Jeff Lynne's ELO, Alone In The Universe

It's a solo album in all but name and thus nowhere near as expansive (to its detriment) nor sprawling (to its credit) as ELO's traditional output. But Lynne was always the group's prime mover, and if anyone could construct a reasonable facsimile in their sumptuously appointed home studio (even depicted in the liner notes) it'd be him. The songs are too short and get a little samey ("When I Was A Boy"), the obvious drum machine is obvious, and the throwback songs ("One Step At A Time" but "Dirty To The Bone" particularly) come across as atavistic and retrograde rather than nostalgic. But it's well-produced and engineered with the same trademark harmonies the fans expect ("Ain't It A Drag"), and regardless of the hokum in the lyrics, at its best it still manages the same level of musical sophistication of the glory days ("The Sun Will Shine On You" and the best track, "Alone In The Universe"). It's not really an ELO album no matter what it says on the cover, but you'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference, and that's certainly more than many bands past their prime will achieve. The deluxe version adds three supplemental tracks of similar quality but similarly wanting length; like the main album, it should delight the fans but offers little added value to the casual interest. (Content: mild adult themes in "Dirty To The Bone," S-bomb in "Ain't It A Drag.")