April might as well be known as The Month of Electric Light Orchestra, as the group's pioneering frontman, producer, arranger and songwriter Jeff Lynne has announced three new catalogue projects due in the U.S. on April 23 and in the U.K. on April 22. We've updated our original post of October 5, 2012 with new information including full track listings and details on each of the three upcoming, bonus-packed releases!
UPDATED ORIGINAL POST OF 10/5/12: The wait is over. Though Electric Light Orchestra’s leader, co-founder and overall studio wizard Jeff Lynne has busied himself in recent years producing hits for artists including Regina Spektor, Joe Walsh and his fellow Traveling Wilburys Tom Petty and the late George Harrison, he hasn’t released any new solo music since 1990’s Armchair Theatre. On Tuesday, that will change, however, as the sunglass-wearing musical guru releases not one, but two, new albums. Mr. Blue Sky: The Very Best of Electric Light Orchestra features new recordings written, produced and performed by Lynne, of eleven ELO favorites, plus one new song, "Point of No Return." In these renditions (frequently so close to the originals that even a diehard fan might have a hard time spotting the difference!), Lynne impressively plays lead guitar, rhythm guitar, piano, bass, drums, keyboards, vocoder and even cowbell, in addition to supplying the lead and background vocals. Mr. Blue Sky is being joined by Long Wave, an 11-track salute to the songs that inspired him, from writers like Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II (“If I Loved You”), Rodgers and Lorenz Hart (“Bewitched”), Charles Aznavour (“She”) and Don Covay (“Mercy, Mercy”).
What does this all have to do with the catalogue music world of The Second Disc, you might ask? Inside the sturdy, hardback book-style packaging of Mr. Blue Sky, you’ll find an insert announcing three more projects coming soon from Lynne and Frontiers Records, and all are reissues of classic titles from Lynne and ELO. Just hit the jump and we’ll fill you in on what to expect, plus a little background, too!
Electric Light Orchestra began as a decidedly different aggregation than the familiar group, born out of the ashes of Birmingham, England’s The Move. When lead singer Carl Wayne departed The Move, his bandmate Roy Wood invited Jeff Lynne, then of The Idle Race, to join him. This revitalized line-up of The Move produced two albums. Legend has it that Wood made the first suggestion to add cellos to Lynne’s song “10538 Overture” – one of the songs re-recorded for the new Mr. Blue Sky - originally intended as a Move B-side. But whatever the genesis, the two men created an altogether new sound together. ELO melded a classical sensibility with the power and force of rock and roll. It wasn’t long before tensions between management, Wood and Lynne came to a head, and Wood departed the newly-christened Electric Light Orchestra. Lynne, of course, took ELO to new heights with his unerring pop instincts as songwriter, vocalist and producer, while Roy Wood’s Wizzard racked up six U.K. Top 10 singles and a considerable legacy of its own.
ELO recorded a steady stream of hits; 1974’s Eldorado became its first gold album, containing the American Top 10 breakthrough “Can’t Get It Out of My Head,” and 1975 follow-up Face the Music offered two giant hit singles, “Evil Woman” and “Strange Magic.” By then the classic line-up was in place: Lynne (writer/producer/vocals/guitar), Bev Bevan (drums, percussion, vocals), Richard Tandy (piano, organ, keyboards, guitar), Kelly Groucutt (bass/vocals), Mik Kaminski (violin), Hugh McDowell (cello), and Melvyn Gale (cello). Lynne disbanded ELO following 1986’s Balance of Power, by which time the group was down to just Lynne, Bevan and Tandy. When an official announcement was made roughly two years later, Bevan soldiered on as ELO Part II, then as The Orchestra, occasionally joined by other former members, notably not Lynne or Tandy. When Bevan retired, he sold his one-half of the ELO name to Lynne, allowing the sonic auteur to release future projects under the band’s moniker, such as 2001’s Zoom, the last ELO album proper before 2012’s Mr. Blue Sky.
First up from Frontiers Records is an expanded reissue of Lynne’s Armchair Theatre. His first solo album, Armchair Theatre looked forward to Long Wave with two covers of standards (Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson’s “September Song” and Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler’s “Stormy Weather”) along with Lynne originals (one co-written with Tom Petty) and Jesse Stone’s “Don’t Let Go.” The Reprise Records release reunited the ELO frontman with the band’s keyboardist Richard Tandy, and both George Harrison and Del Shannon made appearances. Though it only managed a No. 83 showing on the Billboard chart, the mature and melodic Armchair Theatre has long been well-regarded, and Big Trilby will add two previously unreleased bonus tracks, "Borderline" and "Forecast," to its original eleven song line-up. Alas, the album's original B-sides are absent.
