Review by C.J. Bunce
The Traveling Wilburys had a Volume 1 and 3–two fantastic, memorable albums each with chart topping hits, and it was said Tom Petty’s successful and acclaimed Full Moon Fever fit between as a sort of unofficial Volume 2. Jeff Lynne′s ELO′s eagerly-awaited next album is out, From Out of Nowhere, and it could be the unofficial Traveling Wilburys Volume 4–all the beats, all the instrumentation, tempo, and lyrics are there. But this time it’s Jeff Lynne carrying the album, since we’re long past a time when Tom Petty, George Harrison, or Roy Orbison are around to contribute anything but in spirit. The evocative sound makes sense, since Lynne worked with Harrison and Petty on other albums in addition to Lynne’s status in the rock god supergroup as Otis-Clayton Wilbury. Charles Truscott Wilbury, Sr. would be proud–you couldn’t ask for more from Lynne and ELO, the combination of songs on the new release is a mix of styles across the catalog of ELO songs and absorbs several of the band’s biggest influences and partnerships over the band’s 40-plus years.
All of the songs were written by Lynne, including the great romping roadhouse blast One More Time, which fits the Wilburys sound in songs like She’s My Baby (with a little cow bell and a little… Phantom of the Opera (!?) as a bonus). The biggest hit here might be Time of Our Life, another chugging, Wilbury soundalike that would have fit perfectly with the back of the railcar videos from that band’s Volume 1 album. The title song From Out of Nowhere begins the batch of Wilbury-esque songs–it’s like Tom Petty and George Harrison are singing back-up (they aren’t, of course, but this sounds like it could have been written for Petty and the Heartbreakers’ Into the Great Wide Open album, another project produced by Lynne).
It’s not just the Wilbury sound that comes through. You’d swear Goin’ Out on Me is a cover of an old Beatles hit–Lynne conjures the sound of Paul McCartney’s trademark voice in this slow, bad-love ballad (Lynne worked on McCartney’s Grammy-nominated album Flaming Pie). Or Help Yourself, a song made for George Harrison’s voice if there ever was one, which would have played nicely on Harrison’s Cloud Nine album (another album produced by Lynne).
Another conjuring–You might put the achy, break-up song Losing You up beside the timeless 1961 hit Crying, and see if you can’t imagine Lynne’s ex-bandmate Roy Orbison back doing his own spin on the song. The song Down Came the Rain continues the longing theme of the Wilburys’ Orbison-led song Not Alone Anymore. But Sci-Fi Woman, mirroring the theme of ELO’s classic spaceship logo, is uniquely Lynne, a foot-tapping song that would have made radio play for ELO easily thirty-some years ago. Along with Sci-Fi Woman is another song with the 1980s and 1990s ELO vibe, the bleary-eyed, slow-dance, last-round melody Songbird. Lynne’s lyrics and easy feel in All My Love are timeless, a sure-fire ELO hit that would easily top any other band’s Greatest Hits album.
ELO–the original Electric Light Orchestra–band members entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017. Along with Lynne, original band member Richard Tandy contributed to the new album (playing piano on the song One More Time), but Lynne was the lead creative force behind this project.
It’s a refreshing blast of great sound. Fans of every incarnation of ELO and its leader Jeff Lynne, plus fans of the other aforementioned performers Lynne has partnered with over the years, all should love the band’s latest. From Out of Nowhere is available today at Amazon (on CD here, vinyl here, and digital/streaming here).