Jeff Lynne

Long Wave

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When Jeff Lynne was growing up, he listened to music on longwave radio, soaking up all the sounds coming through the big radio in the living room. His 2012 tribute to these days, appropriately called Long Wave, is a far-reaching salute to the glory days of pop in the years before the Beatles. It's too easy to peg this as a standards album, a designation that isn't quite accurate. Lynne may cover many show tunes along with '50s favorites of big-band vocalists but he spends nearly as much time with rock & roll, and not just the operatic pop of his fellow Traveling Wilbury Roy Orbison, either. He cranks through Chuck Berry's "Let It Rock," slides into the silken harmonies of the Everly Brothers on "So Sad," and grooves through Don Covay's "Mercy, Mercy." These are the cuts that stick the closest to the original hit recordings. When Lynne tackles Rodgers & Hammerstein ("If I Loved You"), Rodgers & Hart ("Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered"), Fain & Webster ("Love Is a Many Splendored Thing"), and Chaplin ("Smile"), he breaks the song down to its melodic basics then builds up candied, layered arrangements that are distinctly his own, suggesting the gorgeous cascades of sound that were the signature of prime ELO. Indeed, when these sweet reinterpretations are combined with the straight-ahead rockers, Long Wave adds up to a blueprint in reverse for Lynne; by going to back to his beginnings, he winds up figuring out why he went in the direction he did.

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