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Sony - 502500 2 RELEASED 2001
REVIEWS



We're still trying to get our heads around the Mojo review (your comments would be welcome via email to the Face The Music address) but in the meantime, here are some more thoughts. Please email all reviews that you find. Many thanks!


Classic Rock
(August 2001 issue)
TRIP THE LIGHT FANTASTIC
Jeff Lynne comes out of the blue once more as he takes off with a rejuvenated Electric Light Orchestra.

ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA - Zoom.
First Jeff Lynne fronted album for 15 years with George Harrison and Ringo Starr along for the ride.

There's long been a stigma unfairly attached to ELO in the UK, even though in the 70s the country was on the edge of a love affair with the band. Even now (this is a surprisingly low-key release, with very little press coverage), ELO still seem to the be the band that everyone wants to ignore. This will come as no surprise to ELO fans, and probably not Jeff Lynne either, yet the impact of this Brummie outfit is more far-reaching than you might have thought. Why else would Lynne have in the past been roped in to work with such luminaries as George Harrison, Brian Wilson, Tom Petty and even The Beatles.

So, 15 years after laying ELO to rest after the rather good 'Balance Of Power' (sadly Lynne's quite brilliant 'Armchair Theatre' solo album met with a similarly ignorant fate in 1990), the mothership has been resurrected. You may recognise the name of only Lynne's long-serving keyboard player Richard Tandy from the line-up as he was one of the few not to hook up with ex-drummer Bev Bevan for a Lynne-less vehicle. And despite Lynne himself handling most musical duties, AOR fans will delight in Rosie Vela (now his girlfriend) singing backing vocals, and some chaps called George Harrison and Ringo Starr have also come along for the ride.

But the big question is what does it sound like after all these years? The answer is that 'Zoom' sounds like a quite brilliant amalgam of the absolute best of ELO over the years. Lynne hasn't attempted to re-define the bands' sound in the way he may have done with 1979's disco-influenced 'Discovery', or grappled with new sounds, as on 1983's 'Secret Messages' or 'Balance Of Power'. Instead he's played to his many strengths, and conjured up an ELO album that sits as happily in the present as it will with those that first picked up on the band after their 1971 debut.

From the opening guitar crash of 'Alright' to the uptempo rocker closer 'Lonesome Lullaby', Lynne flexes muscles to suggest he's a bit miffed about the way ELO-related things have panned out. 'Moment In Paradise' and 'Ordinary Dream' strongly evoke the band's classic yet not necessarily most commercially successful era, and 'State Of Mind' and 'Easy Money' display Lynne's ongoing affinity with old time rock 'n' roll. 'Zoom' is an album that re-establishes Lynne's position as one of the finest and most unheralded creators of music in UK rock. It is the return of the master.

4 stars out of 5 (Excellent)
Jerry Ewing

Sunday Mercury Birmingham (UK) June 10, 2001
Just like the 70's all over again

When Jeff Lynne quit his Electric Light Orchestra back in 1986, disenchanted by the band's slow fade into history and the legal wrangling that surrounded its demise, it marked the end of an era.

As ELO, they had produced polished pop singles that became the biggest sellers of the 70s. When the Meriden mastermind decided to go solo, there was no-one to carry on the tradition.

While Lynne went on to work with The Travelling Wilburys, George Harrison, Ringo Starr and Tom Petty, the well-intentioned ELO Part 2 spin-off band led by Bev Bevan never really recaptured the magic.

Frustratingly for Lynne, now 53 and based in Los Angeles, neither did his solo output. After the heyday of his former supergroup, his own albums were commercially comparative flops.

The answer? Don the ELO mantle once more, breathe new life into the hallmark sound that once conquered the world and give it a contemporary edge lest anyone accuse him of indulging in nostalgia.

Zoom, released tomorrow, is very much a Jeff Lynne solo album whatever the name may suggest. He wrote, recorded and produced the 13 songs, and played most of the instruments himself, over a two and a half year period.

There are guest spots for pals George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Rosie Vela and cellist Suzie Katayama, but Lynne's personality is stamped on every short sweet piece of pop squeezed into the 43 minutes.

Songs (and they are songs rather than just tracks) that recreate the classic 70's sound abound. Just For Love, Ordinary Dream and Moment In Paradise will delight diehard ELO fans with their string signatures and harmonies.

Lynne filches a Beatles riff for 60s-styled State Of Mind, goes rockabilly with Ringo on Easy Money and turns in Brown Sugar boogie with All She Wanted, a song which harks back to early Orchestra.

But significantly, the most memorable moments have little to do with ELO tradition.

Beatle-ish A Long Time Gone, with Harrison's hallmark slide guitar, is a pop classic in the making, and the rocky Lonesome Lullaby finale, with its addictive chorus, all but steals the show.

A welcome return to form for one of pop's greatest songwriters. A shame, though, that Jeff Lynne couldn't have released such a fine set of songs under his own name.

by Paul Cole
(c)2001 Mirror Regional Newspapers

Evening Mail, Birmingham (UK), June 15, 2001
ELO ... again Zooming back with new album

It has been 15 years since their last release but Electric Light Orchestra are back with a brand new album, Zoom, and a concert tour!

'I think the long-distance gap of 15 years gave me a very good perspective of what I did earlier,' says mainman Jeff Lynne. 'I've learned a lot during that time.'

