Electric Light Orchestra

The Very Best of the Electric Light Orchestra [Telstar]

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Few rock & rollers have taken as drastic a musical shift as Jeff Lynne. After mammoth 1970s success as the Electric Light Orchestra's vocalist, guitarist, songwriter, and producer, he distanced himself from ELO's slick, symphonic pop-rock and focused on stripped-down, no-frills music as a member of the Traveling Wilburys supergroup, a soloist, and as a producer for the likes of George Harrison, Roy Orbison, and Tom Petty. Although it isn't comprehensive, 1989's two-CD, 24-song U.K. compilation The Very Best of the Electric Light Orchestra is a gem, and it is generally a better collection than the 1995 U.S. release Strange Magic: The Best of the Electric Light Orchestra. Virtually all of ELO's hits are included: "Mr. Blue Sky," "Sweet Talkin' Woman," "Livin' Thing," "Evil Woman," "Turn to Stone," "Can't Get It Out of My Head," "Rock & Roll is King," "Confusion," "Don't Bring Me Down," "Last Train to London," "Strange Magic," and "Hold on Tight." Fortunately, two underrated hits -- "Shine a Little Love" and "Calling America" -- are also featured. "Don't Bring Me Down" is usually considered the standout song on 1979's Discovery, but "Shine a Little Love" explodes with an infectious melody. "Calling America" is a fine little song from 1986's virtually ignored Balance of Power. The best thing about the collection is the inclusion of "I'm Alive" and "All Over the World" from 1980's Xanadu soundtrack, although the title song itself is absent. Key album cuts -- such as "Fire on High," for example -- would have been nice additions, but since ELO was arguably more of a singles band, The Very Best of the Electric Light Orchestra is a fine compilation. The liner notes, however, are woefully incomplete.

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