Lynne Me Your Ears: Tribute To The Music Of Jeff Lynne

Lynne Me Your EarsThe premise of this double-disc compilation is simple: various modern pop artists, most of them enjoying cult indie label status (and a few of them refugees from major labels too), revisit the songs of one of their musical heroes, ELO’s Jeff Lynne. Colorado’s own Not Lame Records has been teasing the heck out of this release for months, only to watch it be bogged down by politics (the father/son duo of Randy and Tal Bachman, each of whom were originally slated to contribute a song, pulled out) and delays (a printing error in the first run of liner notes booklets which caused the collection to slip well past its original pre-Christmas 2001 release date). And now that it’s here, was it worth the lengthy wait?

The answer is, in most cases, absolutely. The covers (which don’t limit themselves to ELO material but also cover Lynne’s contributions to the Traveling Wilburys, a 1960s U.K. group known as the Idle Race, and his solitary solo album) vary wildly, ranging from faithful homages to reinterpretations in a completely new style.

Some of the better “near-beer” covers include former R.E.M. producer Mitch Easter’s collaboration with Bobby Sutliff on the first ELO single, “10538 Overture”; Michael Carpenter’s near-carbon-copy of Lynne’s solo single “Every Little Thing”; Jason Falkner’s raw cover of “Do Ya”, a stripped-down, Buddy Holly-ized cover of “Rock ‘N’ Roll Is King” by Walter Clevenger and the Dairy Kings, and an accurate-down-to-the-overmodulation-distortion copy of the Idle Race’s “Morning Sunshine” by Jeremy.

The real triumphs of Lynne Me Your Ears, however, are those artists who took extensive liberties and created something completely new – Ross Rice’s hip-hop-ified cover of “Evil Woman” is both funky and up-to-date, and Tony Visconti (former Move and Moody Blues producer) turns in a tasty new take on “Mr. Blue Sky”, starting out as a rap and then tumbling through every style in the book by the end of the song’s lengthy instrumental coda. Prairie Sons and Daughters transform the eloquence of “One Summer Dream” into a spiky, guitar-drenched masterpiece that also takes a detour into “In Old England Town” from ELO’s second album. That multiple-song-tributes-in-a-single-track trick is repeated masterfully by Rick Altizer, who leaps from the soulful opening guitar solo of “Laredo Tornado” into a thundering modernized version of “Boy Blue”. Former Move vocalist Carl Wayne, ironically, takes the stage-musical feel of “Steppin’ Out” to its logical, grandiose conclusion (it was Wayne who stepped out of the Move in 1970, a departure that made way for Jeff Lynne to join the group). The Shazam squeezes the synths out of “Twilight” and turns it into a wonderful wash of electric guitar work (but keeps the harmonies intact), and “Turn To Stone” gets a similar treatment from Roger Klug. Sparkle*Jets UK turn the dreamy “Above The Clouds” into a cheerful, rockin’ power pop number.

Perhaps the most shocking transformation bestowed upon any of the songs here is “On The Run”, a rapid-fire techno-before-there-was-techno tune from 1979’s Discovery which is rendered here by Sixpence None The Richer as a relaxing acoustic piece with a slow, majestic gait and Leigh Nash’s always pleasant voice. It has to be heard to be believed – this may be the best example on Lynne Me Your Ears of a band taking one of the old ELO chestnuts and making it their own.

There are a small number of misses for all of those hits, however; Peter Holsapple’s cover of the Move’s “No Time” has yet to click with me – the harmonies seem to be a misfire in some places. The Heavy Blinkers’ cover of “You Took My Breath Away”, itself a Roy Orbison tribute penned by Lynne for the second Traveling Wilburys album, lacks the melancholy of the original and comes out sounding a little too sunny. And the “Sweet Is The Night” cover heard here seems to have lost a lot of what made the original so appealing.

4 out of 4Overall, however, a nice treat for ELO/Lynne fans, and hey, your mileage may even vary on which songs worked and which ones didn’t. Highly recommended – and, in the face of Sony’s recent reticence to continue the promised remastering of the entire ELO catalogue, it may be the last ELO related treat we fans get for quite a while. Soak it up slowly and enjoy.

