Last train to London....
Released on 31st of May 1979
Running time 38.53
Once more oblivious to the punk/new wave maelstrom, ELO followed up their multi million-selling double album behemoth Out Of The Blue with this pleasing but decidedly un-rock offering. It is stylistically a very different album from either of its predecessors, Out Of The Blue and A New World Record. It is also seemingly incongruous compared to much contemporary music of the time, but there again, probably not. Most people in 1979 were not punks or new wavers. Far from it.
The album explores funk and disco sounds far more than ELO had previously done, and those sounds were as much part of the zeitgeist as punk or new wave.
The album went straight to number one.
1. Shine A Little Love
3. Need Her Love
4. The Diary Of Horace Wimp
5. Last Train To London
6. Midnight Blue
7. On The Run
9. Don’t Bring Me Down
Shine A Little Love is a funkily catchy number that definitely latches on to the late seventies disco obsession with Bee Gees-style high-pitched chorus vocals and lots of disco backing “woohs”. Everyone went “disco” at this time - ABBA, Rod Stewart, Elton John, even The Rolling Stones, so ELO followed suit. It is a good track, with nice strings and guitar parts and is full of vitality.
Confusion is not disco, but still very late seventies, it is hugely ABBA influenced, for me. Listen to those grandiose keyboards. I have always really liked it. Need Her Love is a typical slow Jeff Lynne ballad - all mournful and vocally breathy. It is difficult to describe but I am sure you know what I mean. It is very George Harrison influenced, particularly on the guitar solo. It also vaguely reminds me of Gilbert O’Sullivan in places, or Peter Skellern’s You’re A Lady.
I have always disliked the McCartney-esque over-orchestrated Diary Of Horace Wimp. I don’t know why, but I found it irritating at the time and still do. Sorry Jeff. Better move on. Perversely, one of my all time ELO favourites is up next in the hugely atmospheric cod-funk of Last Train To London. It is such a great song and reminds me of catching the train from London To Birmingham around 6pm just to have a curry with my then girlfriend and getting the last train out of Birmingham back. As I said, a great song.
Midnight Blue is a Lennon-ish slow and emotive ballad. Lynne’s sad voice matches the sweeping strings. Once more, it is a really nice song. On The Run is a slice of Wings-ish disco-influenced rock with more high-pitched lead and backing vocals. Wishing is Beatles-influenced but also very late seventies in its overall feel.
At odds with the rest of the album is the thumping rock of Don’t Bring Me Down, written by Lynne at the last minute as he felt that there were not enough fast, upbeat songs on the album. Oh, and he doesn’t sing “Bruce” after the chorus, he sings the made-up word “Groose”, so Lynne himself says.
I like this album, it has the short, perfectly-formed feel that the sprawling Out Of The Blue possibly did not. It never got any better than this for ELO after this point, though, despite several more big hit singles.