Doctor Who: The Sun Makers – music by Dudley Simpson

This is a Doctor Who soundtrack release I never expected to be holding in my hands or hearing. Composer Dudley Simpson was as close as classic Doctor Who had to the kind of singular composer-in-residence that seems to be the norm for the modern series; other composers were occasionally employed at the whim of individual directors, but from 1964 through 1979, Dudley Simpson was Doctor Who’s default musical “setting”, composing for and conducting a small ensemble occasionally augmented with synthesizers by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. But despite his music gracing most of the series across that fifteen-year span, most of the original session tapes of Simpson’s Doctor Who music have been lost. The only remaining specimens, in fact, can be traced to the Radiophonic Workshop – if they added their wobbly analog synths to Simpson’s music, a copy of that was retained in their archives. And that’s where the score from The Sun Makers, a 1977 Tom Baker four-part story, comes in – it’s one of only two Simpson scores that still exist in their entirety, both of them thanks to the Workshop’s involvement. (The other, still unreleased, is 1971’s The Mind Of Evil, a Jon Pertwee adventure that was the second-ever appearance of Roger Delgado as the Master, and as such heavily feature’s Simpson’s sinister theme for that character.) To have a complete Simpson score is a gift; for that score to hail from a fondly-remembered story featuring the fourth Doctor, Leela, and K-9 toppling a regime embracing capitalism-to-the-point-of-ridiculousness is just gravy.

Tracks like “Mahogany”, which starts out with a somewhat plaintive bassoon before bringing the rest of the ensemble in to create a rich, warm harmony, exemplify what Simpson was best at. The same goes for “One Thousand Metres” and its interesting keyboard arpeggios floating over the acoustic instruments. Let’s be clear – a lot of people probably wouldn’t have chosen The Sun Makers to be one of the only complete surviving examples of Simpson’s work; they probably would’ve chosen City Of Death or Genesis Of The Daleks or a more “obvious” entry in Simpson’s canon, but The Sun Makers didn’t exactly burn itself into everyone’s memory the way those stories did. That’s actually what makes it a canny choice for a release: it’s a bit of a surprise because you probably don’t remember the score that well.

“Six Suns”, “The Others”, and “K-9, Bite!” remind me a lot of Blake’s 7, of which nearly every episode was also scored by Simpson. (The Sun Makers has a Blake’s 7 connection too – it’s where director Pennant Roberts met actor Michael Keating, giving Keating a hearty recommendation for the role of Vila.) “Subway 13” is a bit more menacing, and, at less than a minute in length, it’s a reminder some Doctor Who stories lent themselves to lengthier musical travelogues, and The Sun Makers wasn’t one of those stories. It’s comprised of shorter, punchier vignettes without the opportunity for the kind of extended musical interludes that, say, City Of Death afforded the composer. In that regard, The Sun Makers is absolutely a straight-down-the-line typical bit of Doctor Who scoring from the ’70s.

A word about the sound quality: The Sun Makers was remastered extensively by Mark Ayres, himself a Doctor Who composer of a later era (but also a die-hard Dudley Simpson fan, as he himself admitted to when he was interviewed for this site quite a few years back). Ayres is also behind the audio remastering of Doctor Who’s DVD and Blu-Ray releases, so it goes without saying 4 out of 4that this entire disc is as crisply, lovingly listenable as if the tape had just been recorded last week.

As a whole listening experience, The Sun Makers is a time capsule that may find an audience only among completist collectors, and the older generation of Doctor Who fans who were there for this story the first time around (he said, addressing the mirror). It may not appeal to everyone. But it’s a lovely little slice of the past where, rather than striving to be epic or futuristic, the sound of Doctor Who was quietly, politely going for baroque.

