Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Best Albums You Never Heard

By Kurt Torster

The Orchestra “No Rewind” (2001)

Growing up in the mid to late 70s, and looking back now, I really had two bands that I would count as favorites of that era: Queen and the Electric Light Orchestra. In fact, I remember saving all my miscellaneous change and taking it down to the record store in the Styretown Shopping Center in Clifton, NJ to buy ELO’s “Out Of The Blue” set. As a pop minded 11 year old though, I don’t think I ever got past side A of record one until at least 15 years later. And as the late 70s become the 80s, my musical mind eventually turned to heavier and more riffier fare, leaving the orchestral grooves of ELO far behind.

Sometime in the 90s, as I discovered bands like Jellyfish, I also rediscovered my love of ELO and started to go beyond the hits. Though I would rank their 1979 effort “Discovery” as one of my all time favorites, I can now find the genius in not only their 80s discs but even the “Xanadu” soundtrack. I also discovered the rather tasty discs from the Electric Light Orchestra Part 2 offshoot as well as the next progression, The Orchestra.

Containing members of both versions of the band as well as a few “new guys,” this set is a proud and worthy addition to the band’s legacy. Recorded strictly on the band’s own dime, but you’d never know it as all the ELO trademarks are there, from big bouncy choruses and huge orchestrations to the almost Beatlesque layering of tracks, it sounds like a million bucks. Even though there’s no involvement from Jeff Lynne (other than some legal action!), you can even hear traces of his production stylings with George Harrison and The Traveling Wilburys.

Songwise, it’s so easy to press repeat of tracks like “Jewel & Johnny,” “Can’t Wait To See You” or “I Could Write A Book.” They have a very upbeat 70s pop feel without sounding like it’s completely stuck in the past. And with an epic like “Over London Skies,” it’s frankly about as close to the ELO sound as anyone could get without involving Jeff Lynne.

Judging by my personal enjoyment of this disc as well as the sold out crowds the band is still playing too, I’d say there’s still something of a market for grandiose pop and roll. With the addition of ex-Styx man Glen Burtnick and a never ending tour, I’m hoping chances are good that a new album will eventually see the light of day.