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On the Third Day/Face the Music/>New World Record
Artist: Electric Light Orchestra
Label: Epic/Legacy Records
Length: 14 Tracks/57.34 Minutes – 57.34 Minutes – 12 Tracks/52.33 Minutes – 15 Tracks/59.12 Minutes
Three of the ‘70s best albums have been spiffed up in grand fashion with the deluxe re-release of On the Third Day, Face the Music, A New World Record from Jeff Lynne’s labor of love, The Electric Light Orchestra. Mr. Lynne’s legacy as one of rock’s best and most prolific musical personalities is spotlighted with these spectacular deluxe editions. ELO has been unfairly maligned by critics for their bombast, multi-layered sonic landscapes, perceived cheese factor and then cast into the “guilty pleasures” dustbin. Baby, if these are guilty pleasures then I am guilty as charged. And I’m in pretty good company with my admiration of ELO and Jeff Lynne…you can count the likes of The Beatles, Randy Newman, Fountains of Wayne, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Marc Bolan of T. Rex, and Tom Petty as fans and folks who have worked with Jeff Lynne in the studio. The Electric Light Orchestra is the band that taught us that a ballad can be cool…and with the stunning orchestration featured in many of these songs ELO also shows us that a great pop-rock song can be a thing of beauty. Lynne’s ELO successfully fused rock with classical music, vocal harmony, opera, and (*shudder*) disco in unforgettable fashion.
On the Third Day is the aptly-titled third album from ELO that showcases a band in the transition from the progressive-rock leanings of the first two albums to the pop-rock juggernaut they would soon become. Stylistically the CD features a good mix of prog-leaning songs (“Ocean Breakup/King of the Universe,” “New World Rising/Ocean Breakup Reprise,” “Dreaming of 4000,” and the chugging instrumental “In the Hall of the Mountain King), straight-ahead rockers (“Showdown” and “Ma-Ma-Ma Belle”), and a hint of the pop territory that ELO would soon venture into with “Bluebird is Dead” and “Oh No, Not Susan.”
According to the liner notes side one is Lynne’s first attempt at a thematic work…based on a theme of creation, life and death (and mirroring the title of the album). Worth noting is Marc Bolan’s (of T. Rex fame) guest guitar appearances on several of the songs. Included on the edition of On the Third Day are some excellent bonus tracks that feature early versions of some of the tracks and a very cool Dylan-esque rarity called “Everyone’s Born to Die.” On the Third Day is a very different sounding album for ELO, more stripped down, rocking, raw, and featuring a much smaller string section that would later be used.
Face the Music is the album that introduced the radio-friendly version of ELO to the masses with the singles “Strange Magic,” “Waterfall,” and the ubiquitous disco-tinged “Evil Woman.” The excellent acoustic guitar-driven instrumental “Fire on High” was heard all over the TV airwaves as bumper music for years after this album’s release (especially on CBS sports, if memory serves). Face the Music also features ELO stretching their musical wings a bit with the country hoedown feel of “Down Home Town” and the haunting ballad “One Summer Dream” (one of Lynne’s best compositions IMHO). The O for Orchestra in ELO is much more pronounced on this album, with orchestral arrangements featured prominently on nearly every track. The bonus tracks shine on Face the Music, especially the essential stripped-down version of “Evil Woman” (minus strings), and the beautiful instrumental version of “Waterfall” (featuring a beautiful piano backing that makes the track reminiscent of The Beatles “Let is Be”).
The crème de la crème of the three re-releases is A New World’s Record…the album that has been called ELO’s “Sgt. Pepper’s “ This is the stuff folks…the perfect blend of pop sensibility injected into rock ‘n’ roll with a healthy dose of strings thrown in for good measure. From start to finish, this album is just about perfect-one of this reviewer’s desert island discs. There is no weak cut on A New World’s Record, arguably ELO’s finest moment. ANWR features the hit’s “Livin’ Thing,” “Telephone Line,” and Lynne’s best straight-ahead rock song “Do Ya’.” And the deep cuts are as essential as the hits on A New World’s Record from the opera meets rock of “Rockaria” to the haunting refrains of “Shangri La.” The bonus cuts are the best of the bunch on this CD: an alternative vocal on “Telephone Line,” the newly finished “Surrender” (you won’t be able to get this catchy tune out of your head), and four (count ‘em) FOUR instrumental cuts from A New World’s Record that shed light on the amazing sound of ELO. For example…”So Fine” is similar in spots to the final version until about half way through when the song is stripped down to a guitar lick, drum stick tapping, and a Disney-eque choir stopping in for a quick visit. Then the strings are reintroduced along with the bass and drums. The listener gets to see the architecture of these great songs with a glimpse into early versions of these classic songs.
Each CD is stunningly remastered under the supervision of Jeff Lynne, and each features newly penned liner notes by Lynne and archival information and photographs compiled by ELO archivist Rob Caiger. The superior sound of these new releases and the generous bonus cuts make them worth a whole lot more than the $10 price tag at most record stores. Highly recommended!
Visit the official ELO fan club Face the Music
On the Third Day –
Barry Nothstine hosts Soul Frequency Radio ( http://www.soulfrequency.com) a weekly freeform FM radio show showcasing progressive rock, instrumental rock, power-pop, psychedelic rock, rock classics, blues, and more—great rock for the ages!