Long Wave

Jeff Lynne

Frontiers Records, 2012


REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck


Jeff Lynne has not received nearly enough credit for his career. Yes, Electric Light Orchestra did not change the face of popular music like Lynne's idols (The Beatles) did, but when it came to writing a pop song, there are few who were better than Lynne. His production style has come to reach the point of cliché status: there has never been a record he produced that you didn't know exactly how it would sound. That tight, clean production has graced albums from people like George Harrison, Joe Walsh, Roy Orbison Tom Petty, Brian Wilson, and oh yes, The Beatles. That's pretty close to a Murderer's Row.

Lynne has never been one to hide from his influences: hell, he name-checked "Hey Jude" in the mid ‘70s on one ELO track. Many have said that if The Beatles had continued, they would have eventually come to sound like the Alan Parson Project or the Electric Light Orchestra. Despite that history of homage and obvious fandom, Lynne has never been one for cover songs ("Roll Over Beethoven" not withstanding). my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Long Wave offers up the first venue in which Lynne looks back to his roots, but in a way one might not expect.

Instead of highlighting songs from The Beatles or similar artists from the ‘60s, Lynne looks even further back to the "ones heard on long wave radio when I was kid." A quick glance at the writer’s list of the tracklist reveals names like Berry, Chaplin, Orbison, Hammerstein, etc. These names are perhaps not as familiar to the modern audience, but to an older generation, those are legends.

It would be foolish to think that Long Wave deviates from the "formula;” this is a Lynne record through and through. The production is not as intricate as an ELO record, but the sound is there. What makes this a special album, though, is how Lynne adapts that formula to the varying styles of songs present. "So Sad" is a country song run through the ELO machine, while "Running Scared" is the best possible version of a Roy Orbison song done by Jeff Lynne, even down to the soaring sustained vocals at the end.

These are not slavish interpretations; they are honorific. There is a strong respect for the material, and it's obvious Lynne did not want to render them completely unrecognizable. Some don't deviate from their source at all: "Let It Rock" is the Chuck Berry classic practically note for note. The way Lynne reproduces the brass sections of "Beyond The Sea" with twin guitars is a simple difference that doesn't change the character of the song, merely the sound.

A few years ago, Phil Collins released a very similar album, "Going Back,” which was essentially a Motown covers album. The difference in quality between Long Wave and that record doesn't stem from the songs that each artist chose; Lynne's record works because he did it his way. I admire the precision with which Collins reproduced the classic Motown sound, but there was nothing new save his vocals. If I wanted to hear 25 Motown songs I could listen to the originals. Long Wave most certainly does not overstay its welcome in that regard; no song runs over three minutes and the standard edition contains only ten songs. But more importantly, Lynne didn't just reproduce the music he loved, the music that inspired him that he would say lives in him. He did it his own way, while keeping their spirit. That is much more difficult to do.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2012 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 Frontiers Records, and is used for informational purposes only.