For the past decade, not much has been heard musically from ELO mastermind (and solo artist/former Traveling Wilbury) Jeff Lynne. For fans clamoring for some new Lynne recordings, you are about to be treated to a pair of new releases from the bearded, sunglass-sporting gentleman. October 9th will see the release of both Long Wave and Mr. Blue Sky: The Very Best of Electric Light Orchestra – the former a covers collection of early radio favorites of Lynne’s, and the latter re-recordings of ELO classics.
“The idea was to get them to sound better,” Lynne told Rolling Stone about Mr. Blue Sky. “Because I’ve been working for all these years with these great people and producing records with people, I became a much better producer. So when I listen to my old ELO songs, I used to think, ‘I wish I’d done that a bit better.’ And in the end, I drove myself mad. So I decided I should re-record one. I started with ‘Mr. Blue Sky,’ and re-recorded the whole thing from scratch. I enjoyed doing that a lot, and when I listened back to it and compared it to the old one, I really liked it much better. My manager suggested I do another couple and see how I get on with them, and I did ‘Evil Woman’ and ‘Strange Magic,’ and they came out really good too. So I just carried on doing them.”
As for the covers collection: “Long Wave is really an album of songs I used to hear on the longwave radio, which in England was one channel – the BBC. That’s all they got in the late Fifties. I used to have a crystal set, too, which is like what you have in bed, with a pair of headphones. That was always a wonderful thing – to go to bed and listen to the radio. One day a week, they had a pop program. So what I did was try to recreate the feeling of an old-fashioned radio, the sound of it – the soft bottom on it and the lack of top – it’s just so old fashioned and evocative.” Included are such pre-rock favorites as “Smile” and “Love Is a Many Splendored Thing,” as well as early rockers “Mercy, Mercy” – seen here in an innovative video directed by Martyn Atkins – and “Let It Rock.”
While expected classics “Evil Woman” and “Turn to Stone” are included on Mr. Blue Sky, the collection (on which Lynne plays all of the instruments himself, recording at his own Bungalow Palace studio in L.A.) features a few pleasant surprises, including the early, Roy Wood-era tune “10538 Overture.” “It wasn’t really a band when Roy was in it. It was more of an experiment. So Roy didn’t really stay with it very long – he left after about a few months. But that was recorded in a very strange way in the first place – with no drums on it, and the drums were put on afterwards. But this one was recorded as you’d expect, the proper way.”
Long Wave and Mr. Blue Sky are the beginning of several Lynne-related releases on the horizon. Next year will see the release of a concert recording, ELO Live!, as well as expanded reissues of ELO’s 2001 album, Zoom, plus Lynne’s 1990 solo effort, Armchair Theater. Additionally, a new solo album, with all-new material, is on the horizon.
“I’ve done eights songs so far, and I need another three or four, maybe,” said Lynne. “And that will hopefully come out next year, too. It’s slightly shifted over from things I would normally do.
“I think doing Long Wave really sort of opened my eyes to a lot of different chord shapes. I’ve always loved great chord changes. There are some great ones in Long Wave. I found I’d already been using these great chords in some of my earlier works. I was using diminished and augmented chords in all my old ELO stuff. And these songs on Long Wave have got lots of diminished and augmented [chords] . . . or as George [Harrison] would say, ‘the naughty chord.'”