Altering ELO's Eden

Electric Light Orchestra reissues deliver—and dilute—paradise

The hirsute face of roller disco: The Electric Light Orchestra
Barry Plummer
The hirsute face of roller disco: The Electric Light Orchestra

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When there's any pop cultural resurgence that compels hipsters to pull bigger-than-they'd-like-to-admit pocketbooks out of their vintage Levi's, corporate marketing divisions immediately jump on the bandwagon (or build it, if it's only a wheel or two). Someone must have discovered a niche demographic that likes catchy hooks, slick production, and cover art featuring sizeable groups of hairy men exposing their navels. But what the label doesn't comprehend is that listening to "Ma-Ma-Ma Belle" three times in not many more minutes does not induce nirvana. Rather, it pollutes ELO's profound otherworld of baroque harmony and infects it with banality. Clean up the masters, if you must, but don't dilute this magical milieu. New and veteran fans alike will be better served if, instead of adding bonus tracks, the label packages the next group of ELO reissues with a few loose joints, or, in the red states, a six-pack of Budweiser. Just let those guitars play, and we'll hear the mermaids sing, because whamma-lamma, bamma-lamma, rock 'n' roll is king.

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