Thinking that Jeff's ELO career was over, many fans had been expecting a second solo album to follow up the modest chart success of "Armchair Theatre" in 1990 but his various production projects during the nineties with the likes of Tom Petty, Julianna Raye, the late Roy Orbison, Paul McCartney and (of course) The Beatles likely meant that it remained incomplete and shelved. So when news of a new ELO album - the first since "Balance Of Power" in 1986 - surfaced in the early part of 2001, the ELO fan base got excited. Who would it feature? What would it sound like?
Yours Truly KJS still remembers when Sir Terry Wogan aired "Alright" as announced it as "the new ELO single" on his then BBC Radio 2 Breakfast Show in May 2001. New album "Zoom" followed in June. My initial reaction upon first play was that "Zoom" sounded more like a Jeff Lynne solo effort that an ELO record. In fact, I still recall renaming it "Armchair Theatre Part II". "Zoom" sported the familiar ELO logo and the artwork was appealing and impressive. The familiarity of Lynne compositions and arrangements gave it an ELO feel in places but one could not escape the fact that this was Jeff plus a few famous friends, even though Richard Tandy appeared on one track. Essentially, that is what most reviewers said at the time too. It had the name of ELO but the sound of Jeff Lynne - an observation, not a criticism.
Perhaps the strangest thing about the release of "Zoom" was the lack of promotion by both artist, management and record company - almost as if it had been presumed that it would pick up commercially where "Balance Of Power" left off. The casual record buying public in 2001 were very much different than that in 1986 and some ELO fans had long since moved on. I remember struggling to find a copy in my local HMV store. There was no attention grabbing display, like those that were found for the debut Electric Light Orchestra Part Two album in 1991 or the frequent TV adverts that elevated the "Very Best of ELO" compilation put out by Dino in 1994 to #4 on the Official UK Album Chart, their highest chart placing of the nineties. The tide was out at that time for ELO with a number of greatest hits packages permeated by the aforementioned "Armchair Theatre" (#24) and "Electric Light Orchestra Part Two" (#34). It was therefore ironic that "Zoom" peaked at the same chart position as ELO Part II's debut LP ten years earlier.
Until next "Time" in the ELO (and related) Universe ... KJS ... 15-Nov-2018