The skewed perspective of a conservative Catholic employee-side employment lawyer living in the most exciting city in the Milky Way, Las Vegas, Nevada USA, who listens to a lot of really strange music and who, for some reason, lives and dies St. Louis Cardinal baseball

4/16/2005

Guilty pleasure Saturday: E L O - "Shine a Little Love"

I not much of a fan of Jeff Lynne's Electric Light Orchestra. Generally, they are a plain vanilla Queen. In essence, they are what Queen would've been had they been fronted by a dull, suburban heterosexual. Both combined hard rock with "serious music." Flamboyant Queen used opera; pedestrian ELO opted for NPR-grade classical.

One other difference, Jeff Lynne wasn't much of a songwriter. While multiple members of Queen could write imaginative, clever pop songs, Lynne's songwriting is weak. Choruses are usually nothing more than the title repeated. Over and over. And over again. Lynne's strength was that he could make his songs sound wonderful. Whatever deficiencies he may have had writing were more than offset by the creative production work. ELO songs sound wonderful. The only problem is that there's no there there.

By the time of 1979's Discovery (which, at the time, we referred to as "Disco? Very!"), there was no "orchestra" left in the Electric Light ORCHESTRA. They were a four-piece band without an in-house string section. They weren't much of a hard rock outfit at the point, they were a pop band, as the disco-fueled lead single "Shine a Little Love" amply demonstrated.

This is probably my favorite ELO single, despite the fact that it was a pure disco single released shortly after disco music dropped off the charts. Like all of Jeff Lynne's work, the song sounds great. There's much more happening musically than in your typical dance track, especially with the swirling synth effects after each chorus (which, typically ELO, is just Lynne repeating the title "you shine a little love on my life / you shine a little love on my life / you shine a little love on my li-i-ife").

Rock and roll lovers will disagree, but to me E L O will always be a singles band. The only way to own some E L O is a singles collection. I own the Definitive Collection, which I picked up on the cheap (really!) a few years back. It really is "definitive"; the song single it's missing is "Do Ya," not a dealbreaker. The version I own seems to be available no longer. A slightly different import version of this CD is available on amazon.com for $21.49. At that price, I would pass. But I don't have a substitute to recommend.

The Strange Magic collection is $14.99 on amazon.com, but it's missing the Xanadu singles "All Over the World" and "I'm Alive." What's the point of owning an ELO collection if you don't own John Lennon's favorite pop song? The 15-track Essential Electric Light Orchestra is pared down even more, but is only $10.99 on amazon.com. On the one hand, still no Xanadu; on the other, no "Ballad of Horace Wimp".
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