Jeff Lynne has gone in depth on what drove him to refashion some of his most famous moments with the Electric Light Orchestra in a new album for Frontiers called Mr. Blue Sky.
Some of the impetus came from improvements in recording technology, some of it from things that Lynne learned as a producer to artists like George Harrison, Joe Walsh, Roy Orbison, Paul McCartney and Tom Petty, among others.
The results, released last week, included new takes on “Do Ya,” “Telephone Line,” “Don’t Bring Me Down,” “Evil Woman” and “Livin’ Thing,” among others — all of them painstakingly recreated by Lynne at a home studio in California. Also featured is a 40th anniversary reworking of “10538 Overture,” and “The Point Of No Return,” a new song.
Since Lynne handled all of the instruments on the 12-song project, he first had to spend countless hours practicing on the various needed instruments.
Still, he says, in a new interview with Billboard, the results are everything he could have hoped for — and a clear improvement, in his mind, on the old versions.
“They weren’t tight enough; they weren’t as tight as they could have been — and some of the sounds on there, like some of the guitar sounds, didn’t sound as good as they could,” Lynne says. “Some of the piano parts were too dry, recorded too close together, things like that. A lot of technical stuff. It wasn’t the performance, particularly; it was my maybe lack of knowledge as a producer. I didn’t really understand some of the things I was doing. You start making up a song and you tell somebody you’re the producer and you get away with it, basically, but you don’t really learn what you’re doing until later on. I’ve had another 30 years’ practice of doing lots of other folks since then … and so I gradually learned a lot more than I knew at that (original) point, and now I know enough to actually know what I’m talking about.”
The release of Mr. Blue Sky coincided with Long Wave, which traces back to some of Lynne’s earliest musical influences — offering updates of pre-rock favorites like “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing.” The first single will be “Mercy, Mercy.”
The twin projects arrive as ELO, the band Lynne co-founded and for whom he served as creative mastermind, celebrates its 40th anniversary. Lynne is also overseeing expanded reissues of ELO’s 2001 album Zoom and his initial solo release, 1990’s Armchair Theater.
During a recent event at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, where a new ELO documentary, he also mentioned during a moderated talk with Grammy Foundation vice president Scott Goldman that there is yet another original studio project on the horizon.