Jeff Lynne successfully freshens up a spread of ELO classics.
Chris Roberts 2012
Jeff Lynne's primary love is music, but telephones once ran it a close second. Quite aside from the soaring Telephone Line here, there are several references to operators and late-night calls. It’s a wonder the one new song doesn’t encounter heartbreak across a patchy broadband connection.
And technology is partly behind his decision to re-record the enduring hits of his much-loved outfit Electric Light Orchestra. He plays everything (bar the strings), and claims that while he still likes the old versions, there was scope to upgrade them in his state-of-the-art LA home studio with the benefits of his peerless production experience.
Those fearing he might restore them in a similarly wayward manner to that chosen by Kate Bush on her Director’s Cut collection can relax. The pomp-pop classics aren’t reinterpreted in any way that might upset purists or scare the horses. They sound much the same, which is more cause for relief than regret.
It’s like these songs have had their windows cleaned, a few crows’ feet ironed out. To Lynne, they have fresh presence. It’ll be intriguing to see whether this or the re-released "original" Best Of ultimately wins the ongoing chart duel.
ELO have always been compared to The Beatles (Lynne’s influence, and later, friends), which is only strange when you consider how much more colourfully imaginative a take on the Fab Four’s legacy they were than Oasis.
In fact, these songs now sound like siblings to Abba’s. They’re rich with hooks and smart arrangements, crammed with calls-and-responses, veiling their souls under veneers of sophistication.
So Mr. Blue Sky, Livin’ Thing and Evil Woman are as irresistible as ever, and Don’t Bring Me Down re-packs its percussive punch. Sadly there is no Wild West Hero, but the oft-overlooked Can’t Get It Out of My Head represents the melancholy ballad side of things.
Do Ya is a surprising choice (over Ma-Ma-Ma Belle) for the rock-riff quotient. Earlier numbers Showdown and 10538 Overture, having the most dust to blow away, sound most replenished: some may resent the polish. The previously unreleased Point of No Return is Tom Petty-styled and precision-tooled.
Hello again, ELO.