[Review] Eldorado: A Symphony by the Electric Light Orchestra (1974)

This concept album about an ordinary man’s escape into dreams is itself a kind of dream-come-true for prog fans.

Kronomyth 4.0: All I have to do is dream.

Eldorado is a concept album about an ordinary man’s escape into a dream world. In other words, an allegory of the listener’s escape through music. In this case, the musical reference point is The Beatles. “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “Across the Universe,” “Sexy Sadie” and George Harrison’s “What Is Life” are quoted, directly and indirectly, in the music, and it’s clear that Jeff Lynne had his own escape into The Beatles’ music in mind when he wrote this album.

In the interest of full disclosure, I didn’t “get” this album until I paid more attention to the lyrics. Then, the theme became clearer, and the final escape of the ordinary man into his mythical dreamworld on the closing Eldorado had meaning. Viewed as different dream experiences, the songs on Eldorado take on their own life. Can’t Get It Out of My Head sets the stage after the dramatic Eldorado Overture, followed by a surprisingly tuneful tale of war, Boy Blue. It’s a case of the Electric Light Orchestra putting its best two feet forward.

The remaining songs each have their own personality. Laredo Tornado suggests an Indian song sung by a male soprano (it’s better than I’ve made it sound), Poorboy (The Greenwood) matches a nice melody with medieval imagery, and the whole story reaches its climax on Mister Kingdom, which is plainly based on “Across the Universe.” Lynne then reaches into the past for swing (Nobody’s Child) and early rock & roll (Illusions in G Major) to round out the set.

The album closes with the hero finding the key to the eternal dream and escaping the “cheating” and “broken” days of ordinary life. It’s a dream that many have wished for, though few have had the skill to set it to music. Which isn’t to say that Eldorado is a perfect album. It’s in sore need of a proper remaster, which Mobile Fidelity may finally have remedied in their 2022 release (I haven’t heard it, so I couldn’t say). And the decision to pattern much of the album after The Beatles does sell Lynne’s own songwriting short. That said, the band’s ambitions, classical orchestrations, and artistic vision, at least in their first incarnation, culminate here.

Original elpee version

A1. Eldorado Overture (2:12)
A2. Can’t Get It Out of My Head (4:26)
A3. Boy Blue (5:17)
A4. Laredo Tornado (5:26)
A5. Poorboy (The Greenwood) (2:56)
B1. Mister Kingdom (5:50)
B2. Nobody’s Child (3:40)
B3. Illusions in G Major (2:36)
B4. Eldorado (5:20)
B5. Eldorado – Finale (1:20)

All songs written by Jeff Lynne.
Arrangements by Jeff Lynne, Richard Tandy and Louis Clark.

CD reissue bonus tracks
11. Eldorado (instrumental medley)
12. Dark City

The Players

Bev Bevan (drums and percussion), Michael De Albuquerque (bass), Michael Edwards (cello), Mik Kaminski (violin), Jeff Lynne (guitar, vocals, Moog, backing vocals), Hugh McDowall (cello), Richard Tandy (piano, Moog, guitar, backing vocals) with Louis Clark (conductor), Peter Ford-Robertson (speaking). Produced by Jeff Lynne; recording engineered by Dick Plant.

The Pictures

Album design by John Kehe. Art direction by John Williams.

The Plastic

Released on elpee, casette and 8-track in October 1974 in the UK (Warner Bros., K/K8 56090), the US and Canada (United Artists, UA-LA/EA 339-G), Germany (Warner Bros., WB 56 090) and Spain (CH 489) with lyrics innersleeve or insert. Reached #16 on the US charts.

  1. Re-issued on elpee in Portugal (Jet, JETLP 203) with lyrics innersleeve.
  2. Re-issued on elpee in 1977 in Brazil (United Artists, UALP-12173).
  3. Re-issued on elpee in 1978 in the US (Jet, JZ 35526) and on yellow vinyl elpee in 1978 in the UK (Jet, JETLP 203) with lyrics innersleeve.
  4. Re-issued on elpee in Japan (Jet, 25AP 1148).
  5. Re-packaged with ELO II on 2-for-1 cassette in 1982 in the US (Jet, DT 38228).
  6. Re-issued on cassette in 1983 in Spain (Epic, JET CA 1203).
  7. Re-released on remastered compact disc in the US (Jet, ZK 35526).
  8. Re-released on remastered 24k gold compact disc in 1993 in the US (DCC, GZS 1041).
  9. Re-issued on compact disc on July 18, 2001 in Japan (Sony, SRCS-9847).
  10. Re-released on expanded, remastered compact disc in 2006 in the US (Epic Legacy, 85419-2) and on September 20, 2006 in Japan (Sony, MHCP 1095) with 2 bonus tracks.
  11. Re-released on 180g vinyl elpee in 2016 in the US (Epic Legacy) and on 180g clear vinyl elpee in Europe (Epic Legacy, 88875152431).
  12. Re-released on remastered 180g vinyl elpee in 2022 in the US (Mobile Fidelity).

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