If you’re a fan of Jeff Lynne from his days as the lead singer of and creative force behind 1970s super-group Electric Light Orchestra (ELO), or from his work as a producer on the solo albums of his fellow Traveling Wilburys George Harrison, Roy Orbison, and Tom Petty in the late 1980s/early 1990s (this is how I first learned of Lynne), then this album is an absolute must-have.
This CD is a collection of covers of 11 early rock and pre-rock standards that influenced Lynne over long-wave radio when he was growing up in Birmingham, England, from artists as diverse as The Everly Brothers, Chuck Berry, and Rodgers and Hammerstein.
The disc is a testament to Lynne’s formidable studio production prowess, as evidenced by the fact that Lynne performs lead and background vocals and plays electric and acoustic guitars, bass, keyboards, and drums (as he also does on Mr. Blue Sky: The Very Best of Electric Light Orchestra, his recently released rerecording of ELO’s greatest hits). Additional musicians contribute strings and shakers and percussion.
Every track is brilliant, but Lynne’s renditions of Charles Aznavour’s “She,” “Smile” (co-written by Charlie Chaplin), “Love Is a Many Splendored Thing,” and “Beyond the Sea” are simply stunning. My favorite is “Love Is a Many Splendored Thing,” which is truly a revelation. Lynne’s vocals are as sprightly as ever (especially amazing considering that Lynne was 63 to 64 years old when he recorded the CD two to three years ago) and the guitar work is superb. Overall, the album proves how underrated Lynne is as a passionate, earnest vocalist and sensitive, thoughtful guitarist.
Even if you’re not a fan of or are not acquainted with Jeff Lynne, you should strongly consider adding this CD to your playlist. It is captivating, enthralling, and mesmerizing. It is one of the best albums of all time.