I like ELO. Sometimes their albums are hit and miss, but I love the band. Their 1983 album ‘Secret Messages’ I am not a fan of, but it has been reappraised. I have reappraised it, and its not a bad album. It’s just not good.
That’s partly due to Jeff Lynne regaining artistic control. The record company told him to cut the album down to a single LP, when he wanted a double album. Usually, that makes a neater, nicer album. However, I felt the 1983 version had too much filler, and that the band made the wrong choices. Lynne took control of the rights to ELO, and its catalogue in 2000. Secret Messages was then re-released with the missing songs. Leading to some good, forgotten cuts being uncovered.
I would still refrain from calling the album ‘good’. The album still has a lot of filler I don’t like. Some good songs are in there, but the amount of material makes the listening experience, as a whole, less enjoyable. Therefore, I will be giving this album the ‘Reconstructed’ treatment’. I will firstly consider the album as a whole, and work on removing songs I don’t like, reordering them, and making the whole good.
The aim of this project: I want to make a single LP version of the album, like the original 1983 one. I will use all the songs available from recording sessions.
Secret Messages- Reconstructed
I start my edited album off with ‘Secret Messages’, the same as the original LP does, though with the single version. I love segues, but I didn’t want the next song to be ‘Loser Gone Wild’. That honour goes to Bluebird, which keeps the pace up that the opening track brought in. It’s also one of my favourite ELO songs, so I gave it a promotion.
Take me On and On is the next song, as I think that it is the appropriate place to slow the album down for a song, and it is a nice ballad, rather than the start-stop-start-stop that you have with the original and double album. I would then pick up the pace with ‘No Way Out’. ‘Danger Ahead; follows that, as it returns the pace to the first two tracks level. Side 1 closes with Letter from Spain, an appropriately slow, and quiet side closer.
I would then open side 2 with ‘4 Little Diamonds’, a song that refers to the current state of ELO at the time, as 4 members. It’s also a nice rocker. I follow it up with the 2 minute instrumental piece ‘After All’. I think the start and stop works better on the second side of an album, since you get the main beats of the album in Side 1, Side 2 continues that. ‘After All’ is just a calming little instrumental, and I like it. You follow that up with ‘Rock and Roll is King’. Originally the album closer, I don’t think it should be. Its a solid song, but not quite an album closer.
That honour goes to ‘Hello, my Old Friend’. A song that feels like Lynne’s version of ‘In my Life’, as he reminisces about Birmingham. It is a passionate, and long song that I think closes the album.
Compared to the 1983 LP, and the current Double Album, this version of Secret Messages is shorter, and leaner. Musically, however, I think it is a stronger album. The track order helps a lot with this. I think that a good album running order really helps things.
Though the actual album has some OK songs, I feel that the double album and the original had too much filler. This version cuts filler and mediocrity down as much as possible, and makes it an appropriate 80’s ELO album. Some songs not included on my version, like ‘Time after Time’, ‘Stranger’, and ‘Loser gone Wild’ could have been on Balance of Power, the next album, and fit in very well…In fact, I may consider that.