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All Over The World: The Very Best Of Elo - Electric Light Orchestra
Member Name: Mauri
All Over The World: The Very Best Of Elo - Electric Light Orchestra
Date: 23/09/05, updated on 23/09/05 (559 review reads)
Advantages: Excellent production and re-mastered sound
Disadvantages: A few dud tracks
Jeff Lynne is a bit of a musical genius, in the mid 70’s he was the master of the pop song it came so easily for him that he reputedly was able to write and record a whole album in just a few weeks!
Before he and Roy Wood formed ELO they along with Drummer Bev Bevan were also members of 60’s group ‘The Move’. TO begin with ELO were an offshoot of The Move the original idea for the band coming from Wood after hearing some orchestral arrangement of some early Move songs. The first ELO record was a moderate success but just as things were taking off Wood left to Wizzard leaving Lynne as the main creative force in the band. Lynne created new look ELO (including up to twenty different members at various times) and never looked back notching up a string of gold and platinum album in the 70’s and 80’s.
‘All Over The World’ is a straightforward compilation featuring a fairly extensive collection of all the ELO hits. As a starting off point for anyone who is interested in getting to know their music it is a fairly good collection. However there are some glaring omissions, the first ever ELO hit ‘10538 Overture’, which best illustrated their early elaborate mix of orchestral style with pop is strangely absent from the track list. In fact none of the tracks off the first album make it on to this compilation. None of the songs off the second album including Roll Over Beethoven make it either and I feel this the early period of ELO is where the compilation feels to deliver. The catalogue of omissions continues to the third album ‘On the Third Day’ although one track ‘Ma-Ma-Ma Belle’ is included. In fact up until 1976 and the release of ‘A New Word Record’ the early ELO is sadly underrepresented.
The first thing you notice about any ELO record is it’s superb production values; the sound is full and perfectly crafted. Orchestral arrangements including French Horns, Violins and Cellos are seamlessly woven in to the more traditional rock fabric (electric Guitar, base drums and keyboards) of the composition and finally the vocals often altered by vocoder are used as one more piece of the audio jigsaw to produce a truly epic but quirky pop sound. This is all emphasised on the record by the re-mastering of the tracks. Of course it should be no surprise that ELO set such high standards in the production of their records since frontman Lynne is also one of the most sought after music producers in the business having collaborated on projects with such rock and pop luminaries as Tom Petty, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Bob Dylan. Lynne apart from the overall sound of the compositions also likes to play with the structure and often the songs take on a mini operatic form similar to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody in that they contain distinct tempo changes or mini arias. From the songs on the album ‘Mr Blue Sky’, ‘Rockaria!’ and ‘The Diary Of Horace Wimp’ are good examples.
1. Mr Blue Sky
2. Evil Woman
3. Don't Bring Me Down
4. Sweet Talkin' Woman
6. Turn To Stone
7. The Diary Of Horace Wimp
9. Hold On Tight
10. Livin' Thing
11. Telephone Line
12. All Over The World
13. Wild West Hero
15. Ma-Ma-Ma Belle
18. Strange Magic
20. Rock and Roll Is King
The tracks are not included in chronological order but instead the producers have opted to start things off with probably their biggest hit ‘Mr Blue Sky’ from their fantastic 70’s double album ‘Out Of The Blue’ and also a track that is currently featured on a TV advert. Out of all the tracks Mr Blue Sky and possibly Livin’ Thing are the two songs that have proved to have durability and you can still hear them on the radio or TV from time to time.
Although Lynne might have worked with Dylan (not only as producer but also as a member of the ‘supergroup’ The Travelling Wilburys) he wasn’t influenced by Dylan’s skills in writing meaningful multilayered lyrics. Lynne has a much more pop orientated approach to songwriting and often the lyrics sound great, match the rhythm and feel of the backing music but always appear to be more meaningful that they actually are.
“Sun is shinin' in the sky,
There ain't a cloud in sight
It's stopped rainin'
Everybody's in a play
And don't you know
It's a beautiful new day.
