Album review: JEFF LYNNE’S ELO – Alone In The Universe

JEFF LYNNE'S ELO - Alone In The Universe

Colombia/Sony [Release date 13.11.15]

To say I was looking forward to this is an understatement! It has been fourteen years since the last album under the ELO name, 2001′s ‘Zoom’ and there was the album of cover versions of long lost radio classics, ‘Radio Days’ under Jeff Lynne’s name in 2012. It did seem that he was quite happy pottering in his studio producing and writing for fellow musicians, along with re-recording ELO classics with more up to date studio technology. However, after last year’s triumphant Hyde Park gig the Jeff Lynne/ELO bandwagon has started off again and kept on rolling.

This album is a mix of solo Jeff Lynne and the classic ELO sound, although it is worth noting, bar some tambourine/shakers from engineer Steven Jay and backing vocals on a couple of songs from his daughter Laura, everything is played and performed by Jeff Lynne. Surprised long standing ELO member Richard Tandy was not involved as he has been in the live shows, however he does get a name check in the credits!

The single ‘When I Was A Boy’ is a classic ELO tune, as he looks back on his career to date and there is a John Lennon feel to the overall sound, most notably the piano parts. A fantastic way to start the album and announce he is back in his ELO guise.

Don’t go expecting any ELO foot stompers of yore like ‘Hold On Tight’ or ‘Livin’ Thing’, which may disappoint some fans, as Jeff is in reflective mode on this album for the most part.  Mind you ‘Ain’t It A Drag’ is a jaunty little number recalling his days in the Traveling Wilburys.’Dirty To The Bone’ is an upbeat tune, albeit he has a bone to pick with the lady in the lyric.

‘When The Night Comes’ has a lovely melody and those swooping strings on the chorus. Part of the song reminded me of  the chorus of ‘Without Someone’ off the ‘Balance Of Power’ album.

‘I’m Leaving You’ does sound as though it came of his 1990 solo album ‘Armchair Theatre’, one for the radio and a possible future single. He does get some strings in this one and it is another tribute to the late, great Roy Orbison.

That classic ELO 70′s disco/harmony sound is back on ‘One Step At A Time’. It could have come off  ‘Discovery’ and is a real treat for fans of the band’s mid/late 70′s sound. ‘Love And Rain’ is another harking back to the past with his daughter adding her vocals in the background.

The digipak version adds two bonus songs. Not overly taken by ‘Blue’ which is okay, however ‘Fault Line’ is more fun, a little gentle rock ‘n’ roll pastiche.

This album is a triumph as it keeps much of the classic ELO sounds we know and adds in his solo influence, plus moves the sound into a few new avenues like the reggae/funk on ‘When The Night Comes’.

This is as good as I’d hoped, if not better and it does take a few spins to get into some of the songs but it is all worth it. So good to hear these new songs and really hope there will be more songs in the not too distant future. Until then, sit back and enjoy!  ****1/2

Review by Jason Ritchie

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