Jeff Lynne has been away for quite a while as a recording artist. Long Wave (out as of October 9) comes as a bit of a surprise because it’s 1) an album made up of a mixture of pre-rock standards/pop music, early rock music and 2) features Lynne playing every instrument. This isn’t the first time he’s done either one of these things but it’s a curious decision given that this is his first album as an artist in over a decade.
Released at the same time as Lynne’s re-recordings of classic ELO songs (Mr. Blue Sky: The Very Best of Electric Light Orchestra), Long Wave presents Lynne having fun and doing material he clearly has affection for. The difficulty of playing all the instruments yourself is the lack of chemistry with other players. As good as this release is, it could use a bit of, well, fire from other musicians. Even without the interaction of other players Long Wave is still a fun, enjoyable album and it’s nice to see Lynne having fun particularly after being away for so long as a recording artist.
I wouldn’t come to this album expecting this to sound like ELO. Lynne’s production style and interests have changed with the times. That’s reflected in its sound.
The songs range from “She,” written by Charles Aznavour and Herbert Kretzmer and a hit single back in 1974, to a nice cover of Roy Orbison’s “Running Scared” and even the theme song to the film Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing. Some of Lynne’s cover versions are more successful than others. For example, “Smile” (written by Charlie Chaplin) and “At Last” just don’t cut it.
Although Long Wave is well played and recorded, the mastering is something else. The album suffers from compression which results in a “louder” album with less depth, less dynamics and, frankly, less punch as a result. Everything sounds the same—there’s little variation in the volume of the recording. This isn’t something new and it isn’t something unique to Lynne’s album. It’s been a growing problem for a decade but it continues to dog new and reissued recordings. While this might be perfect for poor-sounding mp3s, it’s not for a dynamic sounding CD or slab of vinyl that can capture the nuance of well recorded albums.
Fans of Lynne’s work with ELO and solo will enjoy Long Wave as long as they temper their expectations since it isn’t a collection of new material. I do wish that the mastering for this album was better particularly given all the care that Lynne put into his highly stylized production.