Order this CD

  1. Doctor Who Opening Title Theme (0:46)
  2. Death And Taxes (0:28)
  3. Mahogany (0:51)
  4. One Thousand Metres (2:12)
  5. Six Suns (1:53)
  6. The Others (1:29)
  7. Subway 13 (0:36)
  8. Subway 13 (continued) (1:07)
  9. A Heart As Big As Your Mouth (0:30)
  10. A Little Hop (0:23)
  11. Jelly Babies (0:31)
  12. Something In The Air (0:24)
  13. K-9, Bite! (0:54)
  14. Humbug (1:25)
  15. The P45 Return Route (1:08)
  16. The P45 Return Route (reprise) (0:55)
  17. Morton’s Fork (1:09)
  18. I’ve Heard That One, Too (1:05)
  19. The Rebellion Begins (0:46)
  20. Static Loop (3:20)
  21. The Steaming (1:18)
  22. The Steaming (continued) (1:10)
  23. Gentlemen, Good Luck (0:40)
  24. Nobody Works Today (2:11)
  25. The Gatherer Excised (0:43)
  26. Doctor Who Closing Title Theme (0:55)

Released by: Silva Screen Records
Release date: May 8, 2020
Total running time: 28:49

The Voyager Golden Record (remastered)

This isn’t a typical music review, because it can’t be. There’s no single artist whose style can be latched onto and studied; it’s a various artists greatest hits from the breadth and depth of humanity. Perhaps it’s best treated as a historical document than a collection of music.

In 1977, with mere weeks to go before the launch of Voyager 2 (the first Voyager spacecraft to leave Earth), Carl Sagan, Jon Lomberg, Ann Druyan, Frank Drake, Linda Salzman, and Timothy Ferris won last-minute approval to assemble a kind of “time capsule” to attach to each Voyager. Copyright clearances had to be obtained, greetings had to be recorded, the whole thing had to be edited, mastered and pressed onto gold-plated copper records, to be encased in aluminum covers attached to the spacecraft…all in a matter of weeks. Photographs are also encoded onto the records, and those too had to be selected, annotated, and cleared for copyright. It was really something of a shotgun wedding as far as putting a record together goes – and at numerous stages of its development, there were high-ranking NASA officials who made it clear that, as far as they were concerned, Sagan’s greatest hits record could stay on Earth with him. The Golden Record was a bear to put together, and it was a constant struggle to keep it on the flight manifest.

The rapid ramp-up from idea to execution, as well as the state of the art in 1977, means that there’s some unavoidable tape hiss from the original recording media. Ozma Records has done a marvelous job of cleaning everything up as far as sound quality, but sometimes you can’t overcome the limitations of the original medium. The track list is exactly as it was on the LP attached to the Voyager spacecraft (which, as a result of being mastered at a lower speed than 33 1/3, could hold more information).

If you spring for the physical package of either vinyl records or CDs, a book is included with the complete selection of photos included on the original records, as well as essays and memoirs from those involved with the Golden Record who are still with us. I backed the initial Kickstarter for the project, but only up to the digital download level due to budgetary concerns on my end; I’m seriously considering circling back around and buying the Golden Record compilation a second time just for the book.

If there’s a feeling one gets from listening to this message-in-a-bottle thrown through the outer solar system and right through the heliosphere, it’s one of feeling humbled. The wide variety of life and experiences on Earth is mind boggling, and some of the sequencing is canny – the launch of a Saturn V rocket followed by the cries of a human baby. We’re still in our infancy, pushing our way into the universe by brute force, and still trying to figure out how we can survive a journey to another planet within our solar system. The Voyagers are going further – one of the Golden Records has already left the solar system, never to return – bearing a snapshot of our hopes and dreams circa the summer of 1977.

And in the troubled summer of 2017, maybe we need to revisit those hopes and dreams too.

This title is not being given a rating due to its unique nature.

Order this CD

  1. Greetings from the Secretary General of the United Nations – Kurt Waldheim (0:43)
  2. Greetings in 55 languages (3:46)
  3. United Nations greetings / Whalesong (4:04)
  4. The Sounds of Earth (12:18)
    • Music of the Spheres by Laurie Spiegel
    • Volcanoes
    • Earthquake
    • Thunder
    • Mud Pots
    • Wind
    • Rain
    • Surf
    • Crickets
    • Frogs
    • Birds
    • Hyena
    • Elephant
    • Chimpanzee
    • Wild Dog
    • Footsteps
    • Heartbeat
    • Laughter
    • Fire
    • Speech
    • The First Tools
    • Tame Dog
    • Herding Sheep
    • Blacksmith
    • Sawing
    • Tractor
    • Riveter
    • Morse Code
    • Ships
    • Horse and Cart
    • Train
    • Tractor
    • Bus
    • Auto
    • F-111 Flyby
    • Saturn 5 Lift-off
    • Kiss
    • Mother and Child
    • Life Signs
    • Pulsar