Order this CD

    Disc one

  1. 10538 Overture – Bobby Sutliff & Mitch Easter (4:35)
  2. Ma Ma Ma Belle – Earl Slick (4:05)
  3. Telephone Line – Jeffrey Foskett (4:49)
  4. Do Ya – Jason Falkner (3:58)
  5. Sweet Is The Night – Ben Lee (3:28)
  6. Rockaria! – Pat Buchanan (3:49)
  7. Every Little Thing – Michael Carpenter (3:52)
  8. No Time – Peter Holsapple (3:59)
  9. Showdown – Richard Barone (4:26)
  10. Handle With Care – Jamie Hoover (3:25)
  11. Strange Magic – Mark Helm (3:54)
  12. Evil Woman – Ross Rice (4:51)
  13. Steppin’ Out – Carl Wayne (4:27)
  14. Don’t Bring Me Down – SWAG (3:13)
  15. One Summer Dream – Prairie Sons & Daughters (7:16)
  16. Can’t Get It Out Of My Head – Doug Powell (4:57)
    Disc two

  1. Twilight – The Shazam (3:11)
  2. Mr. Blue Sky – Tony Visconti (5:02)
  3. You Took My Breath Away – The Heavy Blinkers (3:07)
  4. Message From The Country – The Balls of France (4:28)
  5. The Minister – Ferenzik (4:43)
  6. Xanadu – Neilson Hubbard and Venus Hum (3:31)
  7. When Time Stood Still – Bill Lloyd (3:27)
  8. Above The Clouds – Sparkle*Jets UK (4:00)
  9. Rock And Roll Is King – Walter Clevenger and the Dairy Kings (3:14)
  10. Morning Sunshine – Jeremy (2:19)
  11. Boy Blue – Rick Altizer (3:45)
  12. Livin’ Thing – Pray For Rain (3:57)
  13. On The Run – Sixpence None The Richer (2:37)
  14. Bluebird Is Dead – Todd Rundgren (5:06)
  15. Turn To Stone – Ruger Klug (5:11)
  16. Eldorado – Fleming and John (6:41)

Released by: Not Lame Records
Release date: 2002
Disc one total running time: 69:04
Disc two total running time: 64:19

Electric Light Orchestra – First Light

Electric Light Orchestra - First LightElectric Light Orchestra - First LightIn the late 60s, one would’ve been hard-pressed to find a post-Beatles psychedelic power pop outfit more prominent in Britain than The Move. (How prominent? One of their singles was the first song played on BBC Radio 1.) So naturally, the members of the Move would’ve been crazy to knock a sure thing in the head and try something as drastically different as a live rock group with its own string section.

Fortunately for us, Roy Wood and newcomer Jeff Lynne were crazy enough to do just that. Frequently quoted as “picking up where ‘I Am The Walrus’ left off,” Wood and Lynne dared to throw layer after layer of cello on top of Lynne’s latest composition, “10538 Overture”, which was originally slated to be a Move B-side. The result thrilled them enough to continue forging ahead with their neoclassical aspirations in mind, and the songs grew more adventurous from there; “The Battle Of Marston Moor” has no rock elements at all, adding Wood’s historical spoken narrative to a largely baroque backing. “Whisper In The Night” adds layers of cellos and an angelic choir to a fairly simple ballad. Lynne’s “Mr. Radio” strives for an old-time radio sound, featuring no bass whatsoever (but plenty of cellos).

First Light is a 2-CD celebration of the band’s first album, dating back to 1971 (whose original no-frills single-CD release has been reviewed here previously). Remastered from the original session tapes, the original album tracks have never sounded better, and yet the cleaning-up of the material doesn’t strip it of its heady early 70s charm. A new version of the album, brought up to modern specs, would be worth the price of admission alone, but bonus tracks fill out both the CD containing the original album and and entire second CD. Some of the stuff – the incredibly rare live tracks from one of the group’s earliest performances, alternate takes of several songs from the album – is priceless. The live version of a song known only by the title “Jeff’s Boogie No. 2” (later heard on the group’s second album under the title “In Old England Town”) is particularly fascinating, with wildly different lyrics than what eventually accompanied that music. And the live “Whisper In The Night”, minus the cellos and choir but with a helping hand from the other band members’ more traditional instruments, is also worth a listen. And just for the record, I want to know who on Earth recorded the BBC Radio intros to the second disc’s two different versions of “10538 Overture” – who thought to keep that stuff!?

