Saturday, 29 June 2013

Cassette experiment day 104 - Jeff Lynne 'Armchair Theatre'

If you, like me, are an ‘out’ ELO fan (let’s face it, it’s 2013 and we should all be able to openly discuss our own particular musical preferences*) then you’ll bemoan the fact that it’s light years since ELO released an album of original material, and even longer since they released a good one.
Many ELO fans have had to seek their pleasures elsewhere – I always feel the spirit of Birmingham’s finest is alive and well in the form of Super Furry Animals, but maybe that’s just me, and they possibly wouldn’t thank me for saying so!
You could, of course, seek solace in some of permanently aviator-shaded Jeff Lynne’s solo or collaborative work with The Travelling Wilburys or the legends that were or are George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty and Del Shannon. Jeff was actually named at number 4 in The Washington Times’ ‘Top 5 knob-twiddlers’ (!) poll in 2008. Edged out of top place by the unknown trio of George Martin, Phil Spector and Quincy Jones apparently.
George and Del (if you’ll excuse my informality) appear alongside Jeff on our cassette of the day, Jeff’s 1990 release, ‘Armchair Theatre’. It has to be said that for the ELO fan there’s a lot to love on this slightly understated album.
Del turns in a fine vocal performance on the wonderful ‘Blown away’ which was written by Jeff and Tom Petty. There’s a tribute to Mr Shannon on the cassette insert as unfortunately the album was released a few short months after Del was.
By far and away the best track for my money (99p from Brotherton’s in Bishop Auckland if the sticker on the case is anything to go by) is the closing track on side 1, ‘Now you’re gone’. It’s probably the most ELO-like too.
‘Lift me up’, ‘Don’t say goodbye’ and ‘What would it take’ also deserve honourable mentions, and George Harrison’s performance on the first of this trio, and a number of others on the album, exert a major positive feel-good influence on proceedings.
Covers of the standards ‘September Song’ and ‘September Song’ are reasonably pleasant affairs, but they’re both just a little too pedestrian. Neither really lives up to the rest of the album’s vitality.
Incidentally, I’ve always thought that Jeff was starting to knock on a bit when he made this album – I’ve realised while writing this, however, that he was five years younger than I am now when ‘Armchair Theatre’ was released. How he maintains that lustrous head of curly hair I’ll never know.
Label – Reprise records
Year – 1990
*if you’re tempted by the growing number of frankly barking cranks who claim that they can cure you, psychologically, of your love of ELO please feel free to give them seriously short shrift. Tell them I sent you, if necessary.

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Please stop knob-twiddling, you at the back!

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