  5. Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F Major, BWV 1047: I. Allegro – Munich Bach Orchestra/Karl Richter (4:44)
  6. Ketawang: Puspåwårnå (Kinds of Flowers) – Pura Paku Alaman Palace Orchestra/K.R.T. Wasitodipuro (4:47)
  7. Cengunmé – Mahi musicians of Benin (2:11)
  8. Alima Song – Mbuti of the Ituri Rainforest (1:01)
  9. Barnumbirr (Morning Star) and Moikoi Song – Tom Djawa, Mudpo, and Waliparu (1:29)
  10. El Cascabel (Lorenzo Barcelata) – Antonio Maciel and Los Aguilillas with Mariachi México de Pepe Villa/Rafael Carrión (3:20)
  11. Johnny B. Goode – Chuck Berry (2:41)
  12. Mariuamang? – Pranis Pandang and Kumbui of the Nyaura Clan (1:25)
  13. Sokaku-Reibo (Depicting the Cranes in Their Nest) – Goro Yamaguchi (5:04)
  14. Bach: Partita for Violin Solo No. 3 in E Major, BWV 1006: III. Gavotte en Rondeau – Arthur Grumiaux (2:58)
  15. Mozart: The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte), K. 620, Act II: Hell’s Vengeance Boils in My Heart – Bavarian State Opera Orchestra and Chorus/Wolfgang Sawallisch (3:00)
  16. Chakrulo – Georgian State Merited Ensemble of Folk Song and Dance/Anzor Kavsadze (2:21)
  17. Roncadoras and Drums – Musicians from Ancash (0:55)
  18. Melancholy Blues – Louis Armstrong and His Hot Seven (3:06)
  19. Mu?am – Kamil Jalilov (2:35)
  20. Igor Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring (Le Sacre du Printemps), Part II—The Sacrifice: VI. Sacrificial Dance (The Chosen One) – Columbia Symphony Orchestra/Igor Stravinsky (4:38)
  21. Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II: Prelude & Fugue No. 1 in C Major, BWV 870 – Glenn Gould (4:51)
  22. Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Opus 67: I. Allegro Con Brio – Philharmonia Orchestra/Otto Klemperer (4:38)
  23. Izlel e Delyu Haydutin – Valya Balkanska (5:04)
  24. Navajo Night Chant, Yeibichai Dance (Ambrose Roan Horse, Chester Roan, and Tom Roan (1:01)
  25. Anthony Holborne: The Fairie Round – Early Music Consort of London/David Munrow (1:19)
  26. Naranaratana Kookokoo (The Cry of the Megapode Bird) – Maniasinimae and Taumaetarau Chieftain Tribe of Oloha and Palasu’u Village Community (1:15)
  27. Wedding Song – Young girl of Huancavelica (0:42)
  28. Liu Shui (Flowing Streams) – Guan Pinghu (7:36)
  29. Bhairavi: Jaat Kahan Ho – Kesarbai Kerkar (3:34)
  30. Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground – Blind Willie Johnson (3:32)
  31. Beethoven:String Quartet No. 13 in B-flat Major, Opus 130: V. Cavatina – Budapest String Quartet (6:41)

Released by: Ozma Records
Release date: 2017
Total running time: 1:51:04

Annie Haslam – Annie In Wonderland

Annie Haslam - Annie In WonderlandTaking a break from her “day job” as the lead female vocalist of ’70s prog rock outfit Renaissance, Annie Haslam set out to record a solo debut that was an outlet for her self-penned tunes that just didn’t fit the Renaissance house style – but that doesn’t mean it sounds like anything else released in 1977. Haslam recruited former Move, ELO and Wizzard frontman Roy Wood to produce the album, and Wood was already known for his own distinctive style. He also didn’t exactly have a long list of production credits for projects that weren’t The Move, ELO or Wizzard.

