne's future feelings towards ELO. // 9
Overall Impression: Its better than ELO's 'No Answer' for sure. It's definately up there with 'Out of the Blue' and 'Discovery' and I feel it's an Improvement on 'Time'. 'Stranger', 'Bluebird', 'Rock 'N' Roll is King' & 'Train of Gold' make the album what it is. However, I'm dissapointed by the lack of Groucutt on quite a few tracks, and the obvious funness that Hugh McDowell tends to bring with his Cello. It could beimproved, but not by much. And I would definately buy this album again if I had it stolen. I would never be able to lose it! // 8