Next on the docket is another expanded edition, of Electric Light Orchestra’s 2001 album Zoom. The first album credited to the band since 1986’s Balance of Power, Zoom was primarily a Lynne solo album, with guest contributions again from Harrison and Tandy, plus an appearance by Ringo Starr. The multi-instrumentalist, producer, singer and songwriter penned all thirteen tracks (plus one Japan-only bonus track!) for this return to classic ELO form, but it peaked at No. 94 in the U.S., faring better in the U.K. where it earned a No. 34 berth on the album chart. Zoom will be remastered, of course, but will also be expanded by three previously unreleased tracks: the brand-new "One Day," and live performances of "Do Ya" and "Turn to Stone" from the CBS Television City recording of ELO Live. (See just below!) The Japan-only bonus track from the original release, “Long Black Road,” will not be included.
Lastly, Lynne has plans for the aforementioned Electric Light Orchestra – Live. Recorded over two evenings at CBS Television City in conjunction with the release of Zoom, the concert was released on DVD by Image Entertainment as Zoom Tour Live. Richard Tandy joined Lynne for the concerts, along with Marc Mann, Matt and Gregg Bissonette on bass and drums, respectively, Peggy Baldwin and Sarah O’Brien on electric cello, and Rosie Vela on backing vocals. Though ELO’s North American tour was curtailed, Live preserves this iteration of the group. The expanded CD edition of Live will boast tracks absent from the original DVD including "Sweet Talkin' Woman," plus two previously unreleased studio tracks, 2010's "Out of Luck" and 1992's "Cold Feet." Other songs reportedly played at Television City such as "All She Wanted" and "Rock 'n' Roll is King" are still unaccounted for, and oddly, the concert performances of "Do Ya" and "Turn to Stone" have been appended instead to the Zoom reissue.
The Japanese releases (due April 17) will each have one additional bonus track. Armchair Theatre adds "Strange Magic" live from Bungalow Palace (Lynne's home studio), ELO Live adds "Telephone Line" live from the same home session, and Zoom has "Lucky Motel."
All three titles are due April 23 in the U.S. and on April 22 in the U.K.; April 19 is the date in other European territories. We will add pre-order links as soon as those are available!
Electric Light Orchestra, Electric Light Orchestra Live (Recorded in 2001, released Frontiers Records, 2013)
- Evil Woman
- Secret Messages
- Livin’ Thing
- Sweet Talkin’ Woman
- Mr. Blue Sky
- Can’t Get It Out of My Head
- Don’t Bring Me Down
- Roll Over Beethoven
- Out of Luck (previously unreleased bonus track, rec. 2010)
- Cold Feet (previously unreleased bonus track, rec. 1992)
Electric Light Orchestra, Zoom (Epic EK 85336, 2001 – reissued Frontiers Records, 2013)
- Moment in Paradise
- State of Mind
- Just for Love
- Stranger on a Quiet Street
- In My Own Time
- Easy Money
- It Really Doesn’t Matter
- Ordinary Dream
- A Long Time Gone
- Melting in the Sun
- All She Wanted
- Lonesome Lullaby
- Do Ya (Live Bonus Track from Electric Light Orchestra Live)
- Turn to Stone (Live Bonus Track from Electric Light Orchestra Live)
- One Day (previously unreleased bonus track)
Jeff Lynne, Armchair Theatre (Reprise 9 26184-2, 1990 – reissued Frontiers Records, 2013)
- Every Little Thing
- Don’t Let Go
- Lift Me Up
- Nobody Home
- September Song
- Now You’re Gone
- Don’t Say Goodbye
- What Would It Take
- Stormy Weather
- Blown Away
- Save Me Now
- Borderline (previously unreleased bonus track)
- Forecast (previously unreleased bonus track)
In case you don't remember, there were three released B-sides from "Armchair Theatre": "I'm Gone", "Borderline", and the instrumental "Sirens". Not sure if two of the three will be two of the bonus tracks, or if they will be something from the sessions that we've never heard before. I'll be waiting to find out.
Joe Marchese says
Indeed, Chris! I'd love to see those appended, too, but I understand that the two new tracks will both be previously unissued. Perhaps Jeff will change his mind and we could get a "complete" Armchair reissue...well, it's nice to imagine, anyway! Looking forward to it, either way.
