Album Reviews Jeff Lynne's ELO - From Out of Nowhere

Published on 12th January 2020

Jeff Lynne’s ELO – From Out of Nowhere


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I often wonder whether there is any added value for a tribute band whose subject is still alive and well, and often even still performing on a more or less regular basis. These were my feelings upon attending the recent performance by The ELO Show, the brainchild of Brian Cummins. But it also had an unexpected positive effect: a) it made me realise once again how good the music of genius Jeff Lynne actually was and, b) apparently new material was to be released soon by this musical jack-of-all-trades. Sufficient reason to take a closer look at the new album by the man from Birmingham.

The story is well-known, but perhaps a reminder is in order. Jeff Lynne, born in 1947, co-founder and primary composer/singer of the legendary Electric Light Orchestra (ELO), had not been performing live for decades, nor does he like to particularly, as he has frequently admitted. His show at Hyde Park in 2014 for BBC Radio 2, the first full-blown ELO performance in 28 years, was therefore unique and, if anything, a test for the protagonist himself: how would this performance be received by press and public and, if successful, could it possibly be the basis for a return to theatres?

By now, the answer is pretty much known: the show, which was also broadcast live, became a huge success and it doesn’t take much imagination to guess that it would result in a truly triumphal tour of larger venues, both home and abroad. The song Time of Our Life on the new album refers to this. In addition, a new studio album, the reasonably well-received Alone in the Universe, was released in 2015. This studio album was followed by the successful live album Wembley or Bust, recorded at the eponymous stadium in June 2017, also released as a Blu-Ray/DVD.

Four years lie between the release of Alone in the Universe and his most recent work, From Out of Nowhere, but the setting is completely different; here we have an acclaimed artist who wrote and recorded new material in peace and quiet, on his own terms. In that sense, the title is not entirely correct: the new CD is not completely out of the blue ( 🙂 ). It is the fourteenth ELO album and the second in a row as Jeff Lynne’s ELO. Incidentally, the latter is most valid as multi-instrumentalist Lynne is responsible for the lion’s share of all instruments, with former ELO colleague Richard Tandy taking care of only the piano solo on the rocking One More Time.

The format is still very much the same: short, catchy tunes with a recognizable hook, bridge and chorus, never more than three-and-a-half minutes – the master of restriction. Immediately, we find our first criticism: ten songs with a total length of less than 33 minutes, much shorter than any LP. OK, it’s better to be short and sweet than long and boring, but this is somewhat exaggerated. The songs are short to the extent that sometimes you don’t even realise that another song is already playing. Which brings us directly to the second point of criticism: the songs are all very similar and the distinctive character is limited. First of all, you have the up-tempo poppy sing-along songs like the first four on the new album. Then you have the ballads, such as Losing You, which sounds a bit like Wild West Hero, and the concluding Songbird. The third category concerns rock ‘n’ roll songs such as One More Time, distant relative ​​of ‘grandfather’ Roll Over Beethoven. This ‘deja vu/entendu’ feeling is present with almost every individual song, it soon becomes some sort of pop quiz.

Aren’t there any positive points to report, one wonders? Of course there are, first and foremost the production, which is at quite a high level. The songs are all well-crafted and hammered out, the latter both literally and figuratively; the heavy drums play an important role. The harmony vocals, the orchestration, it is all equally strong. In addition, recognisability (and sometimes predictability) is both a weakness and a strength, it is just a matter of perception. The lyrics are peppered with hope and positivity, no bad themes in a contemporary context.

It goes without saying that Lynne always provides a good album, right across the board, without real highs or lows. There is no Mr Blue Sky to be found here, not even a Last Train to London, but there is plenty to enjoy and especially to sing along to (All My Life, Down Came The Rain). The sound is recognisable, the old-fashioned way and chock-full of all the elements that made ELO successful in their heyday. It is not prog (anymore), but it probably wasn’t even during their golden period, with some exceptions (Eldorado from 1974). The prevailing three-minute format in itself makes it virtually impossible to meet the genre’s requirements. If this album makes anything clear, it is that the human jukebox Jeff Lynne is still firing on all cylinders. It only takes a quarter (maybe a little more) every now and then.

Sometimes a tribute band comes in quite handy.

TRACK LISTING
01. From Out of Nowhere (3:14)
02. Help Yourself (3:14)
03. All My Love (3:06)
04. Down Came the Rain (3:29)
05. Losing You (3:36)
06. One More Time (3:28)
07. Sci-Fi Woman (3:07)
08. Goin’ Out on Me (3:09)
09. Time of Our Life (3:10)
10. Songbird (3:06)

Total Time – 32:39

MUSICIANS
Jeff Lynne – Vocals, Guitars, Bass, Piano, Drums, Keyboards, Cello, Vibraphone
Richard Tandy – Piano (on One More Time)
Steve Jay – Percussion

ADDITIONAL INFO
Record Label: Columbia Records
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 1st November 2019

DISCOGRAPHY
– From Out of Nowhere (2019)
– Wembley or Bust (2017)
– Alone in the Universe (2015)
– Zoom (2001)
– Balance of Power (1986)
– Secret Messages (1983)
– Time (1981)
– Discovery (1979)
– Out of the Blue (1977)
– A New World Record (1976)
– Face the Music (1975)
– The Night the Light Went On in Long Beach (1974)
– Eldorado, A Symphony (1974)
– On the Third Day (1973)
– ELO 2 (1973)
– The Electric Light Orchestra (1971)

LINKS
Jeff Lynne – Website | Facebook

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