ELO | All Over the World: The Very Best of Electric Light Orchestra (Epic Legacy)

Don’t go to ELO to hear the darker side of emotional experience.

 

The message that comes across in the best work Jeff Lynne did with Electric Light Orchestra can be summed up as follows: “I’m in a studio! And I get to play in it!”

Nothing is quite so engaging as enthusiasm, especially to a four-year-old’s ears. That’s how old I was when I first heard ELO. Listening now to All Over the World takes me back to afternoons spent listening to their albums with my older brother. We’d sit in front of our massive old stereo cabinet singing along; I’d tell my brother which Vocoder voice belonged to which spaceman pictured inside the gatefold sleeve of the LP with the big UFO on the front. I wonder if Lynne did the same thing with his family.

I cannot now feel anything but affection for the songs I heard then, but not just for sentimental reasons. The best ELO songs have more than just delight in sonic potential going for them. As Lynne’s fake-Liverpudlian phrasing proves, he was a master student of the Beatles. Yes, he is throwing in weird effects like talking pianos and extreme reverb, and yes, he revels in classical elements like violins and choirs and operatic arias, but he grounds all of this with bouncy beats, hummable melodies—great pop songcraft.

Don’t go to ELO to hear the darker side of emotional experience. Lynne’s voice never sounds anything but chipper, no matter what he’s singing (“I turn to stone! When you are gone! I turn to stone!”) But if you’re looking for something both fun and exquisitely crafted, you can’t top hits like “Evil Woman,” “Sweet Talkin’ Woman” (ever wonder if these were the same chick?), “Strange Magic,” and, best of the best, “Mr. Blue Sky.”

This collection doesn’t include “Can’t Get It Out of My Head” or “Roll Over Beethoven” or “10538 Overture,” which might make some question why it’s called The Very Best of ELO. Perhaps it’s because the titles ELO’s Greatest Hits and The Best of Electric Light Orchestra were already taken.

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