The result is a quirky and eminently listenable album that showcases Annie Haslam somewhere between her Carole King-esque singer/songwriter mode and something closer to Kate Bush territory, and also gives multi-instrumental whiz kid Wood full reign. A blast of brass opens the album with “If I Was Made Of Music”, but the production work never overshadows Haslam’s voice, which always has center stage. “I Never Believed In Love” is one of three songs actually written by Wood, and it bears the hallmarks of his vaguely-Beatlesque oddball Move-era songwriting.

It’s the next song, however, that can blow your hair back – Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “If I Loved You” (from the musical Carousel) gives Haslam’s considerably vocal range a real chance to shine, accompanied by an ocean of multi-tracked balalaikas. It’s not like any other rendition of this particular song or, indeed, like anything else you’ve heard before. (It’s not for nothing that, of all the songs on Annie In Wonderland, this song was chosen to be dissected and analyzed in detail on a BBC Radio special celebrating Roy Wood’s career.)

Almost as mind-blowing for its sheer display of Haslam’s near-operatic range is the soaring, wordless vocal of the otherwise-instrumental “Rockalise”. Drastic key/octave changes are also central to “Inside My Life”, which is as close as thiis album comes to typical ’70s singer/songwriter stylings – and in the capable hands of Haslam and Wood, it’s still not terribly close to typical.

What’s most surprising here is that this was the first and final collaboration between Annie Haslam and Roy Wood, but there’s another story there: they got engaged as Annie In Wonderland was being recorded, and never married over what’s said to have been a four-year relationship. Annie In Wonderland was a career-making album in the UK (and sadly overlooked elsewhere), and by all rights should have kick-started Wood’s career as well as Annie Haslam’s. 4 out of 4That it didn’t is truly sad; this album’s inventiveness and willingness to overstep the usual bounds of pop music are off-the-scale. Future collaborations could have been beneficial to all involved, but alas, it wasn’t to be, leaving Annie In Wonderland as a singular achievement that launched Haslam on a whole new career trajectory away from Renaissaince. Very highly recommended.

Order this CD

  1. Introlise / If I Were Made Of Music (4:46)
  2. I Never Believed In Love (3:40)
  3. If I Loved You (4:39)
  4. Hunioco (7:33)
  5. Rockalise (6:09)
  6. Nature Boy (4:56)
  7. Discuss it!Inside My Life (4:51)
  8. Going Home (5:01)

Released by: Warner Bros.
Release date: 1977
Total running time: 41:35

Black Sunday – music by John Williams

Black SundayLet’s say it’s the 1970s, and you’re doing a movie about a plot to kill a lot of people at the Super Bowl – a movie that won’t wind up on MST3K. A disaster movie, a well-worn and dying breed at the time, one that requires a big, dramatic orchestral score. Who do you call? You’ve probably got one John Williams – the man best known at the time as the maestro behind Jaws – on speed dial. (This is really more of a figure of speech than anything – you probably call the switchboard operator downstairs from your posh office on the studio lot and have her call Williams for you, because speed dial hasn’t been invented yet. Damned inconvenient.) That seems to have been the case for Black Sunday, which has just been released by Film Score Monthly.

Black Sunday is an oddity in Williams’ repertoire – aside from diehard Williams fans, not a lot of people know it’s even there. The movie was released early in 1977 by Paramount, and as is well known by now, another movie hit theaters in May 1977 which all but erased Black Sunday from the public film-going consciousness, a movie that also had a John Williams score. As such, Black Sunday has the odd distinction of being the only post-Jaws Williams soundtrack that has never been released – not even on vinyl or any other medium – until now.

And it was definitely worth the wait: there’s little in the Black Sunday soundtrack that sounds dated; only one distinctively ’70s-style source cue and the end credit suite, played over a gentle, mid-tempo ’70s-style soft rock beat, give the game away (and in any case, the typically extensive Film Score Monthly liner notes reveal that this version wasn’t used in the final edit of the film; another mix, minus the pop elements, is presented here but also went unused). The vast majority of the music sits nicely between Jaws and Star Wars, with menacing, brooding themes for the building suspense, and Williams’ signature style of action music, though it takes on a more worried tone than his often 4 out of 4celebratory style.

The Black Sunday soundtrack is a lost gem from the Williams repertoire, and fans of his music from this era won’t be let down – even if the music comes from a movie that isn’t usually mentioned in the same breath as Williams’ more, ahem, super efforts.

