Jeff Lynne - 'Mr. Blue Sky: The Very Best Of Electric Light Orchestra' / 'Long Wave' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     November 13, 2012    
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E.L.O compilation and second solo album by Jeff Lynne

There has been an abundance of E.L.O. compilations over the years, but the latest, ‘Mr. Blue Sky,’ is a little different. To celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Birmingham’s finest, main-man Jeff Lynne has revisited a selection of his band’s finest cuts and, lovingly and painstakingly, single-handedly re-recorded them, and re-produced them utilising current studio technology. And when you take into account the depth of those wonderful arrangements, including the amount of overdubs used to create that unique sound, taking on that body of work alone is no mean feat.

Re-recording old songs can sometimes be a risky move, as it’s difficult to improve on perfection, but if anybody can improve on a production value then it’s Jeff Lynne – let’s face it, 1977’s ‘Out Of The Blue’ opus still sounds fantastic even today. As you would expect, these new recordings are of the most outstanding quality, and still sound faithful to their original recordings, but now have an even crisper and clearer amount of clarity, with the multi-layered background vocals in particular much fresher sounding.

As for the songs themselves, the selections are solely from E.L.O.’s Seventies output; there’s nothing from ‘Time’ onwards. And oddly enough it’s the title track that benefits least from its make-over, criminally Jeff has decided to do away with the song’s driving, symphonic finale, but also the new version lacks the pounding bottom-end that the original had. On the other end of the scale though, ‘Turn To Stone’ sounds much better, with the pumping bass-line now much more audible than ever before.

The likes of ‘Showdown,’ ‘Livin’ Thing’ and ‘Evil Woman’ sound virtually the same as the originals – even down to the guitar sound, but now the string textures are fresh and vibrant, while ‘Do Ya’ benefits from much more crunch in the guitar riff. And the thumping rhythm of ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’ just sounds amazing. The sweeping string textures on the ballads ‘Telephone Line’ and ‘Can’t Get It Out Of My Head’ are now much more pronounced too. One of the highlights though has to be the ‘40th Anniversary Edition’ of E.L.O.’s first ever hit ‘10538 Overture.’ It’s extended, has reworked guitar passages, and a bigger symphonic arrangement, then factor in the fresh production and it sounds amazing.

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There are a few notable absentees in Jeff’s selection, such as no ‘Sweet Talkin’ Woman’ or ‘Wild West Hero’, but mercifully there’s no ‘Diary Of Horace Wimp’ either! However there is the bonus of a previously unreleased track entitled ‘The Point Of No Return.’ It’s an up-tempo track in more of a pop-rock vein, and sounds like it could have been recorded around the time of the eighties ‘Secret Messages’ album.

Hats off to Jeff Lynne for creating something different to the normal ‘Greatest Hits’ package, but I can’t help wishing that Jeff had gone all the way and put the most famous line-up of the band back together. Keyboardist Richard Tandy is the only member Lynne has worked with since he broke up the band in 1985, as he was the only person not to hitch his wagon to the E.L.O. Part 2 procession. Bass player Kelly Groucutt is sadly no longer with us, but if Jeff would only bury the hatchet with Messrs. Bevan, Kaminski, McDowell and Gale for one last tour…however I suspect that is extremely unlikely to ever happen…

On the same day Jeff also releases his second solo album ‘Long Wave.’ Clearly writing new material is not high on his agenda at this time, as this is a collection of covers of songs that vary from Jeff’s musical influences through Musical numbers to pieces written by some of his contemporaries. Jeff worked with George Harrison and Roy Orbison on their solo work and with the Travelling Wilburys, tributes are paid with versions of ‘So Sad’ from the ex-Beatle and ‘Running Scared’ from the ‘Big O’. Chuck Berry’s ‘Let It Rock’ is another highlight. Elsewhere, it’s mostly laid-back fare such as Charles Aznavour’s ‘She’ (covered famously by Elvis Costello.) However, with his multi-tracked guitar sound Jeff somehow manages to make Bobby Darin’s ‘Beyond The Sea’ comes across like one of Queen’s more camp-sounding Seventies album tracks.

Once again Jeff has created this album alone, and typically it’s expertly produced and has all the embellishments you would expect, but as there are only eleven songs that average around the two-and-a half minute mark it’s a little on the short side. Because of the somewhat eccentric song selections I’m not sure if ‘Long Wave’ will appeal to the average Fireworks / Rocktopia reader, resulting in it being more of a curio than an essential purchase, and in all likelihood will be overshadowed by the E.L.O. collection anyway. 

Ant Heeks

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