Saturday, December 29, 2007

Underrated: A Jeff Lynne Fiesta

29 Dec 2007, 17:14 (edit | delete)
Some call it the "walkin' beat" - that easy, metronomic quality to a song that makes it the perfect soundtrack for a long hike. It is faster than a ballad, but not too fast; it is not flashy, but is steady, and strong. To me, that is the essence of Jeff Lynne. He's got the walkin' beat, and he'll bring it to everything he does.

Now, I'll grant that it isn't for everyone. I'm sure some readers will disagree - violently - I am just saying this is part of what I like about the body of work Jeff Lynne has put together over the last few decades. His meticulous sense of rhythm, the signature backing vocals, and his ability to bring out the best in those he works with; this is the Jeff Lynne I've discovered.

For me it started with The Beatles. My mom had their early albums, up to Rubber Soul - when John Lennon made his infamous "Bigger than Jesus" comment - so I grew up listening to that stuff. My high school girlfriend got me into Paul McCartney's Pipes Of Peace and Flowers In The Dirt (which I loved for the work Elvis Costello added; they also worked together on Costello's Spike and Mighty Like a Rose).

Some of my marching band amigos got me into this other band, Electric Light Orchestra, and I especially adored Out Of The Blue. I read enough about them to know who Jeff Lynne was, and that he had been a huge Beatles' fan as a kid, but at the time, that was the only connection he had to them.

Then I began to discover a string of albums that I really liked: George Harrison's Cloud NineTom Petty's Full Moon FeverRoy Orbison's Mystery Girl (featuring the hit You Got It, and a duet with U2's Bono called She's A Mystery To Me)... all capped off with a little record called Traveling Wilburys, Volume 1. This prompted me to go out and find his solo album, Armchair Theatre, which was subsequently worn out in my car stereo that year.

Jeff's work after that heyday has included the controversial, but generally popularly accepted, Beatles' Anthology singles Free as a Bird and Real Love, and Flaming Pie, an album that almost redeemed my opinion of Paul McCartney. (One friend of mine proposed a theory that the Beatles are dying in order of the quality of their work, and predicted that based on this theory, Sir Paul will be immortal. We don't let that friend drink so much any more.)

As an interesting side note, Bob Dylan is the only Wilbury alum Lynne hasn't produced an album for, and he is the only Wilbury alum who never "sent me". Don't get me wrong... I appreciate Dylan, but aside from Tangled Up In Blue, and some of his more famous early songs, I never felt the magic that so many Dylan fans seem to feel. Who knows; maybe that will change one day.

Most fans were probably already aware of these connections, but if you are a fan of any of the albums I mentioned, I urge you to check out the others. Perhaps your best bet would be to load up your player, and head for a long walk.

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