Epic 2001 / Frontiers 2013
Beatles-infested, luminescent revitalization of the archived brand brings its forces and foible into focus.
It was an unexpected move (no pun intended) when the long-buried acronym and spaceship shot into the skies 15 years after “Balance Of Power” signaled the logical end of ELO who, bows discarded, found their erstwhile opulence alien to the ’80s plastic air. Since then, Jeff Lynne had been a Wilbury and The Fabs’ producer but, despite a good chart action, failed to impress with his solo debut, 1990’s "Armchair Theatre": hence the resolution to revert to the band’s name – in the band’s absence – for he was its mastermind anyway. Trying to validate the decision with Richard Tandy’s keyboards on paradoxically optimistic blues of “Alright” seemed futile yet, as far as collective spirit goes, “Zoom” fares much better than its predecessor and, now cemented with a contemporary rendition of “Turn To Stone,” remains Lynne’s strongest personal, albeit wrapped in an ensemble foil, work to date.
Strings drenching a few of the original devil’s dozen tracks – most prominently on the oldie-styled “In My Own Time” – there’s a rocky crunch to “State Of Mind” to cut through Jeff’s usual harmonic polish and tip its drone to the “Brontosaurus” direction, although the veteran doesn’t take a risk of veering away from his traditional romanticism, so sweet in “Stranger On A Quiet Street” which begs for brass. The melodic pull of songs such as “It Really Doesn’t Matter” is irresistible their predictability notwithstanding, other pieces’ old-shoe comfort reinforced with George Harrison’s recognizable slide on the hip-swinging “All She Wanted” and the autumnal “A Long Time Gone” and Ringo Starr’s steady beat on the perky boogie “Easy Money” and a slice of dewy-eyed soul that is “Moment In Paradise.” Yet while the Fabness has always been Lynne’s schtick, as stresses a previously unreleased bonus track, “One Day” from 2004, in the uplifting, life-affirming “Lonesome Lullaby” he transcends it for good to zoom in on the very gist of ELO. If that’s the last flight of the enterprise, dusting off its name is forgivable.