Still more lazy thoughts from this one…

Best Album Covers: Out of the Blue


This is the next entry in Best Album Covers, a series begun right here. The first successful long-playing microgroove record for the phonograph was introduced by Columbia Records back in June of 1948. Yet, album covers (the paper board packaging that held them) didn’t come into their own graphically till decades later. Eventually becoming the cultural stamp on the music of the time. Catching the eyes of potential record-buyers and later their ears and minds. Melding the musical experience with the artist into a unique visual form.

Why Compact Disc versions of album art don’t exactly raise the same reaction these days was looked at in this post. Although, music label artistry continues to be noticed and discussed among the material published today. The bits and bytes are looking over their shoulder, though, because vinyl hasn’t entirely gone the way of the dinosaur. Online or at the record shops still out there. Cover art hasn’t lost purpose, either for old and new. Mostly, it’s my contention while digital reigns supreme, its vigor among fans lacks the tactile passion of the past LPs.

Hence the reason for this series. Some register more with me musically than others, though. Yet, the artwork will always take center stage, at least here. Let’s continue shall we?


Once again, Bruce Eder writing for Allmusic described the work of those “Searching for her silver light…”:

“The last ELO album to make a major impact on popular music, Out of the Blue was of a piece with its lavishly produced predecessor, A New World Record, but it’s a much more mixed bag as an album. For starters, it was a double LP, a format that has proved daunting to all but a handful of rock artists, and was no less so here. The songs were flowing fast and freely from Jeff Lynne at the time, however, and well more than half of what is here is very solid, at least as songs if not necessarily as recordings.”

As mentioned, Electric Light Orchestra was unique in that they harkened back to The Lads and the ’60s, but stayed true to the British rock of the ’70s. Even in the midst of a temporary pullback from pop music during my Jazz Fusion period, given the radio play this album generated1 with its handful of art-rock singles, just couldn’t avoid this double-LP. Even if I had wanted to.

ELO’s seventh among the group’s most distinct and orchestrated, and eye-catching. Plus, there was no way around the group’s symbolic spacecraft filling the LP’s cover; and beholden to its predecessor’s (A New World Record) iconic logo. Designed by Ria Lewerke for the legendary John Kosh, with illustrator Shusei Nagaoka lending a famous hand2, how could it not.

Like some brilliant, multicolored mothership appearing out of the darkness, docking some craft from a Stanley Kubrick movie, it was bound to gather the attention of music fans. Hell, even those who just appreciated sci-fi, or merely fine drawing. Particularly when you opened that glorious double-album up and examined its scale and eye-appeal (as seen here).


If you look close enough, that shuttle finding purchase in the great dark beyond has a registration (JTLA 823 L2) that happens to be the album’s original catalog number.

Artist: Electric Light Orchestra
Title: Out of the Blue
Date: 1977
Label: JetUnited ArtistsColumbia (US) (UK)
Track Listing (and yes, turn those records over):

Side one

  1. “Turn to Stone”
  2. “It’s Over”
  3. “Sweet Talking Woman”
  4. “Across the Border”

Side two

  1. “Night in the City”
  2. “Starlight”
  3. “Jungle”
  4. “Believe Me Now”
  5. “Steppin’ Out”

SIDE Three

  1. “Standin’ in the Rain”
  2. “Big Wheels”
  3. “Summer and Lightning”
  4. “Mr. Blue Sky”

SIDE four

  1. “Sweet is the Night”
  2. “The Whale”
  3. “Birmingham Blues”
  4. “Wild West Hero”

The entire series can be found here.

  1. In February 2007, the 30th Anniversary version of the album was released as a file download and CD with three bonus tracks: “Wild West Hero” (Alternate Bridge – Home Demo) – 0:24, “The Quick and the Daft” – 1:49, and “Latitude 88 North” – 3:24. The original album was reissued on vinyl in 2012 and 2015. 
  2. His passing in 2015 caused many to reflect upon Nagaoka’s many artistic accomplishments involving a number of now celebrated music albums. 

9 Responses to “Best Album Covers: Out of the Blue”

  1. Rick Ouellette

    I think also around this time, ELO were big enough to play Wembley Stadium and actually had this mothership as a huge prop hovering over the stage, certainly big enough to rival Pink Floyd’s flying pigs.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Vinyl Connection

    Just listened to this all the way through again the other day. Some very tuneful stuff. And the Beatles pastiche of ‘Mr Blue Sky’ is sublime.

    Enjoyed seeing this placed as a fave cover – wouldn’t rate for me, too lollypop-like – but I can see the grandeur and fun, for sure.

    With the vinyl ‘resurgence’ we are certainly seeing some fine new album covers appear. Love it!

    Thanks Michael.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jordan Dodd

    That is one cool looking album cover. It is somewhat becoming a lost art, though most heavy metal bands take a lot of pride in their covers.

    I don’t want digital to completely take over! 😦

    Liked by 1 person


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