Remember all those cheap re-recordings of big hits featuring one or two members of the original bands? Sure you do. They populated gas stations all across the nation and you can still find them in a few isolated cases. Mr. Blue Sky: The Very Best of Electric Light Orchestra (released on October 9) is kind of like those collections.
Jeff Lynne doesn’t own the master tapes to the ELO catalog and he wanted a bigger cut of the pie when his songs were licensed and used for movies, TV, etc. His decision to re-record these songs is clearly for commercial reasons and while there’s nothing wrong with that, the big question is whether or not fans should buy this album. With numerous anthologies of ELO’s singles, album tracks and the original albums reissued earlier in the decade with bonus tracks and remasters, there really isn’t a need for note-for-note remakes of the original tracks included here.
According to Mr. Lynne the reason he re-recorded these is that he is a better producer now and he wants to fix all the mistakes from his original recordings. This truly is a solo album of remakes masquerading as ELO. Lynne plays all the instruments himself, engineered the album and sings all the vocals, making this truly a “solo” album of unnecessary remakes of classic ELO material. Lynne is certainly competent enough to play all the instruments but the album lacks a bit of the fire of having a band of other musicians interacting with him.
Lynne walks a fine line here combining the original arrangements for these songs with his more contemporary sound. This isn’t the problem with this album though. The problem is the mastering. As with most contemporary CD releases the album is highly compressed with little dynamic range. I’m not sure who mastered the album – the mp3 files I was given access to didn’t have a full booklet with credits – but while the album is listenable, it’s a difficult listen because of the over-compression of the songs. It robs them of their depth, damaging the sound stage but making them perfect for poorly rendered mp3 files to listen to on ear buds.
There is a new track, "Point of No Return." It's quite good but I just wish it was on an album of new material rather than retreads.
Listening to Mr. Blue Sky I can't help feeling conned, as if I had bought one of those cheap gas station compilations where the hits were recreated by someone else.