Some good news for ELO fans has been percolating : founding member and main songwriter, singer, guitarist and producer Jeff Lynne is back performing live and recording new music!
Until that tour happens, you can now get some immediate ELO satisfaction by getting the new Blu-ray Disc release of Jeff Lynne's ELO in Hyde Park recorded by the BBC in London earlier this year.
With original keyboardist Richard Tandy on board, this new incarnation of ELO sounds pretty much like the old ELO, except the sound is much bigger and a whole lot tighter.
The band is studio tight because, face it, the new "band" backing Jeff is probably a bunch of the best studio musicians haunting the back streets of jolly old London.
Whether that is a good or bad thing is beyond the scope of this review. I mean.... I think its fine, although I too would love to see original drummer Bev Bevan back in the band at least, but that is neither here nor there...
One can really appreciate the big difference of these studio players when they get to the signature tune "Mr. Blue Sky" -- particularly all those choral and symphonic parts come to life in a way the studio albums really only hint at. There is nothing quite like a live rock band performing in total sync with an orchestra.
This Blu-ray Disc of Jeff Lynne's ELO in Hyde Park looks pretty fantastic, with that rich, modern live-in-concert type color palette and crisp high definition 1080p imagery a plenty. Lots of deep blues, natural fleshtones on the players and spiffy video screens bubbling behind the band during the performance.
I have a minor issue with this concert being presented in "just" somewhat ordinary PCM stereo. Even having a simple 5.1 surround mix with audience ambiance in the rear channels would have been a nice touch.
But then again, how about if we try considering the artist's intention?
In the booklet included with the Blu-ray, there back in the credits page is a quote from Jeff Lynne himself: "It's important to me that viewers experience the Hyde Park show exactly as it was performed that night ... in stereo."
So there you have it. "Just" stereo to me is "just right" for the artist. I'll take it with open arms recognizing that it is what Jeff Lynne wanted us to hear.
So be it.
My only little nit thus far was my discovery in reading some comments on Amazon from disgruntled fans that the final song of the show was not included in the US editions. Why? I have no clue! Perhaps it was just an oversight? Or perhaps it was a royalties issue? Who knows. But if you are a completist, you'll will want to seek out the UK edition which contains the the concert closer, ELO's prog-rock infused take on Chuck Berry's "Roll Over Beethoven."
That song was an ELO signature tune from its earliest days beginning with the second album, so its not really a throwaway. The arrangement, which mashes up "licks" (if you will) from Beethoven's famous Fifth Symphony with the 50's rock 'n roll landmark tune, is a bit of bombastic wonderment that is both over the top and glorious at the same time.
As a completist, I have returned my domestic US copy and have ordered the UK edition instead. If there are any significant updates /differences, I will report on them in the comments section at the end of this article.
All that said, this basic disc is a great value.
In addition to the nearly complete live performance, you also get a fantastic bonus feature documentary about Jeff Lynne that really is almost as fun to watch as the concert film. It traces Jeff's trajectory from his earliest days in The Idle Race through The Move, ELO and then as a producer of everyone from George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty and The Traveling Wilburys and finally working as a virtual "fifth Beatle" on the two reunion tunes (issued on the Beatles Anthology series, "Free as a Bird" and "Real Love").
This is a great disc all ELO fans should want to own.
Even without that final song, this concert of Jeff Lynne's ELO in Hyde Park is a joy to behold and hear, signaling the hopeful dawn of a new era for ELO. Can't wait to hear the new studio album that is being released this Fall!
ELO is waiting to be heard all over the world, all over again!