Alone in the Universe (2015)


 
1. When I Was A Boy 2. Love and Rain 3. Dirty to the Bone 4. When the Night Comes 5. The Sun Will Shine On You 6. Ain't it a Drag 7. All My Life 8. I'm Leaving You 9. One Step at a Time 10. Alone in the Universe 11. Fault Line * 12. Blue * * Bonus Track

 

Sometime, in the last ten years or so, the “over produced” sound of the seventies and eighties was starting to make a comeback. Unlike the 1990s, when “less” was “more”, the tastes of fans everywhere now seemed to gravitate towards such bands like The Killers, Coldplay, and Muse to name a few. So it shouldn’t be a surprise when Jeff Lynne resurrected (again) the ELO spaceship, that audiences would suddenly be incredibly receptive.

Lynne had actually brought the Electric Light Orchestra out of retirement once before, with 2001’s Zoom, but that album sounded more like a Jeff Lynne solo album than what he made famous with ELO. Plus, fans weren’t quite ready back then, and the type of music wasn’t quite back in vogue (they actually had to cancel a mammoth tour due to poor ticket sales). This time, however, Jeff Lynne is firing with all cylinders, and the product is very reminiscent of the orchestra of old. We feel as though we’re being sent back in time (on a multi-colored space ship even) smack dab to the middle of 1977 – right around the time when everyone was seeing Star Wars for the first time.

All the styles are here – the sweepy dreamy pieces, the forceful rockers, and there’s even a small hint of disco scattered about. All is o.k. though, as this album is mainly geared towards taking us all back to a magical time that we adored so much, so long ago. On that note, however, we must remember that it has been 40 years, and Mr. Lynne is no longer a spring chicken. Now, he sounds just as good as he always has, but the album lacks a certain orchestral punch that we remember from four decades ago. Remember, for example, the song Turn to Stone and how Lynne would use a string session to accompany a great rocker to give it that unique brand? It seems as though that’s missing here. Even though the songs are all first rate and remind you of good times, it seems like the “orchestra” aspect of the “Electric Light Orchestra” is not as prevalent as it should be. Many of the tunes cry out from some violins and cellos to make this a true flashback experience. So maybe Lynne, in his advanced years, just doesn’t want to bother with such effects. Fortunately, the songs don’t suffer, they just don’t quite have the exact same sound that we all remember.

Now, if you’re not really much of a fan, you might be wondering why I keep mention the name “Jeff Lynne” when this is supposed to be an album by a group, the Electric Light Orchestra. Well, it should be pointed out that this band (ELO for short) has really always revolved around Jeff Lynne. Although they would always call themselves a “group”, you have to wonder if all the other guys were there just for touring purposes. You secretly suspected that Jeff Lynne always did 90% of the music in the studio anyway. For this album, raise the number from 90% to about 99%. He even states so in the linear notes. He even goes as far as renaming the group as “Jeff Lynne’s ELO”. He says that this is because he wanted to distinguish this incarnation from the bastardized version of the band that appeared on the scene about 25 years ago (they called themselves “ELO Part 2”, and “The Orchestra”. They were some of the members of the original group that wanted to continue even though Lynne did not). This ploy really isn’t necessary, but maybe Lynne and co. are just trying to make a few more sales since Jeff Lynne has made quite a name for himself as a producer in the years since.

One hopes the resurgence will last awhile. This is really a great album.

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