I so wanted to love this album, I really did. Jeff Lynne is one of my personal musical heroes, not only for The Electric Light Orchestra, but for The Idle Race, the albums he made with The Move, his work with The Travelling Wilburys, Tom Petty, Del Shannon, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, The Beatles and Regina Spektor... and I'm sure there's more. I've pretty much loved the man's songs and work since I was old enough to start appreciating music. His only solo album so far, "Armchair Theatre" was a fantastic record and contained three covers, two of which ("September Song" and "Stormy Weather") were old standards and he, as well as his famous friends, made beautiful versions of those two songs. When I heard that Jeff's new solo album was going to be covers of old standards, I wasn't at all disappointed, thinking back to those little gems from Armchair Theatre.
I got a little buzz of excitement when the CD came through the post, which is unusual for me these days, I have to admit, but this wasn't just any new release, this was Jeff. I pressed play and waited for the rapture. Unfortunately, I didn't get quite what I was expecting. The opening track, "She" is a serious mistake. Not only is it vocally multi-tracked to death, it suffers very badly in comparison to the magnificent, emotive, stirring (and surely definitive) Elvis Costello cover. It improves quickly with the lovely "If I Loved You", which has a genuine, touching and, thankfully, understated quality. "So Sad" and "Mercy, Mercy" are fairly enjoyable songs, although lack a certain spark. "Smile" is a bit twee - again, covered with much better results by Elvis Costello and doesn't compare well. "Love Is A Many Splendored Thing", although melodically pleasing, is pedestrian, almost disappointingly ordinary, as is "Let It Rock", which is competent enough, but lacks passion.
There are some wonderful moments on this album, though. To hear Jeff tackling "Running Scared" and hitting the final note of that masterful Orbison crescendo, it's a truly thrilling experience. It's not a surprise that, given Jeff's love of Roy, he did one of his songs real justice. "Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered" is another corker and has the same laid-back, dreamy quality as the beautiful "Stormy Weather" on Armchair Theatre. "At Last" is great, too - Jeff's vocals are magnificent and the whole treatment of the song is simply superb. "Beyond The Sea" is superb too, great fun, and makes sure that the listener ends the album with a smile on his or her face.
On the whole, although it appears that Long Wave contains more misses than hits, I do find this quite an enjoyable album to listen to and repeated plays have been favourable, with some tracks growing on me much more than they did on my initial listening session. No, it's not quite the work of genius I was hoping it'd be, but I have gotten over the disappointment of not being dazzled by it's brilliance. It's a good album with some excellent moments and some not so great moments - it's far from an essential purchase for anyone other than the most dedicated Jeff Lynne fan, but I'm sure those who do buy it will find much to enjoy here. Given his fantastic rendition of "Running Scared", I wonder whether he'd have been more successful doing an album full of "Big O" covers - but maybe I shouldn't give him ideas... I'd much rather he came back with an album full of original Jeff Lynne songs, because I'd rather hear those than covers any day.