Sunday, July 9, 2017

Overdue review of criminally underrated album: "Armchair Theatre" by Jeff Lynne

Definitely the greatest rock and roll album you never heard of.

It bewilders me that this album really didn't register. By 1990 had classic rock stations given up on Jeff Lynne? Was it too classic rock-sounding during the onset of grunge?

This is a lost classic. It's an album about lost love and the resulting hope for redemption.

The standout (and should-have-been single) is "Now You're Gone,"  a haunting song about the grief and memories resulting from the loss of a loved one (Wikipedia says it's about his late mother, but you can apply it to any breakup).   This is carried by a driving piano line, Beatles harmonies and some unexpected Indian backing vocals at its climax. It's a natural progression from "Within Without You," and the reason to buy the album.

"What would it take?" is another driving rocker about trying to save a dying relationship. You'd think repeating the title in the verse and chorus would be a losing proposition, but Lynne makes it work. The chorus serves to make the pleas more dire.

"Blown Away" is a Beatles-esque anthem (the piano intro is borrowed from McCartney's "Hold Me Tight" from the "Red Rose Speedway" medley (and a couple  hundred other sources) but it becomes its own touching song. Then the coda comes along as a whole new inspiring anthem on its own. You might cry. Tom Petty co-wrote this and it really should have become Lynne's "Let It Be."

Lynne pays tribute to his pre-rock and roll influences with covers of  "Stormy Weather,"  "September Song and the pre-rockabilly "Don't Let Go," "Stormy Weather" and "September Song" get an up tempo treatment. "September Song" becomes a skiffle. "Don't Let Go," turns a semi-forgotten blues number into a Elvis Presley-Chuck Berry hybrid.

If you're a fan of the Beatles, The Traveling Wilburys, Tom Petty, ELO or any blues-inspired rock band, there's no reason this album isn't on your iPod.

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