I would love for Lynne, Bevan, Wood, Tandy et al to record a new Electric Light Orchestra album. A return to their early sound complete with the rockin' strings!
Ricardo A says
Mark Cook says
Odd....The Jeff Lynne/ELO website states that "six additional tracks not on the DVD" are on the CD. Yet they are not in the track listing
Joe Marchese says
Hi Mark, there seems to be a discrepancy between the text of the press release and the track listing provided. We'll try to reach out and solve the mystery of whether there are any additional tracks and update here accordingly!
Mark Cook says
...and now they've changed the press release. Guess that clears some things up
Dean G. says
Why no release of the b-side from Armchair Theatre? Gone, Gone, Gone was a fun track.
Dean G. says
Oops. I'm Gone, not Gone, Gone, Gone.
Steve C. (@AnalogWalrus) says
"The Japan-only bonus track from the original release, “Long Black Road,” will not be included."
Yeah, that would make WAY too much sense.
Rich Dudas says
I wonder why the "Live" CD is incomplete ? Too bad Jeff Lynne isn't releasing the entire concert on a 2CD set.....
Rich Dudas says
I got the Japanese versions of these CD's in the mail last Wednesday -- they come in cardboard "mini-LP" sleeves with inserts/liner notes. They are also SHM-CD's and the sound is damn good !! The packaging is very, very nice as well. The bonus tracks are interesting but not earth shattering. Still worth picking up - not sure if the US versions will be any different though.....
Rich Dudas says
Its also interesting to note that the bonus tracks differ on the Japanese versions - the Japanese "Zoom" does not include the live "Turn To Stone" that's on the US version.
Chris Burkholder says
Hey Rich, wikipedia states that the Japanese version of Zoom will have a bonus track called "Lucky Motel". Do you have this song and do you know anything about this? I am perplexed as to why Jeff cant release a cd that includes "Long Black Road" and any extra unreleased songs or demos on one CD. Gotta be a money thing. I also wish that Jeff would have added maybe an unreleased version of "Blown Away" on his Armchair Theater CD.
Rich Dudas says
Chris - "Lucky Motel" is a bonus track on the Japanese version of "Zoom". Its an instrumental - Jeff plays ukulele, percussion, guitars, and bass on the track. Its engineered by Richard Dodd and Ryan Ulyate.
Chris Burkholder says
Thanks Rich for getting back with me. I think that it would be fantastic if Jeff would release a CD of him singing songs that he wrote for other musicians that have been released along with songs that he had crafted but not yet made available for the general public. Jeff for some reason is hesitant to release the hidden jewel "Beatles Forever" which is a beautifully written melodic gem. Also, "Me And You" by Jeff and Roy Wood, has that typical Jeff Lynne crafted feel that would be a wonderful song to release. Another demo called "Second Time Around" could also be a great melancholy finished tune in typical "Lynne Fashion". Even the song that Jeff wrote for Helen Reddy, "Poor Little Fool", would be a welcome release. Point is that Jeff has got to have an abundance of unreleased songs that would be entertaining to hear. Heck, I am so desperate for Jeff Lynne music that I would even welcome an updated version of Jeff's "Idle Race" songs!
Rich Dudas says
Chris - You're very welcome !!
A brief comment on sound quality. So far I've listened to "Live" and "Armchair Theater," both mastered by the legendary Bernie Grundman. "Live," to these ears, actually sounds more impressive than AT. Since I've never heard this show before, I have no basis for comparison, but it's got good space, and dynamics and sheer presence (especially on Jeff's vocals) are pretty nice as well.
Compared with the original CD pressing, the AT remaster is a bit of a mixed bag. It's mastered louder than the original (though not egregiously so), which gives the more uptempo material a bit more pop and oomph, and Jeff's vocals are somewhat more comprehensible, but the original has a smoothness and "linearity" that is appealing as well. I'm keeping both, as each does some things the other doesn't. If you're a big enough Jeff/ELO fan, and care a lot about sonic differences between pressings, then maybe it's worth having both. Otherwise, the remaster is perfectly fine, and does have the advantage of having two fairly decent bonus tracks.
Oops, spelling should be "Armchair THEATRE," not "Theater"! My bad! 🙂
There I said it.
I know a lot of people (that is, people who discuss any re-release of the "Secret Messages" album) who would love to have the double album version of "Secret Messages" released. Me, I'd much rather have all 7 of the dropped songs from the lineup tacked on to the end as bonus tracks. It'd be easier to put together, yes?
In any case, I think that song deserves release.