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It's all a load of bollocks, quite frankly

Electric Light Orchestra – Mr Blue Sky

mrbluesky_300dpiI’ve been meaning to write about this for quite some time now, as it was one of two albums bought for me for Christmas – the other being Jeff Lynne’s Long Wave LP. I’ll deal with that one another day.

Now, I already own at least one ELO Greatest Hits compilation, the original releases from the seventies and eighties on vinyl and one from the late nineties on CD. Since then, a million and eleventy seven Greatest Hits compilations have been released. So why do we need yet another? This one is a little bit different as Jeff Lynne has, almost single-handedly, re-recorded the songs because the old ones didn’t sound as good or as tight as he remembered. Which started alarm bells ringing straight away. I’ve never really liked the idea of artists re-recording their earlier work. Indeed, this collection already has its detractors who have stated that this is nothing but a cynical marketing exercise. Would I think it to be the same upon listening?

I’ve always been more of a Jeff Lynne fan rather than out and out ELO fan and I find myself listening to less early ELO than I used to. The later synth-driven and stripped back stuff appeals to me far more. ‘Secret Messages’ and ‘Balance of Power’ are two criminally underrated albums, as is Jeff’s debut solo album ‘Armchair Theatre’. Same again with ‘Zoom’, which despite being released under the ELO banner, is essentially Jeff’s second solo album with help from fellow ELO bandmate Richard Tandy, George Harrison and Ringo Starr among others. I find the production of the earlier stuff a bit too over the top these days, especially the orchestral arrangements. Whereas I like the latter day “Jeff Lynne sound”, and the production work he has done for the likes of George Harrison (Cloud Nine), Tom Petty (Full Moon Fever, Into The Great Wide Open, Highway Companion), The Beatles and as a member of the Traveling Wilburys.

Anyway, back to this compilation.  The running order: Mr Blue Sky, Evil Woman, Strange Magic, Don’t Bring Me Down, Turn To Stone, Showdown, Telephone Line, Livin’ Thing, Do Ya, Can’t Get It Out Of My Head, 10538 Overture and new song Point of No Return. A line up of classics, basically. I’ve listened to this collection a couple of dozen times now, which must be testament as to what I think of it as if I hated it it’d be in the bin. I should have trusted Lynne and his production know how really, as the re-recordings are amongst his best work. Remember how bad the demo tape of the Beatles Free As A Bird was? The job Lynne did with the surviving Beatles was fantastic. He’s managed similar here.

What Lynne has basically done is use modern production techniques, modern tools and equipment to reinvigorate these old tunes. To my ears, and I’m not expecting everyone to agree (though granted, those who disagree are stupid) , he’s done the best possible job he could. He hasn’t buggered around with the arrangements at all, they are as you would remember them from years ago. There’s just an added clarity and they seem more focused. The production is brighter and clearer, which would be what Lynne was aiming for. With the exception of the strings and a piano bit here and there, Lynne plays all the instruments and to be honest does as good a job as the members of ELO did back in the day. The bass sounds more pronounced, the guitars are far clearer and the drums sound tight. His voice has matured a great deal and seems better on these recordings now he’s older. Christ, he sounds good for a 64 year old. Most of all, the orchestral arrangements don’t overpower the songs. Watch the promo video for Mr Blue Sky:


Mr Blue Sky doesn’t seem totally over the top anymore, though hasn’t lost any of its charm. Don’t Bring Me Down seems to pack a bit more of a punch and the guitars seem rockier. Can’t Get It Out Of My Head, a fantastic song that I always found spoilt by its production is given a new lease of life here. Same with Livin’ Thing, a song I never got on with that much before has somehow become my favourite Lynne-penned song. Then there’s 10538 Overture, the song whose main riff Paul Weller pinched for his song “The Changingman”, really has been given a good buff and shine as it sounds clearer than you could have imagined. And if anyone thinks Jeff Lynne’s creative juices have run out, there’s new song Point of No Return hinting at what we can expect in the future It’s a cracking little pop song that wouldn’t sound out of place on A Hard Day’s Night.

Whatever you may think of this collection, it’s put ELO back in the public psyche and that’s a good thing. We need songs and musicians like this, something that isn’t a load of pre-packed nonsense. Lynne has managed to score three top ten albums in one week, with his solo album Long Wave, this compilation and people buying the old compilation, presumably to see just how much difference there is between the songs.

Still not convinced? Watch Jeff Lynne and Richard Tandy live from Bungalow Palace Studios (Jeff’s house) here:

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March 5, 2013 - Posted by | Music | , , , , , ,

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