Both discs included copious liner notes booklets, with comments from Lynne and Wood and tons of photos. The first disc is also filled out with an extensive multimedia CD-ROM section featuring the session logs, the band’s discography, and even the rare promotional video from “10538 Overture”.

rating: 4 out of 4Overall, it’s a grand package for those already acquainted with the first album, or those interested in ELO’s beginnings. Sadly, only a few thousand copies of the two-disc Limited Edition have been made, and the title reverts to the first disc only after that. If ELO is up your alley, spring for the deluxe edition while it’s there.

Order this CD

    Disc one:

  1. 10538 Overture (5:37)
  2. Look At Me Now (3:20)
  3. Nellie Takes Her Bow (6:02)
  4. The Battle Of Marston Moor (July 2nd, 1644) (6:05)
  5. First Movement (Jumping Biz) (3:03)
  6. Mr. Radio (5:06)
  7. Manhattan Rumble (49th Street Massacre) (4:25)
  8. Queen Of The Hours (3:25)
  9. Whisper In The Night (4:49)
  10. The Battle Of Marston Moor – alternate take (1:00)
  11. 10538 Overture – alternate take (5:48)
    Disc two:

  1. Brian Matthews Introduces ELO (0:37)
  2. 10538 Overture – acetate version (5:24)
  3. Look At Me Now – quadrophonic mix (3:19)
  4. Nellie Takes Her Bow – quadrophonic mix (5:59)
  5. The Battle Of Marston Moor – quadrophonic mix (5:55)
  6. Jeff’s Boogie No. 2 – live (6:58)
  7. Whisper In The Night – live (5:45)
  8. Great Balls Of Fire – live (5:40)
  9. Queen Of The Hours – quadrophonic mix (3:18)
  10. Mr. Radio – Take 9 (5:18)
  11. 10538 Overture – BBC Sessions version (10:39)
    (includes Whisper In The Night – BBC Sessions version as “hidden track”)

Released by: EMI/Harvest
Release date: 2001
Disc one total running time: 48:40
Disc two total running time: 58:52

Electric Light Orchestra – Live At The BBC

Now discontinued by Eagle Records, a small label which has unleashed a small slew of ELO live albums in recent years, this two-disc set is a compilation of live cuts as originally broadcast on BBC Radio’s In Concert series.

The first disc kicks off with an extended jam built around what would appear to be an early version of “Boogie #1: From The Sun To The World” from ELO’s second album. The lyrics are wildly different, as are large portions of the lengthy solos, some of which sound like they were kept in mind during the making of On The Third Day. Moog synths and the glorious sound of the group’s early (pre-Mik Kaminski) string section battle it out for prominence. Kuiama turns into a surprisingly relaxed jam, with the three-piece string section shining once more until just before the end of the song (at which point they go hideously out of key). “In The Hall Of The Mountain King” suffers a similar fate – starts out strong, becomes a great chugging Russian dance of sorts, and then falls apart right before the end. By the time “Roll Over Beethoven” rolls around, the group has gotten the hint – it doesn’t last as long as the other numbers, and doesn’t outstay its welcome.

Then we travel forward in time by about a year with a nice rendition of “Ocean Breakup / King Of The Universe”, the indecipherable opening medley from ELO’s third album, On The Third Day. Following the album’s running order, this segues into a low-key (and on-key) “Bluebird Is Dead” and “Oh No, Not Susan” (the latter complete with non-radio-friendly F-word in its lyrics!). Jeff Lynne’s vocals during this live set start out very much in the background, often overshadowed by the instruments, but his performance becomes much more assured by the time “New World Rising” arrives. By this point, Mik Kaminski has joined the band, and after the Third Day medley and a brief introduction of the band members, he takes center stage with his self-penned classical hoedown solo. Another performance of “Mountain King” proves to be a little more polished, and leaps abruptly into a rumbling cover “Great Balls Of Fire”.

