Review Summary: Sometimes it's nice to be alone in the Universe...
It would seem that following its breakup in 1986 Electric Light Orchestra put the matter to rest and nothing hinted at a possible comeback. However, reality intervened and set things right. The first attempt to revive the dust-covered name chief ideologist Jeff Lynne undertook in 2001, having released the album Zoom
. To be honest, it is unclear why exactly that attempt did not pan out, but it would be wrong to put the blame on the LP itself. Still it produced such poor results that the comeback of Electric Light Orchestra folded before it even took off. And that time it looked like it. It is possible Jeff had the same thoughts, because after his failed attempt he himself poured into production duties and resurfaced only in passing with his second solo effort Long Wave
. Nevertheless, it was that that started the countdown until the release of a new ELO (with a prefix Jeff Lynne’s) album titled Alone in the Universe
Actually, after having listened to it you may feel that the LP acts as more of an opposite to the previous releases and overall sound of the band. The only recognizable features would be the Jeff Lynne’s voice and unfailing pop-rock, which still acts as a primary music backbone, and bombast present on their releases in the 1970s and 80s is now absent. Instead, we get a sense of intimacy, a feeling of homeliness, like an old friend you have not seen in a long while. And it is no accident, since Jeff wrote, played and recorded Alone in the Universe
practically by himself in his home studio, with only some assistance from his daughter Laura and engineer Steve Jay. It might be that this fact (as well as life experience gain since the breakup of Electric Light Orchestra) had the most impact on the pleasant melancholic vibe. In fact, it is nicely highlighted in the album cover, where we can see a lonely boy sitting in the middle of a field at night and the approaching (receding?) spaceship with the band’s name on the bottom.
Despite these mood changes, Jeff stays true to himself in the rest. Having thrown aside a larger scale that does not abide with his age, he still sticks to the maxims of his rock ’n’ roll idols and musical methods that served him well during the band’s golden period. As such we see things more typical for the 1970s, though they do not feel as out of style or out of use, for example, a reggae rhythm in When the Night Comes
, a Mersey Beat-style track Ain’t That a Drag
that acts as a salute to the sound of the 1960s, or One Step at a Time
with its disco inflections. But Jeff is not afraid to widen his repertoire a little bit, presenting an autobiographic and charmingly simple When I Was a Boy
or similar in its simplicity and effectiveness All My Life
It would be wrong to state that the musician is just trying to cash in on a well-known name. On the contrary, Alone in the Universe
surprisingly turned out to be able to stand on its own two feet, unlike some other attempts to lure in modern audience. Jeff does not try to replicate the ELO sound in the time of its peak, instead he released a solid album that provides a concentrated dose of his strengths, leaving no place for misses. And while the release will not stand in the same echelon as the best albums by the band, it definitely deserves attention.