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Music review: Electric Light Orchestra 'Mr. Blue Sky: The Very Best of Electric Light Orchestra'

BY GEORGE LANG Published: October 12, 2012
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Electric Light Orchestra ‘Mr. Blue Sky: The Very Best of Electric Light Orchestra' (Frontiers)

“Mr. Blue Sky: The Very Best of Electric Light Orchestra” is not a greatest hits album, and the title represents a clever game of rhetorical hair splitting, because Jeff Lynne, the owner of the name and chief creative force behind the band during its 1970 to 1986 original era, appears to be the “Very Best” of ELO in the title, not the copycat recordings of classics collected here. Lynne, a masterful producer by any measure, reportedly wanted to clean up and sonically burnish “Telephone Line,” “Evil Woman,” “Turn to Stone” and other great songs from that period for posterity, but one suspects that the idea of “improving” on the original recordings had more to do with royalties on recordings. As a side note, “The Very Best” also pushes original drummer Bev Bevan out of the mix, karmic justice for all those years Bevan toured as ELO Part II.

While some reviewers compared Lynne to George Lucas for tinkering with his classics, “The Very Best” is a different sort of animal. Bands such as Styx, Foreigner and Squeeze have recorded similar albums in recent years, often competing with best-of collections of the original versions issued by their old labels. A 2007 New York Times article reported that the chief reason for older bands to release such albums is to avoid splitting revenues from commercial licensing with their former record companies. In the article, Eagles manager Irving Azoff said he was encouraging his legacy clients to follow this strategy. With “The Very Best,” Lynne can sell a virtual sound-alike of “Don't Bring Me Down” for a television commercial and keep more of the money.

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