Review: Jeff Lynne’s ELO — Alone In The Universe



3.5 OUT OF 5 NUTS!

coverI’m fond of saying that developing a unique and distinctive sound of your own is the greatest achievement for any Rock act. It turns out Jeff Lynne was talented enough and perhaps lucky enough to nail it 40 years ago on the very first Electric Light Orchestra album.

His sound was as much a triumph of production as it was of content, offering that distinct clean and highly-compressed sonic sheen, highlighted by that snappy Beatles snare drum sound, and layered acoustic guitars and backing vocals.

And if the faux-classical histrionics on ELO albums weren’t your thing, the Lynne sound was in full bloom on anything else he produced, too, including the Traveling Wilburys records, and a few solo George Harrison albums among others.

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Well that distinctive sound is back for Lynne’s first new set of music in 13 years. Due to some legal troubles with former ELO member Bev Bevan, the album bears the cumbersome attribution to “Jeff Lynne’s ELO”, as if there was any doubt who makes records sound like this.

So your reaction to this album will depend on your view of Lynne’s legacy sound. If you were a fan before, this album will thrill and delight. The songs are mostly solid, with just enough new melodic twists to avoid being a complete rehash of the past.

Not surprisingly, Lynne spends a lot of time looking backwards. He released an album in 2012 called Long Wave which covered some obscure songs from the 1950s. This album opens with “When I Was A Boy”, a sweet little song telling the old familiar story about the Rock star getting hooked on rock & roll radio as a kid.

“One Step At A Time” is what you would get if you crossed Cole Porter’s “Night And Day” with ELO’s “Sweet Talkin’ Woman”. “When The Night Comes” has the bones of a standard bluesy rocker, but a beautiful jazz-chorded chorus redeems it and then some:

When the night comes
That’s when I think of you
When the night comes
I get midnight blue

But what can I say
When the night comes to stay

When the night comes (And everybody’s gone)
When the night comes (And I’m here all alone)
When the night comes
Every night, that’s when I think of you

It almost goes without saying that Lynne’s songs have never really been about the lyrics or any important messages within. They are about a sound and a feel, and if you didn’t dig it before, you’re surely not going to dig it now. But for the rest of us, there’s something almost reassuring that an old master still has the chops to sound as good as he did in his salad days.

 

 

 

Release Date: November 13, 2015

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