Review: Electric Light Orchestra: Live – The Early Years DVD

STUDIO: Eagle Rock | DIRECTORS: various
RELEASE DATE: 8/24/10 | PRICE: DVD $14.98
BONUSES: 1974 Rockpalast interview
SPECS: NR | 91 min. | Live concert | 1.33:1 fullscreen | Dolby Digital 5.1; DTS Digital Surround

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Electric Light Orchestra – Live: The Early Years compiles excerpts from three different live performances from the 1970s by guitarist Jeff Lynne’s classically tinged orchestral rock group.

The first four-song section finds the Electric Light Orchestra performing at West London’s Brunel University in 1973. Next up is a collection of six numbers filmed for the German television series Rockpalast in 1974. Finally, 12 songs are featured from a 1976 show at London’s New Victoria Theater that were captured for the British TV series Fusion.

Each of the three “sets” has its own merits, but overall, the collection highlights the musicality of ELO in the early days after their formation by Lynne and the already-departed Roy Wood. It was a few years before when ELO really turned up the electricity and lights with their trademark laser-and-illumination-filled stage show. But the boys did indeed start as eager, evolving musicians standing atop relatively naked stages and playing for crowds who had never heard of them or their strings-driven sound before.

That said, the 22 songs on The Early Years make for a fine survey of the young and still-evolving Electric Light Orchestra. The mix of selections includes a variety of early hits (“Evil Woman,” “Strange Magic,” “Ma-Ma-Ma Belle”), lesser-known offerings (“King of the Universe,” “Daybreaker”) and some striking covers (Jerry Lee Lewis’s “Great Balls of Fire,” Edvard Grieg’s classical standard “In the Hall of the Mountain King”).

There’s even a hint of things to come with the inclusion of “Do Ya,” which would appear on ELO’s breakthrough album A New World Record in late 1976.

The sound and vision of all three segments is outstanding, particularly the Fusion and Rockpalast shows, which are, of course, broadcast TV-slick.

Additionally, English rock journalist Malcolm Dome, who penned the praising notes on Eagle Rock’s Emerson, Lake and Palmer DVD last month, is back with another gushing essay on ELO, describing this era as “the most fascinating part of the band’s career.”


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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.