It is thirty years since ELO emerged from the ashes of Brum-beat legends The Move. When Roy Wood left to form Wizzard, former Move and Idle Race member Lynne guided the band through a stream of chart singles, including Mr Blue Sky, The Diary of Horace Wimp and Xanadu.

Characterised by their melding of Beatlesque pop and lush classical arrangements, the group splintered in the late '80s leaving co-founder Bev Bevan to helm ELO II and Lynne to branch out as a solo artist and producer with a CV which includes The Beatles Anthology, George Harrison, Paul McCartney and supergroup The Travelling Wilburys with Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and Tom Petty.

And it was working alongside his musical heroes that gave him the impetus to record Zoom.

"Working with them broadened my mind and I thought, 'What if I applied this new knowledge to a new ELO album?' I'd probably see it differently and do it differently," says Lynne of his Wilburys experience.

"I have learned a lot working with all those guys, all my favourite guys. It was a total pleasure."

Converted

"I suppose bits of them rubbed off on me and it opened me up more. I was always locked away, working on stuff."

This latest incarnation of ELO has been shaped by Lynne who played virtually every instrument, although it does feature guest appearances from Harrison, Ringo Starr and singer Rosie Vela while keyboard player Richard Tandy has also rejoined the ranks in preparation for a soon to be announced US and European tour later in the year.

Recorded over two and a half years in his LA home the entire house has been converted into a studio to enable Lynne to record in any room he wants.

"It's interesting in that respect," he says. "You actually get different sounds than you probably would in a studio. I prefer natural-sounding wood and the echo of different rooms."

So, does this mean he can knock out a few tunes in the shower if the urge takes him?

"Sometimes - in the bathroom I've got an acoustic guitar," he laughs.

The 13 songs on Zoom, which rest neatly between classic ELO and Lynne's solo work, draw on "life's ups and downs."

Without the pressure of deadlines, the songwriter and multi- instrumentalist found that the words came far quicker than usual.

"These words actually came to me much faster than they used to in the old days because I was basing them more on things that have happened to me. These lyrics are more heartfelt than ones in the past."

by Dave Freak
(c)2001 Mirror Regional Newspapers


Amazon.com

Classic E.L.O. music has always been stuck in its own retro-futuristic time warp of recombinant pop. Inside that image of E.L.O.'s spaceship (here updated without the 8-track docking bay), one imagines a ye olde discotheque stuffed with Beatles mannequins and powered by pump organ synthesizers. The genius of Jeff Lynne is to fuse kindergarten rock & roll, ultra-Liverpudlian choruses, and faux-symphonic instrumentation with a pop that's both sappy and supple.

With only a few duff tracks, this timeless, invigorating disc is a rocking, left-field surprise. Talk about a comeback--Zoom is nothing short of a revelation for fans of this critically underappreciated group. Lynne sings on the opening cut, "Alright," that "You've got to hold onto something that you believe / Hold onto something that makes you feel alright," and the entire album bears this out with grace and wit.

by Mike McGonigal

BBC Teletext
ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA - ZOOM (Epic)

If ELO once seemed hopelessly beyond the pale, then time has been kind to their big pomp rock sound. Zoom tones things down a little from the old days (there are string quartets instead of 30-piece orchestras) but the formula is much the same. Thumping rockers mix with cinematic ballads, and only one ingredient is missing ` most of ELO themselves. For despite its branding, this is essentially a Jeff Lynne solo project.

CEEFAX Sat 09 June
ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA - ZOOM (Epic)


Jeff Lynne's abiding Beatles obsession is still evident in the minor chord twists of Ordinary Dream. And long-time pals and collaborators George and Ringo are among the guests. Lynne's production work is as pristine as ever, and his song-writing skills remain finely tuned throughout. But a look at the cover (yes, it's that space ship again) tells you all you need to know. This is one big nostalgia trip, and not ashamed to admit it.

by Nigel Packer

C4 Review
E.L.O - Zoom


First new album in 15 years and 11 new Jeff Lynne songs by the '70s band who pioneered orchestrated rock music. Guest artists include old chums like George Harrison and Ringo Starr and Lynne the producer still knows how to knock out a decent tune and smother a track in layered studio wizardry. But it all suggests he never did quite get Sgt Pepper out of his system and this isn't so much retro as rooted in the ice age.

by Colin Irwin - 4/10

Newhouse News Service, Washington, June 11, 2001
Beatles on Board for Electric Light Orchestra's 'Zoom'
Electric Light Orchestra, "Zoom" (Epic) THREE AND A HALF STARS (out of 5)

John Lennon liked Electric Light Orchestra so much that he once called the band "Son of Beatles."

George Harrison was such a fan that he brought ELO frontman Jeff Lynne with him when he started the Traveling Wilburys with Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and Roy Orbison. And even the ever-particular Paul McCartney chose Lynne to produce the majority of tracks for his "Flaming Pie" album.

So in a sense it's not a surprise that Lynne has Harrison and fellow Beatles bandmate Ringo Starr on board for this, the first new ELO album in 15 years. But what may come as a shock for those who considered much of Lynne's previous work a bit overblown is how thoroughly enjoyable this album is.

"Zoom" is primarily a solo showcase for Lynne, who wrote, sang and produced all the songs, while accompanying himself on guitars, keyboards, cello, bass and drums. Besides the contributions from Starr and Harrison, who each play on two songs, there are a handful of other guests here, but their input is minimal.

