Sunday, 21 April 2013

Review: Armchair Theatre, Zoom & Live (Jeff Lynne/ELO)

3LO ... a trio of ELO/Jeff Lynne releases
#528: Hello ... Hello ... my old friends ... It's great to see you once again! The second ELO/Jeff Lynne multi-release in just over six months is now upon us with "Live""Zoom" and "Armchair Theatre" and this brings us not only the opportunity to revisit the long out of print 1990 Jeff Lynne debut solo album and the 2001 return of Jeff's re-vamped ELO but also the formal release of a selection of the songs from the "Zoom Tour Live" live set at CBS Television City in LA.
Two decades on, the listener is given an opportunity to enjoy and rediscover this first Jeff Lynne solo effort. The format of "Armchair Theatre" gave us a clue to the direction that Jeff Lynne was going to take in the post-Traveling Wiburys days that led up to 2012's "Long Wave" with its mixture of original songs combined with his own take on the likes of classic songs "Don't Let Go""Stormy Weather" and "September Song". The 2013 version sees those original tracks augmented by "Borderline" (previously released as bonus track on the CD and 12" single edition of "Lift Me Up") and "Forecast" (an unreleased 'bonus' track from 1989). Both tracks remind this writer a little of "Wild Times" from the "Robin Hood - Prince Of Thieves" OST in that they provide an apt and enjoyable new epilogue to an album not so much loved by critics but cherished by the fans. Our Japanese friends also get to hear "Strange Magic (Live from Bungalow Palace)" performed acoustically by Jeff and Richard Tandy within their edition. (9/10)
"Zoom" came along a full eleven years after "Armchair Theatre" loaded with the expectations of the press and the fan base with the return of a new spaceship and the.classic ELO branding. It was ultimately labelled as a Jeff Lynne album in all but name but, crucially, with the inclusion of Richard Tandy, George Harrison and Ringo Starr (in part), "Zoom" was a kind of ELO hybrid album fusing elements of the Jeff Lynne solo sound with songs still fully ELO - even after that fifteen year break. Again, the 2013 version sees the addition of two bonus trax in "One Day" (an unreleased 'bonus' track from 2004) and "Turn To Stone (Live)" from the "Zoom Tour Live" performance. "One Day" (one of the songs on the three track CD promoting the triple releases) is undoubtedly the pick of the 'new' ELO trax on offer and a worthwhile addition to the "Zoom" song set. Of note is the fact that there is no room for the 2001 Japanese bonus track "Long Black Road" this time around. The Japanese edition sees "Turn To Stone (Live)" supplanted by "Do Ya (Live)" and "Lucky Motel" - an instrumental ditty featuring (one supposes) the very ukulele given to Jeff by George Harrison. (9/10)
It is therefore quite natural to conclude this brief overview of the three new albums by turning to the first ever worldwide release of an ELO live album, aptly entitled "Electric Light Orchestra Live". This, for me, is the most anticipated of the three albums because we see the official issue of some of the "Zoom Tour Live" set as a bona fide album. The album artwork is neat with a rainbow coloured ELO spaceship and the track listing is: "Evil Woman", "Showdown", "Secret Messages", "Livin’ Thing", "Sweet Talkin’ Woman", "Mr. Blue Sky", "Can’t Get It Out Of My Head", "Twilight", "Confusion", "Don’t Bring Me Down" and "Roll Over Beethoven". The bonus tracks are "Out Of Luck" (an unreleased song from 2010) and "Cold Feet" (also an unreleased song, but from 1992). The Japanese edition also includes "Telephone Line (Live from Bungalow Palace)" again performed acoustically by Jeff and RT. The CD features four songs not found on the "Zoom Tour Live" DVD but with, interestingly, none of the live "Zoom" songs being featured at all. For Yours Truly KJS and ELO Beatles Forever, the real highlight of these releases is to hear "Secret Messages" as an 'official' live recording. (10/10)

All three albums have their selling points whether viewed as a whole or individually and will be a valuable and essential addition to the collection of any ELO/Jeff Lynne admirer. ELO Beatles Forever (ELOBF) has been pleased to feature these releases (in both CD/LP formats) thus:

The worldwide release schedule for the albums is Wednesday 17th April (Japan), Friday 19th April (Europe), Monday 22nd April (UK) and Tuesday 23rd April (US).
ELO Beatles Forever (ELOBF) recommends "Live""Zoom" and "Armchair Theatre" by ELO & Jeff Lynne to those enlightened folks who enjoy the music of the Electric Light OrchestraRoy WoodThe Move'Brum Beat'The Beatles and related artistes.

Until next "Time" in the ELO (and related) Universe ... KJS ... 21-Apr-2013


  1. Heaven Only Knows I'm walking down the straight and lonely road today