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Review: Jeff Lynne, "Long Wave"

The ELO mastermind returns with an album of covers bearing his indelible stamp

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating

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Review: Jeff Lynne,

The cover of Jeff Lynne's "Long Wave" album

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Over the past few decades, Jeff Lynne has become as famous for being a top-tier producer as he ever was in his former life "conducting" the pop powerhouse Electric Light Orchestra. But his latest album of covers, Long Wave, reminds us that he studied under the best, becoming an equally potent songwriter and a vocalist of surprising strength and soul. Though it's not exactly a sequel to Eldorado, this new album shows Lynne reconnecting with what inspired him in the first place, and like so many other rock cliches, he somehow ends up transcending this one, too.

About this album

  • Release date: October 9, 2012
  • Label: Frontiers Records
  • Catalog number: 105697
  • Musicians:
    Jeff Lynne: lead and backing vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, vibes, drums
    Marc Mann: strings
    Steve Jay: tambourine, shaker

  • Produced by Jeff Lynne
    Engineered by Steve Jay
    Mastered by Howie Weinberg and Dan Gerbarg
    Art direction by Ryan Corey
    Liner notes by David Wild
    Cover photo courtesy of Alton Douglas

Pros

  • Long Wave is more lush and romantic than anything Lynne's done since the disco era.
  • For someone who hasn't covered many songs, he's surprisingly good at making them his own.
  • The selection of inspirational oldies is just obvious enough.

Cons

  • Even with this modest reach, Lynne sometimes can't match his idols.
  • The obligatory big "rock and roll" ending seems more perfunctory than ever.

My review

Few people in America got the joke, but Jeff Lynne's "Electric Light Orchestra" was a pun: in Europe, a "light" orchestra essentially functioned as a scaled-down "pops" orchestra does in the US, playing shorter and sweeter classical pieces as well as versions of pop hits. This not only explains why Lynne was one of the great pop artists of the 70s -- well, that along with his storied Beatles fixation -- but also why his first-ever covers album is overwhelmingly fixated on pre-rock pop. Long Wave was the type of radio broadcast that introduced him to Charles Aznavour, Rodgers and Hart/Hammerstein, and The Four Aces, all of which are covered here.

If you've ever heard an ELO song on the radio and loved it, and you almost certainly have, you won't be surprised that his Bobby Darin homage is represented by "Beyond the Sea," or that his favorite Etta James song is "At Last," or that he's made space for a Roy Orbison song. His old group was often derided for using classical music as mere window dressing, but it's all clear now: what matters most to Lynne is romance and melody. Even the tributes to the Everly Brothers ("So Sad [To Watch Good Love Go Bad]," Don Covay ("Mercy, Mercy") and Chuck Berry ("Let It Rock") retain a certain elegance.

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