[Review] Electric Light Orchestra: On the Third Day (1973)

This album pushes more of my buttons, especially in the middle.

Kronomyth 3.0: ELO rises again.

This has always been one of my favorite records from Electric Light Orchestra because it’s the first ELO record that consistently delivers on the promise of Magical Mystery Tour mark two. I would tell you that the songs featured between Ocean Breakup and Ocean Breakup Reprise represent some of their best material, bar none. Oh No Not Susan is a fair match for “Dear Prudence,” Bluebird Is Dead isn’t far removed from “Sexy Sadie,” and New World Rising gives us our first glimpse of “Mr. Blue Sky.”

The second side isn’t quite as effective, as it’s essentially a continuation of their last record, with ELO switching out some of their string section in the interim. Daybreaker and In the Hall of the Mountain King are moderately effective instrumentals, Ma-Ma-Ma Belle is Jeff Lynne’s take on “Woman from Tokyo” and Dreaming of 4000 hides a brilliant chorus in Lynne’s shrouded vocals. Despite being recorded first, these songs were wisely placed on the second side, as they’re in most cases inferior to what precedes them.

Beyond being half a very good album, On the Third Day marks a shift away from string-driven arrangements to synthesizers. Richard Tandy’s Moog figures prominently in the music, while the cellos and violins add spice to the arrangements in a supporting role. As a result, the music on ELO’s third album feels more streamlined and gave audiences their first taste of what many consider the classic ELO sound of classical meets disco. The single, Showdown, included on the US versions on OTTD, serves as the first course in this musical feast to follow.

Of interest, Marc Bolan is said to have joined the band during the recording sessions for On the Third Day and appears on several songs including the single version of “Ma-Ma-Ma Belle” and “Dreaming of 4000.” I can’t say that I hear his contributions, but the idea of Bolan and ELO playing together is infinitely cool all the same. For those who enjoyed the most Beatlesque moments of No Answer (“Nellie Takes Her Bow,” “Mr. Radio”) and found Electric Light Orchestra II too dense, On the Third Day is both a return to form and a pleasant metamorphosis.

Original elpee version

A1. Ocean Breakup/King of the Universe (4:06)
A2. Bluebird Is Dead (4:22)
A3. Oh No Not Susan (3:28)
A4. New World Rising/Ocean Breakup Reprise (4:04)
A5. *Showdown (4:09)
B1. Daybreaker (3:50)
B2. Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (3:52)
B3. Dreaming of 4000 (5:02)
B4. In the Hall of the Mountain King (arranged and adapted by Electric Light Orchestra) (6:33)

All songs written by Jeff Lynne unless noted.

* Does not appear on UK version.

CD reissue bonus tracks
10. Auntie (Ma-Ma-Ma Belle) (Take 1)
11. Auntie (Ma-Ma-Ma-Belle) (Take 2)
12. Mambo (Dreaming of 4000) (alternate mix)
13. Everyone’s Born to Die
14. Interludes

Original 8-track version
A1. Showdown
A2. In the Hall of the Mountain King
B1. Oh No Not Susan
B2. New World Rising
B3. Daybreaker
C1. Daybreaker (reprise)
C2. Ma-Ma-Ma Belle
C3. I’m Only Dreaming of 4000
D1. Ocean Breakup/King of the Universe
D2. Bluebird Is Dead
D3. Oh No Not Susan (reprise)

The Players

Bev Bevan (drums), Michael de Albuquerque (bass), Mike Edwards (cello), Mik Kaminski (violin on A1-A5), Jeff Lynne (guitar, vocals), Richard Tandy (moog, piano) with Wilfred Gibson (violin on B1-B4), Colin Walker (cello on B1-B4). Produced by Jeff Lynne; engineered by Douglas Bogey and Dick Plant.

The Pictures

Art direction by Bob Cato. Photography by Richard Avedon. Design by John Kehe.

The Plastic

Released on elpee, cassette and 8-track on December 14, 1973* in the UK and Sweden (United Artists, UAG 30091), the US (United Artists, LA/CA/EA-188-G), Colombia (Sonolux/United Artists, 21(0831)00036), Japan (Warner Bros., P-8422W) and the Netherlands (United Artists, 5C 062 99115) with lyrics innersleeve. Reached #52 on the US charts. (*First appeared on U.S. radio playlists in 12/1/73 issue of Billboard.)

  1. Re-issued on elpee in the UK (Warner Bros., K56021) with gatefold diecut cover and innersleeve.
  2. Re-issued on elpee and cassette in Australia (Warner Bros., WS/M5 4510).
  3. Re-issued on elpee and cassette in Australia (Jet, JT/JTC 6008).
  4. Re-issued on elpee and cassette in June 1978 in the US (Jet, JZ/JZT 35525) and in 1978 in Japan (Jet, GP-542).
  5. Re-issued on elpee in Mexico (Jet, GX-01946).
  6. Re-issued on elpee in the Netherlands (Jet, JETLP202).
  7. Re-issued on elpee and cassette in the US (Jet, PZ/PZT 35525).
  8. Re-issued on cassette in 1982 in Spain (Epic, JET CA 1202).
  9. Re-released on remastered compact disc in the US (Jet, ZK 35525).
  10. Re-issued on compact disc in Japan (Jet, SRCS-9429).
  11. Re-released on expanded compact disc on November 11, 2006 in Japan (Epic, MHCP 1094) with 5 bonus tracks.

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