Musically, the disc is faithful to ELO's richly melodic sound, and fans who loved their early hits like "Can't Get It Out of My Head," "Telephone Line" and "Strange Magic" should be able to lock into this comeback right from the start.

It kicks in impressively with the infectious lead single "Alright," which slides into the beautiful, harmony-graced "Moment in Paradise." The latter song, which has a feel similar to that found on several tracks from Lynne's vastly underrated 1990 solo album ("Armchair Theatre"), finds the songwriter singing better than ever, slipping easily into falsetto, against Starr's sturdy backbeat.

What's especially refreshing is that a lot of Lynne's more pretentious production techniques are low-keyed. Oh, they're there, as one can hear in the vocal layers of songs like "Stranger on a Quiet Street." But he smartly holds back from laying it on too thick, letting songs like the rockin' riff-ridin' "State of Mind" and the '50s flavored balladry of "In My Own Time" shine on their own.

In contrast to most new albums, the back half of "Zoom" holds up nearly as well as the front, buoyed by the guitar-sizzling "Really Doesn't Matter at All," the Beatle-esque "Melting in the Sun" and "A Long Time Gone," which features some of Harrison's deeply expressive, trademark slide guitar work.

Collector's note: Several of ELO's classic albums, including "Eldorado," "Discovery," "Time" and "Secret Messages" complete with bonus tracks are being reissued simultaneously with the release of "Zoom."

by Kevin O'Hare
(c)2001 Newhouse News Service


Rolling Stone
Zoom

Electric Light Orchestra - Zoom (Epic) Even in a world where mimicry is considered the sincerest form of flattery, Jeff Lynne's trademark brand of lyric and riff coppery qualifies as downright cheeky. But even so, you'd be foolish -- or tone deaf -- to argue the merits of the ELO mastermind's sense of pop melody. Though his layered, Beatles-inspired production stamp is arguably played-out, Lynne has added enough Tom Petty rumble and twang to his repertoire -- see the disc-closing "Lonesome Lullaby" -- to keep you on your toes.

Yes, he sticks to his formula -- the perpetual reproduction of the "I Am The Walrus"/"Strawberry Fields" groove here, a little old-time rock & roll there -- for most of Zoom's songs, all of which could just as easily have materialized during ELO's mid-Seventies heyday. The swingin' "All Right," the Roy Orbison-derived "State of Mind" and the string-a-ling faux-soul of "In My Own Time" are all written, sung, played and produced entirely by Lynne -- well, except when he's being accompanied by George Harrison and Ringo Starr, among a tiny coterie of outsiders.

There's something comfortable about Lynne's immaculately groomed, thoroughly British habitat -- it's hardly challenging, but always flawless in execution. Call me a deaf old fool, but three decades on, it's nice to hear some things haven't changed.

by Denise Sullivan


Arts and Lifestyle | Music |
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) Sunday, June 10, 2001 - Cellos are back in rock 'n' roll.
Lynne Switches on Electric Light Orchestra

The Electric Light Orchestra, one of the more unusual rock groups to emerge in the 1970s, has recharged after a 15-year layoff with a new album and plans for a North American tour.

ELO is actually one man, uberproducer Jeff Lynne, who plays virtually all the instruments on the new album, "Zoom" (Epic). He got a little help in the past from his famous pals, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, who popped into his Beverly Hills home recording studio to play (separately) on a few songs. On stage, ELO is a regular band with a small string section.

During ELO's run from 1971 to 1986, the group formed in Birmingham, England scored such top 10 hits as "Telephone Line," "Evil Woman" and "Don't Bring Me Down" and toured constantly with Lynne, drummer Bev Bevan and keyboardist Richard Tandy the only constant members.

Lynne, who wrote and produced the songs, folded the band in 1986 and later allowed Bevan and cronies to tour under the name "ELO Part II," while he became one of the most-sought-after producers in the music industry. Most famously, he was one of the Traveling Wilburys, the Grammy-winning grouping of Harrison, Tom Petty, the late Roy Orbison and Bob Dylan.

With rock 'n' roll nostalgia bigger then ever, Lynne has overcome his natural shyness to resurrect ELO for several generations of fans who have grown up listening to its lushly produced orchestral pop hits on the radio.

"I've slimmed down the production a bit," the soft-spoken Lynne said in a recent interview in his living room. "I've gone through the bollocks of 10,000 cellos and how many can you get on there? You can do as many as you like but it all turns to harmonic distortion."

TOUR IN SEPTEMBER

Indeed, "Zoom" features a solo cellist on just four tracks, while the touring lineup this fall will include two comely female cellists. In the good old days, ELO used to record with a 40-piece orchestra and a 30-piece choir, although the live version was similarly minimalist, using taped backing tracks.

Lynne's managers are in talks for ELO to tour about 30 North American shows beginning in September. Details such as cities and venues are still being worked out but, with a bit of luck, ELO will become a touring fixture.


"If it goes well and everybody's happy, then I see no reason why we can't just go around playing," Lynne said.

He would not mind throwing a Traveling Wilburys song like "Handle With Care" into the 90-minute set, or even the song he wrote for Orbison's comeback, "You Got It." But it will be tough fitting in all the classics: ELO had 17 top-40 hits in America and was even bigger internationally.

