By John M. Borack
JEFF LYNNE’S ELO
From Out of Nowhere
Columbia (CD, LP)
Like its predecessor (2015’s Alone in the Universe), From Out of Nowhere is essentially a Jeff Lynne solo record; engineer Steve Jay plays a bit of percussion and longtime ELO keyboardist Richard Tandy takes a solo on one track, but Lynne laid down everything else in his home studio. The results are predictably melodic and enjoyable throughout, with Lynne eschewing any of the early Electric Light Orchestra adventurousness or bombast in favor of relatively compact, memorable tunes. In short, From Out of Nowhere is a lot closer to the vibe of the Traveling Wilburys and “Telephone Line” than “10538 Overture.”
Highlights are plentiful: the opening “From Out of Nowhere” (Lynne says the chord sequence just sort of came to him, hence the title), the '50s doo-wop pastiche “Goin’ Out on Me,” and the Latin-tinged “All My Love” (Lynne’s ghostly high harmonies here are wonderful) are all winners, while “Down Came the Rain” sounds as if it leapt straight off Out of the Blue and showcases Lynne’s prowess at crafting pristine pop rock.
A few of the tunes are vaguely reminiscent of earlier ELO catalog moments without sounding like ripoffs: the downcast “Losing You” recalls “Shangri-La,” and the rockin’ “One More Time” (the one with Tandy’s piano solo) certainly brings to mind “Rock 'n' Roll is King,” from its jaunty melody to the little stop-start bit towards the end. (Lynne is one of the few songwriters who can make a lyric such as “Come on baby, time to rock and roll” sound like a celebration rather than a tired cliché.) “Time of Our Life” is in a similar vein both musically and lyrically and was written in response to the pure joy Lynne experienced when he and his current band played Wembley.
The only troublesome aspect of From Out of Nowhere is the “Jeff Lynne drum sound,” which has long been something of a bugaboo—listeners either don’t mind it or they despise it, but here it sounds distressingly flat and sometimes a touch intrusive. Still, Jeff Lynne’s way with a classic-sounding melody supersedes any sonic issues.