The second disc leapfrogs past Eldorado and starts with “Fire On High”, the chugging instrumental which inaugurated 1975’s Face The Music LP. The hard-rocking “Poker” is next up, though this rendition seems to be dominated more by synths than electric guitars. But it’s not until “Nightrider” that the band really starts to shine. The excellence carries over to the band’s second crack at a Third Day medley, with even the between-song interludes from the album spreading out into a luxurious jam highlighting the abilities of the string trio. That portion of the band continues to carry things along into “Bluebird Is Dead” and “Showdown” (and I’ll still take live Showdown over the album version any day). A pre-recorded “Eldorado Overture” leads into a fair reading of “Can’t Get It Out Of My Head” (though I still question the need to insult the listener’s intelligence – or waste his time – by not editing pre-recorded bits out of live albums). “Poor Boy (The Greenwood)” fares much better on stage, though its string parts – arranged for a full orchestra – seem to be a little more than the group’s live string trio can handle. One of my favorites from Eldorado, “Illusions In G Major”, relies much less on the string section and turns out to be the best number in the Eldorado set. After Bev Bevan tries to rouse a seemingly lethargic audience, the band launches into “Strange Magic” – in which Bev’s bass backing vocals can be heard much louder than Lynne’s lead! The audience finally wakes up and claps along to “Evil Woman” before Bev even picked up his sticks, and audience participation night continues into the final number, a killer “Ma-Ma-Ma Belle” jam.

This two-disc document of early live ELO is bound to be of interest to ardent fans as well as collectors, now that it has been discontinued from the Eagle Records catalogue. But it’s not the rollicking, polished live set one hears on Live At Winterland – and, thankfully, nor is it the over-polished, largely pre-recorded, uninspiring set from the Live At Wembley CD and DVD. If nothing else, Live At The 3 out of 4BBC helps one gain a greater appreciation for drummer Bev Bevan and the three-part string section that represented ELO’s orchestral ambitions on stage, both before and after the orchestra became a literal one on the group’s albums. But more casual listeners, and even some fans, may be appalled by the string section’s misfires in the earlier material. Perhaps this one could have been pared down to the second disc by itself.

Order this CD

    Disc one

  1. From The Sun To The World (11:39)
  2. Kuiama (10:26)
  3. In The Hall Of The Mountain King (8:10)
  4. Roll Over Beethoven (5:09)
  5. King Of The Universe (4:54)
  6. Bluebird Is Dead (4:09)
  7. Oh No Not Susan (2:43)
  8. New World Rising (6:39)
  9. Mik’s Violin Solo / Orange Blossom Special (2:37)
  10. In The Hall Of The Mountain King (4:56)
  11. Great Balls Of Fire (3:25)
    Disc two

  1. Fire On High (5:35)
  2. Poker (4:20)
  3. Nightrider (4:59)
  4. On The Third Day medley (13:14)
  5. Showdown (4:45)
  6. Eldorado (6:05)
  7. Poor Boy (The Greenwood) (2:43)
  8. Illusions In G Major (3:39)
  9. Strange Magic (3:37)
  10. Evil Woman (5:19)
  11. Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (5:32)

Released by: Eagle / Edel
Release date: 1999
Disc one total running time: 64:49
Disc two total running time: 59:50

Electric Light Orchestra – Flashback

Electric Light Orchestra - FlashbackAnd to think, you thought ELO’s story was over. A series of rare tracks, live cuts, concerts and rarities have kept the band alive for fans during the 90s – not to mention a little band called ELO Part Two, who have been paying Jeff Lynne’s mortgage from publishing royalties alone for the past decade. But with the abrupt end of ELO Part Two, now operating under the somewhat generic name Orchestra, we should’ve known something was up. Jeff Lynne’s been a busy boy, supervising the restoration and remastering of the original ELO session tapes and finishing incomplete recordings which originated anywhere from 1980 to ’82. Alternate mixes of “Do Ya”, “Mission (A World Record)” and “Mama” are included here, along with a murky 1973 home demo and a completely new version of “Xanadu”, performed by Lynne in a style which seems to owe more to the Traveling Wilburys than to ELO.

There are many familiar and somewhat more obscure tracks in this box set, and the remastering that has been performed on that material is quite a revelation. For the first time, “Shangri-La” and “Livin’ Thing” aren’t pureèd by the noise reduction technology of the 70s – the latter in particular has had a very annoying overmodulation effect in the build-up to the last chorus since I first heard it, so it’s nice to hear it the way it was originally performed for the first time.