The lineup also features Tandy, and Lynne's girlfriend Rosie Vela on backing vocals, but not Bev Bevan. Lynne refers to Bevan as "him, the drummer." The two are not talking because of Bevan's rival ELO outfit, and Lynne appears to be firing a hostile glare from behind his dark glasses.

Lynne can also hide behind his trademark big hair and big beard, and extracting lengthy answers is not easy.

He feels more comfortable behind a mixing board than behind a microphone in front of adoring fans. He appeared nervous last month when he taped two concerts for an upcoming PBS special.

Between singing the hits and new material and playing the 1975 song "One Summer Dream" for the very first time, Lynne's banter usually consisted of self-effacing plugs for "Zoom," which was released June 12. In addition, Lynne has also overseen the imminent re-release of four old ELO CDs with bonus tracks "Eldorado," "Discovery," "Time" and "Secret Messages."

ELECTRIC LYNNE ORCHESTRA?

Some fans joke that ELO really stands for Electric Lynne Orchestra and wonder why he does not promote "Zoom" as a solo album, a follow-up to his 1990 outing "Armchair Theater." Lynne is evasive. Yes, there is a difference between an ELO album and a Lynne album, but "it's hard to define."

One area where he thinks he has advanced over the years is lyrics, which he calls more open and honest now. One new tune, "Stranger On A Quiet Street," is a love song about Vela, whom he first met when the Wilburys recorded their second album.

"ELO in the old days, it was just me closeted away in a room writing songs and recording. But having done so much work with all those other guys, it's one thing I realized, that they actually did write about personal experiences and made up stories too."

Those "other guys" recently included Paul McCartney, for whom Lynne produced eight tracks on the former Beatle's recent album "Flaming Pie." His other credits include Harrison's "Cloud Nine" (1987) and Petty's "Full Moon Fever" (1989). Axl Rose of Guns N' Roses wanted him to work on the band's 1991 song "November Rain," but Lynne was too busy to help.

Despite his commercial success, the music industry has been slow to honor his achievements -- not that that bothers him. His sole Grammy Award was for the Traveling Wilburys and even that was a short-lived thrill.

"It fell to bits about a week later," he said. "It all just fell, it's like a load of rubbish. It was plastic and it just all smashed to bits."

By Dean Goodman


A Livin' Thing Once More - Jeff Lynne relaunches ELO minus the spaceship

Even excess has its limits. Ask the Electric Light Orchestra's Jeff Lynne.

At the peak of ELO's success in the mid-to-late '70s, Lynne augmented the basic rock band setup with a 40-member orchestra, a 30-person choir and a live show that featured a spaceship huge enough to make the one in "Close Encounters" look downright dinky.

"I think I'd gone about as far as I could go in that direction," Lynne recalls with a laugh. "Everything got bigger and bigger. Back at that time, I had to find out what it was like to have the most of everything."

Now, it's a very different time. Fifteen years have passed since ELO blew its fuse. This week, Lynne returns with his first ELO album since 1986's "Balance of Power," but it sounds little like his productions of old.

"Zoom," as the new album is called, features the kinds of Beatles-like melodies and multi-tracked vocals we expect from Lynne, but its instrumentation is Spartan by the band's old standard.

Lynne says he learned the less-is-more lesson through his experiences as a producer of commercially successful "smaller records" for stars like George Harrison ("Cloud Nine," 1987), Tom Petty ("Full Moon Fever," 1989) and Roy Orbison (the 1989 single hit "You Got It"). Lynne also oversaw the two Traveling Wilburys records, on which he performed with Dylan, Petty, Harrison and Orbison.

Lynne is modest about his role as a renovator of classic rock talent. Of Petty's "Fever," he says, "They were just simple songs, nicely sung by Tom, with tight little arrangements. I never meant to re-create Tom, I just meant to let Tom be himself."

Lynne had the same goal for his own career when he helped form ELO at the end of the '60s. He cooked up the idea for the band with Roy Wood after joining Wood's band, the Move, as it was winding down. The two musicians experimented with an orchestral approach on the last Move LP, "Message From the Country." Then they revealed the full ELO treatment on the group's self-titled 1970 debut.

Their plan was to match the progressive art-rock experimentation of the era with a harder rock sound. The album's muddy production didn't help sales in the U.S. There was also friction between the leaders, and Wood soon ditched the group to head up his orchestrated glitter-rock band, Wizzard.

"It was a strange time," says the tight-lipped Lynne.

Ten-Layer Hits

Under Lynne's control, ELO focused its sound. In 1973, it had an international hit with a wry version of "Roll Over Beethoven," And between 1975 and 1981 it racked up another 16 Top 40 hits, including such ten-layer-cake productions as "Evil Woman," "Strange Magic," "Livin' Thing" and "Telephone Line."

They hung on for five years after their major hits dried up. "I was under a peculiar contract where I had to write three albums in three years," Lynne explains. "When they were done, I was free to say 'That's the end.'"

Lynne began to toy with the idea of bringing back ELO two years ago, after his production work slowed down. Also, he says, "I realized I hadn't written any new stuff for me to sing and play for a long time."

In the meantime, the band's original drummer, Bev Bevan, recorded and went on the road with a band he won the legal right to call "ELO Part 2."

"It was a bit embarrassing at times," is the most Lynne will say on the subject.

