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Electric Light Orchestra - Zoom CD (album) cover


Electric Light Orchestra

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3 stars ELO's 1986 album, "Balance Of Power", was their last. The maestro behind ELO, Jeff Lynne, laid the band to rest and got on with his first solo album, "Armchair Theatre", released in 1990. Apart from the non-Lynne "ELO part II" project, nothing was heard from them for 15 years... then this...

From "Armchair Theatre" onwards, it was obvious that Jeff Lynne was indulging the rock'n'roll part of his musical psyche rather than his more floyd-like, arty side. The Traveling Wilburys, production work with Tom Petty, George Harrison, The Beatles: all had pulled Jeff into a musical world where Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry reigned supreme, and the detailed, progressive works of ELO were long forgotten... then this...

"Zoom" is a brilliant album. It's melodic, sleek and well produced. It's everything you'd expect from a Jeff Lynne album. And therein lies the crux of the matter: it's a Jeff Lynne album. It's "Armchair Theatre - part 2". It's The Traveling Wilburys without the famous three. It's a crusty old album that's fallen through time from the 50's and been insensitively packaged in the cover of an ultra-modern sci-fi novel, branded "ELO" by people who think that those three letters may help it sell a few more copies. It's a brilliant album, but it's only ELO because Jeff says so.

Report this review (#68461)
Posted Sunday, February 5, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Word from inside the industry is that this was supposed to be Jeff Lynn's second solo album, but that the label thought an ELO release would sell better.

This was a solid release, with some great tunes that just never took off. ELO has always been cramped by inadequate promotion and marketing and thus, a great "comeback" album (of sorts) did not reach the masses who would have enjoyed it!


Report this review (#81199)
Posted Thursday, June 15, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars After a few discussions with Bevan, Jeff took the control again of the ELO brand. I have to say that I was quite surprised with the output of ELO Part II. A real return to the roots (at least the poopy and commercial ones). Far from this disgusting disco/synth music ELO delivered for quite a long time. I was curious to discover this new Jeff project.

To officialize his filiation with the Fab Four (but it was so obvious thoughout his career that it was not necessary, although very strong sentimentally, Jeff is surrounded by Georges Harrison and Ringo Starr). I guess that they felt at home with songs like "Moment in Paradise", "Just For Love", and "Ordinary Dream" which are very melodious pop songs. "A Long Time Gone" is also a pop ballad but melody is not as catchy. "State Of Mind" is a rocking number vaguely reminiscent of "Ticket To Ride" and "Really Doesn't Matter" tries to combine some rock flavour with a nice melody. Not too bad either.

ELO's rock'n'roll side won't be forgotten either : "Easy Money" and "All She Wanted". It is funny to see that Jeff follows the same strategy as Bevan with ELO Part II. Some great melodies, some rock'n'roll ones. Just what ELO was doing so well. What a pity that both of them didn't agree on a collaboration !

There will also be some weak numbers like "Alright" the opener, the jazzy "Stranger On A Quiet Street" and the bluesy one "In My Own Time". Same story with "Melting In The Sun". "Lonesome Lullaby", the closing number is a bit heavier. An average rock song.

As one could have hoped, the atmosphere of this album is truely Beatlesque. But I won't blame Jeff for this. He brings us also back to the 1975-1977 ELO years. Not better, nor worse. Bizarrely, this album is IMO inferior to the last ELO Part II one "Moment of Truth" which from the cover artwork to the last song was really an ELO album.

Jeff has tried to regenerate the ELO sound and for most of it, he succeeded. Still, the songwriting and inspiration is a bit below my expectations. Three stars.

This was the last ELO studio album to date. I really want to thank Jeff for his incredible input to this band as well as Bev Bevan. I have been missing the wonderful cello / violin section of the early days of which I would like to name Roy of course, Mike Edwards and Mike Kaminski. Let's forget here about these useless and painful albums and remember only the great ones these people have produced.

Report this review (#119112)
Posted Friday, April 20, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Well, perhaps it's not exactly the Electric Light Orchestra, since this is more like a Jeff Lynne solo project with about a gazillion guests (notably George Harrison and Ringo Star). This album is equal parts genius and pathetic. It is recommended for fans of Jeff Lynne and simpler compositions; the name of the first track pretty much sums up my feelings about this record.

"Alright" Lynne beings with a straight-ahead blues-rock song, complete with his trademark vocals and gritty guitar work between lines.

"Moment in Paradise" Gentle and straightforward, I love the vocal melodies over the simplistic motifs.

"State of Mind" Lynne gets back into the raunchy rock swing, but this song has a cheesy chorus and an even cheesier main riff that sounds a bit like "Pretty Woman" by Roy Orbison.

"Just for Love" This one song to me makes me glad I bought the album. Sure there are some gems here, but this is just a great song, with satisfying acoustic guitar, synthesizer, and Lynne's soothing vocals.

"Stranger on a Quiet Street" This is a fairly unremarkable number, with some good guitar bits; otherwise it's bland.

"In My Own Time" This slower, bluesy song begins awkwardly, but it's okay in the course of hearing this album; I certainly don't go out of my way to hear it alone.

"Easy Money" Yet another blues rocker, this is just boring, and the apparent call to himself ("Take it Jeff") before the guitar solo sounds a little pathetic.

"It Really Doesn't Matter" This is closer to the quality of "Moment in Paradise" and "Just for Love," as it is a mellower song with a strong melody.

"Ordinary Dream" The same comments about the previous track are equally true about this one. Everything about this song is pleasant, except perhaps for one part of the chorus when the title is sung. For a couple of seconds, there's an orchestral hearkening back to the old sound of ELO.

"Long Time Gone" For better or for worse, this calm song makes me think of John Mayer's R&B moments. The harmonies, however, are closer to Queen- again, for better or for worse.

"Melting in the Sun" Maybe by this point in the album, Lynne just sounds derivative through no fault of his own; here, he's channeling his old friend from The Traveling Wilburys, Tom Petty.

"All She Wanted" Back to the jangling uncomplicated rock and roll, Lynne delivers some decent slide guitar work (and good guitar work in general), but like most of the songs of this style, it falls short.

"Lonesome Lullaby" Interspersed with tremolo guitar and layers of vocals, this is a fair song, but not a strong closer.

Report this review (#209598)
Posted Wednesday, April 1, 2009 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars Phut phut

Following the 1986 ELO album "Balance of power", Jeff Lynne decided that the band had run its course, and embarked on a solo career. The rest of the band however felt that there was life in the old dog yet, and in what was clearly a legal compromise (Bev Bevan and Jeff Lynne owned the name jointly), continued as the unfortunately named Electric Light Orchestra Part 2.

In a surprise move some 14 year later, Lynne bought out Bevan's share of the original band name, and released what is effectively a solo album under the name Electric Light Orchestra. "Zoom" does feature the occasional guest, not least of whom are former Beatles Ringo and George, but Lynne plays pretty much everything you hear, writes all the songs, and produces the album. Most significantly, the only former band member to appear is Richard Tandy on one track, and the album does not (yet?) feature in the discography on the official website. On the other hand, the sleeve illustration has the giant "Wimpy" spaceship which formed the centrepiece of the band's stage show in the 1970s.

Musically, the album has more in common with the later releases by ELO, with less emphasis on the Orchestra and more on the guitar driven power pop which yielded a string of hit singles for the band. Pretty much all the tracks here would have been potential singles had they been recorded in the 1980's. We have an array of ballads, upbeat pop, straight rock and roll, and blues. There is nothing surprising about the set, and nothing remarkable either. While the songs are reasonably enjoyable, nothing jumps out as particularly inspired. From that point of view, this album has all the feel of the follow up to the rather ordinary "Balance of power".

Jeff Lynne is unquestionable a master of his craft. He has a flair for writing catchy songs, with pleasing melodies. Unfortunately, it seems he is quite happy to rest on his laurels. "Zoom" was the perfect opportunity for a fresh start, a new direction, or at least a venture into different waters. What we have though is a decidedly average ELO album. At time of writing, this remains the final ELO release.