New bits are heard here and there as well, such as an interesting synth instrumental right before “Hold On Tight”, some Beatlesque echo-drenched count-ins, and so on.

The edits and alternate mixes of classic songs are interesting from a completist point of view; personally, unlike Jeff Lynne in his liner notes, I have never felt that 1972’s “Mama” was an overly long number, and to say that I preferred the original mix of “Mission (A World Record)” as released in 1976 would be an understatement. This new mix is an interesting way to study the song’s densely layered arrangements, as it lacks many of the backing vocals of the original, but that’s all. And I can’t tell if “Do Ya” is a grand rebirth for one of ELO’s oldest songs (it was originally a Move number), a product of extensive computerized editing, or both.

The real gems, however, are the half-dozen or so outtakes and previously uncompleted songs from the early 1980s. “Grieg’s Piano Concerto In A Minor” is just what it says it is, given a groovy Ventures-style surf-rock arrangement which has to be heard to be believed (!). “Tears In Your Life” is a somber reject from 1982’s Secret Messages album, which Lynne completed with a new three-part harmony vocal (the original intent was for the entire song to be sung through a vocoder), and sports some elegant middle-eastern-influenced string work. Other leftovers from the Secret Messages sessions are the incredibly silly “Who’s That?” (a Monty-Python-esque bit of messing around with fart sounds that was probably never intended to appear in any officially-released form) and “Helpless”, which has some amazing vocal harmonies hearkening back to ELO’s glory days.

But in my view, the real treat is “Love Changes All”, a never-before-heard number from the 1980 sessions for ELO’s half of the Xanadu soundtrack. Not only are the pre-requisite swirling string arrangements there, but so is a large choir and some of Lynne’s best vocals (and lyrics). It’s a shame the song was never finished until this year.

The box art is a fantastic revisitation of some of the concepts from 1977’s Out Of The Blue cover art, which forever solidified the ELO/spaceship/science fiction connection that furthered the group’s reputation as a cult-following-only band, right up there with most other well-loved science fiction icons. The booklet contained in the box is an almost fawning tribute to Lynne’s genius. I love Jeff Lynne’s songwriting and production style, but these things should not be stressed at the expense of such pivotal past members as Bev Bevan, Kelly Groucutt (who sued his ex-bandmates in the 1980s over whether he was a full member of the band entitled to royalties, or just a high-paid session musician who just happened to play on virtually every song the group recorded between 1975 and 1983), and co-founder Roy Wood.

4 out of 4With its steep price tag, I’m not sure that Flashback will spark the ELO renaissance that Epic is hoping for – and with the announcement of Zoom, a completely new ELO album created by Jeff Lynne for a 2001 release, I’m sure there was some hope that Flashback would generate some real interest. Die-hard ELO fans like myself are sure to pick it up for the new material, but will the general music-buying community catch on fire for this? Only time will tell.

Order this CD

    Disc one

  1. 10538 Overture (5:31)
  2. Showdown (4:12)
  3. Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (3:54)
  4. Mr. Radio (5:03)
  5. Roll Over Beethoven (7:48)
  6. Mama – new edit (6:05)
  7. One Summer Dream (5:21)
  8. Illusions In G Major (2:41)
  9. Strange Magic (4:29)
  10. Eldorado Overture (2:12)
  11. Can’t Get It Out Of My Head (4:24)
  12. Eldorado (5:18)
  13. Eldorado Finale (1:29)
  14. Do Ya – alternative mix (4:09)
  15. Mister Kingdom (5:08)
  16. Grieg’s Piano Concerto In A Minor (2:59)
    Disc two

  1. Tightrope (5:23)
  2. Evil Woman (4:19)
  3. Livin’ Thing (3:34)
  4. Mr. Blue Sky (5:07)
  5. Mission (A World Record) – alternative mix (4:31)
  6. Turn To Stone (3:48)
  7. Telephone Line (4:45)
  8. Rockaria! (3:15)
  9. Starlight (4:45)
  10. It’s Over (3:55)
  11. The Whale (5:06)
  12. Sweet Talkin’ Woman (3:49)
  13. Big Wheels (5:32)
  14. Shangri-La (5:36)
  15. Nightrider (4:24)
  16. Tears In Your Life (3:06)
    Disc three

