The 80's output of ELO, barely three members at this point, is a trilogy of missed opportunities. "Time," "Secret Messages" and "Balance Of Power," each contain a half dozen classic Jeff Lynne tunes, filled with hooks and harmonies, but some of the most horrible, synthetic 80's production ever put to plastic. "Balance Of Power" makes Gary Numan sound like Judee Sill in comparison.
I know many of you just barely tolerate Jeff Lynne and his flatulent drum sound, but I am more forgiving. While he was responsible for ruining Dave Edmunds, he did a fine job with his Tom Petty and George Harrison productions, and his most recent release as "Jeff Lynne's ELO," was my favorite record of that year. I can't help it. The man can write a hook. I'm a sucker for a hook. As a drummer, I should hate everything Lynne touches, but again, his songwriting and melodies win me over every time.
That said, I've always loved the track "Secret Lives" from ELO's last, "Balance Of Power," even in its commercially release form, awash in videogame synthesizers, bells and whistles. But just last week, I discovered an alternate version added as a bonus track to the remastered CD. I've owned this CD for 20 years and I am quite sure I never played it. The cleaner, alternate is up top. The original album version is below. The alternate wins by a mile.