Report this review (#210480)
Posted Sunday, April 5, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars On Electric Light Orchestra's badly marred end-of-the-70s-decade release, 'Discovery,' the group's leader Jeff Lynne asked the band's loyal followers to 'Don't Bring Me Down.' Unfortunately, they did anyway. Not because they'd become ungratefully fickle or mean-spirited, but because the material on that album was remarkably substandard. In other words, one cannot put mascara on a warthog and expect the animal to take the blue ribbon at the county fair. Fact was, ELO had reached its pinnacle with the outstanding double LP 'Out of the Blue' in 1977 and, musical gravity being what it is, there was nowhere to go from there but south to one extent or another. In a dubious attempt to remain trendy and relevant, Jeff and his thinned-out entourage had unwisely (and much to my chagrin) ventured into the slimy quagmire that was disco on 'Discovery.' And the result was that they'd been sucked into its demonic vortex, never to be seen again save for a few desperate air bubbles that rose to the murky surface from time to time with their logo on them.

However, not being one to dwell on his used-to-be's, the indefatigable Lynne refused to panic, choosing to patiently sit by the phone for opportunity to find him in the Yellow Pages and ring him up. He didn't have to wait long. The stellar reputation he'd built for himself by masterminding ELO's amazing stretch of success was not lost on those who hoped his moxie would rub off on their careers, as well. Former Beatle George came calling first and Jeff's magic touch helped his invigorated LP, 'Cloud Nine,' to revive Harrison's fading popularity. What followed that triumph was a string of musical notables such as Dave Edmunds, Randy Newman, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison (the last three mentioned, along with George Harrison, joined Jeff in forming one of the most unlikely supergroups of all time, 'The Traveling Wilburys.' Talk about being in the right place at the right time!), all of whom wanted a piece of what Lynne was offering in the way of creative oversight. He was even bestowed the hallowed honor of taking the late John Lennon's raw home demos and cleaning them up to the point where the surviving members of the Fab Four were able to create two new Beatle songs for the 'Anthology' project with them. Lucky Jeff was having so much fun working with his idols that the whole notion of trying to hold together an eclectic group like ELO seemed like a waste of valuable time in comparison so he was content to let his old band stay locked up in the prog-related mausoleum throughout the 90s.

However, his close association with the gifted luminaries he'd been hanging around with taught him more than any PHD earned at Oxford could've and, at the turn of the millennium it dawned on Jeff that perhaps he could incorporate all the knowledge and wisdom he'd absorbed into a revival of his beloved offspring, ELO. After all, a plethora of their classic tunes from 'Showdown' to 'Do Ya' to 'Telephone Line' were still being played on classic rock stations from Bonn to Honolulu so maybe all their old fans, upon hearing the news, would show up in droves and form a line around the planet to buy something new. Thus the band's thirteenth offering, 'Zoom,' came into being. I'd always been an admirer of Lynne and his quirky combo but I've been disappointed so many times by odorous 'reunion' records that I chose to take a wait-and-see stance as to what might be included in their fresh collection of songs. Alas, I never heard a note. All I gathered was that the album was a flop at the box office and that interest was so anemic that a planned tour promoting 'Zoom' had to be cancelled. I forgot all about it, choosing to be content with endless replays of guilty pleasures such as 'Livin' Thing.'

Sometime around a year ago I finally got around to giving 'Zoom' a listen or two or three and, lo and behold, it ain't too shabby. I'll put it this way, if you liked the prog-tinted pop that ELO excelled in manufacturing in the 70s then you'll most likely find a lot of satisfaction in this record. Keep in mind that it's more of a Jeff Lynne solo deal than a bonafide regrouping of past members by a long shot but who's fooling who here? He was the undisputed chief of the tribe since Roy Wood departed after their debut so don't worry, this disc won't be mistaken for something by Justin Timberlake. I can truthfully say that the best thing about 'Zoom' is that it's the first ELO album ever made without the abysmal drumming of Bev Bevan being included and that fact alone elevates its overall quality enormously. Lynne and the one-and-only Ringo Starr did the percussive duties and Mr. Harrison tossed some tasty licks in here and there to add a dash of class to the proceedings. Plainly put, what you've got here is a record more than worthy of brandishing the ELO banner.

