Monday, November 4, 2019
Jeff Lynne: Handle With Care
"People tend to underestimate Jeff Lynne. Mention ELO and they think of spaceships, OTT arrangements, cheesy vocoder FX and silly lyrics like 'Whama-lama-bama-lama rock and roll is king.' They mistake his modesty for modest abilities, take for granted the skills required to make such dense music seem so simple. Publicly, at least, Lynne too makes light of himself and 'my little songs'- a phrase he often applies to his work, even when he's playing the songs with a 13 piece band to 60,000 fans at Wembley Stadium."
That is the opening paragraph to Quinton Winter's Mojo review of Lynne's new ELO release "From Out of Nowhere," and it saved me the trouble of having to come up with an opening paragraph for my review.
I've been reading some negative comments regarding Jeff Lynne's new collection of songs that once again point out the canned drum sound, the layered harmonies and even a few nitpicks like, "oh look, another song about rain." And these comments were from fans!
Once again, I ask, what do we want from our rock and roll heroes who are now in their seventies and have been making music for over 50 years? I won't reopen the banal discussion about "music being better before." But I will say, few artists, if any, could create ten perfect pop songs as consistently as Lynne has since "Telephone Line" became a monster hit over forty years ago. If you've been a fan, would you have preferred a hip-hop collaboration from Lynne and Ke$ha? Or, an EDM record? How about Jeff Lynne tackling nu-soul with D'Angelo? To trash an ELO record for sounding like an ELO record in 2019 seems like a wind-up for the sake of a wind-up. I think you are missing the point.
If you're not a fan, then there is nothing to hear here. But if you've loved the Wilburys, or Petty's brilliant "Full Moon Fever" and "Highway Companion," or if you were one of the handful like myself who thought Lynne's first ELO comeback "Zoom," might have been his career masterpiece---not hyperbole---there is plenty to love on "From Out Of Nowhere," his second release in just four years.
You will find songs inspired by Lynne's heroes, Del Shannon, Roy Orbison, Lennon & McCartney, of course & Chuck Berry, songs with hooks and choruses to die for, and yes, canned drums. But this should not be a surprise to anyone who claims to love the man anymore than Bob Dylan's last 10 records having the same fuzzy "Jack Frost" production, or any one of T- Bone Burnett's projects sounding like they were recorded in mud and murk. Paul McCartney gets trashed for using autotune, for working with Kanye West, for singing standards AND for getting sentimental and writing songs about John. Come on people! You're not playing fair! What is it you want?
I'll tell you what I want: another two or three Jeff Lynne records with ten great pop tunes that sound just like Jeff Lynne. I'm a fan.
Jeff Lynne is riding high and arguably more popular than ever and "From Out Of Nowhere" is short, solid and just what an ELO record should be.
Posted by Sal Nunziato at 5:36 AM