Electric Light Orchestra

Epic Records, 2001


REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck


Zoom has seen its fair share of controversy among ELO fans. Some argue it isn't an ELO album at all but rather a Jeff Lynne solo album. But what they need to realize is that ELO was Jeff Lynne, who provided the direction and vision for the music.

So the fact that he has reclaimed the ELO name and recorded an album without peripheral players shouldn’t matter. The music further accentuates this fact; Zoom was recorded in 2001, but damn if it doesn’t sound like vintage ELO. This is not the experimental sound the band expressed on their debut No Answermy_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 , nor the more sophisticated pop of “Roll Over Beethoven.” This is pure, Discovery-era ELO.

I say Discovery because if you listen, that album was much less ornate than its predecessors and even featured a disco sound. Zoom is thankfully not disco, but it follows in that tradition. The orchestral aspect of ELO does rear its head but not as much as you would expect. Luckily, Lynne managed to craft some good pop/rock to make up for the disparity.

In fact, some of the better numbers from Zoom are those that sound the least like ELO. “Easy Money,” is a throwback to 50s style rock and roll and “Melting In The Sun,” goes for the Dylan vibe and captures it perfectly (Duke, you were right).

Of course, a great deal of the songs are directly influenced by The Beatles, as any good ELO fan knows. What's interesting is that Ringo Starr and George Harrison played on Zoom, perhaps a return favor for Lynne producing the two Beatles tracks on the Anthology discs of 1996. Of these songs, “A Long Time Gone” could have been an outtake from the Abbey Road sessions, featuring some absolutely stunning harmonies. “Just For Love” follows the same pattern, with a hint of “Strawberry Fields Forever.”

The best songs, though, are Lynne through and through. “State Of Mind” recaptures that “Don’t Bring Me Down” spirit with its infectious chorus and stomping beat. The lush ballad “Moment In A Paradise,” is Lynne at his most romantic; check out his soaring falsetto vocals. Best of all is the stunning “Stranger On A Quiet Street,” which has the best use of the strings, fading in and out, moving with the flow of the track perfectly. Romantic and mysterious, “Stranger” molds the past ELO slower songs, and had it been present on Out Of The Blue, it would have been a hit.

There is no question that Zoom is derivative of other artists, but that is the way it has always been with ELO. Jeff Lynne has gone back and recaptured what made the Electric Light Orchestra so very special with this album.

Rating: A-

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© 2006 Jeff Clutterbuck and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Epic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.