Electric Light Orchestra are the quintessential fanboy (or fangirl) band; folks tend to either love or hate Jeff Lynne's far-reaching pop act, while critics tend to wrinkle their nose in disgust and dismiss their entire oeuvre save the obscure first album that Roy Wood plays on. Basically, E.L.O. are derided for writing all the Beatles songs that the Beatles never got around to writing in the first place, and then slapping sappy disco string arrangements on top. But at their best this ambitious ensemble--whose maxim is to try and cram as much sound and scope as possible into the conventional pop song--achieve a certain lumbering grace which is amazingly pleasurable. Sure, their songs are sappy and Lynne's lyrics campy, but Lynne is such a master that he transforms artifice into art; he's not the Beethoven of rock, he's its Jeff Koons. Moreover, Lynne is no mere retro futurist; he is fully capable of taking apart high-, low-, and middle-brow genres and recombining them in unexpected ways--in a manner that foreshadows pop music's direction in the 1990s. It's delightful to see this underrated group get a decent, career-spanning three-CD box set (digitally remastered, natch), with the requisite unreleased/alternate takes and elaborate color booklet with extensive liner notes. This music has aged remarkably well, like a fine can of soda pop. --Mike McGonigal
This 3-CD, 53-track set is the first comprehensive ELO collection drawn from the original master tapes (many of which were recently rediscovered). ELO impresario Jeff Lynne oversaw this project, penning commentary for every track including hits ( Don't Bring Me Down; Telephone Line; Shine a Little Love; Xanadu , etc.), classics (including 10538 Overture , their first song!), alternate takes, demos, unissued cuts and a new version of Xanadu with Lynne on vocals. A suitably grand-scale set for the masters of orchestral rock!