Electric Light Orchestra | Flashback – Box Set Review

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There’s no shortage of box set releases when it comes to Electric Light Orchestra, though Flashback, a four-disc set released in 2000, might be the best of the lot. Jeff Lynne, the visionary and guiding light behind ELO, was too busy producing records with the Beatles, Tom Petty and Roy Orbison, to give the others much attention. As the leader, principal singer, songwriter, guitarist and sole original member left, Flashback is Lynne’s own personal take on one of the 70s most classic, bigger-than-life bands.

Flashback is seasoned with lots of different edits, mixes, alternates and unreleased material — all digitally remastered, utilizing 24-bit HDCD (High-Definition Compatible Digital) technology of the time — that only Lynne could painstakingly piece together. Flashback‘s perspective is that Jeff Lynne was and will always be Electric Light Orchestra. Without discounting their contributions, everyone else — including the drummer from Lynne’s Move days, Bev Bevan, keyboardist Richard Tandy and bassist Kelly Groucett — were merely bit players in Lynne’s grand scheme. However which way you look at it, there’s no denying ELO enjoyed a flood of Top 20 hits from 1973 to 1986.

The 53-track collection comprises stellar versions of early ELO classics like “10538 Overture,” “Showdown,” “Roll Over Beethoven” and “Can’t Get It Out of My Head.” And while it would have been nice to hear a pristine version of the undulating instrumental “Fire On High” or the infectious “Waterfall,” “One Summer Dream,” from the Face The Music album is just as satisfying. The second disc features several more hits like “Evil Woman,” “Livin’ Thing” and “Turn To Stone” interspersed with an alternate mix of “Mission (A World Record)” as well as such far-fetched fare as “Rockaria” and “It’s Over.” The third disc includes some of the saucier tunes performed by the band in their final years. There are also several unreleased and live tracks including a newer version of “Xanadu,” which was originally sung in the Xanadu movie by Olivia Newton-John.

Boasting a 43-page booklet that includes liner notes by Rolling Stone’s David Wild and track-by-track comments from the maestro himself, Flashback is the first sign of Jeff Lynne tossing his hat in the ring. A year after this box set came out, Zoom, the first ELO album that Lynne has been on in 15 years, was released. George Harrison and Ringo Starr were even featured guest stars on the record. Going forward as Jeff Lynne’s ELO, two more albums have been issued — 2015’s Alone In The Universe and 2019’s From Out Of Nowhere. In March (2024), Jeff Lynne’s ELO announced the Over And Out Tour, spanning August to October 2024, as the final tour of North America the group will undertake. They’ll undoubtedly play a nice chunk of material that appears on Flashback.

~ Shawn Perry

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