Tuesday, January 16, 2007


I was at an away swim meet at Penn State when I saw this crudely made sign at the front door of a record shop in 1986. It said, New ELO. That was highlight of that trip, not the swim meet. It’s more than 20 years later and at long last, Balance Of Power was brought up to today’s sound standards. The improvement helped other ELO remasters in the past and this really is no different. One of the things when you re-discover an album is re-evaluate the whole package. (note: I’m only talking about the downloaded songs, I don’t have the CD yet.)

Balance Of Power has a little more substance than I gave it in 1986. Years later we learned that it was album Jeff seemed to dread making, but had to. The lyrical content on the album and its outtakes is the obvious clue to his discontent. The most poignant moment being Send It, which when you go back and really listen to it, is more powerful than much of his 80s material. The dream is gone, the dream is just a memory, if you see my dream, send it back home to me. How didn’t I see how good (and sad) that was before.

So, here’s an album who’s own label thought so much of it, they considered releasing it as a download-only. Download-only should be an option when (and only when) full size waveform files are made available and feasible to download. Maybe I’m a rare audiophile, but mp3’s are complete rubbish and a huge step backward for music listeners. It might be convenient for some, but it sucks for the rest of us. A CD for this album is a no-brainer. Case closed on that.

Compared to the old CD, there’s a huge difference in every track. The indexing is fixed and one track doesn’t run into another. It hard to argue the improvement. In Calling America, though, the drum beat clips a few times, most noticeable at “Said she call when she’d been gone a while…” Again, I’m working off the download, not the CD. There could be a difference between them, we’ll see.

Now, the bonus tracks. As a disclaimer, I understand that I’m a very fortunate person to have my favorite band’s catalog remastered with bonus tracks and I’m grateful for all of them. Comparing one bonus track to a version I perhaps shouldn’t have doesn’t aid my cause, but here we go.

Opening: Nice. Makes a smooth segue for the next track.

Heaven Only Knows (Alternative Version): Let me put this in a way hopefully some may understand. When I’m pretty sure a pint of pale ale is in my future (an ale that I’ve heard, I mean, had before… just not as, ahem, clear) I really look forward to that pint. But then I get to the pub, and the bartender hands me a shot glass of pale ale instead of the pint. It’s nice and it tastes great, but the pint would have been dreamy. This version of Heaven Only Knows is a shot glass of pale ale. (Missing two bridges and a verse.) Please, Mr. Bartender, reconsider the pint! Before the bar closes!!

In For The Kill: Love this variation or early version of what ultimately became Caught In A Trap. Caught In A Trap has the edge, but this is great listening. The end gave me a good chuckle.

Secret Lives: This can’t possibly be one of the best outtakes from these sessions.

Sorrow About To Fall: Lots of different bits happening throughout this version that ended up on the cutting room floor. The LP version is ultimately the best, but nothing wrong with this one at all.

Caught In A Trap & Destination Unknown: Oh how I’ve waited years to replace my old vinyl dubs of these. These two end up on my personal compilations, but now they can sound like the rest of the songs. Totally refreshing to hear these remastered. But again, I don’t consider it complete until the physical CD of this is in my hand!!