Order this CD

  1. Beirut (0:37)
  2. Commandos Arrive (1:14)
  3. Commandos Raid (5:30)
  4. It Was Good / Dahlia Arrives / The Unloading (3:12)
  5. Speed Boat Chase (1:51)
  6. The Telephone Man / The Captain Returns (2:13)
  7. Nurse Dahlia / Kabakov’s Card / The Hypodermic (3:30)
  8. Moshevsky’s Dead (1:56)
  9. The Test (1:56)
  10. Building The Bomb (1:53)
  11. Miami / Dahlia’s Call (2:26)
  12. The Last Night (1:28)
  13. Preparations (2:43)
  14. Passed (0:31)
  15. The Flight Check (1:50)
  16. Airborne / Bomb Passes Stadium (1:45)
  17. Farley’s Dead (1:33)
  18. The Blimp and the Bomb (3:12)
  19. The Take Off (1:43)
  20. Underway (0:39)
  21. Air Chase, Part 1 (1:12)
  22. Air Chase, Parts 2 & 3 – The Blimp Hits (7:19)
  23. The Explosion (2:36)
  24. The End (2:19)
  25. Hotel Lobby (source) (1:47)
  26. Fight Song #1 (0:50)
  27. Fight Song #2 (1:48)
  28. The End (Alternate) (2:17)
  29. The Explosion (Revised Ending) (2:11)

Released by: Film Score Monthly
Release date: 2010
Total running time: 64:01

Soylent Green / Demon Seed

Soylent Green / Demon Seed soundtrackThis disc brings together the sparse scores for two futuristic ’70s techno-dystopia flicks for their first official release, complete with the usual wealth of knowledge that’s packed into the CD booklet on any of Film Score Monthly’s releases.

In the past, Soylent Green has been mentioned on this site as “a great place to see a pristine Computer Space machine,” but it turns out that, away from the dialogue of this Charlton Heston hand-wringer, the music is another oustanding feature of Soylent Green that stands up over time. Fred Myrow’s music for the movie’s introductory montage is an absolute revelation, blending rhapsodic strings, experimental electric guitars, and an honest-to-God hip-hop shuffle, years before anyone was calling it that. It starts out quiet and rather relaxing, and then builds to a busy, bustling peak about 2/3 of the way in, a musical illustration of the movie’s overpopulation problem. It’s just a great little piece of underscore – I think I listened to that track five times in a row when I first listened to this CD, because it’s just so stunning.

The various themes the run throughout the rest of the score are established in those opening titles as well, though in slightly different forms. It all adds up to a very cohesive score, and quite an impressive musical feat overall. I like the movie itself as a guilty pleasure, but I have no qualms about saying that the music is better than the movie, and I’m glad it can be heard here.

In a completely different vein musically is the 1977 techno-horror thriller Demon Seed, whose score was composed by original Star Trek veteran Jerry Fielding. If you’re expecting it to sound even vaguely like a classic Trek score, think again – Fielding goes largely electronic here, befitting the movie’s theme of a rapacious supercomputer that decides it needs to reproduce (with Julie Christie, no less). Rather like Soylent Green, Demon Seed hasn’t really aged very gracefully, though its sometimes abstract music was ahead of its time. Fans of early ’70s analog synth music should give this one a shot. Heard without dialogue or effects, it’s some very interesting music.

Rating: 4 out of 4Though one might not normally think of these two films at the same time, this album is one of the best (and naturally, one of the more obscure) gems in Film Score Monthly’s library, and I highly recommend it.

