Reviewed in the United States on October 19, 2006
This compilation completely misses the point of ELO.
I've casually disliked this band for about 25 years, so I should know. They weren't real. Or significantly unreal, for that matter. Yet there was a time in the mid-to-late seventies when ELO meant something to me. When the songs and I were somewhere between boy and man . . .
"Live at Winterland 1976" shows that they were a studio band at heart and that Jeff Lynne wasn't a singer so much as a good in-the-studio vocals (and whatever else) manipulator.
Still, when in that studio and left to his own devices, manipulating whatever, wanking whenever, isolating the flotsam amid the gism (sorry, jetsam), and floating on his personal dream of music, he--like any boy in the same situation--sometimes hit the jackpot.
However messy, the first time was one of the best, as sometimes happens to the more fortunate of us. 'Do Ya' proved he was experienced, or experienced enough to convincingly sound like he was. Link Wray, Ray Davies and Dave Davies (with Jimmy Page looking over his shoulder), Lou Reed, Pete Townshend, and others could have cited paternity, but they had their own woodpiles to contend with.
Lynne really broke out in a sweat with "Eldorado": "A Symphony By The Electric Light Orchestra." A "symphony," no less. Although it expressed only too well the source of his inspiration, as well as the limitations of his performance ability, 'Can't Get It Out of My Head' is as romantic as a boy can get. 'Boy Blue' was the natural and, eh, deserved follow-up.
Lynne listened to his own tune and heard himself revealed . . . He wrote his best album as a result. "Face the Music" he did, and as many reviewers will tell you, dark it was. Yet that very personal confrontation, coupled with honest adolescent feeling (cf. 'Evil Woman'), produced an album of songs that a romantic seems to come up with only once in his lifetime (girls know better). 'Fire on High,' 'Waterfall,' 'Poker,' and 'One Summer Dream' are stand-out tracks, but, incredibly, the others are about as memorable. The story of a boy's night out.
Having revealed his soul, he didn't know what to do with it, so he sold it. "A New World Record" cashed in, with the best song, 'Do Ya,' being anything but new, or living. (He'd already did, I'd thought.) A trivial album covering up lost innocence with as much hoopla as the 20th century, or Leni Riefenstahl, could muster.
His soul gone, with nowhere to go, Lynne did what he knew best. He went back to that there studio, shut out the world, and wanked as hard as he could for a new revelation. And he was granted one: Home might as well be outer space, and rainy days are nice. In perhaps his best song of all, 'Summer and Lightning,' he's all alone, with no one else to mess things up. The title of the album, "Out of the Blue," isn't quite as honest as "Golden Shower of Hits" (Circle Jerks) would have been, but for an olio of boyhood remembered, the songs have their charms.
And that was it for the next few decades. There really was nothing left for Lynne to say.
(He sure did help other guys express themselves, though, boy howdy: 'Free Fallin',' 'Got My Mind Set On You,' 'Handle With Care,' 'You Got It' . . .)
"All Over the World: The Very Best of Electric Light Orchestra" includes none of the above-mentioned songs, except for 'Evil Woman.'
Instead, you get 'Xanadu' without Olivia Newton-John.
At least Rush made Xanadu seem important. But then Neil Peart had read Coleridge's poem, even if he is Canadian . . . Peart, that is. Not Coleridge. Who's British. Took laudanum, an opium derivative.
Speaking of which . . . Afghanistan is producing bumptious crops of the stuff these days. Flesh and blood must make good fertilizer. Perhaps Lynne could take a trip and refuel his personal fantasies. If you can't get out of your head, you might as well stay there. Enjoy the view. Write songs for the boy in so many of us. I'll relive my youth, or the part of it that I can half remember, with the tunes he's capable of writing--I'll give Lynne some credit. Which, really, is saying a lot.
And we're back to where we started.