Was Mr Blue Sky: The Very best of ELO a Hit or Miss

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I think it kind of goes without saying that I like ELO. I believe my review of Time (look on the blog) kind of ratted my love for this band out. I intended on having a full album review of this one out sooner or later, but I didn’t want to. Instead, I am going to discuss this album, and decide whether it is good or bad.

I call this an album, this is a compilation. But, like I stated in my rant on compilations, this is the RIGHT type of compilation. Jeff Lynne decided to re-record some of the biggest hits of the Electric Light Orchestra. After all, after producing music for the majority of his life, he felt there was room for improvement on his back catalogue, so re-recorded them. And he created the album ‘Mr. Blue Sky: The Very Best of Electric Light Orchestra’. It is essentially a Jeff Lynne solo piece, so it is entirely his vision.

Well, for me, some of the songs were a hit, but there were a lot of misses. The songs, admittedly, were very well re-recorded. Technically, they’re masterpieces. Lynne’s voice has barely waned with age, and the music sounds warm and welcoming, while being familiar, it doesn’t deviate too much from the original tracks, but it has been very well modernised to fit in with modern tracks. But I must say, you do need imperfection. I love albums like Time because the songs are flawed, and not all of them are excellent, I completely hated ‘Another Heart Breaks’ because I felt it was flawed, and was a let down after the great song ‘The way life’s meant to be’. But I feel we need the weaker songs to make the great songs better, that is why Time is a great album, for what weaker songs it does deliver, you know there is another song on the album that makes up for it. Having an album like ‘Mr Blue Sky’, where the songs are largely of the same quality, a GOOD quality I may add, it hurts the album.

And the songs aren’t weak, like the actual songs are not weak in their composition. They’re the band’s greatest hits! So of course the songs are good. They’re memorable. This isn’t a album, where all the songs are all mixed in quality, this is a compilation. The greatest hits. What I am trying to say is that all the songs are the same quality of production, so it is hard to pick out the bum notes. I think that’s why I kind of think they sound the same, though they aren’t. They’re of the same level of production. If you had a simple compilation, you’d see the band’s sound evolve. With this, the songs are as technically good as each other, so you don’t get that. I don’t know if you understand what I am saying, but it makes sense to me!

That being said, this album has a flare of originality. Re-recording your songs is a good idea, and has been done by bands before. Kraftwerk’s compilation/best hits/remix album ‘The Mix’ had the same basic idea. And, I must say, some of the songs do sound better than the original, like an actual step up. The 2012 re-recordings of Strange Magic, Telephone Line, and Can’t Get it out of my Head are some of this album’s highlights. The basic goal of the album was actually achieved, at least to some extent.

Of course, I was already a fan of ELO, and many fans like myself would argue that the originals are the best, and that there is no need to tamper with them. I’m kind of in that camp. I love the originals, because I like the flaws. I listen to the original 10538 Overture, and then I listen to the re-recorded version, and I prefer the original. I can hear each separate instrument, and I like the simplicity of that. The newer cover, the instruments melt into each other, and make a pretty, but disappointing mess (Listen to the original in Stereo sound, it is awesome). It is the same for most of the songs, sadly, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the album is bad.

I must admit, I feel that ‘Mr Blue Sky’ was a Hit and a Miss, more of a miss. It did, to some extent, achieve Jeff Lynne’s vision of making better versions of his song, as they were technically very good, but it misses the flaws that made them special. If you want to re-record, I think you need to add new flaws to the new product, find new bits for people to like or dislike. Your idea of perfect may not be my idea of perfect, or anyone else’s for that matter. I also feel that the album misses songs that should be there. Songs like ‘The Diary of Horace Wimp’ or ‘Ma Ma Ma Belle’ should have been re-recorded in my opinion. If I were Jeff Lynne, I’d have picked some of the older ELO songs and re-recorded them, and make the older albums more well known. But for what it was, Mr Blue Sky is still good. It is by no means, a must have for a ELO fan, but it is nice compliment to the 40+ years of the Electric Light Orchestra.

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Ben

Since 2012, Benjamin Attwood has written for the If you Ask Ben blog.

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