    Order this CD in the StoreSoylent Green

  1. Prologue / Opening City Music (4:20)
  2. Can I Do Something For You? (1:47)
  3. Out For A Walk / Nothing Like This / Assassin Approaches / Necessary To God / New Tenant (5:29)
  4. Stalking The Pad (1:41)
  5. Tab’s Pad / Furniture Party (3:43)
  6. Shirl And Thorn (2:08)
  7. Home Lobby Source (2:58)
  8. Sol’s Music (6:29)
  9. Symphony Music (Tchiakovsky / Beethoven / Grieg) (6:17)
  10. Infernal Machine / Thorn In Danger / Are You With Us? / Alternate City Opening / End Credits (5:13)

    Demon Seed

  11. Birth Scene / Speaking Room / Elk Herd (3:17)
  12. Proteus Requests / Light On / Your Phone Is Out (8:25)
  13. Visiting Hours / Probed And Put To Bed (3:24)
  14. The Gaz Chamber / Rape Of The Earth / How? / Hypnosis / Chimes (8:23)
  15. Pre-Trip / Big Wind / Sperm / Spirograph / Tetra Waltz (7:18)
  16. Last Voyage (2:35)
  17. Closing Crawl (2:03)
  18. End Credits (3:59)

Released by: Film Score Monthly
Release date: 2003
Total running time: 79:49

Alan Parsons Project – I Robot (remaster)

Alan Parsons Project - I RobotIf someone was deliberately trying to drain my wallet, one could hardly concoct a more diabolical scheme than releasing remastered CDs of classic ELO and Alan Parsons Project albums, with extra tracks and bonus material, at the same time. This is indeed happening, and all under the watchful eye (in the sky?) of Sony, no less. As a preamble, I’ve always felt that if you’re already a fan of either ELO or Alan Parsons Project, you’re primed to be a fan of the other. Musically, they’re miles apart, with the lyrical and thematic gloominess of Parsons and Project partner Eric Woolfson counterpointing Jeff Lynne’s “Mr. Blue Sky” cheer. But stylistically, these two very different groups are in the same ball park: lush orchestration, banging against the walls of what constitutes rock and threatening to leave a hole big enough for classical to seep into the room – to say nothing of mesmerizing overdubbed harmonies and widescreen production. I’ve always loved both.

Released in 1977, I, Robot is the Project’s second album, but its first for the Arista label, which would release the rest of the group’s output until it disbanded in 1990. (Sony’s acquisition of Arista and its back catalog is what brought these remastered editions about; the rights to the groundbreaking first album are held by Mercury, which will capitalize on remaster fever by reissuing that album as a double-CD set later this year.) While at times this album seems to be trying a little more self-consciously to “fit in with the times” (“The Voice”‘s brief dive into disco territory, “I Wouldn’t Want To Be Like You”‘s funky rhythm section), it’s also surprisingly forward-looking for relatively mainstream ’70s prog rock.

In addition to the outstanding original album, presented in crystal clear remastered sound (coincidentally, with the help of Jeff Magid and Tim Fraser-Harding, who oversaw the recent ELO remasters), which upon more recent listening has withstood the test of time better than I think I’ve previously given it credit for (despite elements that clearly mark it as a creation of the 1970s), there are a few early demo recordings and instrumental mixes. There’s a fantastic instrumental of “I Wouldn’t Want To Be Like You”, missing only the vocals and Ian Bairnson’s ferocious guitar solo, as well as demos of “Day After Day”, “Breakdown” (sounding almost like a soulful ballad) and “I Robot” itself, the latter being a weird experiment using the sound of metal balls bouncing. “The Naked Robot” is a medley gathering instrumental bits, pieces and snippets from several of the songs, including a great many elements and ideas left on the cutting room floor, never to be heard in the final album.

The booklet itself is a wealth of information, revealing that Parsons and Woolfson actually approached Isaac Asimov to sound him out on the idea of basing a prog rock opera on “I, Robot”, but since any adaptation rights were tied to the long-stalled film rights, they had to knock the comma out of the title and adjust their thematic Rating: 4 out of 4approach every so slightly. The book also pins a lot of the group’s success on the coincidence that I Robot arrived in record stores immediately on the heels of Star Wars with a robot on the cover and a futuristic theme in its music. It might be true, who knows? But it certainly didn’t hurt that it was a great album to begin with.

