Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Demos and Alternates Week, Part Two: Jeff Lynne

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.


Anonymous said...

huh, the alternate sounds like classic Lynne (my main objection to him is his rigid 4/4), but he was actually trying to combat his tendencies on the album mix, making it more like something the Eurythmics might do.

cmealha said...

I'm a fan of big production but a lot of ELO stuff annoyed me, especially the shrill vocal harmonies (the drums never bothered me). As a result I always resented his success compared to my idol Roy Wood, who himself could not leave a single micron of oxide untouched. But, the songs were aways there and my appreciation of him grew with the Wilburys and Tom Petty work as well as his first solo and subsequent one-man band version of ELO. He is an extremely gifted songwriter and producer who has toned down the excesses over the years and shown himself to be a consummate artist who does it all with the greatest of ease.

buzzbabyjesus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
buzzbabyjesus said...

The album version is appalling. I listened to more than 30 seconds out of curiosity.
Too bad there's no chance of a Move reunion. That was Lynne, Wood and Bevan at their best.

Troy said...

Confession time: I like all 3 and still listen to them on a semi-regular basis. Time sounds the worst in terms of production, but there are some great songs in there. SM has somewhat better production (faint praise), and BOP slips back into horrific sound, but Sal's right, there are some killer hooks in there. My favorite is "Is It Alright". Still on a frequently played mix that I have. Nice post today, thanks.

Sal Nunziato said...

"Is It Alright" is a killer!

Troy said...

I would love to see Jeff Lynne re-record some of these songs with a better, cleaner sound. I know that will never happen , but it's a wish.

I'm glad he is finally touring the US again and can't wait to see the show when they come to Chicago. I can finally cross that off my bucket list.

Sal Nunziato said...

If Jeff Lynne got Ron carter and Art Blakey as a rhythm section, the record would still sound like 1982. It's Jeff's ears!

Anonymous said...

Shifting from the Jeff Lynne comments for a moment, lets talk about drummers (solos}.
Regarding Bonham's Purdies Shuffle...
1.My bonafides on the subject - I have been lucky enough to see these guys - Buddy Rich, Dino Danelli, Ginger Baker, Keith Moon and Jim Gordon.
2.Bill Graham pulled aside Chick Lee prior to 10 Years After taking the stage and had him watch/listen to Buddy Rich close his set. "Still thinking about taking that drum solo Chick" ?
3.Bonham, a good drummer...yeah,nothing more.

Jeff Lynne -
1.The conversation in Billions last Sunday centered around Dylan and Petty deciding who could be a Wilbury.
2.Jeff Lynne only made the band because Pete Ham was dead.
3. In the early 80's when my friends were listening to ELO, I preferred Steely Dan for my dose of Pop.


Sal Nunziato said...

Ladies & Gentlemen, Rob. Thanks Rob. Always fun having two of your rock and roll heroes dismissed in one post.

Anonymous said...

let's just say it's the Grumpy Old Man syndrome. ;-)
I'll give you this - way, way back in 1988 I defended the debut album - The Traveling Wilburys as the best release for that year, my meh...for Lynne notwithstanding.

Regarding drummers -
sorry about punching your Bonzo balloon.
As much as I went to see and hear the "Big" bands of my day, much of my focus was watching those individuals play at their craft.
My list of "concerts" was Fillmore worthy so I do have an opinion.
Dino played in a completely different style than Ginger, Ginger different from Keith, Keith different from Gordon. All of them amazing to watch, listen to, appreciate.

Hell. if we all liked Vanilla instead of Chocolate, what a boring world.

If you really want to get me started don't discuss "Pet Sounds"... lol


Sal Nunziato said...

Your opinion is welcome. And boy do I love a good Pet Sounds debate, but some other time.
I will add this:

I'll assume you are older than I am, and I will guess by 10-12 years. But, unlike many, my first concert wasn't when I was 15 or 16. I was 8, so I did get to see Led Zeppelin in their prime, and Buddy Rich many times and Max Roach, and well...I play drums. Of course, Dino plays different than Ginger and Ginger different from Keith. Have you ever seen Bill Bruford play with Yes & King Crimson? Unreal. He was lousy with Genesis. Ever see Phil Collins play with Genesis? Unreal. Ever see Phil Collins try to play Led Zeppelin. Horrible. Ever see a jazz drummer try to play rock and roll? Painful.

That said, Bonham is a helluva lot more than a good drummer.