Monday, June 21, 2010


The buzz about what may be on the horizon just got a lot louder in the past few days.  It started with this, an article by Adam Sherwin in a UK-based media-oriented news website, followed by this video sent to Nicolas at ELO Discovery. Apparently, Neil Hannon blurted out during a gig that an ELO album (not a Jeff Lynne solo album) is coming out soon... and then he was abruptly shushed.

Here's my unsolicited take on it and take from it what you will:  Of course, only Jeff knows what's happening and over years, we've learned that he announces nothing until it's totally set in stone.  For the record, I'm not totally convinced it'll be a new ELO album.  And this is just an opinion, but frankly I don't think it should be. (The remakes collection, of which I'm just assuming there is one, could be a different story.)

Why?  Take what happened 10 years ago.  The timing seemed to be right, Jeff had the sheer joy of playing with a new Pro-Tools suite in his house and came up a nice collection of new tunes.  Nostalgia for other bands of ELO's genre seemed quite high.  Then came the box set, which seemed to usher in the classic stuff again fairly well.  Then, the new album was released with some fanfare.  And because it was labeled as Electric Light Orchestra, the critics (and indeed some fans) automatically approached it with raised expectations.  The result: the critics shrugged their shoulders and the album sadly went nowhere fast.

Oh, and the tour.  Take, for instance, the tour stop closest to where I am, the First Union (now Wachovia) Center in Philadelphia, a 20,000 seat arena.  Look, I love ELO, I grew up listening to them, I'd be ecstatic to think they can pull it off.  But, even I knew there was no way a band who hadn't had a hit single in 15 years would fill a 20,000 seat arena as the headlining act.  No way.  As it turned out, the tour was called off before it even launched, clearly because ticket sales barely made a sound.  And $80 tickets didn't help.

I think it might be good to try a different approach. Let the guy take a crack at a solo career again; you can still drive home the point that this was the guy who brought us ELO.  But try to gear it away from the classic rock genre.  There is a huge case to be made for approaching non-commercial radio stations (ie WXPN, World Cafe-carrying stations, etc) for promoting and spreading the word about the album, not to mention using Facebook and MySpace.  Treat it as a new beginning for Jeff instead of resurrecting the past again.  Regina Spektor's Folding Chair (produced by Jeff Lynne) got steady airplay on these stations (at least here in Philly) and the track fit perfectly in their playlist.  A Jeff Lynne solo record, I think, would accomplish that before an  ELO record would.  It's too difficult to sell a new ELO track to a classic rock station.  People who listen to classic rock, want only classic rock.  Is Tom Petty's new record getting heavy airplay on classic rock stations?  I really don't know that answer, but XPN played at least 2 different songs in a 3 hour span just today... and it's their featured album of the week, so it will get way more airplay than any classic rock station.  I'd bet the house on it.  Flat out forget Top 40.

And for the love of God, if there's going to be a tour of any kind, try to sell out smaller venues first before attempting huge arenas that only Lady Gaga, Coldplay and Beyonce can sell these days.  I thought that was a no-brainer.

I want any new record of Jeff's to succeed.  But calling a new album ELO and slapping a spaceship on it didn't work very well a decade ago.  Even though we've seen ELO songs get great exposure in high-profile commercials in recent years, I don't see any evidence that same strategy of 10 years ago will work now.


Anonymous said...

I like the design, but the background should be blue. It is about Jeff after all and he loves his Blues.

Anonymous said...

Not a bad design, but a bit on the dark side (nothin' to do with star wars :).....)
a lighter appearance is more reader friendly....
A new 'ELO' album would be great, but no Richard Tandy , Bev Bevan and, of course Kelly is a non starter !.
'Zoom' should have been "The Electric Lynne Orchestra".

Anonymous said...

To be honest, I don't care what you call it. Solo album, ELO, Jeff and friends, whatever.
Let's here some new material!!!!

Anonymous said...

First of all I think it's misleading to distinguish between a Jeff Lynne "solo album" and an ELO album, for this suggests that all ELO albums have been group efforts, which isn't true at all. It does not even hold for Seventies ELO.

Still, I am pretty sure that Jeff Lynne won't release his next album as "ELO" if it's only him playing. I think he has changed his mind since the release of Zoom. But there might be two albums, a Jeff Lynne album and a second album featuring Richard Tandy and, possibly, Bevan. We have to wait and see.

swarlock said...

You hit the nail on the head, Jerry.

I expect Jeff's new album to contain some ELO oriented tune to be in the mix but that will be the extent of it.

As nice as it is, It's time for some fans get past that notion and let Jeff do his own thing.

Mark said...