    Order this CD in the Store

  1. I Robot (6:02)
  2. I Wouldn’t Want To Be Like You (3:23)
  3. Some Other Time (4:05)
  4. Breakdown (3:53)
  5. Don’t Let It Show (4:25)
  6. The Voice (5:23)
  7. Nucleus (3:22)
  8. Day After Day (The Show Must Go On) (3:57)
  9. Total Eclipse (3:12)
  10. Genesis Ch.1 V.32 (3:30)
  11. Boules (I Robot Experiment) (1:59)
  12. Breakdown (early demo) (2:11)
  13. I Wouldn’t Want To Be Like You (backing track rough mix) (3:29)
  14. Day After Day (early stage rough mix) (3:41)
  15. The Naked Robot (10:19)

Released by: Legacy / Arista
Release date: 2007 (originally released in 1977)
Total running time: 62:51

Electric Light Orchesta – Out Of The Blue (remaster)

ELO - Out Of The BlueOut Of The Blue is, quite simply, one of the most iconic albums of the ’70s, hands-down. It seems that, despite its intricate arrangements and impeccable musicianship, this album will simply never have the rock critic cachet of, say, Dark Side Of The Moon. And yet these days, one hears more young artists coming out of the woodwork trying to achieve the sound of Jeff Lynne and company than one hears Pink Floyd sound-alikes. You can do the math there if you like.

This remastered edition adds only a handful of bonus material, largely because the original double LP takes up most of a single CD. (I would’ve been happy to go to two CDs, a la the remasters of ELO’s first two albums, but there’s not much indication that there was really enough material to go that route.) The one full bonus track that isn’t a demo or other form of outtake is the lovely “Latitude 88 North,” a song which, according to the notes, was partially written at the same time as the other Out Of The Blue tracks but just didn’t make the cut. Of the various bonus tracks that have come along since the Flashback box set ushered in this new era of “remastered with a few freshly recorded bonus tracks” activity, “Latitude 88 North” is the best one to come along since “Love Changes All” and “Helpless” (or, for that matter, Zoom). Even if it’s clearly a recent recording (at best, the song itself may be 30 years old, but the track itself is much more recent), it’s a great song that hearkens back to ELO’s glory days, and it at least sounds closer to that classic style than “Surrender” (from the remastered A New World Record) does. Bringing up the rear are an excerpt from a demo of “Wild West Hero” (which demonstrates great harmony, but lousy lyrics that were replaced in the final version) and the rousing instrumental “The Quick And The Daft”, which most certainly is a 1977 original – good material for serious fans and students of ELO’s work to chew on, but nothing that will really excite casual listeners.

Fortunately for casual listeners, one of the most iconic albums of the ’70s is still here, perfectly intact and remastered, and it’s never sounded better. The remastering isn’t so radical as to have me reassesing my favorite songs, but it’s nice to hear them cleaned up and sounding sharper than ever before. The booklet-style case is also a treat, with an extensive set of notes about the making of Out Of The Blue. There’s a standard version of this CD with a slightly pared-down version of that booklet, but the deluxe edition – bound like a little book, featuring the full liner notes and even a miniature replica of the original LP’s punch-out cardstock spaceship – is a real treat for fans of the band’s work. I’ll admit I just haven’t had the heart to punch out the spaceship and build it, though; I did that with the one that came with the LP, years and years and years ago, and lost track of that one; I think I’ll leave this one intact, and maybe when my own child is around the same age I was when I first heard this album, it’ll be punched out and put together.

Rating: 4 out of 4Not a bad package at all, celebrating an album that means a lot to quite a few people, even those who would never in a million years profess to be ELO fans. Though I’d wager that the original release of Out Of The Blue created plenty of those as well.

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  1. Turn To Stone (3:49)
  2. It’s Over (4:08)
  3. Sweet Talkin’ Woman (3:49)
  4. Across The Border (3:53)
  5. Night In The City (4:03)
  6. Starlight (4:31)
  7. Jungle (3:53)
  8. Believe Me Now (1:21)
  9. Steppin’ Out (4:40)
  10. Standin’ In The Rain (3:59)
  11. Big Wheels (5:32)
  12. Summer And Lightning (4:15)
  13. Mr. Blue Sky (5:03)
  14. Sweet Is The Night (3:27)
  15. The Whale (5:07)
  16. Birmingham Blues (4:23)
  17. Wild West Hero (4:45)
  18. Wild West Hero (alternate bridge – home demo) (0:26)
  19. The Quick And The Daft (1:50)
  20. Latitude 88 North (3:24)

Released by: Epic / Legacy
Release date: 2007 (originally released in 1977)
Total running time: 76:18