A Quiet Classic,
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This review is from: Armchair Theatre (Reissue) (Audio CD)
It's a funny album is Armchair Theatre. On its release in 1990 it garnered some reasonable reviews, but didn't really set the world on fire with its sales. Not long after release it quietly faded away as Lynne's other work had much higher profile, becoming a difficult to find rarity, unless you fancied an expensive import from Japan.
With the reissue of his ELO re-recordings Mr. Blue Sky: The Very Best Of Electric Light Orchestra and the release of his covers album,Long Wave, this overlooked little gems has been given a 21st century polish up and reissue as part of the ELO ongoing reissue programme.
And it's not half bad at all. The thing to say is the distinctive production sound that Lynne had around the turn of the 90s does appear in places (but by no means everywhere), so if you're not a fan of that distinctive snare drum sound, you might have a problem. However, if you do, you are blinding yourself to some top grade songwriting and studio knob-twiddling.
The quality is deceptive, but given the personnel involved, from his erstwhile ELO band-mate Richard Tandy, to George Harrison, and Del Shannon among others, it shouldn't be much of a shock. Within a couple of plays, most of the songs immediately embed themselves in your head. The big guns come out quite early, with singles Every Little Thing and Lift Me Up but the faintly Eastern tinge You're Gone provides a surprise. There are some fairly radio-friendly and slightly formulaic songs, like What Would It Take, but this is not meant to be too harsh: most other artists would be very happy to produce material of this quality.
Perhaps the most surprising song is the original closer, Save Me Now: a simple little acoustic number with an eco theme. Then there are the covers. Both September Song and Stormy Weather get respectful runs, though the latter's clopping footsteps put me in mind of the beautifully batty Jungle from Out Of The Blue.
On this reissue you get two bonus tracks: Borderline and Forecast. The former is slight, but pleasing, with a starting riff that has echoes of Friday on My Mind. Forecast is a faintly mournful little piece, but watch out for that fade ending!
In all, it's a lovely little gem that deserves another listen and a bit more love than it's had in the past. When it's good, it really is a special album.