I remember the first time I heard the Electric Light Orchestra's debut album No Answer back in the late 70's. I had already been a fan of the band's Out of the Blue, Face the Music, Eldorado, and A New World Record, but hadn't yet checked out their first three albums. When I got a hold of a rare vinyl copy of No Answer, boy was I in for a surprise! At this point the newly formed band Jeff Lynne, Roy Wood, and Bev Bevan (all from The Move) hadn't yet found their niche, but the music on this release purely was representative of the classical rock style that they intended to dive into. Amidst the haunting cellos, violins, french horns, guitars, keyboards, and drums was a band looking to start something magical, and as non-commercial as this album was, the seed was planted.
Roy Woods rampaging cello and bassoon mixes with Steve Woolam's violin on the violent rocker "10538 Overture", a real unique piece and a great start to this album. Lynne's lead vocals and guitar patterns almost play a backseat to the dueling cello and violin, and the yearning bassoon and french horn (courtesy of Bill Hunt) adds a nice majestic touch. The song is decidedly British, but like nothing you have ever heard before. "Look at Me Now" is a quirky Beatles influenced pop number, sung by Wood, who also provides heavy cello, recorder, and oboe. On "Nellie Takes Her Bow", you begin to hear a little bit of the style that would reappear on Eldorado, with melodic piano, violin, cello, and Lynne's emotional vocals. Roy Wood gets to show off a bit on the rousing "The Battle of Marston Moor", laying down all sorts of haunting and powerful melodies on cello, recorder, bassoon, and oboe. Think psychedelic rock- meets- avant-garde-meets classical music, but noisier!
Hints of 60's psychedelic rock, or even latter day The Move can be heard on "First Movement (Jumping Biz)", which features some nice acoustic guitar work from Wood, and "Mr. Radio" is another Lynne sung piece with a huge Beatles influence. After the bombastic classical number "Manhattan Rumble" (nice piano and violin work on this one), the band lurches into one of my favorite tunes here, the ominous "Queen of the Hours", a heavy piece with huge cello and violin sounds that add to the dark nature of the song. The album ends with the poignant "Whisper in the Night", featuring a great vocal from Wood and somber cello and violin melodies.
The remaster sounds very good, and you get a couple bonus tracks (basically alternate takes) plus a well-stocked booklet with photographs and commentary from Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne. No Answer is a must have for the ELO enthusiast-even those who only know the later pop years need to check this classic album and see where it all began.
1. 10538 Overture
2. Look At Me Now
3. Nellie Takes Her Bow
4. The Battle Of Marston Moor (July 2nd 1644)
5. First Movement (Jumping Biz)
6. Mr. Radio
7. Manhattan Rumble (49th Street Massacre)
8. Queen Of The Hours
9. Whisper In The Night
10. Battle Of Marston Moor (Take 1 Alternate Mix)
11. Nellie Takes Her Bow (Alternate Mix)
12. Mr. Radio (Take 9)
13. 10538 Overture (Take 1 Alternate Mix)