Album Review: Mr Blue Sky – “The Very Best of Electric Light Orchestra”
What’s better, ELO or chips? Alright, it’s chips. But until Pure Rawk opens up a culinary section (or have they?), this will just have to do. The Very Best of Electric Light Orchestra is a twelve slice retrospective of string-laden pop-rock goodness cribbed largely from the band’s commercial peak of the late 70s. OH WAIT, no it’s not. It’s a 2012 re-recording of ELO tracks by singer-songwriter and sole remaining member Jeff Lynne. Well isn’t that just FUCKTASTIC?
Formed in 1970 by Lynne and Roy Wood – you know, ‘the geezer with a beard comes on Xmas Day’ who isn’t Santa, Noddy Holder or your seedy Uncle Pete. ELO’s rise to prominence would begin two years later when after a string of disputes Wood sodded off to form Wizzard – taking half the string section with him, prior to penning the greatest Christmas song in rock n’ roll history.
Filling Wood’s rather hefty creative void, singer Lynne assumed overall artistic control and from that point on, things started to go really rather well. The next decade would see the band straddle the global music empire like a colossus. SEVEN consecutive Top 10 UK albums, an eight-night residency at Wembley Arena and in 1978, the highest grossing US concert tour in history (complete with on stage spaceship and thirteen trucks worth of laser light show). Need further evidence? Consider Led Zeppelin’s legendary Knebworth appearances in 1979. Zeppelin were second choice, Lynne turned the gig down.
So it’s a little odd then, that outside of Ken Bruce’s Popmaster, Electric Light Orchestra’s star has significantly diminished far below such luminaries as Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd or Queen. The tracks here act as a reminder as to why that’s a bit of a shame. Aside from the ludicrously smiley Mr Blue Sky, there’s another half dozen strong doses of Beatles-inspired pop-rock overdrive which will have you thinking “Oh was this ELO?” Except of course, it isn’t, because the tracks here aren’t originals, but simply well-crafted replicas.
So what’s the story? Lynne himself claims a perfectionist desire to polish away previous inadequacies, others would call it a cynical money grab, akin to recent efforts by Def Leppard and numerous others. In truth the reasoning’s probably more sedate. This release occurs simultaneously with that of Long Wave, Lynne’s first solo album in twenty years, and so should ensure that record a little more attention than it might otherwise have achieved.
The real question for fans is why you would want karaoke classic versions of tracks which have lasted perfectly well in their original form for other thirty years? Especially when those originals can be found for less than half the asking price everywhere from charity shops to seedy Uncle Pete’s vinyl collection.
Now hurry up and pass the ketchup.