ELO - CD  

SECRET MESSAGES 

Sony Music Japan - 27th Nov

35th Anniversary Re-release

ELO fans have been waiting a long time for this one; the reassembled album as originally recorded. Shamelessly cut from a double to a single album in 1983 by the record label, Secret Messages never sounded finished as a single album with Side 1 being as it was always intended but Side 2 a seemingly thrown together collection of the more commercial tracks from the remaining three sides. Subsequent CD releases only made matters worse by adding some of the songs but in the wrong order and many fans had given up on ever hearing the whole thing. Thankfully, common sense has now prevailed and it is presented here for the first time in all its glory and it’s magnificent.

 

Let me clear up one point before I start talking about the music. The master tape of Secret Messages originally had 18 tracks and there are only 17 here. The missing one is called Beatles Forever and was scheduled to go on Side 2 after No Way Out but after the single album came out, Jeff Lynne decided that this particular track should go unreleased and withdrew it from the ELO catalogue. It remains to this day unreleased and should do; I’ve heard it and it’s not up to ELO’s high standard, moreover, would sound terribly out of place on Secret Messages.

 

Having heard most of these songs before, I was surprised to find that I was enjoying them more this time around. The correct sequencing order has somehow added a bit more understanding to them and they make more sense. Train Of Gold for example now follows Four Little Diamonds rather than Letter From Spain, the combination of which seemed to slow the album to a crawl whereas now keeps it flowing nicely. That goes for the entire album and it’s far more enjoyable for it; the record label was wrong, Jeff Lynne had it correct back in 1983 (except for Beatles Forever J).

 

Of course we also have the technology to reproduce it better as well now and the BSCD2 mastering really brings out the depth and layers of the production. The strings either to the fore or set at the back, the sprinklings of vintage synths, reverb vocals and rocking guitars have all benefitted from this; the jukebox breaking Rock ‘n’ Roll Is King pumps out of your speakers and will have you digging in your wardrobe for your old Brothel Creepers and drape coat. The disc comes in a replica sleeve of the single album but has been expanded to be a gatefold sleeve, the other half bearing a note from Jeff Lynne and housing the 24 page Japanese booklet. For any fan, even a casual fan, this re-release is worth the investment.

 

Track list

Secret Messages

Loser Gone Wild

Bluebird

Take Me On And On

Stranger

No Way Out

Letter From Spain

Danger Ahead

Four Little Diamonds

Train Of Gold

Endless Lies

Buildings Have Eyes

Rock ‘n’ Roll Is King

Mandalay

Time After Time

After All

Hello My Old Friend

THE SYNTH LORD - CD

THE SYNTH AS SOUL

Independent Release - Out now

Before I begin, I would like to point out that I receive a lot of independent CDs to review and 99% of them receive a polite decline for one reason or another but occasionally something comes along that is so good, it’s impossible not to review it. Now, without further ado when was the last time you heard something that harks back to the past but also moves forward? Something that is original but based on the familiar? A new way of playing an established genre? Welcome to The Synth Lord.

 

Aptly named, this disc is an sonic overload of synths, drum machines, sound effects, vocals and god knows what other instruments that spin around your stereo (or headphones if you prefer but pu-leaaaaase, no earbuds) in a kaleidoscope of sound, all beautifully defined and separated in multiple layers that pan left and right, front and back. If that’s a lot of information to take in for the first sentence, that’s because that’s exactly how the album sounds. Just twenty seconds in to the first track and your brain will be scrambling to comprehend it all and forty seconds in, the first, of many, curve balls. Track two opens with a Metal guitar and drum punctuation topped with a manic sequencer (honestly, it works) and then goes into a sublime piece of pure Pop with one of the finest choruses I’ve heard for years – lyrically and melodically perfect and has ‘No. 1 hit’ written all over it. That’s not the only gem on the album though, this record is full of them and demands your attention, grabbing your ears from start to finish.

 

If I sound like I’m raving, I am and it’s tempting to go through this track by track but that would only bore you all stupid and would never do the album justice anyway. Suffice to say, every song is well composed, performed and recorded with no overcrowding instrumentally. There are excellent melodies throughout and the production is top notch; a real old school sound but with a twist for the modern day Techno enthusiast. A lot of recordings today do not stand up to different volume levels, often distorting at high outputs or having no punch at low ones but I cranked this up on my stereo and the dynamics were astonishing, with clarity right up to a deafening level – even my neighbours liked it.

 

This my friends is where Synth Pop Rock Metal (if there is such a genre and if there isn't, there should be) should be going in the future. It’s The Human League, Howard Jones and Gary Numan jamming on the USS Enterprise; Lady Gaga gone gaga; Bowie in 2050.

 

Track List

Sacrifice

I Am Not The One You Want

Scared

Fame And Fortune

Tonight

Consecrated

We Are Not Alone

Telephone

Paradise

The End Of Times