'Electric Light Orchestra -Live: The Early Years'
(ELO / DVD / NR / 2010 / Eagle Records)
Overview: To commemorate the 40-year anniversary of Electric Light Orchestra, 'Electric Light Orchestra Live: The Early Years' is now out on DVD. Indeed, it was the marriage of sweeping orchestral harmonies with rock ‘n’ roll’s electricity that led to global album sales in excess of 50 million, making ELO one of the biggest selling bands of the seventies and eighties.
DVD Verdict: Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) have been one of the most successful rock bands down the line for many years now. Formed in 1970 by Jeff Lynne and Roy Wood from the ashes of their band The Move, once Wood had left Lynne (quickly!) led the band to international acclaim.
'Electric Light Orchestra - Live: The Early Years' is just that - a triple concert trip down memory lane. Featuring excerpts from three 70s’ performances, the first of the three (Brunel University, 1973) is filmed before a small crowd. With no lead in, Jeff Lynne gets the boys ready and off we go, into 'King of the Universe.' Bathed completely in a red light thoughout, the sound is, as expected, lush, orchestral and as soon as Lynne's voice hits the mic, completely and utterly ELO!
A nice, rocky intro bring us a studio-sounding 'Ma-Ma-Ma Belle,' before both 'In The Hall Of The Mountain King' and (weirdly) 'Great Balls of Fire.' Standing at just under 20 minutes the whole set, it may not be the longest one recorded, but come the end the red lighting was doing my head in anyway!
Next up, and we find ELO in Germany, at Rockpalast in 1974. Once we have dispensed with the Rockpalast neon logo intro, we plunge straight into the keyboard intro to 'Daybreaker.' Feeling more, and looking more like a session from the UK's Old Grey Whistle Test, up next is the emphatic 'Showdown' and the little-heard, little-known fiddle tune 'Orange Blossom Special' (Ervin T. Rouse). Lynne intros Mik Kaminski and he obliges by giving us one monkey of a fiddlin' tune to behold.
Another rendition of 'Ma-Ma-Ma Belle' is followed by another rendition of 'In The Hall Of The Mountain King' (but this time, the difference is that Lynne asks for the lights to be down BEFORE the start of the number), and yup, you guessed it, another rendition of 'Great Balls of Fire'! I guess, back then, they didn't have the depth in cataloge to bring forth. Coming in just under 25 minutes at least it's longer than the Brunel session, but not by much!
Last up is the longest concert, this time from London, at Fusion in 1976. Now on a much larger stage, better lighting, better sound techs, a drum set with their name on, a costumes much more suited to their '70s stage personas, they begin with the fast-paced 'Poker,' before heading into the much slower 'Nightrider' and (once again), 'Showdown.'
Lynne, for the first time that I've personally ever seen him, sports a goatee, an all white Elvis-styled outfit, and brings all his stage knowledge to bear on the brilliant, truly orchestral 'Eldorado Overture.' Which slides beautifully into the slow 'Can’t Get It Out Of My Head.' 'Poor Boy (The Greenwood),' sung by Lynne and bassist Michael D'Albuquerque, is next with the rockin' 'Illusions in G Major' and etheral 'Strange Magic.'
The trippy, bathed in yellow/orange '10538 Overture' comes next. Another Lynne/D'Albuquerque-sung moment, what a great, catchy, perfectly written psychedelic melody with beautifully placed vocal harmonies this song really is. Blending straight into 'Do Ya,' we then get to one song known by all - all that might not have known any of the previous ELO songs, anyway! 'Evil Woman,' perhaps the best-known ELO song from their so-called classic period, is a great bouncy number, and leads us to the fina song of the night, yup, once again, 'Ma-Ma-Ma Belle.'
The special feature is a Rockpalast interview from 1974. Controlled by a nervous, long-haired, heavily-mustached German (and yes, there are also German subtitles here, for those inclined to follow along from the Homeland), first up to chat is bassist Michael D'Albuquerque - who reveals he had only worked a few days in the business before joining ELO!
There are LOTS of awkward pauses in this oh-so-quiet studio interview with the entire band, but the always-jovial funster Jeff Lynne attempts to keep things moving along. Mik Kaminski jokes he saw the advert to join the band in the Sporting Life, (the late) Mike Edwards tells us he was studying at the Royal Academy of Music when he got the 'weird' phone call one day to come and join the band. The highly-animated Jeff Lynne reveals he was actually a cheat, as he didn't have any auditions to be part of the band - as he founded the group!
Rick Panell tells us he is the Sound Engineer and , hilariously, the hairdryer repairer! Hugh McDowell reveals he's being playing electric cello for longer than he can remember, and when asked his current age, yep, you guessed it, can't remember! Bev Bevan makes us all aware that he is the other founding member of the band, and calls himself the drumist!
Just before we get to the last member seated, Richard Tandy (who joined the band early on also, and never looked back), someone asks, 'Where's Roy Wood, that's what I want to know?!' He is quickly, and loudly "shushed" by Lynne ... classic!
Sadly, Mike Edwards, one of the early members of this British rock ensemble, died just recently, with bassist Kelly Groucutt, who joined the band after the 'El Dorado' album passing just some 3 days later. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Feature of: