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[Off The Record]
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Electric Light Orchestra

At their creative peak (through the Eldorado album and before most of the hits), the Electric Light Orchestra were all about trippy strings, widescreen production, big hooks, and revived psychedelia. If they were beginning their career right now, they’d probably get called an Oasis ripoff.

This reunion album really isn’t a reunion but a solo effort with leader Jeff Lynne playing almost everything. (Maybe he’s still mad at his ex-bandmates for doing a ’90s ELO without him.) The usual ELO trademarks — strings, synths, massed backing vocals — barely appear at all; we get a relatively lo-fi set with concise pop songs, stripped-down arrangements, and lots of guitars. In other words, it’s the full-blown Beatles homage that Lynne’s been trying to do for his entire career. No surprise that George Harrison and Ringo Starr make guest appearances, or that " Ordinary Dream " sounds even more like a new Beatles single than did the Lynne-produced " Free As a Bird. " He also borrows from others he’s worked with, building the opening " Alright " around the riff from Tom Petty’s " Breakdown. " Lynne’s lyrics have a bit more depth than they did in the days of " Mr. Blue Sky, " and he even shows some teeth on " Easy Money, " a garage stomp apparently addressed to his ex-bandmates. But his songwriting goes like clockwork: he pulls a killer hook by the first chorus of every song, pulls another one in the bridge, plays a solid guitar solo, and that’s it. It’s pure pop for its own sake.


Issue Date: June 14 - 21, 2001

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