Lynne recorded "Zoom" virtually alone, with a little help from his friends, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. He will take his revamped, eight-piece ELO on the road this summer with just one other former member, multi-instrumentalist Richard Tandy, joining him. He reveals his new sound on a VH1 "Storytellers" installment running this Friday at 9 p.m., and a PBS "In the Spotlight" episode coming in August.

As to how this newfangled ELO 2001 will fit into the current scene, rife with crooning boy bands and snarling rappers, Lynne says, "It can't compete with those people. But maybe this could have a place with listeners who don't hear things they like on the radio right now."

Or anyone who just likes a well turned-tune.

by JIM FARBER

Toronto Sun
Jeff tunes up his orchestra

ZOOM - Electric Light Orchestra (Epic-Sony)

Reunions come and go, but this one is a genuine surprise.

The first album from ELO in 15 years hits stores Tuesday after last year's three-CD box set, Flashback, which spanned the orchestral rock group's career from 1970-1986.

Perhaps ELO's British braintrust, Jeff Lynne, who has acted as a producer for such A-listers as Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Tom Petty and Roy Orbison, and as a member of The Traveling Wilburys with Harrison, Petty, Orbison and Bob Dylan, missed being a frontman after all this time.

With Lynne back to guide the group -- he essentially is the group as lead and backing vocalist, lead and rhythm guitarist, cellist, pianist, keyboardist, bassist and drummer -- ELO's layered, often melodramatic sound is intact.

Still, there's nothing here that ranks along the lines of such ELO classics as Can't Get It Out Of My Head, Evil Woman or Strange Magic.

Highlights include the memorable ballads Moment In Paradise, featuring Ringo Starr on drums, and A Long Time Gone, with Harrison on slide guitar; the orchestral and bluesy In My Own Time and the mid-tempo Ordinary Dream, Melting In The Sun and All She Wanted, the latter with Harrison back on slide guitar.

Less successful are middle-of-the-road rockers like Alright, State Of Mind, Stranger On A Quiet Street, Easy Money (with Starr back on drums) and Really Doesn't Matter At All, or the ballad Just For Love, which begins pleasantly enough before derailing about halfway through due to Lynne's overindulgences.

by Jane Stevenson

The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio, June 17, 2001
ELO fan's shocking confession - Arrival of band's first album in 15 years has critic reliving good old days

When I told a colleague that I was a closet ELO fan, he shot back: "Is there any other kind?"

Well, no. But I'm ready to out myself right here and now.

When I wasn't whiling away countless adolescent afternoons practicing air-guitar to the tune of "Turn to Stone" and "Do Ya," I used to fantasize about living on board the giant spaceship on the cover of the Electric Light Orchestra's double album "Out of the Blue." I'm still ready to hitch a ride in a heartbeat if they ever offer to beam me up.

In the meantime, I'm content to listen to "Zoom," ELO's first new studio effort in 15 years. It arrived last week amid a flurry of other ELO activity, including last year's "Flashback" boxed set, television specials on VH1 and PBS, reissues of classic albums and talk of a fall tour.

Friends and co-workers look at me funny when I tell them the good news. Then again, ELO never did command much respect.

In nostalgic hindsight, it has become socially acceptable if not downright hip to cop a soft spot for, say, ABBA. But mention the finer points of "Strange Magic," "Don't Bring Me Down" and other ELO hits and the reactions tend to range from uneasy laughter to utter contempt.

What's to be ashamed of, anyway? In the annals of post-Beatles rock 'n' roll, you'd be hard-pressed to find many other acts that could match the meticulously catchy pop concoctions that ELO created on a grand scale in the '70s and '80s. The melodramatic strings! The celestial choirs! The robotic voice chiming: "Mr. Blue Sky-y-y- y!"

And don't even get me started on the joys of the "Xanadu" soundtrack. That's a whole other column.

"Zoom" marks the long-overdue return of Jeff Lynne, the 53-year-old musical mastermind behind ELO. While some of his ex-bandmates carried on in the '90s as ELO Part II, Lynne released a solo effort ("Armchair Theatre") and made a couple of albums with Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Tom Petty and Roy Orbison in the guise of the Traveling Wilburys. He collaborated on other studio projects with various Wilburys, as well as Paul McCartney. Lynne also got the call when the surviving Beatles needed a producer to oversee "Free as a Bird" and "Real Love," the new tunes recorded for the Fab Four's "Anthology" series.

Harrison and Ringo Starr make cameo appearances on "Zoom," although Lynne is essentially a one-man band who plays almost all of the instruments on the album and handles the lion's share of vocals. The single "Alright" comes out swinging, literally, before drifting in and out of waltz time.

All told, there are fewer quasi-classical flourishes than in the past, although uptempo rockers such as "State of Mind" and "Melting in the Sun" evoke ELO's signature sound with crisp production, clever melodic twists and 300-watt harmonies galore. Ditto a couple of elegant ballads, "Just for Love" and "Moment in Paradise."

The latter tune and a fetching rendition of "Alright" fit nicely alongside a handful of old favorites on the ELO episode of VH1's "Storytellers," which premiered last Friday. You can catch it again at 1 p.m. Tuesday or 11:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The stories behind the songs aren't very illuminating - we learn that "Evil Woman," for example, was inspired by a premonition about, uh, an evil woman. Nevertheless, it does the heart good to see "Can't Get It Out of My Head," "Livin' Thing," "Telephone Line" and other ELO gems reclaimed by Lynne and his new touring troupe, which includes his significant other Rosie Vela on backing vocals and longtime sidekick Richard Tandy on keyboards.

