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    Electric Light Orchestra - Out of the Blue Tour Live at Wembley/Discovery
    Umbrella Entertainment/AV Channel . R4 . COLOR . 100 mins . G . PAL

      Feature
    Contract

    Electric Light Orchestra (hereafter known as ELO) formed in the UK in 1971 and by the end of the '70s was one of the more successful rock bands of the decade. Key founding members Jeff Lynne, Roy Wood (later to form Wizzard), and Bev Bevan, created a rock/pop group that successfully blended classical and rock music to create a distinctive sound with songs that became FM radio staples. Blending rich harmonies and catchy tunes with unforgettable choruses, ELO quickly established international success. George Harrison and John Lennon are both on record singing ELO’s praises, suggesting that if people wanted to hear new Beatles music, they should listen to ELO records. High praise indeed. Hit albums such as Discovery, Out Of The Blue and A New World Record contained such hits as Telephone Line, Livin' Thing, Shine A Little Love, Confusion, Turn To Stone and Sweet Talkin' Woman.

    As the '70s became the '80s, ELO changed both personnel and musical style, somewhat tempering the classical influence and concentrating more on straight-ahead rock. Less successful albums such as Time and Secret Messages, contained hits such as Hold On Tight and Rock And Roll Is King. However, by 1986 Jeff Lynne had had enough and quit. ELO carried on under the direction of Bev Bevan, altering their name to ELO Part II. The level of success enjoyed by the original ELO was not repeated.

    Lynne then went on to form The Travelling Wilburys, and also released a solo album in 1990. In 2001 Jeff Lynne released Zoom, the first ELO album in 14 years. Although only Lynne and Richard Tandy (keyboards) had ever been in the original ELO, a tour was planned but later cancelled due to poor ticket sales. Perhaps the world didn't really want ELO back after all. The wonderful Zoom DVD was released, and now Region 4 gets another ELO DVD, but this one is quite different.

    ELO - Out Of The Blue Tour - Live At Wembley 1978/Discovery is an interesting release and is essentially two previously available VHS releases on one shiny disc. This certainly increases the attraction for fans and is added incentive to buy.

    This 1978 concert, if you believe the back cover, had "Shimmering strings and spectacular special effects (that) conjure up sights and sounds that Spielberg himself could only dream of." I will have to take their word on that, for it may have been exciting and "unforgettable" if you were there, but watching it on DVD it is hard to imagine. ELO had a reputation for putting on quite spectacular shows to match the exciting sounds they created, but I don't think that is conveyed here. The performance is in aid of the Invalid Children's Aid Association (which is probably long defunct) and runs for a little under an hour. It features some fairly primitive laser effects (by today’s standards anyway), a fairly standard light show, and some truly hideous satin outfits and big hair, complimented by horrific moustaches and beards. Maybe rock bands in the '70s travelled lighter than today's crop, or were more careful with money, ‘cause they certainly didn't waste it on such things as stylists or personal assistants.

    Songs from the Out Of The Blue album feature prominently and generally are well played and faithful to the originals. The concert incorporates some awful video effects that make ABBA film clips appear avant garde, and the image itself is off-centre, most obvious when the footage is occasionally framed in a rectangular or oval 'window'.

    Discovery is one of ELO's more successful albums of the '70s and is presented here as a series of specially filmed video clips, one for each track. None are particularly ground breaking (even for the 1970s) and most are a combination of animation and 'live' performance - ie mimed. The running order is the same as the original album and if you switch off the TV, it's the same as hearing a CD copy of the album.

    Live At Wembley track listing;

    Standing In The Rain
    Night In The City
    Turn To Stone
    Tightrope
    Telephone Line
    Rockaria
    Wild West Hero
    Showdown
    Sweet Talkin’ Woman
    Mr Blue Sky
    Do Ya
    Livin’ Thing
    Roll Over Beethoven

      Video
      Audio
      Extras
    Contract

    Presented in non-16x9 enhanced full frame, this is not the DVD to show family and friends when trying to convince them of the wonders of the format. Admittedly, most of the problems can be traced back to the original source tape and not a fault of the transfer. The image is not all that clear, and is occasionally blurry. Colours vary markedly and is a problem not helped by stage lighting. There are numerous examples of colour bleeding made worse by slight oversaturation. There are some very obvious instances of chroma noise, and mild aliasing.

    One of the more severe problems is pixelisation. Two major instances occur at 1:57 during the introduction by Tony Curtis, and the most severe case I have ever seen at 51:29 where the entire picture breaks up for a few seconds.

    In its favour, the black levels are good and there is no evidence of low level noise. Shadow detail is very poor and long shots of the concert are not very interesting due to the lack of detail. Overall, this is very like watching a VHS tape and is not going to win any new converts to DVD.

    Fortunately, the videos for the album are generally much better. All are presented full frame and show off some of the more awful video effects the '70s had to offer. There is noticeable grain in most, and although the animated sequences are very dirty with constant positive and negative artefacts in the form of flecks, dust and hairs, the footage of the band is actually quite sharp and clean. The video clips are quite acceptable as promotional videos and are more of a bonus for fans who have become 'bored' with just hearing the album. ELO is one of several bands that experimented in releasing video albums in the '70s and '80s.

    I wish I could report that the poor video quality is more than compensated for by completely kick-ass audio, but I can't. For starters it is Dolby Digital 2.0 and is not particularly crisp at that. It is not quite CD quality and although stereo, there is little noticeable separation. Vocals are not overly clear or prominent even when all performers are singing, but subtitles are available. The clarity picks up a little over the hour and is not awful, but nowhere near the standard we have been spoiled with in recent years. This performance was recorded for television 24 years ago, and was never intended for playback on the type of home equipment we have in 2002. The limitations of live sound recording in 1978 are clearly demonstrated.

    The low-level sounds are not particularly deep, and the show sounds a little flat and certainly lacks the punch of modern recordings. There are also several occurrences of slight dropout, but these are not easy to pick up in the almost constant barrage of instruments and vocals. Again, this is mostly due to the age and quality of the source tape. There is also noticeable tape hiss, more prominent in the quieter moments.

    The Discovery album video clips are also in full frame, Dolby Digital 2.0, and are basically CD quality. There is true separation of vocals and instruments, and clarity and audio-sync are good.

    Extras? Sorry, not unless you count subtitled lyrics as extras.

    While it would be easy to dismiss this release for the quality alone, fans will undoubtedly enjoy it. However if you already own either on VHS, then there will be nothing to gain from purchasing this DVD other than the convenience, longevity factor, and the slightly better than VHS picture quality.


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  •   And I quote...
    "A great band, but less than great video and audio. Don’t Bring Me Down indeed..."
    - Terry Kemp
      Review Equipment
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