Runnin' down the avenue,
See how the sun shines brightly
In the city on the streets
Where once was pity,
Mr. blue sky is living here today.”
I don’t mean this is a criticism, there is considerable skill in writing pop lyrics, I just mean to emphasise that the songs are pure pop songs, with catchy tunes, great instrumentation and a great sing-a-long factor. Some might call them cheesy but if that’s true this is not your cheap processed cheese but rather the high class fine matured Stilton of the cheesy music spectrum.
Looking down the tracks we see that unlike the earlier music ELO’s golden period between Face The Music (1975) and Discovery (1979) is well represented although their first top ten hit ‘Can’t Get It Out Of My Head’ from 1974 is again strangely missing. ‘Evil Woman’ another top ten hit is an upbeat number that includes the trademark swirling string section and vocoder effects welded on to the rock baseline, although not their first hit not even their first top ten this record is really the benchmark for the ELO sound that was to feature on all their best albums. Another huge hit ‘Telephone Line’ from the 1976 album A New World Record is included. This is a slower love ballad but is still recognisably an ELO song. This uniqueness of sound is a feature of their music that was constant throughout the bands musical output, when one of their songs came on the radio there was no mistaking who it was by, which is just another reason why they became so successful in the singles and album charts. ‘Livin’ Thing’ another massive hit from their 1976 album is also rightly included.
Despite the success of ‘Face The Music’ and ‘A New World Record’ the peak of ELO’s musical output is surely their epic 1977 double album ‘Out Of The Blue’. This is possibly one of the best pop records of the 70’s a perfect mixture of quirky ballads, semi disco dance tracks and complex sing-a-long tunes all accompanied by an excess of orchestral strings. Thankfully on this compilation four songs from this pop masterpiece are included their most well known hit Mr Blue Sky rightly opens up the album the thumping beat of the intro perfectly setting the tone for the up beat songs that follow. ‘Sweet Talking Woman’ also from ‘Out Of The Blue’ is the closest ELO get to a proper dance track and is influenced by the disco boom that was around at the time in included at no 4 on the track listing making the start of this compilation very upbeat and just about faultless. In fact the track selection and running order is excellent (taking into account that some important tracks are missing from the early albums) unfortunately things start to go wrong around two thirds of the way (apart from a blip at track 12) in to the record with the inclusion of ‘Xanadu’. This aptly parallel the decline of the band’ fortunes in the release of their Albums. ‘Xanadu’ is an awful track; it is part of a soundtrack that Lynne produced for a film of the same name released in 1980 featuring Olivia Newton John and Gene Kelly with Cliff Richard making an appearance in one of the songs. To be fair ELO’s contribution to the film/album is the best thing about this misconceived project but even Lynne’s Midas touch can’t rescue it. I suppose for completeness sake Xanadu, which was a hit had to be included but having left out better song from previous albums maybe this one could have been ditched instead. Despite following Xanadu with the infinitely better early hit Rockaria! (a strange order selection) the rest of the album never truly recovers and rather stumbles to an unsatisfying end with the mediocre ‘Rock and Roll is King’. I admit that I find myself playing this compilation all the way through to track 17 ‘Rockaria! (skipping Xanadu!) and then losing interest.
‘All Over The World’ is subtitled as the very best of ELO, well you could take issue with this seeing the great tracks that have been left out and the few dud tracks that have been included. As a compilation is isn’t bad although for serious ELO fans one of the previous compilations ‘Strange Music’ and ‘The Essential ELO’ might be better choices. For new fans this would be a good option as a reasonably comprehensive introduction to the band but the 1979 compilation ‘The Best Of ELO’ includes hits from their best period without some of the later duds. The one single advantage that this compilation has over the others is the perfect crystal clear sound of the re-mastered versions for the songs, the quality of the production is really brought to light and with a such complex music as that that ELO produce this is a real plus.
So are secret ELO fans ready to come out of the closet? Is the band going to have a revival? I think they might, watch this space!
‘All Over The World’ can be bought from Play.com for £8.99 delivered.
Thanks for reading and rating this review.
© Mauri 2005
Summary: The best of 70's British pop