The Electric Light Orchestra has always been one of those bands that walked the fine line between rock, pop, and progressive rock. Most probably remember the band that cranked out hit after hit and did the tours with all the lights, lasers, and stage built like a space ship. Before ELO was a mainstream success, Jeff Lynee and Co. were actually quite an interesting creation, fusing rock & roll with classical music, blues, psychedelia, pop, and of course prog. Eagle Vision's excellent new DVD Live-The Early Years focuses on the years 1973-1976, and gives three performances that show the band in its infancy.
By 1973, founding member Roy Wood had already left the band, so Lynne, drummer Bev Bevan, and keyboard player Richard Tandy, added bassist/vocalist Mike De Albuquerque, violinist Mik Kaminski, and cellists Mike Edwards & Hugh McDowell to the fold. Touring in support of their first semi-hit album On the Third Day, the band were filmed at Brunel University on a small stage in front of a small audience who were obviously very much into ELO's brand of psychedelic classical prog rock. Though there are only four tunes here, you can see the early rawness of the band, as they tear through the proggy "King of the Universe", the more rock oriented "Ma-Ma-Ma Belle", their rousing rendition of "In the Hall Of the Mountain King", as well as a 'classical-meets-rock' version of the 50's classic "Great Balls of Fire". Jeff Lynne's vocals haven't yet hit the smooth Beatles influenced tone that he would later make famous, but there's plenty of early Moog sounds from Richard Tandy and some rousing strings from the trio of Kaminski (who could really wail on the violin!), McDowell, and Edwards. McDowell especially was quite the performer in those early days, hopping around with his cello and playing it like a heavy metal guitarist. Though De Albuquerque was a solid bassist, his vocal skills were actually pretty awful, and do not help any of these tunes at all when he's backing up Lynne.
The 1974 footage from the famous Rockpalast TV show in Germany is even better, as the band is even tighter plus two additional songs are featured, "Daybreak" and "Orange Blossom Special". Though the band had a new album out that year, the popular Eldorado, it had yet to be released, which is the reason why no tunes from that album are included here. Fast forward to 1976, and ELO are now on the verge of major stardom with the release of Face the Music, and album that proved to be a big hit for them. The line-up has since changed too, with Kelly Groucutt in on bass & vocals, and Melvyn Gale taking over for Edwards on cello. Groucutt especially was a major score for the band, as not only was he a good bass player, but possesed a wonderful voice that complemented Lynne as well as being a contributing factor on lead vocals too. This performance, from London's Fusion TV show in 1976, sees ELO approaching their peak, playing 12 songs and really showing how daring their early material could be. Though there are once again some repeats in the set list, you get to see the band perform classics such as "Evil Woman", "Strange Magic", "Do Ya", "Showdown", "Poker", "Nightrider", and a few of the more classical oriented gems from the Eldorado album. Musically and vocally, the band is spot on throughout, and the quality of the audio & video is clean and solid.
If you already own the Live at Wembley DVD from the Out of the Blue tour, then Live-The Early Years will be a welcome addition to your ELO video collection. Eagle Vision has once again done a bang-up job here, putting together a quality product that will provide years and years of viewing enjoyment.
Brunel University 1973
1.) King of the Universe
2.) Ma-Ma-Ma Belle
3.) In The Hall Of The Mountain King
4.) Great Balls of Fire
3.) Orange Blossom Special
4.) Ma-Ma-Ma Belle
5.) In The Hall Of The Mountain King
6.) Great Balls of Fire
4.) Eldorado Overture
5.) Can't Get It Out Of My Head
6.) Poor Boy (The Greenwood)
7.) Illusions in G Major
8.) Strange Magic
9.) 10538 Overture
10.) Do Ya
11.) Evil Woman
12.) Ma-Ma-Ma Belle
Bonus feature – Rockpalast Interview