Review by David Waterfield
From the picture of 1950’s Sherborne Street that adorns the cover (with an adult Jeff Lynne looking on from the shadows – nice touch!) Jeff Lynne’s Long Wave is an affectionate and very personal collection. It’s a warm, romantic and unashamedly nostalgic album that sees Jeff lovingly revisit the songs that he heard on his Dad’s long wave radio as a child growing up in Birmingham.
I’m just about old enough to remember the opening song, ‘She’, being a number one hit for Charles Aznavour in 1974. It’s a song I would have run a mile from at the time and as a child would not have understood anyway. Jeff, wisely, does not attempt to replicate the original version but in a brilliant bit of arranging he reinterprets the song as a Beatles-style harmony number. In doing so he reveals a simple but dramatic song with a clever melody and beautiful lyrics. It turns out that Charles Aznavour and Herbert Kretzmer had written wonderful song all those years ago and I just never realised it before!
Often it’s the pre rock n roll era songs on Long Wave that work best, as familiar songs are stripped back to reveal the beautiful melodies and interesting chord changes underneath. Rodgers & Hammerstein’s ‘If I Loved You’ (originally performed as a duet in the musical ‘Carousel’) and ‘Bewitched Bothered And Bewildered’ (a hit for Doris Day in 1949 but originally from the Rodgers & Hart musical ‘Pal Joey’) being prime examples.
The inclusion of songs by the Everly Brothers (‘So Sad’) and Roy Orbison (‘Running Scared’) are poignant too. It’s hard not to imagine the teenage Jeff listening to these songs on the radio, little realising then the path his life would take or that one day the Everly Brothers and Roy Orbison would be recording songs that he had written for them.
Closing track ‘Beyond The Sea’ has its roots in the French Chanson by Charles Trenet ‘La Mer’ which Bobby Darin adapted into a swing style with a new set of lyrics. Jeff’s version skips along where Darin’s glides, but it’s a fun, interesting arrangement with Jeff playing all the brass and woodwind parts on his 1974 Gibson Les Paul!
Long Wave sees Jeff Lynne reaching back into his childhood and early adolescence to pay homage to the formative musical experiences that shaped him. It could be construed as MOR in places but, as Richard Carpenter (rightly) once said, middle of the road doesn’t necessarily mean bland – and Long Wave isn’t.
The album is obviously a labour of love for Jeff and clocking in at less than 28 minutes it never outstays its welcome. It’s given me a fresh appreciation of some classic songs. I wasn’t too sure about tuning into Jeff Lynne’s Long Wave at first but I’m really glad I did.
8 out of 10
- If I Loved You
- So Sad
- Mercy Mercy
- Running Scared
- Bewitched, Bothered And Bewildered
- At Last
- Love Is A Many Splendoured Thing
- Let It Rock
- Beyond The Sea