  1. Don’t Bring Me Down (4:04)
  2. The Diary Of Horace Wimp (4:17)
  3. Twilight (3:42)
  4. Secret Messages (4:38)
  5. Take Me On And On (4:58)
  6. Shine A Little Love (4:11)
  7. Rock And Roll Is King (3:15)
  8. Last Train To London (4:31)
  9. Confusion (3:40)
  10. Getting To The Point (4:51)
  11. Hold On Tight (3:08)
  12. So Serious (2:43)
  13. Calling America (3:27)
  14. Four Little Diamonds (4:06)
  15. Great Balls Of Fire – live, 1974 (3:06)
  16. Xanadu – new version (3:21)
  17. Indian Queen – demo (0:57)
  18. Love Changes All (3:28)
  19. After All (2:24)
  20. Helpless (3:19)
  21. Who’s That? (1:26)

Released by: Epic/Legacy
Release date: 2000
Disc one total running time: 68:52
Disc two total running time: 71:01
Disc three total running time: 73:42

Electric Light Orchestra – The BBC Sessions

Electric Light Orchestra - The BBC SessionsWell, I guess this is proof that I’m a sucker for nearly anything with the Electric Light Orchestra’s name on the cover. This latest release from Eagle Records, the people who brought us rather nice CD pressings of concert recordings from ELO’s 1975 and 1978 tours, is a collection of studio numbers from the band’s appearances on BBC Radio’s Bob Harris Sessions show between 1972 and 1974. If it sounds like I’m a little bit skeptical, it’s because in places the songs on this CD sound exactly like the studio versions that eventually saw light on their respective albums. “Kuiama” especially raised my suspicions – are we sure that this isn’t the same cut that wound up on ELO II? Either that, or ELO really was the best live band in the world, managing to duplicate the entirety of a song, right down to its production nuances, in a live performance!

But “Roll Over Beethoven” and “From The Sun To The World” are clearly not the same recordings I’ve heard at least two hundred times. Jeff Lynne’s vocals are a big part of the difference – in some places he sings a little rougher, and in a few places on the latter track, he actually sings a little better than he did on the final cut which made it to vinyl in 1972. The instrumentation is also significantly different on “From The Sun”, including a guitar solo in place of a violin solo during the instrumental break, and some much heavier synth work courtesy of Richard Tandy. Sadly, this song also fades out just as it’s starting to kick into the series of lightning-fast solos.

The Bob Harris Sessions version of “Mama” (listed on this CD, and on quite a few other compilations, as “Momma”) is outstanding – miles ahead of what actually made the cut for ELO II in 1972. Unusually, Lynne’s vocals are very dry, free from the echoplexing and reverb with which he usually drenched his own singing in post-production. And Jeff Lynne is an excellent singer – this track proves that he didn’t need to hide behind all the effects for so many years. The harmonies are also much wider, almost Queen-like, and better mixed. It almost sounds like an Armchair Theatre outtake of a recent cover version of the song.

“In The Hall Of The Mountain King” has never really been an ELO track I’ve listened to a lot, but this live version is another testament to Jeff Lynne’s guitar skills, the strength of ELO’s string section in the early 1970s, and the thundering intensity of Bev Bevan in his prime.

The final suite of five tracks is where I get sorely disappointed with this album. These songs, all from On The Third Day, sound exactly, in every detail and every tiny nuance, like the recordings I’ve heard on Third Day for more than half my life. It’s a damn shame – I would have loved to hear alternate takes or even different mixes of these songs from one of the band’s most mysterious and intricate albums. Simply lifting tracks from the album for this CD is the equivalent of the studio version of “Standin’ In The Rain” which opens the video of the 1978 Wembley Arena concert…it’s more than a little bit misleading.

2 out of 4So, the final question is…for those die-hard fans who have heard every last ELO song in existence a thousand times, is it worth the effort to track this CD down? I’m such a fan myself, so my answer is a “Yes!”…but that’s a qualified yes. Even if it’s just for this version of “Mama”, I recommend the BBC Sessions album to those who have the time and money to blow on finding this one.