Jeff opens impressively with the energetic 'Alright.' It's a bluesy shuffle with plenty of strong guitars, full harmonies and Lynne's distinctive vocal tones. Within seconds you'll be assured that you're listening to an Electric Light Orchestra product. 'Moment in Paradise' is next and it encapsulates Jeff's long-running affection for torch song ballads that he so excels in producing. The engineering and arranging skills employed are impeccable. My favorite cut follows, the playful 'State of Mind.' It's a guitar riff-based rocker with an incredibly catchy choral hook line. I love the way Lynne always finds a spot to inject a surprise moment to delight my ears with as he does here. 'Just For Love' owns a dense depth of field that augments this dreamy ballad appropriately but, as usual, he diverts the tune into an unexpected direction, giving it an eclectic flavoring. 'Stranger on a Quiet Street' possesses another bluesy vibe at the beginning but it doesn't remain in that restrictive mode for long. Jeff wisely allows the song to freely go where it wants. 'In My Own Time' is an example of his obsession with string-heavy nostalgia but he manages to keep it from becoming tiresome by utilizing alluring vocal lines and clever studio tricks that liven up the track.

'Easy Money' is a slice of rock shuffle stuffed inside an early 60s groove. It sports an intriguing turnaround on the bridge section and I detect an honorable nod to The Move via its raucous attitude. If there's a pothole in the trail it comes on 'Really Doesn't Matter.' Since Lynne produced Petty's wonderful 'Full Moon Fever' CD it's understandable that Tom's influence should appear at some point but the number, with its jangling stacked guitars, veers too far away from the patented ELO sound to fit into this collection. He redeems himself with the next cut, 'Ordinary Dream' because, by contrast to the previous song, this epitomizes ELO in every way, containing all the vital ingredients that made the band such a phenomenon in their heyday. 'A Long Time Gone' fully displays Jeff's superb song-crafting abilities as well as his tasteful manipulations of string-section enhancements. 'Melting in the Sun' is another low point, though. It's not terrible but it has nothing to offer that separates itself from the other cuts in general. 'All She Wanted' is a straightforward rocker that features Lynne's cool recorded-from-the-other-side-of-the-room gated drum effect that others imitate but none can quite duplicate to perfection. The album closes with 'Lonesome Lullaby,' another Petty-without-the-rough-edges ditty and it treats the listener to a very Beatle-like chorus that takes some of us geezers back to a simpler time.

As I stated earlier, 'Zoom' didn't. In comparison to ELO juggernauts like 'A New World Record,' it literally Zunk. Since 2001 wasn't exactly a stupendously positive year in Earth's history (due to mankind revealing its most horrendous side) the album's failure could easily be attributed to the populace's attention being drawn elsewhere but such is life. If you like ELO then I'm not going out on a limb to recommend you getting a copy for your listening pleasure. There's a lot more to like about it than not. As an aside, if you should by chance catch the hour-long mini-doc about Jeff Lynne called 'Mr. Blue Sky' on your TV or internet feed I think you'll find it most enlightening. Bottom line, the man is a gentle genius and 'Zoom' shows that attribute very well. 3.2 stars.

Report this review (#1020109)
Posted Saturday, August 17, 2013 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars This is Electric Light Orchestra's return, though it was without the orchestra, only Jeff Lynne singing and playing all instruments, plus a few guests. Jeff said it was a return to form to the old ELO sound, but he didn't mention it was a return to the "Out of the Blue" era sound, not the Electric Light Orchestra I or II sound, which was their two best album, their first two. "Out of the Blue" was enjoyable, if not poppy, but nothing was even close to interesting after that.

So since this is a return to the "Out of the Blue" sound, it is somewhat enjoyable but it is also mediocre and boring at other times. The songs that harken back to the doo-wop or rockabilly sounds are the best, like "In My Own Time" and "Easy Money". Also, "Just For Love" actually tries to pull some of the sound of the "Showdown" era, so it's not bad. The songs have some variation to them at least, but all of the songs come in under 4 minutes, so there is no development here. Also, the songs tend to wear thin by the half way point, and become boring. It sounds like he was just trying to fill up a CD after track 7. He tries to emulate The Beatles and comes out sounding like the "Cracker Jack Plastic Beatles Substitute" version. Doesn't help that he has half of The Beatles on here either.

If you like the simple, pre-disco days of ELO, then you will enjoy this. If you like the progressive sounds of ELO's debut and Electric Light Orchestra II albums, then you will be sorely disappointed. It is a little better than the disco years, but not as good as "Out of the Blue" and "A New World's Record". That should give you an idea. Yes he tries, but most of the time it sounds forced, where before it was more natural. No prog. Nothing inventive. Fans can have this one, and hold on to my favorite three songs.

Report this review (#1937324)
Posted Tuesday, June 5, 2018 | Review Permalink


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