Jeff Lynne makes no apologies for indulging himself with Long Wave. It is an album that looks at his musical heritage, examining influences and loves through the eyes of a man who has made multi layered synth pop his genre of choice. It also, on a more direct emotional level, looks with some affection at the songs he used to hear on the radio during his childhood in Birmingham.
Lynne has always had a good voice though, which is something possibly overlooked in the massive harmonies of the Electric Light Orchestra. Here the voice is stripped back to basics, just Lynne with a basic backing of guitar, drums – and, of course, keyboards. The synths do work a bit of magic now and again but they are largely in the background, enabling this covers album to be all about the song and nothing more.
It is refreshing, given the amount of production Lynne puts in to his own ELO work, that he leaves these songs largely to their own devices, and it is interesting to note that raw emotion is never far from the surface as a result. His wistful interpretation of Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered is immediately affecting and affectionately sung, while At Last, threatening initially to be indulgent at its walking pace tempo, is also nicely sung. Perhaps not surprisingly there are strings, but they are well used.
At times Lynne comes a little too close to his heroes for comfort, and on Running Scared the ghost of Roy Orbison is very much in the room, while Let It Rock enjoys the rare break in to an uptempo number but also sounds very close to Chuck Berry. It shows how Lynne can get beneath the surface of his music instantly, but how he also can come close to imitation. Happily the bonus track, Beyond The Sea, is enjoyment pure and simple, finishing on a positive note.
It is interesting to note a lack of Beatles material – possibly through copyright restrictions – as they are arguably the biggest influence on Lynne’s career. Yet these are a finely chosen first eleven. A lot of them occupy a mid range, slightly carefree approach that comes of a man who has achieved an awful lot in 40 years’ existence of his group, but the contentment he achieves is natural and likeable.
So who would begrudge Jeff Lynne an opportunity to visit his past in this way? Given that he does so with great affection, it’s easy to let him off – and at the same time offers an insight into what got him on the road to high musical achievements.