Jeff Lynne has been making great music since his days with British bands like The Idle Race & The Move in the 1960s. But he’s best known in the USA for fronting Electric Light Orchestra, and for being a member of the supergroup The Traveling Wilburys, along with Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, George Harrison & Roy Orbison. You probably know his music, but maybe not his name: As one of my friends recently noted "Jeff Lynne is one of the unsung heroes of rock & roll." Lynne hasn’t recorded an album under the ELO name since 2001’s underrated Zoom; his last solo disc, 2012’s Long Wave, was a collection of covers. But in November of 2015, he released Alone In The Universe, billed as Jeff Lynne’s ELO. If you love the layered vocals & production (backed with shimmering guitars) of ELO's 70s & 80s albums, Alone In The Universe will be a special treat.
The album kicks off with “When I Was A Boy,” Lynne’s paean to his younger days, listening to music on the radio, and being inspired to become a musician. That song sets the tone for the rest of the disc, which features recognizable touches of the classic ELO sound, but also hints of pop & soul, and even a bit of reggae, on “When The Night Comes.” In fact, these tunes could also fit comfortably on some of the albums that Lynne has produced for other artists, including former Wilbury band mates Petty & Harrison, as well as other rockers like Joe Walsh & Dave Edmunds. This is a true one man effort, with Lynne doing most of the vocals & playing all the instruments, except backing vocals by his daughter Laura & some percussion by engineer Steve Jay. The classic ELO sound is probably most evident on the aforementioned "When I Was A Boy," as well as "One Step At A Time" and the title track.
Other highlights include the soulful “Love & Rain,” the lovely ballad “The Sun Will Shine On You” & the Orbison-esque “I’m Leaving You.” The album features only ten tracks (twelve if you buy the deluxe edition) but it definitely shows that Lynne still knows his way around a good rock/pop song, and the disc doesn’t stray too far from the style we associate with his best work, on albums such as ELO’s Out Of The Blue & his 1990 solo effort, Armchair Theatre. It’s an enjoyable record that should please longtime fans. The other good news is that Lynne is planning a full tour in Europe and the USA later this year, with a band that includes longtime ELO member Richard Tandy. If you like ELO, or Lynne’s work with other artists, Alone In The Universe will be a great addition to your music library. Here are links to the video for “When I Was A Boy” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tM34A80RTv4, and a recent television performance of the ELO classic “Evil Woman” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6DUEpsVQ4A.