Order this CD

  1. Kuiama (11:05)
  2. Roll Over Beethoven (7:40)
  3. From The Sun To The World (7:19)
  4. Momma (6:56)
  5. In the Hall of the Mountain King (5:42)
  6. King of the Universe (2:35)
  7. Bluebird Is Dead (4:24)
  8. New World Rising (4:01)
  9. Daybreaker (3:31)
  10. Ma Ma Ma Belle (3:40)

Released by: Eagle / Edel
Release date: 1999
Total running time: 56:56

Electric Light Orchestra – The Night The Light Went On…

Electric Light Orchestra - The Night The Light Went On In Long BeachSomewhere between obscurity and fame – i.e. between their third and fourth albums – ELO recorded this California gig which is one of the most energetic and unusual performances the band ever put on. If the track list for this album looks unusual, that’s because, aside from “Roll Over Beethoven”, it’s the only evidence on record that ELO was a decent cover band prior to their ascension to superstardom. Jeff Lynne’s influences – the Beatles and Jerry Lee Lewis (what a combo!) – receive an homage from the respective (and, I might add, very good) covers of “Daytripper” and “Great Balls Of Fire”. Not used to the thought of him singing other people’s material, I was surprised at how well Lynne could carry off Jerry Lee Lewis’ vocal style. And there are three outstanding instrumentals – one, “Daybreaker”, is an ELO original from On The Third Day; another, “Mik’s Solo / Orange Blossom Special”, runs the gamut from classical to hoedown in a matter of a few hilarious minutes (courtesy of ELO’s resident virtuoso 3 out of 4Mik Kaminski); and the third, a heavy metal cover of Grieg’s “In The Hall of the Mountain King” (also recorded on Third Day), segues abruptly into the aforementioned Jerry Lee Lewis rocker. This ranks up there with the Winterland CD and ELO Part II’s One Night as yet another example that, at least some of the time, ELO was a damn fine live band.

Order this CD

  1. Daybreaker (5:36)
  2. Showdown (6:54)
  3. Daytripper (6:40)
  4. 10538 Overture (5:44)
  5. Mik’s Solo / Orange Blossom Special (2:28)
  6. In the Halls of the Mountain King / Great Balls of Fire (8:35)
  7. Roll Over Beethoven (4:25)

Released by: Epic / Sony UK
Release date: 1974 (reissued on CD in 1997)
Total running time: 40:25

Electric Light Orchestra – Live At Winterland, 1976

Electric Light Orchestra - Live At Winterland, 1976This classic concert recording, only recently given its own CD release, certainly humbles me a bit. Some time back, in my review of ELO Part II’s One Night live album, I asserted my belief that the original ELO – limited by the number of musicians and the technology available to them at the time – could never hold a candle to ELO Part II on stage. Now, after hearing this concert recording from the early stages of ELO’s superstardom – well over a year before Out Of The Blue was released, and not long after the album containing “Strange Magic” and “Evil Woman” debuted – I have to admit that this isn’t necessarily true.

Jeff Lynne and company seemed to be in tune and in the spirit for a great performance at this 1976 gig, and since it falls so early in the band’s career, it highlights some of their best early material, including a medley of several tunes from 1974’s excellent Eldorado album. Material from the very first album also appears here, something that would fall by the wayside in only a couple of years as crowds began to request nothing but recent hits; “10538 Overture” is combined with the Move’s “Do Ya” (remember, this concert took place before “Do Ya” resurfaced on A New World Record) for a hard rock medley. “Fire On High”, “Poker” and “Nightrider” – all from what was, at the time, ELO’s most recent album – are also handled wonderfully on stage. I did notice that bassist/backup singer Kelly Groucutt took the lead with the vocals a 4 out of 4number of times, something that he didn’t get to do again until the band broke up and reformed.

So I suppose I have to retract my earlier statement about the original ELO on stage. The band’s enthusiasm for their material here easily outshines any technological limitations that could have hindered anyone’s enjoyment of the music, and it’s a must-have for any serious ELO fans.

Order this CD

  1. Fire On High (5:28)
  2. Poker (4:02)
  3. Nightrider (4:37)
  4. Showdown (4:43)
  5. Eldorado Suite (13:14)
  6. Strange Magic (5:07)
  7. Medley: 10538 Overture / Do Ya (5:27)
  8. Evil Woman (4:39)
  9. Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (6:37)
  10. Roll Over Beethoven (6:38)

Released by: Eagle / Edel
Release date: 1998
Total running time: 60:34