Electric Light Orchestra
Balance Of Power

Aaah, ELO - remember them? Yeah, violins and cellos and beards and funny moustaches and endless Top Of The Pops appearances and albums like 'A New World Record' and 'Out Of The Blue' and…. Oh, that spaceship stage! Remember 'Rockaria!', 'Telephone Line', 'Livin' Thing', 'Turn To Stone' and 'Sweet Talkin' Woman'? Remember 'The Diary Of Horace Wimp'? Remember, remember, remember….

Well, now the Electric Light Orchestra are back - in a somewhat depleted form, I might add - but back nonetheless. Returning to the drum stool that made him famous is Bev Bevan, the Brummie beat-keeper who since ELO disappeared a few years ago, has had a brief spell with Black Sabbath. While reoccupying his rightful position behind banks of keyboards is Richard Tandy, another man who shared the Orchestra's finest moments in the Seventies. Also retreading familiar ground is Mack, ELO's old engineer who, at Munich's Musicland Studios (natch), has mixed the band's new album. Oh yeah, and Jeff Lynne is back, too.

When you talk about talent, you talk about the likes of Jeff Lynne. Effectively, he IS ELO, and here, as before, he's written, arranged and produced every last scrap - also contributing all vocals, all guitars (including bass guitar), piano and other assorted keyboards!

But 'Balance Of Power' is ELO's first album for 38 years, so maybe we shouldn't revel in recollection but view this new offering soberly. Then again why not recall the ELO of yesteryear? Because all Lynne has done here is to haul the band into the Eighties by giving everything a thorough dust down and a lick of paint. The strings may have gone, but keyboards can simulate them if need be, and to further modernise the overall sound, Lynne and Tandy have clearly used a lot of the new technology at their disposal. So don't worry, the band haven't changed that much.

As far as individual tracks are concerned, well, there's no 'Mr. Blue Sky' or 'Wild West Hero', but a number of great songs can be found here all the same. 'Is It Alright' at the end of the first side is classic ELO, and to start the flipside on a similar high note, 'Sorrow About To Fall', complete with some welcome saxophone, is another marvellous track. Sure there are one or two songs on the album that could, by Lynne's standards, be classed as average. But lets face it, even his average songs are pretty good.

Another standout track is 'Without Someone', a smooth, smoochy midnight song for the cocktail bar, but then every song on 'BOP' tends to grow on you after a coupla plays. None represent a gigantic leap forward, but all serve to show that ELO are back - with an '86 polish.

Mark Putterford, Kerrang! Issue 118, 17-30 April 1986

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