I totally agree with your article about Jeff's new album. ELO had its time and a wonderful time it was! Let us cherish that. Many members of great bands had successful careers in their own right. Jeff Lynne is a well-known name in the musicworld, with a lot of loyal fans. His new album could be successful, but a little more publicity wouldn't hurt him.
I'm looking forward to his new music. Maybe he will use a different approach, due to his working with Regina Spektor. Let's wait and see (and hear!).

Jerry said...

@Mark: Exactly!

10 years ago when Zoom was Jeff's first (presumably) full record with Pro-Tools. He got to play around and experiment with effects and other things for his new songs. In that sense, it was a better idea to call it an ELO album.

We are well past that now. Brainwashed, Highway Companion, Rossif Sutherland, Far... all really excellent productions for a record maker. I'd ideally like to hear Jeff in the same vein. Fresh new ideas during a time he worked with some interesting characters.

swarlock said...

Agreed on all counts.

Dan Brooks said...

I think you're right, Jerry. There's just something to be said for Jeff going on in his own name. I loved Zoom, but it's time to call a spade a spade; I think Robert Pollard of GBV has the right idea. He could put out his solo records under the GBV name -- he'd sell a lot more copies -- but there's something not right about it. He's in a different place now, and so is Jeff. Personally, I'm excited to hear a Jeff Lynne album -- one that is not restricted to the expectations that come with the ELO name.

Anonymous said...

May I point out that we just don't know what kind of sound Jeff is aiming at on his new album(s).

We might be in for a big surprise. I could imagine that one of those new albums WILL SOUND a lot like classic ELO - to a higher extent than "Zoom" did, probably. Jeff MIGHT WANT to revisit some of those classic ELO soundscapes.

I am still hoping that two new albums will be released, one of them sounding like ELO (Even though it might be released under "Jeff Lynne")and the other one exploring different, new sounds. I don't think that Jeff has to make a decision in that respect. As he said in an interview he is working on a couple of new albums.

Jerry said...

Yes, that was a part of my point I left out of the original post. I assumed Jeff spent the last few years recording songs to be released as a solo project. My fear was that someone would persuade him to release it as ELO.

When I read the article about Neil Hannon, it gave me the impression that the 'solo' plans behind the scenes were changing.

But for now, it sounds like the solo plans are still on track, which I personally believe is the better option.

Question is: what's gonna be on that second record?? ;-)

Anonymous said...

Personally - I hope Jeff DOES visit some of the old ELO soundscapes (circa Face The Music to Out Of The Blue) Full orchestral backing / Choir / Clever keyboard effects etc...)
I absolutely love that period in the ELO timeline - talking of "Time" I loved that shift in musical direction too - a very clever album and a surprising (at the time) offering from Jeff showing us another side to his musical genius.
His "less is more" comment on the production front was a disappointment, as some of the "less is more" stuff has no trademark JL in it !!.
His "more is more" stuff is miles better !.
Whatever his future offerings bring I hope "more is more", one more big scale offering with everything including the kitchen sink thrown in - choir / full orchestra / over the top prodution - whether it is JL or ELO, I don't care - I just want the album to be brimming with everything the Jeff Lynne genius has to offer (and more !!) - can't wait !!

swarlock said...

What I'd like to see come out of it is a middle ground aspect where you have is a less is more/more is more vibe.

I know we'd like to think we can control the direction of his career
in one way or another but it's his decision to make no matter what anybody tells him.

Anonymous said...

Middle ground is OK - and everybody is entitled to their own opinion. JL is entitled to progress in any direction he chooses, and to choose any style he wishes (I think he is good enough to succeed using any musical style - he is that good).
Personally I like "more is more" - the more the merrier ! - but if the direction takes on a "Seasick Steve" approach say, I would still buy it as a fan !.
Still, I wouldn't agree with an opinion just to keep somebody happy - and I would like to think that the same would go for any opinion that I expressed too.
Getting a bit fed up though, waiting for the recorded stuff to be released - but then JL can choose that eventuallity too !.

Bo said...

Any news on the progress ?

Are the - re-recording - of a hits album still in the cards as well ?

Jeff Lynne was/is ELO, I like the comments that his "more is more". I like the full ELO soundscapes, but I also love the acoustic Save me now...I think he has one of the best voices in rock/pop of the last 40 years. So underrated.

Anonymous said...

How much do you think a original press traveling wilburys signed by George would be worth?

PS: it's going to be a solo Album.

hoolaley said...

I would just love it if Jeff cranked out an unplugged acoustic album. Just him, jamming on a guitar, dump some of his awesome backing vocals on so he can harmonize and melt our ear lobes off, and maybe toss in some congas or bongos or whatever some of those really cool drums are called, and maybe even a stand up bass. But...if it were nothing but him, his axe and a mic, I would pay a million dollars for a copy. I love his voice. I love his harmonies. I would love to hear some raw, simplistic tunes, get it all down to the nitty gritty. Just a man and his guitar. Yeah, that'd rock.