Electric Light Orchestra

Zoom

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Fifteen years after Jeff Lynne masterminded the last official Electric Light Orchestra album, and ten after his solo debut, Lynne recorded Zoom -- an ELO album that he recorded nearly entirely by himself. So why isn't this a solo album? Well, not only does Lynne own the ELO name, so he can do whatever he wants, but he designed this to be a return to the classic ELO sound. Which it is, more so than any album since the early '80s. There are lush, heartbreaking ballads and '50s-styled rockers with an endearingly robotic pulse and Beatlesque harmonies. Better than that, the songwriting is melodic and memorable, the strongest Lynne has done in decades, resulting in the most consistent record released under the ELO banner since Discovery. On top of that, the production, while clearly not a product of the '70s, avoids all the pitfalls of modern record production, sounding warm, welcoming, and right. So, why was Zoom largely ignored upon its release in the summer of 2001? Probably because no matter how good it is, there weren't a lot of listeners clamoring for a new ELO album, and even some dedicated fans may have wondered if they needed a new ELO record, since, for all its strengths, Zoom doesn't deliver any knockout punches, even on the level of "Calling American" or "Four Little Diamonds." Without a great lead single (and, even if there had been, there wouldn't have been any place for it to receive airplay), there was nothing to bring the doubters into the fold, so they couldn't discover that Zoom was a very good ELO album, certainly more than just an album for the true believers -- which is what it wound up being.

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