On the Third Day by Electric Light Orchestra

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On the Third Day by Electric Light Orchestra
On the Third Day by Electric Light Orchestra

Album Released: 1973

On the Third Day ::: Artwork

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1.Ocean Breakup / King Of The Universe4:06
2.Bluebird Is Dead4:22
3.Oh No Not Susan3:28
4.New World Rising / Ocean Breakup Reprise4:04
7.Ma-Ma-Ma Belle3:52
8.Dreaming Of 40005:02
9.In The Hall Of The Mountain King6:33


Having just listened to and reviewed ELO's Time from 1981, it was interesting to compare it to On the Third Day, from eight years earlier.

To my mind, this is the superior album by far, being the one where Jeff Lynn's vision of an 'electrified light orchestra' - a rock band that employed a range of what were traditionally orchestral instruments - matured, and was fully realised.

That's mainly on the strength of Side One, which - in true Classical tradition - is presented as a rock suite, opening and closing with "Ocean Breakup", and incorporating the two 5½ star Lennon-esque tracks "Bluebird is Dead" and "Oh No Not Susan".

Side Two is more fragmented, and explores a variety of approaches to fusing Classical and rock instrumentation (with "Showdown" beng added for the US market).

"Ma-Ma-Ma Belle" hasn't aged at all well, sounding very 1970's, and it's also a little too reminiscent of Bowie's "Jean Genie" released a few months earlier - not strictly ELO anyway, as it features Marc Bolan of T.Rex on guitar. And the closing ELO version of Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King" seems superfluous, and smacks of filler.

Still, in spite of its flaws, On the Third Day is for the most part a good early example of Art Rock.

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by Reviewer: bluemoon

This is my least favourite of Electric Light Orchestra's first three albums.

The first half is a suite, rather slow and steady, and it's never been something I've able to really get into. There are bits in each of the songs that are worth something, like the haunting chorus to "King of the Universe", and the strings are very well utilised. But there's something plodding about the whole endeavour. It's not boring, it just doesn't inspire me to take up the cello anytime soon.

The second half is better, and livelier, starting with the smooth instrumental "Daybreaker", where strings and synth combine beautifully, before the snarling "Ma-Ma-Ma Belle" (featuring Marc Bolan on guitar), gives ELO one of their best rock tracks of all. It's the best original song on the album.

I say 'original' song, because there's still "In the Hall of the Mountain King" (I've never been able to make my mind up about "Dreaming of 4000", although it does have some nice touches).

I was brought up on Classical music, and this mighty piece from Grieg's Peer Gynt was always one of my favourites. I'm usually keen to hear any rock band's take on it, and ELO certainly do it justice. It starts with weird electronics, before chugging slowly through the main melody, and then starts to keep changing key, and one might think they've exchanged the gradual growth in tempo for that. But no, that comes later, and it ends up being quite exhilarating (synth duo Erasure were to do a version years later, and that's pretty impressive too).

Overall though, On the Third Day just doesn't really win me over. It has its good little moments, and a few fine tracks, but ends up being a bit of a failed effort.

Note: I have a vinyl copy of the album, which has the original track listing, hence no "Showdown".

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by Reviewer: The Doctor

On the third day, Lynne stopped mucking about trying to make himself something he's not, and created an album based on pop hooks rather than bogus symphonic passages.

So this album is where Lynne's personal interpretation of orchestral-rock begins to shape up, where the orchestra (still just a few guys overdubbed to bananas) has about as important a role as say, the guitars, but no longer takes the rest of the band hostage and flies all over frig while the melody gets neglected and the song crumbles into a pile of ashes.

Before, all the orchestra did was interfere, but here it's integrated perfectly, and in a very satisfying way too. Here, the orchestra is there to add 'thickness' and drive the melody along. And although On the Third Day is still more progressively-oriented than the remainder of the band's 70's output - it's the inauguration of the cult of the Beatle-hooked, big drummed, thick 'n' slick ELO - taking itself more lightly and letting some sunshine in.

One remaining vestige of the old doom 'n' gloom is a cover of Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King", done King Crimson-style - metallizing a classic but leaving the notes and the intent alone. It works like almost nothing on the first two albums had, by applying a rock approach to Classical music, rather than making rock musicians play like Classical ones, or forcing Classical instruments to play heavy and stupid. But as soon as it's perfected it's abandoned, and from here on ELO would concentrate on improving its own sound rather than attempting to reform Classical music.

Rather, the band indulges itself in a little Art Rock that fails to push many boundaries, but still clicks darn well. The opening "Ocean Breakup - King of the Universe" threatens pretension a la "England Town", but wisely breaks into a gorgeous soundtrack-ish melody after a minute or so, somehow becoming a gorgeous mid-tempo praise of the sunrise. In contrast, "New World Rising" and "Daybreak" live in harder territory, driven by synths but never really losing sight of their melodic backing through whatever dynamic waves break over their bow.

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by Reviewer: Capt Bonanza (blogging at Capn Marvel's Bonanza [Defunct])