This must be the best-sounding
album to have come out in 2015. Not surprising, considering that it is the work
of one of the best producers to have ever graced a recording studio in the last
decades. Jeff Lynne needs no
introduction, the letterhead to his calling card being the anagram of the Electric Light Orchestra, a pop-rock
icon that, with Alone in the Universe,
after 14 years has decided to come out from extended hibernation. This
multi-talented musician who can turn his hand to just about any instrument saw
this new project through from start to finish and shouldn't be confused with ELO Part II, which is the property of
his ex-bandmate Bev Bevan. There can
really be no argument as to who is the real deal.
The younger amongst us might have first appreciated his music in the late '80s under the pseudonyms Otis and Clayton Wilbury, which he used to form the superband, the Traveling Wilburys together with his pals George Harrison, Roy Orbison and Tom Petty.
Having just celebrated his 65th birthday (he was born in 1947), Lynne doesn't appear to have any desires to retire just yet. Proof of this is his appearance up on stage in London's Hyde Park in 2014. But where he feels most at home – and where he most shines - is in the confines of a recording studio, producing such big names as Joe Walsh (Analog Man, 2012) and re-editing or re-recording old ELO songs.
Lynne returns with another tribute to The Beatles, his main (and perhaps only) source of inspiration and a band that, in his own blatant admittance, has served as his guiding light throughout his career. In Alone in the Universe, all you have to do is close your eyes to recapture the lazy steel strings of George Harrison, his great friend and the man to whom this album is truly dedicated.
Lynne doesn't keep ahold of the guitar for all the tracks. In fact, in the very first one, When I Was a Boy, his piano playing is something that Paul McCartney himself would have wished he’d composed. The first of a dozen songs – sweet, warming, pleasant and soft harmonies that rid us of our nostalgia but at the same time seem to fail to diverge from a measured rhythm that can often become so overbearing. The only exception perhaps being in Ain't it a Drag, an elegant rock 'n' roll song that would have suited Tom Petty and Roy Orbison down to the ground.
Too much sugar. Lynne has erased all trace of disco music and replaced it with tranquil tones befitting a backwater pub with velvet-lined walls. Pop for adults in its purest form, music for us all that has been crafted to perfection. The work of a solitary genius that, for a fleeting moment, overshadowed the 'Fab Four' themselves.