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Electric Light Orchestra: Zoom (reissue)

Growing up as a teenager in the late '70s & early '80s, I got pretty enamored with the sophisticated sounds of the Electric Light Orchestra. Though I was quickly getting swept away with hard rock and heavy metal at the time, ELO were one of a handful of progressive/pop acts that I really loved, with albums like Out of the Blue, Face the Music, Discovery and others getting regular spins on my turntable, and I still regularly turn to the band all these years later in 2013 when I'm in the mood to hear some lush & melodic orchestral rock music. As the 1980's wore on, bandleader Jeff Lynne eventually broke up the band to focus on solo material and his supergroup Traveling Wilburys, creating a huge void for all us ELO fans out there. But, in 2001, word came of Lynne resurrecting the Electric Light Orchestra once again, and the result was this album Zoom, now being reissued by Frontiers Records.

To my surprise, Zoom was, for the most part, Jeff Lynne doing his 'one man band' thing, masquerading as ELO for the album. No Bev Bevan, no Kelly Groucutt, none of the flamboyant string players, and only Richard Tandy from the classic line-up making a brief appearance. Mostly, it's Lynne handling all vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards, drums, and programming, with the occasional guest on a handful of tracks, like Ringo Starr, George Harrison, Rosie Vela, and a few others. At the time of this release, the album really did nothing for me, despite the fact that there are a ton of lush melodies reminiscent of the classic ELO sound, but all those fantastic keyboard layers, cellos & violin, and Bevan's pounding drums were missing. It just didn't seem like an ELO album...

Fast forward to 2013, twelve years later, and listening to this album for the first time in many, many years, I can say that it actually deserved a better break than I gave it originally. Yeah, I still miss the overabundance of strings and Tandy's exquisite keyboard colors, not to mention the powerful drums of Mr. Bevan, but there are some really good tunes here. "Alright", "State of Mind", "Just For Love", and "Stranger On a Quiet Street" are really good, Beatles influenced pop songs, and "It Doesn't Really Matter" and "Ordinary Dream" could have easily come off Eldorado thanks to some dreamy keys & strings. However, too many of the songs still sound too much like Lynne's other band Traveling Wilburys for my taste, as I really can't accept the whole twangy rockabilly thing in an ELO context. Lynne for his part has never sounded better, his vocals still outstanding regardless of what style the song is in, and his guitar work is crisp throughout, dueling nicely alongside Harrison's slide guitar on "All She Wanted" and getting quite riffy on the harder rocking "Lonesome Lullaby".

Though there are a few guest cello players on a few songs as well as some other string arrangements here and there, for me there's just not enough of it, nor enough keyboards, but I'm being nit picky perhaps. Vocally this is an outstanding release, as I don't think an ELO record had vocals this lush since Out of the Blue, but instrumentally it's not quite as captivating. Of the bonus tracks, "One Day" is a decent enough though still kind of bland pop tune, but I do like Lynne's piano & guitar work on it, and the live version of "Turn to Stone" is, as you would expect, great, though why they didn't include it on the also just released Electric Light Orchestra Live CD is beyond me.

So, to sum it up, it took Jeff Lynne 15 years to resurrect ELO for 2001's Zoom, and while it might not be the classic I was looking for when it was first release, it's held up pretty well and actually is a fairly enjoyable little album when you look back on it. Guess I have to thank Frontiers Records for helping me figure out the error of my ways.

Track Listing
1) Alright
2) Moment in Paradise
3) State of Mind
4) Just For Love
5) Stranger On a Quiet Street
6) In My Own Time
7) Easy Money
8) It Really Doesn't Matter
9) Ordinary Dream
10) A Long Time Gone
11) Melting In the Sun
12) All She Wanted
13) Lonesome Lullaby
14) One Day-bonus track
15) Turn To Stone-live bonus track

Added: May 10th 2013
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 2002
Language: english

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