Electric Light Orchestra

Epic Records, 2001


REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


All Electric Light Orchestra CDs should come with a program, cast list, and group history, because it's as convoluted as a boa constrictor learning yoga. However, nothing is too good for the DV Faithful, so after a few hours of research I think I've figured it out.

Roy Wood and Bev Bevan were in The Move, formed in 1966. (Yes, I know there was stuff before this. It was irrelevant. Get a grip.) Jeff Lynne joined The Move in 1970, and almost immediately became leader of the group, supplanting Wood. Lynne forms a side project, The Electric Light Orchestra, which rapidly becomes the group's main focus. The Move stops recording in 1972. Wood leaves, forming Wizzard. ELO continues to record through the eighties, though there's criticism, starting with 1981's Time, that the "O" is gone. Lynne leaves in 1986 after the spectacularly poor Balance Of Power. Bev Bevan continues to record with a new band as Electric Light Orchestra II, or ELO II, which includes a complete group of new musicians. Lynne does a couple of Traveling Wilbury CDs in 1988 and 1990, produces Tom Petty, George Harrison, and Roy Orbison, and releases my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Armchair Theater in 1990. ELO II releases two CDs of old ELO material in 1992 and 1996, as well as a new studio recording in 1994. Finally, in a plot twist worthy of a Roger Zelazny novel, Bev Bevan leaves ELO II, and the ELO name reverts to Jeff Lynne, who promptly takes the name back. (No one cares, apparently, what Roy Wood thinks.) The remaining members of ELO II are stuck with the name Orchestra. Jeff Lynne proceeds to record a new CD in 2001, called Zoom... which is finally what we're reviewing today.

Confused yet? Good. So was I. You can deal with it, you're all bright.

Needless to say, there's some criticism about Zoom before it's ever out of the box. It is, primarily, a Jeff Lynne solo project with a whole lot of guest stars and a string section. But and here's the interesting bit: people repeating that criticism probably haven't listened to the CD. Zoom is, bluntly, the best ELO CD since 1977's Out Of The Blue. This is classic ELO, strings, guitars, and all.

Zoom is full of guest stars. Ringo Starr and George Harrison check in on several tracks (I once heard someone say that if the Beatles had lasted, they would have become either ELO or the Alan Parsons Project). Longtime ELO session man Richard Tandy plays on several tracks. But make no mistake, this is Lynne's baby, and it's a darn fine one. The album hooks you from moment one with the bluesy "It's Alright," and rarely lets up. Other tracks of note include the fabulous "State Of Mind," an immediate flashback to classic ELO with its vocoder, distorted harmonies, and thumping guitar line; "Easy Money" and "In My Own Time," reflecting Lynne's fondness for fifties and early sixties rock styles; the wistful and gentle "It Really Doesn't Matter"; and the waltz-time flourishes of "A Long Time Gone". By far the best thing on the CD, though, is the Dylanesque "Melting In The Sun."

There are a couple of small miscues on the CD. "Ordinary Dream" is flat, as if Lynne had tried to write a Generic Pop Song, and while "All She Wanted" is good musically it has cliched, almost boring lyrics. Neither of these are fatal flaws, and they don't damage the album's energy too badly.

Zoom is either the first actual ELO CD in fifteen years or the first Jeff Lynne solo album in eleven, depending on how you look at it. Either way, though, it's a hearkening back to the classic Electric Light Orchestra sound, and is definitely worth checking out.

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2001 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Epic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.