Lynne Me Your Ears: A Tribute to Jeff Lynne
Like the Bee Gees, the rock cred of the Electric Light Orchestra has been severely tarnished (irrevocably perhaps) by the fact that the most popular phase of its existence (circa 1979-1980) coincided with the now-dreaded disco boom. Worst still, when hit songs like “Shine A Little Love,” “Last Train to London” and “Xanadu” will be forever associated with that most-maligned period of rock history.
The fact remains that Jeff Lynne – the man behind the mega-success of ELO – is probably one of the most influential musicians of all time. Thankfully, the good people at Not Lame Records have decided to make a stand and establish really how deeply Lynne’s influence is felt in the world of modern pop music. Instead of producing an ELO tribute, Not Lame has rightly given credit where it’s due and Lynne Me Your Ears covers other periods of Lynne’s work including the Idle Race, The Move, the Traveling Wilburys and his own solo material.
So indeed, Lynne Me Your Ears is not only a labor of love but also a genuine collection of first-rate performances and interpretations by some of modern pop’s finest practitioners.
First off, we have the better known artists: Todd Rundgren’s refreshing update of “Bluebird is Dead” (from On the Third Day); Sixpence None the Richer’s twee deconstruction of “On the Run” (from Discovery); legendary producer Tony Visconti’s ‘man on the street’ rendering of “Mr. Blue Sky” (from Out of the Blue); ex-Move singer Carl Wayne’s theatric & poignant reading of “Steppin’ Out” (from Out of the Blue), Peter Holsapple’s surprisingly faithful “No Time” (from The Move’s Message from the Country); Bowie sidesman Earl Slick’s kick-ass treatment of “Ma Ma Ma Belle” (from On the Third Day) and Jason Falkner’s ‘on the money’ version of the fabulous “Do Ya” (from A New World Record).
Not Lame artists prove that they’re not the poor relations here: Michael Carpenter’s “Every Little Thing” (from Jeff Lynne’s Armchair Theatre) recalls the late 1970s pub rock of Elvis Costello and Squeeze; Mark Helm’s “Strange Magic” (from Face the Music) lives up to the charisma of the original; Doug Powell’s “Can’t Get It Out of My Head” (from Eldorado) proves that even sans full blown orchestra & choirs, the song is as masterful and affecting; The Shazam’s (named after a Move album no less) “Twilight” (from Time) is sheer bloody power pop majesty and Rick Altizer’s “Boy Blue” (from Eldorado) is an irresistible confection.
And the fun doesn’t end there, brothers and sisters in pop: Neilson Hubbard and Venus Hum should be commended for putting together the best “Xanadu” these ears have ever been blessed to encounter; PFR show us what the Byrds, at the peak of their powers, would have done with “Livin’ Thing” (from A New World Record); Sparkle*jets UK’s clever rendition of “Above the Clouds” (from A New World Record); Fleming and John’s truly stirring “Eldorado,” Pat Buchanan’s feisty “Rockaria!” (from A New World Record) which actually manages to out-rock the real McCoy; Jeremy Morris’ sweet remembrance of “Morning Sunshine” (from the Idle Race’s Birthday Party) and Jeffrey Foskett’s Southern Californian invocation of “Telephone Line” (from A New World Record) – imagine the late Carl Wilson wrapping his angelic pipes around this heavenly tune, you get the idea!
In summary, let me just say that Lynne Me Your Ears is almost perfect – what’s lacking? Well, someone covering Shangri-La (my fave ELO song) would have been nice or maybe having devoted ELO fans Grandaddy on board would have been interesting but really, these are minor quibbles. The magnificent 32 tracks here more than make Lynne Me Your Ears essential listening. (A*)