After the failure of the Zoom tour, ELO didn’t do much, effectively being disbanded again. Over the years some compilations were released, and Jeff Lynne rerecorded some of the classic songs for an album back in 2012. But in 2013, some reissues occurred, including a remaster of Zoom with some bonus tracks. This was accompanied by the newly released Electric Light Orchestra Live, assembled from the Zoom Tour Live DVD, with a couple bonuses thrown in.
Now, as you can imagine, being the show we looked at yesterday, the performances are stellar. They’re all classic tracks (nothing from Zoom itself) and this is a good way to get some of the tracks from that show, given that Zoom Tour Live isn’t the most readily available ELO product.
But there are some mysterious new live tracks. Four of them, to be precise. The jury’s still out on where they were sourced from. It’s definitely the 2001 incarnation of the band as I can hear Rosie Vela on backing vocals. I think I read somewhere that it was from a soundcheck, though I can’t verify that now. But anyway, they add some extra discography-variety to the already-available Zoom Tour Live stuff.
The first on the disc is the title track from Secret Messages. It’s great to hear (as ELO didn’t tour at all after the Time tour in 1981) and it rocks live. It definitely helps having Rosie to double Jeff Lynne’s vocals. The next new song is “Sweet Talkin’ Woman”, which somehow escaped actually appearing on stage during this era. While it’s great to hear, and definitely beefs up the Out of the Blue content, it is the least exciting of the new songs, on account of being less of a lesser-played deep cut.
Anyway, speaking of deep cuts, we’ve got “Twilight” from Time now! Time is my favorite ELO album and it’s cool to see it represented here, as there’s notably been no live album from the Time tour yet. It’s the obvious song choice, yes, but I’m just glad to have Time stuff, even if it’s the falsetto heavy opener instead of the rock and roll album closer. But I have slightly erred, as this version was available as a Japanese bonus track on the re-recording album I mentioned earlier. But for all intents and purposes, it’s mainstream release debut was here, so I’m treating it as such. Not everyone is called Lebrain, you know.
Anyway, the final song is the ballad “Confusion”, hailing from Discovery. I’ll never complain about Discovery material being played live as the band famously didn’t tour for the mega-hit album simply because Jeff Lynne didn’t want to (nor did he need to). And this live version is definitely earning its inclusion, with a little more spring in its step than the studio version.
As for the bonus tracks, they are comprised of two previously unreleased ELO songs. The first (“Out of Luck” from 2010) is traditional, short rock and roll ditty, with Jeff even singing a bit like Elvis. It’s a good song but it is a little more of a novelty than the next song (“Cold Feet” from 1992). Speculated to be part of the canned follow-up to Jeff Lynne’s first solo album Armchair Theatre, this short little song with its synth intro, lush sound and tasteful guitar solo wouldn’t sound out of place on Secret Messages. It’s a great song and it’s a shame it took us this long to hear it. Great closer to the disc too, by the way.
Now I don’t usually complain too much about not including certain songs on live albums, but in this case I must, as mid-eighties hit “Rock and Roll is King” from Secret Messages was not included on the Zoom Tour Live DVD (nor does it show up here either, which is a shame because I do like the song a lot).
But overall this is actually a great entry point into the band as it features a nice variety of tracks from all over the initial stage of their career. And ELO continue to nail the single-disc live album idea doing so, with the extra tracks help provide a more varied coverage of the discography, along with something for the die-hard.
The verdict- 4.25/5
Tomorrow we look at the second ELO reformation, occurring at Hyde Park in 2014