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Electric Light Orchestra: Secret Messages (remaster)

Much of E.L.O.'s 80's material has often been looked at as not holding up well compared to their earlier classics from the 1970's, and for good reason. By the time that 1979's Discovery hit the streets, most of the violins and cellos were in the process of being replaced by racks of synthesizers, and subsequent albums like Balance of Power, Time, and Secret Messages, turned into examples of futuristic synthesized pop, rather than the daring classical-meets-progressive rock & pop that the band were known for. 1983's Secret Messages, while not a classic by any stretch, still contains some very solid songs that retain the Jeff Lynne stamp, featuring catchy melodies, Bev Bevan's storming drums, and plenty of keyboard & synthesizers from Richard Tandy. At this time, it was basically these three and bassist Kelly Groucutt as the only remaining members, with a guest appearance from former violinist Mik Kaminski on the single "Rock 'n' Roll is King", as well as Louis Clark who conducts some string arrangements on a few tracks. For the most part though, strings are basically cut out of the music, replaced completely by Tandy and Lynne's symphonic and futuristic keyboard layers (the Oberheim DSX was their hot new gadget at the time).

Despite the changes, there are some very strong tracks here. The bouncy title track and the symphonic "Loser Gone Wild" kicks things off, each one very enjoyable with that familiar E.L.O feel, and "Bluebird" shows that Lynne still loves to churn out Beatles influenced pop ditties. "Four Little Diamonds" is the albums rocker, with Lynne's guitar riffs and Tandy's synths at the helm, driven by Bevan's solid drum work and Groucutt's muscular bass, but you can detect the direction that Lynne would soon go off on with The Travellin' Willbury's, as there is a hint of rockabilly on this one. On "Danger Ahead", hard rock guitars do battle with loads of synths and special effects, as this one is a raucous number with great vocal melodies and pomp-meets-prog arrangements. The album's radio single "Rock 'n' Roll is King" once again shows the rockabilly influence, this time even more prevalent, but it's still a catchy little number.

The bonus tracks here are noting much to get excited over-"No Way Out" is a bluesy lounge number, "Endless Lies" is a sort of dull and dreary ballad, despite some nice vocal layers, and "After All" is a mostly instrumental little number with soothing synths and some guitar chords, nice, but nothing to write home about.

The verdict on Secret Messages is that overall it's not a bad album, just not really up to the standards previously set by this band. Half the songs are strong, while the other half is pretty forgettable. The sound on this reissue of very good, and the packaging as with the other releases in this series is top notch, including full lyrics, comments from Lynne on each song, and photos. Not essential though unless you are a die hard E.L.O. fan.

Track Listing
1. Secret Messages
2. Loser Gone Wild
3. Bluebird
4. Take Me On And On
5. Time After Time
6. Four Little Diamonds
7. Stranger
8. Danger Ahead
9. Letter From Spain
10. Train Of Gold
11. Rock 'N' Roll Is King
12. No Way Out -bonus track
13. Endless Lies -bonus track
14. After All -bonus track

Added: July 16th 2007
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: ELO Website
Hits: 2981
Language: english

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