What a return from Jeff Lynne. From a near 30-year hiatus of new material from 1986 to 2015, disregarding Zoom in 2001, Lynne has pulled off a humble masterpiece of a record that could very well be taken from the days of ELO’s prime in the late 1970s.
After playing it safe with Alone in the Universe in 2015, Lynne has upped his creativity by implementing the classic feel of strings with his iconic falsetto and quintessential ELO harmonies. The opening soft raucous titular track highlights Lynne’s rigidity in sticking to the true ELO style, echoing the vibes of 1979’s ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’, with a strong and memorable underlying guitar rhythm. This classic style is resonated throughout the album with the tracks ‘Help Yourself’ and ‘All My Love’ yearning for the past: “you can never change. You just keep on bein’ you” in ‘Help Yourself’ acting as a call back to Lynne’s continued style through the years.
Ballads feature prominently with the tender serenade of ‘Down Came the Rain’, which brings a sense of remorse to the record as a whole with its serene closing vocal canon, before Lynne naturally counters this with the fast-paced and optimistic track of ‘One Last Time’, acting as an unforgettable filler.
Lynne’s ‘Losing You’ is one of the finest on the record as it implements the string section in its full capacity, joined by a beautiful element of simplicity which can be heard through the simple mordents present in the guitar solo and an a-typical transition down the scale, ending the newly modulated key phrase on a beautifully melancholic note.
‘Songbird’ acts as a perfect close: it returns the familiar string prominence with powerful harmonies before closing the whole record off with crisp drums and a smooth guitar solo into silence.
Minus some slight blemishes like drums sounding mushy on ‘Sci-Fi Woman’ or premature endings on tracks such as ‘Goin’ Out on Me’, the record overall is a solid return for Jeff Lynne and is by far ELO’s best album since 1981’s Time. It is no wonder that this is ELO’s first UK #1 album in nearly 40 years.
Image: via Wikimedia Comms