so i was in a conversation the other day with a veritable walking musical encyclopedia, (a friend of mine with exceptionally broad, deep and awesome tastes, no less), and i had the exceptionally rare experience of telling him about a recording of which i knew that had escaped his previous attention. kudos perhaps to me, but i had to admit in that moment of otherwise satisfaction that i hadn't myself really had a chance to listen to it, either.
tell me amazon dot com isn't awesome.
within moments i had the order placed: mr blue sky: the very best of electric light orchestra.
(for those of you who are interested in the details of the purchase, i am not quite as committed to jeff lynne and ELO as i am, say, martha davis and the motels, so i skipped the $40 limited edition vinyl. i, however, as is my absolute preference if not vinyl, opted for the physical disc itself rather than just the mp3's, cuz CD quality audio beats mp3's every day of the week).
anyway, as those of you who may have been around to remember will remember, ELO has one of those historic sounds that is both iconic and everlasting. and though some may remember, as i do, the names of the other players from "the move", roy wood and bev bevan, who went with jeff lynne from the move to form the original electric light orchestra, everybody who knows anything about the group, their sound, or any and all of their recordings, has always known it's always been jeff lynne's band, sound, and music all the way.
even so, it was a curious choice by the icon himself to re-record EVERYTHING to re-create a new greatest hits record of all the best ELO classic tunes this past year, and release this particular biscuit: mr blue sky: the very best of electric light orchestra.
what a remarkable record.
i've heard a lot of bands remake and recreate a lot of albums and songs in my time, but never yet before have any of them dared to reconstruct almost note-for-note homages to the originals in a way that makes them both so absolutely and uncannily THE SONGS themselves, and, yet, alive and breathing separate beings, perhaps most analogous to monozygotic twins nevertheless having their own unique fingerprints, as monozygotic twins will always do, and being both identical, and unique at the same time.
the first and most emotional and overwhelming impression is that the songs are indeed magical, as their progenitors were indeed as well all those years ago. (has it been over 3 decades?!) magical. the sound is, as it ever was, lush and enveloping, and lyrical and melodic, and both complex as well as simply accessible. and then you realize the first hint of the difference in your ear: every note, EVERY note, and every sound, EVERY sound, has its own space in the mix in a way that the originals, precise and so-close-to-perfect as they were, never quite achieved, though you never realized it until this very moment. and, remarkably, the precision and perfection of the remade songs is not sterile in the least. the sound is still warm, and full. it's remarkable. the harmonies are MORE without being any different, note for note. the entwined lines amidst the orchestration are MORE without being any different, note for note. magical.
and, yet, as instantly in love as one might be (and i am) with every one of these songs in their new incarnations, there are also those moments where recollection trumps present experience, and the memory of a love displaces the lush sweetness of the lover who is right there in your bed, and you hear the difference where the exact sound of the original lead line or orchestration or what have you wasn't rightly duplicated. there's a lead line in there (you'll know it when you hear it) that perhaps illustrates it as well as any other moment. the song has you in its thrall. you are waiting for that lead line to take you all the way there. that sound. that SOUND. you want that sound. you need that sound. that perfect and eidetically memorable sound that defined the song for you all those years ago... and then with it you realize that for all jeff lynne's genius, and for his being both creator and mother to it all, that the exact sound and its memory can and will never be repeated in that same magical way ever again, no matter how hard its wished and tried. the only place that magic really lives is in your memory of 1978 and her body--her body softly swaying oh so slowly to the music--your senses all wrapped up in her and it because they are all the same thing.
i am thoroughly enjoying this record.
it's a remarkable record. it's not something new at all, and, perhaps, for that, it will be dismissed by some as unnecessary. who can argue against that. the originals were what they were, and stand second to no version, however new and even however "improved". (my jet black '70 chevy malibu couldn't keep up with my jet black '02 passat, but i'd still trade for it back in a heartbeat if i could). but if you loved those songs, you'll hear them again in a completely new way, and for that alone, anyone who loved this music ought to find a way to hear these new versions on a good stereo, and see if it doesn't move them the way they have moved me. (i cannot wait to pop this disc into my car system!)