Jeff Lynne’s ELO | Alone In The Universe – New Studio Release Review

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There’s little doubt that Jeff Lynne was and will always be the brains and brawn behind Electric Light Orchestra. Since the “group” called it a day in 1986, multiple ELO factions have emerged, playing the songs Lynne wrote and sang. Lynne, despite his impressive credentials achieved since ELO’s heyday, never really became a household name. So, perhaps in order to distinguish himself from the countless other ELO clones and assert his role as the band’s principal member, Jeff Lynne’s ELO was born. Well, that’s how I see it. Jeff Lynne’s ELO — Lynne and a full cast of accompanying musicians — first played before 50,000 fans in Hyde Park in September 2014 (released on DVD as Live In Hyde Park). They have returned in 2015 with a studio album called Alone In The Universe. The only difference is that Jeff Lynne’s ELO on this record is pretty much all Jeff Lynne without much more than a background vocal here, and the tap of a tambourine or the shake of a shaker there.

That isn’t to say the record isn’t up to the snuff, because Lynne’s innate tendencies for perfection are noticeably embedded in each stroke of a chord. The lead-off song, “When I Was A Boy,” was released as a single ahead of the album’s release, and all of its Beatlesque elements intertwine with Lynne’s penchant for well-placed strings and lazy, straightforward drum beats, far and away removed from original drummer Bev Bevan’s heavier, more varied approach. Subsequent tunes — “Dirty To The Bone” and “Ain’t It A Drag” — are rife with George Harrison and Traveling Wilburys overtones, with a scent of that early 90s Tom Petty flavor Lynne mixed up so well — minimal orchestration, more guitar.

Lynne’s true gift is to pretty up melodies and harmonies, and he does this to the great effect on “When The Night Comes,” “All My Life” and the title track. Nuggets like these validate the whole ELO label, even as you question why the surviving band members can’t regroup in some manner. But hey, even ELO keyboardist Richard Tandy, who has continually worked with Lynne and played the Hyde Park show, didn’t make the cut for Alone In The Universe. Could it be that the very title of the album is more telling than one may want to believe? After all, in the universe of ELO, it would seem that Jeff Lynne is very much alone. And by all appearances, that’s the way he likes it.

~ Shawn Perry


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