It has been noted repeatedly here that BALANCE OF POWER is ELO sans the orchestra. As such, it is both a document of its times (the mid-80s) and somewhat weaker for it. "There's a sorrow about to fall," Jeff Lynne ominously intones on this 1986 album. And he was correct...this was the last Electric Light Orchestra album on which Lynne has appeared until 2001's superb ZOOM. Lyrically, BALANCE OF POWER anticipates the break-up, and reflects ELO's declining commercial fortunes: "Can it really be so serious/To be all broken up and delirious/I guess we've really been out of touch/But can it really be so serious?" Lynne asks on the sharp, new-wavey "So Serious" (a classic, must hear track). In ELO's best 80s ballad, "Getting to the Point," Jeff seems sadly resigned: "All I can do is watch it burn, burn, burn." The saxophone may be startling to some ELO purists, but it's a fantastic piece of work all the same and suits the track perfectly. "Without Someone" is another lonely, lovely ballad about loss. "Heaven Only Knows" and "Secret Lives" are upbeat pop numbers, and "Endless Lies" is fairly adventurous musically. "Send It" is a great fast-paced country song with some vintage Jeff Lynne production touches. The biggest hit here, and definitely a classic pop standard, is "Calling America," which is essentially keyboard based with a nice guitar solo. The harmonies are very sweet indeed on this cut, and if it is destined to be ELO's "TOP 40" swansong, then it's a nice one to go out on. The album itself inexplicably stalled at #49 on BILLBOARD's album charts. Perhaps it was "out of touch" with the prevailing "hair band" ethic of the day (remember Bon Jovi, Warrant, Cinderella, Poison, et al?). Forget the chart numbers...this is a very well done pop album that's still "music to my ears." Take it for what it is; if you are looking for the big orchestral sound, it's not here. But if you want smart, concise, well-crafted pop gems, this CD has what you are looking for.