The group also filmed a couple of concerts last month in Los Angeles that PBS will broadcast as a pledge-drive TV special in August.

To coincide with the comeback, four vintage ELO albums have been reissued: "Eldorado," the disco-informed "Discovery," my personal fave "Time" and "Secret Messages," a tongue-in-cheek response to crackpots who swore they heard satanic incantations on the band's old vinyl. (Too bad you can't play a CD backward.) The digitally remastered discs include bonus tracks and spruced-up booklets. Due in September are similarly enhanced reissues of "Electric Light Orchestra II," "Out of the Blue" and "Balance of Power."

By then, the recharged ELO could be en route to a venue near us. A North American tour is in the works, although the itinerary has not been finalized.

Last one aboard the mothership is a rotten egg.

by John Soeder; Plain Dealer Pop Music Critic
(c)2001 The Plain Dealer 2001

The Orange County Register June 1, 2001
ELO's Strange Magic

After 15 years, Jeff Lynne and company are back with a new album and tour.

Maybe it had something to do with a new generation's fascination with the Beatles. After all, Jeff Lynne always intended his band's sound to pick up where "I Am the Walrus" left off, though with melodies and motifs that were more Paul than John.

Could be all those "Xanadu" nuts simply were fed up with having their fave music lampooned. Whatever the case, a curious thing happened just after Thanksgiving: Electric Light Orchestra became cool again - or perhaps for the first time.

"Telephone Line," "Turn to Stone," "Evil Woman," "Strange Magic" - the British group's often infectious but bombastic tunes were staples of '70s radio, massively popular with fans but considered (at best) a guilty pleasure among critics and snobs. The songs have endured; you'll probably hear "Don't Bring Me Down" on Arrow 93.1 FM sometime today, and if you skip to the, um, revealing ending of your copy of "Boogie Nights," you'll discover "Livin' Thing" put to cheeky use.

But after the pooh-poohing of "Xanadu" (now regarded, with considerable irony, as a camp classic) and the failure of the band's '80s material to connect with its changing audience, ELO crumbled. Lynne's career, however, merely mutated, his auteurism reconfigured in ace productions, first with George Harrison's latest studio album, "Cloud Nine" (1987), and Roy Orbison's final effort, "Mystery Girl" (1989).

The sleek, hollowed-out thump of drums (always played with Ringo-like simplicity and precision), the filtered, almost computerized, choir-like backing vocals, the shiny gloss of the guitars - it's unmistakably Jeff Lynne. From his contributions to the supergroup the Traveling Wilburys to his solo album "Armchair Theatre" (1990), his approach is as recognizable as Phil Spector's famous "wall of sound."

And late last year, with the release of the Lynne-compiled box set "Flashback," that style began to get its due, reflected in a wave of praise from younger critics who had grown up with ELO and couldn't have cared less that the band wasn't hip in its day.

"Obviously we never really fit in - never have, in fact," Lynne said recently by phone from his Los Angeles home. "When ELO was at its height in the '70s, punk was all the rage. We were popular in spite of what was going on."

Likewise, despite revisionist history, the group is no more suited to the pop scene of 2001 than it was to the new wave of 1981. Thus now is as good a time as any for ELO to return, as it does Tuesday with the release of "Zoom", its first album since "Balance of Power" in 1986.

It will be bolstered by a June 15 "Storytellers" episode on VH1 and a coming PBS documentary as well as a tour.

Still, this reunion - which isn't exactly a reunion - begs a few obvious questions.

Why now?

"I've spent so much time over the last several years producing other people that I suddenly felt like I hadn't done any of me own music for years. It started just after I finished working with McCartney on 'Flaming Pie' (in 1997). I was just in the process of building me studio anyway - it took about a year, having the house remodeled. It all started to happen about then - just writing some new songs."

Yet wonderfully catchy though it is - and sporting typical trademarks, from retrofitted '50s rock ("Easy Money" or "State of Mind," which echoes "Don't Bring Me Down") to sweet strings ("Ordinary Dream") to those otherworldly harmonies (like the Queen-like coda for "A Long Time Gone") - it just as easily could have been another Lynne solo album.

Why call it ELO then? Because Lynne is to ELO what Chrissie Hynde is to the Pretenders?

"Maybe it's a bit of that," he said. "But it's more that the idea of getting a regular group to play with became very high on me list. I think basically I wanted to take it on the road, you know? And this is an ELO record. This was made the same way."

Well, almost. The only other ELO holdover is keyboardist Richard Tandy, because tensions between Lynne and drummer Bev Bevan haven't been ironed out.

After Lynne left in '88, Bevan formed a new ELO with a new vocalist. (Think Creedence Clearwater Revisited.) Lynne sued - and got "Part II" added to the group's name. But when pressed about what happened, Lynne clams up. "I'm not at liberty to speak about it," he says.

Creating "Flashback" and "Zoom," however, has brought some perspective.

"It's been a good exercise, having gone all this time without ELO. When I went back, I got to hear everything we did in all its whatever-it-is. Some of it inspired me. Some of it didn't - a couple of the disco ones, they're just OK."

What effect did that have on making "Zoom"?

