Album Review: Jeff Lynne – Long Wave and Mr. Blue Sky – The Very Best of Electric Light Orchestra
Every avowed Beatles fan rues and revels in the day when he or she turns 64, and Jeff Lynne
is no different. The master wall-of-sounder turned 64 this year and released a double album (one of ELO hits and one of covers). He raises the question: Do we still need him? Will we still feed him?
Of course we need you, Mr. Lynne. Who else can deliver a line like “you took my body and played to win” with such boyish charm? Rod Stewart? As the song goes: “Ha, ha.” “Evil Woman” is one of 11 beloved ELO songs that Lynne re-recorded in his studio in Los Angeles for Mr. Blue Sky – The Very Best of Electric Light Orchestra. Given recording limitations of the 70s and 80s, Lynne thought the songs needed some retouching. So he went back and did all the instrumental and vocal parts himself. It will be exactly like when Beyonce re-records the Destiny’s Child catalogue due to certain limitations, such as all of the voices that are not hers.
Whatever digital rosin Lynne is using these days seems to be working. “Strange Magic”, “Don’t Bring Me Down”, and “Do Ya” are just a few tracks that sound faster and fresher. But the real treat on the album is the previously unreleased, “Point Of No Return”. Its rollicking guitar lick and “ball-and-chain” motif could have easily been on Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever, which Lynne helped write, produce, and accompany twenty years ago.
Although original material would have been welcome, Long Wave proves that every song can be an ELO song if it really tries hard enough. Even the deeply regal “At Last” sounds like it could be the B-side to “Mr. Blue Sky”. Lynne shed some electric light on artists that inspired him as a radio-head in Manchester, England, such as the Everly Brothers and Don Covay. Surprising pre-rock songs choices include “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” and “Love Is A Many Splendoured Thing.” “She” has a “Strawberry Fields Forever” softness, while “Running Scared” features Lynne doing an entertainingly accurate impression of the late, great Roy Orbison. 40-years into his rich musical career, it’s perfectly fine for Lynne to be taking stock — just as long as he doesn’t stop.
Essential Tracks: “Mercy, Mercy”, “Running Scared”, “So Sad”, “Point Of No Return”