ELO / Jeff Lynne
Mr Blue Sky - The Very Best Of / Long Wave
added: 21 Oct 2012
// release date: 8 Oct 2012 // label: Frontier Records
reviewer: David Spencer
A fascinating BBC documentary on Jeff Lynne recently revealed a strangely modest Brummy, in awe at working alongside the likes of the Beatles (in the mid nineties as a producer) but also showed an artist who is both a perfectionist and a control freak. On these two albums Lynne displays both of those characteristics in full.
His perfectionism is what led him to revisit these ELO tracks, explaining that they did not sound as good to him now as they did originally. With changes in recording technology that is rather obvious and something most artists cope with. Not Jeff Lynne, who decided to re-record them in order to make them sound ‘better’ to his ears.
Of course as a producer and musician he listens very differently to the average music fan, and the original ELO songs have a magic that partly comes from the moment in time at which they were written and recorded. Maybe that is the reason that the album is simply billed as Mr Blue Sky – and is a kind of Best Of for newcomers.
Evil Woman, Strange Magic, Showdown and the terrific Telephone Line all sound great with a fuller sound. But the arrangements are identical and a test of most music fans would surely see them fail to spot the difference. There is the previously unheard b-side sounding The Point Of No Return, while Do Ya (originally written by Lynne when he was in the Move) is an intriguing inclusion, as well as the equally rocky 10538 Overture, with full blown kitchen sink type production.
Long Wave is Lynne’s first album credited to him as a solo artist for 22 years, and therefore has more intrigue than the revamping of ELO’s back catalogue. Here Lynne demonstrates the second of those attributes seen on the BBC documentary, playing all the instruments and producing it all himself. Understandable given his emotional connection to these songs that he first heard when sitting at home in Birmingham listening on a long wave radio.
There are ballads like Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered and Smile, as well as songs that also have a greater personal attachment for Lynne. Such as the cover of Roy Orbison’s Running Scared (Lynne worked with Orbison in The Travelling Wilbury’s before the singer’s death) and the sleeve notes reveal that this was Orbison’s personal favourite.
Vocally Lynne proves he still has a great pop voice, with a cracking take on At Last, which has been recorded by the likes of Etta James and Glenn Miller, while there is some great swinging fifties rock and roll on Chuck Berry’s Let it Rock. The final dance and stomp of Beyond The Sea, also shows his talents for playing, with all the brass and woodwind parts replicated on his Les Paul guitar. An album made with much love and affection – and it shows.
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