"What I've found is that I leave spaces now. I leave holes where the song can breathe, where before I would fill it in with as much cement as possible. In the past, I felt like I could do whatever I wanted just because I could. No need to have just one piano - I can have six of them! It was innocently done, but not particularly clever. And I've since found out that recording six pianos is a really bad thing to do.

Learning that, experiencing that, getting older - it just changes everything. I've always tried to make music that sounds somewhat old-fashioned, that sounds timeless, whatever that is. But in the past that could lead to trying too hard. Now, the song just happens, and then it's finished - and it sounds like one of mine. There's no plan anymore. I just make records to please meself."

By Ben Wener
(c)2001 The Orange County Register

The Denver Post Sunday, June 10, 2001
ELO zooms back with new album

There are rock fans who have dismissed Electric Light Orchestra's highfalutin art-rock as gleefully overproduced, one of '70s rock's most commercial, empty pop sounds.

They should entertain revisionist second thoughts.

It was genius.

At their relatively minimalist, cello-heavy beginning, ELO appeared intended to recreate "I Am the Walrus." Then, between 1975 and 1981, the group enjoyed a remarkable 17 Top 40 hits - among them, "Evil Woman," "Strange Magic," "Telephone Line" and "Livin' Thing." The elements of the catchy pop singles? A witty web full of layered voices and sound effects distilled through rocking guitars and string arrangements.

ELO went through many personnel changes, but a mainstay of classically trained players furnished the crisp string presence required by sonic architect Jeff Lynne behind many of his compositions.

"I never did stuff that was going on at the time," the British singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer said recently. "I tried to get a "timeless old-fashioned' sound. It didn't have to be the latest thing, or somewhere in-between."

In the mid-'80s, ELO took a back seat to Lynne's other projects as a producer. He brought shimmering sonic touches to albums by George Harrison and Tom Petty (with and without the Heartbreakers), and he helped restart Roy Orbison's career. With them and Bob Dylan, he was a member of Traveling Wilburys.

"It's playing, it's arranging, it's co-writing. It's getting everybody in the right place," Lynne said. "But working with all those guys, I'd more or less run out of heroes. I realized I hadn't done any of my own music for a long time. So that's what I did."

"Zoom," Electric Light Orchestra's first album of new material in 15 years, is in stores Tuesday. It was recorded at Lynne's Los Angeles home recording studio.

His musical relationships affected the sound. At times, it's as much Traveling Wilburys as ELO.

"I used to always mix my voice really quiet. When I was working with the other guys, I liked to put them up as loud as I possibly could, because they're the singers. So I hope I gave myself the same opportunity."

Will devotees have the chance to see ELO live?

"Not only had I not worked on my own music, but I hadn't done live shows since about 1985," the notoriously stage-shy Lynne said. "But I've just done three live television shows in two weeks. I'd never played a television show in my life! I've even enjoyed rehearsing!"

ELO's performance on VH1's "Storytellers" series will premiere Friday. An upcoming PBS special will air during the late-August fund drive.

It sets the stage for a major tour to start in September. In the old days, the group's stage productions were visual spectacles, including the massive ELO spaceship.

"Actually, we have a new spaceship - you'll see it on TV," Lynne said. "It's a lot more advanced than the last one. And, of course, much lower running costs, two gallons to the light year. It's unleaded, much better for the atmosphere."

The recently released "Flashback," a three-CD box set complied by Lynne that spans ELO's career, is evidence of a heckuva singles band. But new expanded editions of albums are also being issued. Four titles - "Eldorado," "Discovery," "Time" and "Secret Messages" - will arrive in stores Tuesday.

Check out "Eldorado." ELO really hit its stride with this cohesive, consistent album in 1974. It included the wonderful "Can't Get It Out of My Head" and was also the first time the group had been augmented in the studio with a full orchestra, giving Lynne's songs a fuller, dimensional sound - "a little mini-symphony job," he said.

by G. Brown
Denver Post Popular Music Writer
(c)2001 The Denver Post

Washington Post Wednesday, June 13, 2001
Jeff Lynne Says ELO Again

Ready or not, here comes Jeff Lynne. Remember him? The shaggy maestro behind the Electric Light Orchestra is poised for a multimedia, multi-city assault on your senses -- and there is nothing you can do about it.

The first new ELO album in 15 years lands this week, along with four "classic" ELO albums, spruced up of course, with liner notes by Mr. Lynne himself, as well as previously unreleased tracks. VH1's career fixer-upper, "Storytellers," will feature Lynne on an episode to air Friday, with endless repeats to follow. PBS jumps onboard in August, when the network will broadcast a new ELO concert during pledge week. (Get those checkbooks ready, people.) A tour is slated for some time in the fall.

All those violins, all those pre-sweetened lyrics, all those swooping layers of faux-Beethoven -- we're heading straight back into the thick of it. We're revisiting the mechanized bombast of "Can't Get It Out of My Head," we're reconnecting with the symphonic hustle of "Don't Bring Me Down." Our nostalgia for all things '70s is about to be sorely tested.

Here's some free advice: Just give in. Surrender to the anaphylactic schlock of the Jeff Lynne experience, because eventually, everyone does. That includes not just fans of his 17 Top 40 hits, but some of the great rockers of our age -- including George Harrison, Paul McCartney and Tom Petty -- all of whom decided in the '80s and '90s that Lynne was just the guy to produce their albums and resuscitate their careers. He repaid the compliment by making them all sound like ELO.

