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Electric Light Orchestra: Mr. Blue Sky-The Very Best of Electric Light Orchestra

The first thing you need to know about this re-recorded best-of collection is that it features only one member of the Electric Light Orchestra: Jeff Lynne, who wrote, performed and produced everything here (save for a few solos and supplemental instrumentation). Granted, Lynne was the only constant in a band notorious for its revolving lineup, but the packaging is still a bit misleading.

That said, Lynne has revisited 11 classic ELO tunes from the Seventies and reworked them using 21st century technology. The result is actually surprising; most songs boast sonic improvements over the originals. "Don't Bring Me Down" is one of the rare exceptions and also one of the major disappointments. Maybe I was just expecting more, considering that is my favorite ELO song. "I'm not saying the old versions aren't good," Lynne writes in the liner notes. "I like them very much. We were doing our best. But experience and technology also play a big part, and these new ones sound much more solid and tight."

No argument there. If anything, these songs (even with the contemporary upgrades) suggest a reassessment of ELO's work is in order. Until you re-listen to "Strange Magic," "Evil Woman" and "10538 Overture" after having been away from them for several years, you just don't realize how influential and overlooked ELO remain in modern progdom. And one new song here, "Point of No Return" which sounds as though it could have been written during his tenure in the Traveling Wilburys suggests Lynne has still got some musical life left in him.

Frontiers Records appears to have struck a sweet deal with Lynne, simultaneously releasing Mr. Blue Sky with Long Wave, his first solo album in more than 20 years (a tribute to music of the Fifties and Sixties). Still to come are reissues of Lynne's first solo album, 1990's Armchair Theatre, and ELO's last studio album, 2001's Zoom, plus a live ELO disc.

Track Listing:
1) Mr. Blue Sky
2) Evil Woman
3) Strange Magic
4) Don't Bring Me Down
5) Turn to Stone
6) Showdown
7) Telephone Line
8) Livin' Thing
9) Do Ya
10) Can't Get It Out of My Head
11) 10538 Overture (40th Anniversary)
12) Point of No Return (Previously Unreleased)

Added: January 25th 2013
Reviewer: Michael Popke
Related Link: Official ELO Website
Hits: 2076
Language: english

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Electric Light Orchestra: Mr. Blue Sky-The Very Best of Electric Light Orchestra
Posted by Steven Reid, SoT Staff Writer on 2013-01-25 14:52:42
My Score:

Whether it be vanity, a dash for cash, or a genuine belief that there's something new and exciting to be unearthed, recent years have seen an increasingly large amount of the last millennium's most influential artists re-record their own back catalogue. So teaming up with Frontiers Records (masters of reinvigorating well known faces from the past) to release Long Wave, a new (for new read lack-lustre) covers album and this re-recorded collection of Electric Light Orchestra classics, comes a recently under active Jeff Lynne. That new album may not exactly be the most enticing reason for newbies to Lynne's cause to investigate his previous work, but there's no denying the Mr. Blue Sky - The Very Best Of Electric Light Orchestra is. Now whether only having one member of the ever evolving ELO in evidence here (actually Lynne works almost completely single-handedly on this album) really deserves the band's moniker being on the front is up for discussion. However to be fair, to all intents and purposes if you ask the man in the street to name someone who has been in this band, odds are Lynne's will be almost the only one to come up (OK, maybe Roy Wood, but he's really only a footnote in ELO history).

Re-recorded they may be, but re-imagined these versions are not, with "Mr Blue Sky", "Turn To Stone", "Evil Woman" and "Telephone Line" all staying very close to the originals, while in fairness sounding more pristine than ever before. For some catalogues, filing off the rough edges removes their song's charm, but not here, what with the string infused goodness always really being intended to be heard in the most glistening of manners. Lesser known tracks such as "Showdown" and the chunky "Do Ya" (I still love the Ace Frehley version of this track...) also benefit from the polish, as does the Abba-esque "10538 Overture (40th Anniversary)" bonus track. The other bonus (whatever constitutes a bonus these days????) arrives in the shape of the unreleased "Point Of No Return", which while good, is a bit Lynne by numbers. Actually it could easily and unnoticed slide onto either Tom Petty's Lynne produced Into The Great Wide Open album, or the pair's collaborative efforts (with Roy Orbison, George Harrison and Bob Dylan) in the Travelling Wilburys, which to be fair isn't exactly poor company.

If you've never encountered ELO - actually you will have, but just won't be aware of it and this collection will prove that - then Mr Blue Sky is an excellent place to start, while devoted fans will need to hear what and where Lynne has slightly adapted things, as well as catch a decent new track. Where temptation won't lie however is with the casual observers who already have one of the copious (and similarly packaged) ELO retrospectives, as in truth they won't notice any differences here whatsoever. Still, this is a nice addition to the catalogue of a band that really should receive much more respect than they ever have.

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