From Out Of Nowhere, the latest album by Jeff Lynne’s Electric Light Orchestra, was released on November 1, 2019. This review is being written in real time upon the first listening of the album so all impressions are first impressions.
From Out of Nowhere
The album opener is a solid mid-tempo Beatles pastiche with some trademark Jeff Lynne composition tricks including an instantly likable chord progression.
Right out of that gate, however, it is clear that Lynne’s current production style has gone unchanged since his previous ELO/solo outings. Appearing to record every instrument — and inexplicably his vocal — directly into the sound board, there’s not a lot of air in this recording but, luckily, he doesn’t lean too heavy on reverb so the wall of sound is defined and coherent.
Track two is another mid-tempo rocker that feels more like an ELO song than we’ve heard from Lynne in a while. Again, a great chord progression and elements that make it sound as if it was meant for George Harrison’s album, Cloud 9 (which Lynne produced). Had Harrison been alive, there is no doubt that he would have been a guest artist on this track and delivered a more inspired guitar solo.
Help Yourself is only two seconds shorter than the album opener and at a relatively similar tempo and sound, the pacing of the album is already a question mark.
All My Love
The third song follows Help Yourself’s abrupt ending as a maraca driven mid-tempo ballad. Upon first listen, this may be the first dud on the album as the melody feels unfinished and the production sounds as if a clear direction on the sound was never established. Not an unpleasant tune but at the two-minute mark, it has run its course with a minute remaining.
Down Came the Rain
Finally we get to a mid-tempo rocker! Track four immediately hearkens back to Lynne’s days with the Traveling Wilburrys but as the song continues the melody and production style feel more like an outtake from Discovery.
As has been the case for the last few albums, the critical element that made ELO standout — the lush, heavy string arrangements — are sorely missed on this track but, overall, this track is an early standout as the most “ELO” sounding thus far.
If you aren’t hooked on this song within the first 30 seconds, check your pulse. From the intro to the chord progressions, this song is everything we love about Jeff Lynne and there are finally some classic ELO sounding strings on this track.
Forget what was said about the earlier tracks, this is now the best song on the album. I only wish I could get my sound system loud enough to truly enjoy this track as it should be. This may be the best ballad Jeff Lynne has written since Midnight Blue.
One More Time
It took six tracks to get there but we are finally at the full-throttle rocker portion of the album. Sadly, this song wasn’t released on the previous album because it would have been a great moment on his recent US tour. I would be a little worried about the upcoming lawsuit he’s bound to deal with for his Andrew Lloyd Webber lift in the string section, though.
All in all, this is high quality rock and should have opened this album.
Two rockers in a row, now we’re talking. This song’s verse doesn’t immediately grab you but the chorus is one of the best hooks on the album thus far. If there is one song so far that will be a definite slow burn that will appreciate upon repeat listening, this may be it.
Goin’ Out on Me
Jeff loves paying homage to his early rock heroes and this one starts off as a direct quote of The Beatles’ This Boy. Luckily it quickly becomes another classic Jeff Lynne 6/8 drag with some very good lead guitar work.
Time of Our Life
Initially, the verse is average bordering on forgettable with lyrics far too personal as he sings about his concert at Wembley Stadium. Where the verse lacks, the chorus more than makes up with a great hook, classic ELO harmonies and even a nod to Telephone Line. Overall, it’s a perfectly fine song but probably the weakest on the album and won’t likely appreciate with repeated listens.
The final track on the album sees the collection ending with a somber, slow, bluesy tune. Although the guitar lead is gorgeous, the overall vibe of the song would benefit from a Jeff Lynne vocal in full belt. The song never really takes off and there’s very little build but it works as an album closer as it would drive the pacing of the album to a screeching halt anywhere else.
There are 10 songs on this 32 minute album and they’re all good, some are even very good, and at least one or two are great. While the pacing and sequencing of this album could be rearranged to strengthen the overall product, the songs on their own stand by themselves.
If you’ve become a fan of Lynne’s recent production style — acoustic strumming in both channels, electric arpegios in both channels, standard ELO compressed snare drums, and a sinfully close-mic’d vocal — you will enjoy From Out of Nowhere. The real strength comes when Lynne’s current style is fused with the classic elements that made ELO one of rock’s best and most inventive bands.
This album features Jeff Lynne on all of the rock band instruments which speaks to his incredible talents but when you hear the piano work of Richard Tandy on One More Time (the lone track with a second instrumentalist) you long for an album that featured more instrumentalists. Lynne is a great guitar player but there are much better keyboard and drummers to have playing behind you.
More than Alone in the Universe or Zoom (which were both very good albums), From Out of Nowhere fits nicely within the ELO catalog. It’s easy to hear how ELO would have evolved into this type of record had they continued recording as a band over the last 30 years.
At the end of the day, full band or Lynne solo, it’s always good to hear new music from Jeff Lynne and his output as a solo artist as well as under the ELO moniker since 2001 has been consistent and enjoyable. 12 hours into the release of From Out of Nowhere, one hopes it isn’t another four years until the next album.
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