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Jeff Lynne

The man behind the ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA, journeyman singer-songwriter/musician/producer JEFF LYNNE has also released a couple of solo albums – 22 years apart! Apart from briefly working alongside ROY WOOD in both The MOVE and the initially classically-infused ELO in the early 70s, Jeff’s contributions to rootsy Grammy-winning supergroup, The TRAVELING WILBURYS (comprising GEORGE HARRISON, BOB DYLAN, ROY ORBISON and TOM PETTY), achieved new-found success when his flagship ELO was sinking fast.
Born 30th December 1947 in Birmingham, England, Jeff’s first port of call was as rhythm guitarist and soon-to-be frontman for late 60s psychedelics, The IDLE RACE, his buddies in the band emerging from the ashes of Mike Sheridan & The Nightriders. Leaving the combo after two patchy LP releases (“The Birthday Party” in 1968 and “Idle Race” in 1970), Jeff exited promptly when an offer to join The MOVE proved too tempting to turn down. Supplying a couple of tracks (`What?’ and `Open Up Said The World At The Door’) to the group’s third set, “Looking On” (1970), and almost half the songs for their 1971 follow-up, “Message From The Country” (including the title track and the excellent `No Time’), Jeff was taking ever-increasing role in their output. When The MOVE (Lynne, WOOD and Bev Bevan) diversified into The ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA, the former two stars were at loggerheads on a number of issues, not least the split in songwriting duties: Lynne’s `10538 Overture’ was rightly chosen as the hit single, while his `Mr. Radio’ and `Queen Of The Hours’ were the album’s best pieces. When WOOD made his shock decision to leave ELO for a glam-rock career as leader of WIZZARD (and a simultaneous solo career), Jeff was already piecing together ELO Mk.II for subsequent hits such as `Roll Over Beethoven’, `Showdown’ and `Ma-Ma-Ma Belle’.
Peaking in 1976 and 1977 with top-notch albums such as “A New World Record” and “Out Of The Blue” respectively, ELO never really recovered their credibility after the critically disastrous “Xanadu” shared soundtrack with OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN. 1986’s “Balance Of Power” was ELO’s swansong (although “Zoom” surfaced in 2001), while Lynne turned his hand to producing. Having worked on respective albums by DAVE EDMUNDS and BRIAN WILSON, the man upped his CV somewhat when his boyhood hero, GEORGE HARRISON, invited him to produced his 1987 “Cloud Nine” album. This, in turn, led to further collaborative escapades in TRAVELING WILBURYS, and more valuable production duties for two of their alumni, TOM PETTY (“Full Moon Fever”) and ROY ORBISON (“Mystery Girl”).
As ELO Part Two were doing relatively alright without their leader, it was time LYNNE had his own say in a belated solo career. But ARMCHAIR THEATRE (1990) {*5} didn’t exactly set the contemporary music biz alight. The trouble was that people hardly associated the man with crooning cover versions, and there were three on show here: Kurt Weill’s `September Song’, Arlen & Koehler’s `Stormy Weather’ and Jesse Stone’s `Don’t Let Go’. Mix in a TOM PETTY ballad, `Blown Away’ (featuring backing vocals by DEL SHANNON) to the pot, and a weak lead song in `Every Little Thing’, and what you have is critical meltdown.
LYNNE continued to work with former cohorts GEORGE HARRISON (“Brainwashed” in 2002) and TOM PETTY (“Highway Companion” in 2006), but apart from a couple of songs for REGINA SPEKTOR’s “Far” in ’09, he was conspicuous by his absence. Then, in 2012, after re-recording fresh re-vamps for a “Mr. Blue Sky” collection, LYNNE was back in full throttle with his long-awaited solo sophomore set, LONG WAVE {*6}. A tribute to the nostalgia and R&R years and not going down the showman road of ROD STEWART, Jeff covered the likes of The EVERLY BROTHERS’ `So Sad’, ROY ORBISON’s `Running Scared’ and CHUCK BERRY’s `Let It Rock’; staples `Beyond The Sea’, `She’, `At Last’, `Love Is A Many Splendored Thing’ and Charlie Chaplin’s `Smile’, speak for themselves.
Awaiting to hear a new LYNNE-penned tune, the inevitable resurrection of his old band (in name only) for the 2015 album `Alone In The Universe’, as JEFF LYNNE’S ELO, rewarded loyal fans who’d been patient for 14 years.
© MC Strong/MCS Oct2012-Nov2015

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