If you don’t already know by now, Jeff Lynne was ELO. He wrote, arranged and produced almost everything they ever did. He sang it all and he recorded it all. It was his artistic vision. Since ELO’s final album in 1986 (Balance of Power) we have been blessed with one amazing solo album (Armchair Theater) and a pretty good second solo album that came out under then name ELO (Zoom). That was in 2001 and Zoom is the last we had heard from Jeff, with the exception of a few new bonus tracks on reissues and his ongoing production work. Now he’s back with 2 new releases and there’s a documentary movie on Jeff Lynne and ELO. The bad news is both releases are covers of older songs. That’s where the bad news ends however because both are must have’s for any ELO/Lynne fan.
We will start with “Mr. Blue Sky – The Very Best of Electric Light Orchestra.” This is a disc of 12 classic ELO songs completely recorded and performed by Jeff over the past year or so. We don’t know exactly why he did this, but he’s eluded to the fact that there were ELO tracks he could improve the sound on and make a better recording that the originals. With many of these I would agree with him. Don’t Bring Me Down, Can’t Get It Out of My Head and especially the amazing 10538 Overture are truly improved and sound great. I don’t know why he included Mr. Blue Sky, because the original is so good and the new version doesn’t have the energy or charm. Some critics are saying that he stayed too true to the originals, so what is the point? While I understand their overall view and where they are coming from, I still feel it’s an amazing accomplishment and that some of these tracks are really great improvements over the originals. The real treat though is track 13, the one previously unreleased original tune “Point of No Return.” This is a song he had originally demoed for ELO but never released, I’m glad he decided to finish this classic. The other reason to run out and buy Mr. Blue Sky is the packaging. It comes in a hardbound CD book with an embossed ELO logo ship, metallic ink and a satin finish. The booklet is very nice and complete with liner notes and all the pertinent info.
Next we have Jeff’s new solo album, Long Wave. This is an album of cover tunes that Jeff grew up listening to in Birmingham. Fear not, this is a great Jeff Lynne solo album with his classic sound. I personally wasn’t very familiar with most of the tracks, which probably helps as well. If you like his style on Armchair Theater you’ll love Long Wave. It’s full of real harmonies, plenty of hooks and a whole lotta’ love. The first track is called “She” and is one of my favorites. This album is easily one of my favorite releases of the year.
I’ve saved the best for last… The documentary, “Mr. Blue Sky: The Story of Jeff Lynne & ELO.” This will make you a Jeff Lynne believer. You basically have ever member of the Beatles talking about how much they love ELO and Jeff Lynne, which is a recommendation very few if any artists have ever received (including John Lennon via a 70’s radio interview). It shows Jeff at work in his home studio with clips of a parade of musical greats and stars raving over him and his songwriting and production. There are live performances of him in his home with his long time sidekick and keyboardist Richard Tandy. He uses every room in his house for recording and the walls are all lined with platinum and gold albums. I was truly moved by this documentary and you can truly see that Jeff is just a fellow music geek at heart. Music excites him and he is a true fan of the artists he works with and listens too. “Mr. Blue Sky: The Story of Jeff Lynne & ELO” is playing on HD Channel Palladia and VH1 Classic.