Wednesday, November 18, 2015

CD (Fan) Review – Alone in the Universe, by Jeff Lynne's ELO

In anticipation of Jeff Lynne’s latest release, I quickly re-listened to the two Electric Light Orchestra greatest hits volumes from the previous decade, the 2001 ELO album Zoom, Electric Light Orchestra Live, Mr. Blue Sky (Lynne’s recent solo rerecording of ELO’s greatest hits), and Lynne’s solo albums Armchair Theatre (1990) and Long Wave (2012).

I’m glad I did, because the new Jeff Lynne/ELO album hits all of those touchstones and then some, fusing bits and pieces of different aspects of Lynne’s long and storied career into a fresh, scintillating new package.

The record features Lynne’s typically brilliant songwriting and singing, with thoughtful and heartfelt lyrics, catchy pop melodies, and earnest, beautifully harmonized vocals.

Lynne also plays most of the instruments, including guitars, bass, keyboards, drums, and percussion. Lynne orchestrates intricate guitar rhythms and textures, and his succinct but sweet guitar solos perfectly capture the feel of each song.

Highlights include the reflective “When I Was a Boy,” “Dirty to the Bone” (featuring harp-like guitar chords underscoring scathing female character assassination), “When the Night Comes,” the uplifting “The Sun Will Shine on You,” “All My Life,” and “Alone in the Universe.”

No matter which era of Jeff Lynne/ELO you prefer – I became a fan during the George Harrison, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, and Traveling Wilburys years – there are wonders to behold in this exploration of the past, present, and future of Lynne’s Universe.

--Raj Manoharan

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