Electric Light Orchestra

The Harvest Years 1970-1973

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EMI's 2006 triple-CD set The Harvest Years 1970-1973 is a more limited -- yet also somewhat expanded -- vault exploration covering some of the same territory as the U.K.-issued double-CD editions of the Electric Light Orchestra and ELO 2 albums. There are no project "leftovers" such as fragments from "Lost Planet," or any BBC tracks -- everything is confined to surviving studio outtakes from the two completed albums that they did for Harvest, so in that sense this is a more restricted survey of that history, the virtues being the sensational sounding remastering of the two albums (the same remasterings heard on those double-CD editions), relevant session outtakes, and the single mixes and edits of the 45s generated by the group during this period. But the makers have also included the complete alternate quadraphonic mix of the self-titled debut album (of which only four tracks, "Look at Me Now," "Nellie Takes Her Bow," "The Battle of Marston Moor" and "Queen of the Hours," had ever previously shown up on CD). To make it clear, it's not in quad here -- its been remastered to stereo while keeping the mix intact; the alternate mix places considerably different emphasis on various instruments, suppressing some in favor of others that were pushed into the background on the original stereo mix, and moving the vocals around as well. It isn't better -- and someday it might be interesting to use that quad mix intact, in quadraphonic, on an SACD -- but it is very different and it does tie up one loose-end among official ELO releases from this period. Hardcore fans who already own the double-disc reissues of the two albums may resent the idea of having to buy the same upgraded remasterings (and the same outtakes) for a second time, in order to get that alternate mix of Electric Light Orchestra (known in the U.S. as No Answer); but others, who are just discovering the joys of this band's early history, may well welcome the chance to probe deeper into that history, and will use this as a jumping-off point for plunging into the two double-CD reissues, with their wider-ranging explorations of the band's work.

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