Electric Light Orchestra – Afterglow

Electric Light Orchestra - AfterglowThis wonderful three-disc set arrived at the height of my ELO-worship, but I only wish I’d had my CD player at the time. Very seldom in my music review pages will you hear me complain about the quality of anything other than the music itself, but here I have to offer you, the consumer, a strong warning: if you’re going to get Afterglow, get it on CD. Even if you don’t have a CD player, get the discs and have someone make you a copy of them on tape and then put the discs away. The cassettes on which Afterglow was duplicated were hideously cheap, and I went through two cassette copies of the third and most important volume of the set before I finally bought the CD box set. That’s the end of my consumer warning.

The reason the third CD is the most important is because it features several previously unavailable songs which were B-sides to singles from the 1980s, or were tracks deleted from Time and Secret Messages prior to pressing. The Time B-side “When Time Stood Still” is worth the cost of the entire set, being one of the best examples of what really made ELO great in the 80s. Other highlights of the “new” material include “Buildings Have Eyes”, the jazzy “No Way Out”, the dreamy “Mandalay”, and the epic-length and too-consciously-trying-to-be-Beatlesque “Hello My Old Friend”, all tracks which would have made 1983’s Secret Messages not only a double album, but a great double album, at least on a par with Out Of The Blue. The rest of the box set consists of usually well-chosen tracks from throughout the band’s history, though as always I like the album tracks better than the singles, so the box set’s emphasis 3 out of 4on ELO’s popular fare leaves me high and dry. Curious omissions from the set include the music from 1980’s Xanadu (removed from the set at the request of Jeff Lynne, according to Rolling Stone), and the beautiful instrumental B-side “After All”, which I only have as a scratched-up 45 and desperately want on CD. Perhaps someday…

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    (Third disc only)

  1. Prologue (1:16)
  2. Twilight (3:33)
  3. Julie Don’t Live Here (3:40)
  4. Shine a Little Love (4:39)
  5. When Time Stood Still (3:33)
  6. Rain is Falling (2:57)
  7. Bouncer (3:13)
  8. Hello My Old Friend (7:51)
  9. Hold On Tight (3:06)
  10. Four Little Diamonds (4:08)
  11. Mandalay (5:19)
  12. Buildings Have Eyes (3:55)
  13. So Serious (2:39)
  14. A Matter of Fact (3:58)
  15. No Way Out (3:23)
  16. Getting to the Point (4:28)
  17. Destination Unknown (4:05)
  18. Rock ‘n’ Roll is King (3:07)

Released by: Epic
Release date: 1990
Total running time: 68:50

George Harrison – Cloud Nine

George Harrison - Cloud NineOkay, I admit it, I got this album mainly because ELO’s Jeff Lynne produced it with Harrison, as well as helping out with songwriting duties. The collaboration was a rare spark that re-ignited Lynne’s post-ELO career, and bested all of Harrison’s previous album sales. There was obviously some wisdom in pairing an ex-Beatle with a Beatle afficionado who had grown up learning all the nuances of the Beatles sound. In many places, though, it does sound like ELO with Harrison singing lead (the title track in particular sounds like it was lifted right off of Balance Of Power), though the best songs on the album are those where Harrison’s ability to craft a bittersweet or nutty pop tune were perfectly married to Lynne’s ability to produce such a song crisply. “Someplace Else”, “Devil’s Radio”, “This Is Love” and “That’s What It Takes” have always appealed to me much more than the two singles everyone remembers, the Beatles 4 out of 4tribute “When We Was Fab” and the boringly repetitive number one hit “I Got My Mind Set On You”. Why this album has not been followed up on with this unique combination of talent is a complete mystery to me. While the Traveling Wilburys were fun, they didn’t offer the enormous possibilities of further Harrison-Lynne collaborations.

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  1. Cloud 9 (3:15)
  2. That’s What It Takes (4:01)
  3. Fish On The Sand (3:25)
  4. Just For Today (4:06)
  5. This Is Love (3:45)
  6. When We Was Fab (3:58)
  7. Devil’s Radio (3:53)
  8. Someplace Else (3:53)
  9. Wreck of the Hesperus (3:34)
  10. Breath Away From Heaven (3:36)
  11. Got My Mind Set On You (3:50)

Released by: Dark Horse
Release date: 1987
Total running time: 41:16

Johannes Brahms – Sextet #1 in B Flat Maj. – Op. 18

Johannes Brahms - Sextet #1 in B Flat Maj. - Op. 18I’ll admit it, I only tracked this down after becoming obsessed with the short snippet of the Andante Ma Moderato movement featured in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Sarek. This CD pressing of a 1952 monaural performance sounds an awful lot like – no, make that exactly the same version used in a pivotal scene in that show. I was curious as to what else there was to this lovely piece of music, and was not disappointed; my interest in it has certainly rating: 3 out of 4transcended the means through which I discovered it. If you’re into very heavy, funereal chamber music, I give this my highest recommendation; it’s one of my favorite classical pieces of all time. The slow, stately, mournful second movement alone is worth the price of purchase.

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  1. Allegro ma non troppo (12:16)
  2. Adante, ma moderato (10:27)
  3. Scherzo – Allegro molto – Trio. Animato (2:53)
  4. Rondo – Poco allegretto e grazioso (11:08)

Released by: CBS Masterworks
Release date: 1952 (released on CD in 1988)
Total running time: 36:44