Friday, November 2, 2012

Album Review: “Long Wave” by Jeff Lynne

Jeff Lynne hardly needs an introduction. The man founded one of the iconic prog rock bands in history, Electric Light Orchestra. he went on to be the force behind that most unusual of “super groups”,  Traveling Wilburys along with George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, and Tom Petty. Additionally Lynne has produced recordings for artists such as The Beatles, Brian Wilson, Roy Orbison, Dave Edmunds, Del Shannon and Tom Petty.  In 2008, The Washington Times named Lynne the fourth greatest record producer in music history. He has co-written songs with Petty and also with George Harrison, whose 1987 album Cloud Nine was co-produced by Lynne and Harrison. Among the many compositions to his credit are such well-known hits as "Livin' Thing", "Evil Woman", "Turn to Stone", "Do Ya", "Xanadu", "Strange Magic", "Sweet Talkin' Woman", "Telephone Line", "Shine a Little Love", "Mr. Blue Sky", "Hold on Tight", "All Over the World", and "Don't Bring Me Down".


Long Wave

  • Audio CD (October 9, 2012) Original Release Date: 2012
  • Number of Discs: 1 Label: FRONTIERS ASIN: B008Y5OW20
  • In-Print Editions: Audio CD | Vinyl | MP3 Music


Not bad for a kid from Shard End, Birmingham whose first guitar, an acoustic instrument, was bought for him by his father, for £2. By the way, he’s still playing it in 2012. In 1963 he formed a group with Robert Reader and David Walsh using little more than Spanish guitars and cheap electrical instruments to produce music. They were originally named "The Rockin' Hellcats" before changing to "The Handicaps" and finally to "The Andicaps". They practiced at Shard End Community Centre and performed weekly. However, in 1964, Robert Reader and David Walsh left the band and Lynne brought in replacements. At the end of 1964, Lynne decided to leave the band to replace Mick Adkins of the local band "The Chads".Some time in or after 1965, he acquired his first item of studio recording equipment, a Bang & Olufsen 'Beocord 2000 De Luxe' stereo reel-to-reel tape recorder, which allowed multi-tracking between left and right channels.He says it "taught me how to be a producer".In 1966, Lynne joined the line-up of The Nightriders as guitarist. The band would soon change their name to The Idle Race, a name allegedly given to them sarcastically by his grandmother Evelyn Lynne who probably disapproved of pop music as not being a proper job.

“The Idle Race” w/Jeff Lynne on lead guitar

Despite recording two critically acclaimed albums with the band and producing the second, success eluded him. In 1970, Lynne accepted a lifeline from friend Roy Wood to join the line-up of the more successful band The Move. The Move scored nine Top 20 UK singles in five years, but were among the most popular British bands not to find any success in the United States. Lynne contributed many songs to The Move's last two albums while formulating, with Roy Wood and Bev Bevan, a band built around a fusion of rock and classical music. This project would eventually become the highly successful Electric Light Orchestra (ELO). Problems led to Wood's departure in 1972, after the band's eponymous first album, leaving Lynne as the band's dominant creative force. Thereafter followed a succession of band personnel changes and increasingly popular albums which we’ll get into deeper in the next review which features not only the most popular commercial and critical success of Lynne’s career, but also yet another place we shall see those producing credentials but a life-long love, “ …what I love doing is overdubbing and making new sounds out of things that are sometimes quite ordinary…", says Lynne.

The Move circa 1970 w/ Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne

As much as Lynne loves “tinkering” with gadgets, as he has from the start with that old Beocord. Right up there with things that occupy his mind and move his soul are the songs and music that influenced him when he was growing up, and even after he became a star in his own right. Long Wave celebrates the music of a time when Lynne's lifelong passion for music began, evoking an era back when old standards were just giving way to rock & roll. He somehow makes pre-rock standards like "Bewitched, Bothered And Bewildered," "Smile" and "Love Is A Many Splendored Many Thing"--along with a few of his favorite gems from the Sixties such as the first single "Mercy, Mercy," "Let It Rock" and "So Sad"--his own with these loving versions. Lynne's deeply felt and musically brilliant one-man-band takes add up to an inspired love letter to music itself--and an exquisite reflection of the way songs grace and change our lives.

“Have Mercy” Jeff Lynne from the album “Long Wave” 2012

"I call this new album Long Wave because all of the songs I sing on it are the ones heard on long wave radio when I was a kid growing up in Birmingham, England," LYNNE explains. "These songs take me back to that feeling of freedom in those days and summon up the feeling of first hearing those powerful waves of music coming in on my old crystal set. My dad also had the radio on all the time, so some of these songs have been stuck in my head for 50 years. You can only imagine how great it felt to finally get them out of my head after all these years."

Though Electric Light Orchestra was formed to accommodate Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne's desire to create modern rock and pop songs with classical overtones. The sound that got them known as "The English guys with the big fiddles", ELO were on the driving edge of bands starting to add, and even play, classical music and classically arranged music. Yes, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Jethro Tull, and even The Moody Blues (who had been adding elements of classical for awhile) brought some order to the rebellious and wild side of rock and roll. Some think this was wrong for rock and roll, however the youngsters of the 60s were, as a whole, ready to embrace, if not the order, then a growth and maturity in how their music was composed. In addition to classical elements, Lynne used all the studio tricks which were to become the fare of the day for years to come; over dubbing, synthesizers, mixing orchestra strings with blazing rock guitars, effects and on live shows they used coloured lasers light shows, fog machines. and highly produced stage shows. But behind this urge to ‘make rock grow up’, there was still the lessons from before rock. The old songs, and before Lynne was successful in his many bands leading up to ELO. In many ways that respect for the ‘old’ music was what led to the formation of Traveling Wilburys with three of his idols, George Harrison, Bob Dylan, and most importantly Roy Orbison.

“Bewitched, Bothered And Bewildered” Jeff Lynne “Long Wave.”
Long Wave comes full circle and really surpasses The Willbury’s in paying his respects to his roots. Included are standards from “Bewitched, Bothered And Bewildered” written by Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart to “Smile” co-written by Charlie Chaplin and made famous by Nat King Cole to “So Sad” made famous by The Everly Brothers and Chuck Berry’s driving “Let It Rock”  and “Mercy Mercy,” a soulful early Sixties gem from Don Covay and The Goodtimers and as Lynne recalls, the first song he ever learned and played professionally. What’s more the album has, in contrast to ELOs studio and live wizardry, a Lo-Fi feel. Lynne plays all the instruments on the album, so there had to be some over dubbing and mastering magic going on, but that is the extent of it. The band feels like a group that might have played a sock hop in the high school gym back around 1958 or so. Further, the instruments sound vintage, and I’d be willing to bet that that £2 guitar is somewhere, if not everywhere on this wonderful album.


The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

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