Friday, July 2, 2010

Electric Light Orchestra: Zoom (2001)

(As published in the Illinois Entertainer ... )

Electric Light Orchestra

The good news is that after more than a decade of producing the likes of Roy Orbison, George Harrison, and Paul McCartney with an ear toward helping them recapture past glories, Jeff Lynne has taken on his biggest challenge yet--recapturing the glories of his own once much-beloved group, ELO. The bad news is that his reach may finally have begun to exceed his grasp.

Anyone familiar with Lynne’s pet sounds will note on Zoom the continued presence of the ELO formula: instantly hummable British-Invasion hooks, strings both real and synthesized, ornately overdubbed vocals, and lyrics abounding in references to twilight, floating, water crossings, and that which comes from “out of the blue.” Several songs (most notably “Moment in Paradise” and “Melting in the Sun”) could hold up quite well on the next ELO best-of, and none of them are in need of shooting.

Alas, none of them are actual ELO performances either. Except for a big-name cameo here (George Harrison, Ringo Starr) and a no-name cameo there (the cellists), Lynne plays and sings everything himself, with no one along from the old days but Richard Tandy (playing inaudibly on “Alright”) to help shift the burden. I mean, a one-man band is one thing, but a one-man orchestra? The result: a sound that’s too hermetic by half for rock-and-roll.

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