They knew what they were getting into. Before he became an all-star producer, Lynne and ELO had provided the soundtrack to "Xanadu," the Olivia Newton-John rollerblading movie that all but crushed the remaining embers of Gene Kelly's movie career. Before that, there was the allegation by a Detroit promoter in 1978 that ELO had lip synched a pair of live shows. Suspicions were aroused, the promoter said, when both shows clocked in at exactly 82 minutes and the viola player spun across the stage without impeding his play. (The band denied the allegation, but eventually dropped a lawsuit brought against the promoter.)

And despite ELO's success at creating unshakable melodies, it was always blindingly obvious that the band had raided the Beatles and then run off with the ill-gotten booty for an entire career. In an interview with Rolling Stone years ago, John Lennon brutally and casually thrashed the group as "son of 'I Am the Walrus,' " which is an insult that Lynne couldn't exactly deflect. His gimmick -- and that seems like the right word here -- was to daub a layer of spaceship pop and violins on ideas that other artists had already conceived. Listen to "Yours Truly, 2095," from the newly re-released "Time" album of 1981 and it's suddenly obvious -- Lynne is doing an impersonation of the Buggles, whose "Video Killed the Radio Star" was a No. 1 hit in England two years before. You can listen to the three re-released albums either as nostalgia or the debris from a lifetime of ransackings.

Now, fittingly enough, Lynne is stealing from himself. "Zoom" wakes ELO up as though it had been asleep for 15 minutes, rather than 15 years. Despite the packaging -- even the trademark spaceship image is back on the cover -- this is actually a solo album, with Lynne handling virtually all the instruments, including piano, bass, guitar and drums. There are cameos by both George Harrison and Ringo Starr, on guitar and drums, respectively, but once again John Lennon is the Beatle that Lynne can't get out of his head. "Ordinary Dream" is irresistible and is destined for "ELO's Greatest Hits: Volume 2," though shamelessly channeled from Lennon's Dakota years.

Two tracks later, the Liverpudlian accent has vanished for "Melting in the Sun," which starts off with vocals so Dylanesque in inflection that we can only hope it's intended as a tribute. There is a foray back to the '50s, this time for "In My Own Time," which brings back the super-layered background vocals that made songs like "Livin' Thing" such shameless fun.

And if Lynne's life of violas and borrowing proves anything, it's that in the world of pop there's nothing shameful about some shameless fun.

To hear a free Sound Bite from this album, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8173.

by David Segal
Washington Post Staff Writer
(c)2001 The Washington Post Company


Sunday Herald
- Melbourne, Sun July 1st.

"You've got a sound," Paul McCartney told Jeff Lynne, who was about to produce the Beatles' Free As A Bird. Lynne took it as a compliment, but McCartney was apparently wary. He needn't have been. As Ringo Starr observed later; "ELO only broke up because they ran out of Beatles riffs."

Lynne is a one-man band -- lead vocals, backing vocals, lead guitar, rhythm guitar, piano, keyboards, bass, drums and cello. On almost every track. All of which he wrote.

He has done this for years with the one obvious setback -- there's no quality control. Which is how a band that can record Beatlesque orchestral rock masterpieces such as Eldorado, Can't Get It Out Of My Head and Laredo Tornado can embarrass themselves with the unpardonable Hold On Tight, Xanadu and the execrable Rock and Roll Is King.

So on their first release in 15 years you get a CD with about a vinyl album's worth of sometimes clever songs sounding very much like the band of that golden period between 1973 and '79. Ringo pops up here and there and George Harrison lends a memorable lick to A Long Time Gone.

Lynne does Lennon on Just For Love and is his old self on Alright and Moment in Time. McCartney was right.

Pete Best

Real Groove Magazine (New Zealand), July 2001 (issue number 95)

ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA
Zoom

It's been 30 years since the formation of the Electric Light Orchestra, and 15 since their last studio album. Jeff Lynne is back as more or less a one man band, writing and producing all of this album and handling the majority of the vocals and instrumentation (adding drums and cello to his repertoire). George and Ringo make an appearance on a few tracks also, and while many might argue that this is really another Jeff Lynne solo album, it sounds considerably more ELO than Lynne's Armchair Theatre solo release from 1990.

Drawing heavily from past ELO arrangements and hooks, Lynne adds an appealing Traveling Wilburys flavour to Zoom, resulting in 13 outstanding tracks. 'Moment In Paradise', 'Ordinary Dream' and 'Lonesome Lullaby' are bonafide Lynne masterpieces, concise and unforgettable hook laden gems. 'Easy Money' and 'All She Wanted' find Lynne returning to his rock 'n' roll roots, while 'State Of Mind', 'Stranger On A Quiet Street' and 'Just For Love' echo the more traditional softer ELO approach.

In the past, Lynne has tended to treat lyrics as secondary to the music, and often wrote them while in the studio. However, for Zoom he has invested significant personal reflection into many of these tracks, most notably on 'Lonesome Lullaby' (which reads like a not so subtle dig at ex-ELO drummer Bev Bevan), 'Really Doesn't Matter' and 'Easy Money'. With a tour, a DVD release, and the remastering of the entire ELO back catalogue, 2001 looks to be a good year for the fans.


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