Jeff Lynne’s ELO
From Out Of Nowhere
Strange magic indeed! After years of silence and – I guess – living off royalties and a pet-project here and there ELO is unfashionably fashionable or fashionably unfashionable again. Lynne released a solo album of covers and a solo album of him covering his own ELO hits and from there it was to a reformation of the “orchestra” for a series of shows – after smashing it out live once again! and then touring America for the first time in decades.
Speaking of first time in decades, there was also a new “ELO” album (though now it’s Jeff Lynne’s ELO and just three and a half years on we have another new “ELO” album – From Out Of Nowhere follows Alone In The Universe as the second Jeff Lynne-playing-everything ELO record of brand new songs.
I liked Alone In The Universe plenty, even if I thought it sounded as Wilburys as it did ELO (it was Electric-Lite, perhaps). And you could maybe level the same electric-lite charge to this – but really From Out of Nowhere sounds extraordinarily like the mid-70s ELO peak. The opening title track just takes you back to the album cuts and lesser hits – and even if you’re not super hooked on these new songs you have to doff the cap to Lynne as one-man-band. Here he is on every instrument, providing lead and harmony vocals and producing. Only Todd Rundgren is as good in this domain.
The highlights here feel greater than on his previous recordings from the 2010s.
Help Yourself points to his production gigs for the solo Beatles and his Wilburys work while having all the hallmarks of a great mid-tempo ELO pop-rocker. I’d argue it’s more Wings than Beatles in its aping of classic McCartney-ist hooks.
There’s something charming about the throwaway songs here (All My Love) and then when you get to the really rock-solid tunes (Down Came The Rain) you’re welcoming back the hooks, if not the heart, of a great (possibly even underrated) pop tunesmith.
Losing You feels like the late-period George Harrison material (that Lynne presided over) via Strange Magic-era ELO. One More Time is a cool wee rocker, Sci-Fi Woman shouldn’t work, but it does – and even when Lynne is slightly lazily semi-mythologising (as on Time Of Our Life’s prosaic remembering of the recent return to the live arena) there’s just a class to the consistency.
So in just 32 minutes, across ten songs, you could believe that Lynne had many of these tunes sitting waiting – for years – in the cupboard. Or that he went into this home studio for 2-3 days and just summoned the spirit of what he used to do. Either answer would suffice. And the best of the work here will only mean something to existing fans but it’s no let down at all.
He shouldn’t sound this good.
Vocally, and across all instruments, he’s in rude health. And the closer, Songbird, is as good as he’s ever been.
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